Pediatricians Find Obesity Daunting

Some skinny pediatricians counseling chubby children worry they will seem unsympathetic, while their overweight colleagues are concerned that they come off as hypocritical, a pair of studies surveying pediatricians in North Carolina suggests.

In fact, many children's doctors "would rather treat strep throat than obesity," said Reginald Washington, a Denver pediatrician who co-chairs an obesity task force for the American Academy of Pediatrics.

Only 12 percent of the doctors surveyed by researchers at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill said they felt very effective in treating overweight children. The pediatricians also said they felt better able to treat asthma or prevent sexually transmitted diseases than treat or prevent obesity.

"I think that virtually all pediatricians feel frustrated with it because it's such a difficult problem to treat," said Terrill Bravender, an assistant professor of pediatrics at Duke University and the medical director for Duke's Eating Disorders Program.

The studies also found that nearly half of the doctors surveyed who are overweight did not know they were.

"It may mean that pediatricians are seeing so many overweight people around them that their standards have become skewed," said Eliana Perrin, one of the authors of the study and an assistant professor of general pediatrics and adolescent medicine at UNC-Chapel Hill.

Painkillers and High Blood Pressure

Women who take daily amounts of non-aspirin painkillers such as extra-strength Tylenol are more likely to develop high blood pressure than those who do not, a new study suggests.

Although many popular over-the-counter painkillers have been linked before to high blood pressure, acetaminophen, sold as Tylenol, has generally been considered relatively free of such risk.

It is the only one that is not a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug or NSAID, a class of medications the federal government just required to carry stricter warning labels because of the risk of heart-related problems.

Those include ibuprofen (sold as Advil and Motrin) and naproxen (sold as Aleve). Many had turned to those painkillers in the wake of problems with prescription drugs, such as Vioxx. However, the new study found that women taking Tylenol were about twice as likely to develop blood pressure problems. Risk also rose for women taking NSAIDs other than aspirin.

"If you're taking these over-the-counter medications at high dosages on a regular basis, make sure that you report it to your doctor and you're checking your blood pressure," said Christie Ballantyne, a cardiologist at the Methodist DeBakey Heart Center in Houston who had no role in the study.

The research found that aspirin still remains the safest pain relief medicine. It has long been known to reduce the risk of cardiovascular problems and was not included in the government's requirement for stricter labels for NSAIDs.

"We are by no means suggesting that women with chronic pain conditions not receive treatment for their pain," lead author John Phillip Forman, of Harvard Medical School and associate physician at Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston, said in an e-mail. "By pointing out risks associated with these drugs, more informed choices can be made by women and their clinicians."

-- From News Services