Health Column

February 28, 1990 2 min read

A drug often prescribed to prevent seizures in infants and young children is ineffective and may ultimately lower users’ iq scores, a study has found.

The drug, phenobarbital, is taken by about one-quarter of the 130,000 children born each year who will have a febrile, or fever-induced, seizure. The drug sometimes is taken every day for about two years to prevent further seizures.

The study, which appeared in the Feb. 8 issue of the New England Journal of Medicine, included 217 infants and young children who had had a febrile seizure, and who were thought to be at risk for having more. Half of the subjects took the drug daily for two years and half took a placebo.

The iq scores of children in the drug group were, on average, more than 8 points lower than those of the children in the control group. Six months after the drug had been discontinued, the drug group still had scores that were an average of 5.2 points lower than that of the control group.

Nearly 80 percent of the nation’s public schools now offer aids education, a survey by the National School Boards Association has found.

Of the 332 districts that participated in the survey, one-fifth began instruction in 1986-87, 32 percent in 1987-88, 37 percent in 1988-89, and 9 percent this academic year.

Schools typically integrate information about the human immunodeficiency virus, or hiv, in their health-education classes. In 85 percent of the districts, students in the 7th grade receive this instruction, the most common year for this curriculum. Students in the 11th and 12th grades, however, and suburban students, the survey found, were less likely to learn about the virus that causes aids.

Of the districts that offer aids education, 94 percent allow students to be excused from these classes. But the survey found that in 80 percent of the districts that offer this choice, fewer than 1 percent of the parents choose this option.

Copies of the survey, “hiv Prevention Education in the Nation’s Public Schools,” are available for $5 each by writing: hiv/aids Education, nsba, Lock Box Operations, P.O. Box 17316, Baltimore, Md. 21203.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control estimate that as many as 60,000 Americans had the whooping cough in 1988.

According to federal health officials, the 10,468 cases reported to the cdc in 1988 represent as few as 5 to 10 percent of all cases contracted that year. About two-thirds of the cases were contracted by infants and children up to age 4.

The cdc estimates that about two-thirds of these cases could have been prevented through proper vaccination.--ef

A version of this article appeared in the February 28, 1990 edition of Education Week as Health Column