We accepted the challenge from a recent Facebook post stating that children today suffer from more illnesses than children did when they were children.
“The baby boomers had measles, mumps and smallpox,” said one participant in a group advocating for “vaccine rights.” “Today’s kids have exacerbation syndrome, autism, seizures, allergies, diabetes, cancer, delayed speech, colic, ear tubes, HFMD, eczema, and RSV. It’s time to start looking for the cause…”
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Let’s go to it.
Measles, mumps and chickenpox
Before measles vaccines became available in the United States in 1963, an estimated 3 to 4 million people became infected with the virus each year, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The CDC says widespread use of a vaccine that protects against the measles virus has led to a 99% decrease in cases compared to the pre-vaccine era.
Mumps is a similar case. Cesarean sections, which were a common childhood illness, declined by more than 99% after the vaccination program began in 1967.
Chickenpox was also common in the United States. In the early 1990s, about 4 million people in the United States contracted it each year. Now, fewer than 350,000 people get it annually. This is because the chickenpox vaccine became available in the United States in 1995, which greatly reduced the number of cases, hospitalizations, and deaths.
Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS)
The term “sudden infant death syndrome” was first proposed in 1969, but is not a recent phenomenon, according to a book by a neuroscientist and forensic pathologist about the past, present, and future of SIDS. Today, SIDS refers to the death of a seemingly healthy infant under the age of 1 who died in inexplicable circumstances, even after investigation and autopsy. The book says that cases of sudden death of healthy children have been recorded for thousands of years. Some academics cite as an example an Old Testament story about an altercation between two nations, one of whom discovers her child dead in the night.
Autism has been a diagnosis for decades, although its definition has changed over time, and it did not appear in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, or DSM, a handbook used by doctors to diagnose diseases and disorders, until 1980.
Donald Triplett, born in 1933, was the first person with autism, and appeared in child psychiatrist Leo Kanner’s 1943 paper “Autistic Emotional Connectivity Disorders” as “Case 1, Donald T.”
Hans Asperger, a pediatrician at the University of Vienna, described many of the children he observed as “autistic” in 1938. No other cases were discovered elsewhere in the world. The Smithsonian describes a man from the mid-19th century who was considered an “idiot” in the language of the time but today is likely to be diagnosed with autism.
Autism is diagnosed more today than previous generations, but it was no stranger to the baby-boom generation.
Anti-epileptic drugs, used to combat seizures, have been around since the early 1940s, when the baby-boom generation (those born between 1946 and 1964) began to emerge. But the children had seizures much earlier. In England, for example, children were first accepted into a colony for people with epilepsy starting in 1909.
Pediatric neurologist , hydrocephalus, spina bifida, and polio.”
In 1859, a doctor in England who had suffered from what were later called “summer colds” — seasonal sneezing and a runny nose — experimented on himself and discovered that his symptoms were caused by pollen, according to a 2018 National Geographic article on the history of allergies.
Our understanding of allergy has changed over time, particularly in the early 1950s with the discovery of mast cells filled with different chemicals, such as histamine, that produce symptoms of an allergic reaction. But “allergies are not new,” as the article states. “These reactions are described in historical documents with symptoms of asthma that were recorded in ancient China, Rome, Egypt and Greece.”
The BBC reported that rates of food allergy among children have risen in recent decades, and some researchers suspect this is due to diet and pollution, among other factors.
The history of diabetes dates back to 1500 BC, although the incidence of type 1 diabetes in childhood began to increase in many countries in the late 1950s. Meanwhile, type 2 diabetes was previously unknown in children and teens, according to Johns Hopkins Medicine, but is increasingly being diagnosed in young adults. Many public health experts say childhood obesity is the culprit.
Cancer didn’t bypass the baby boomers when they were babies. There are well-documented accounts of cases that occurred in the 1940s.
According to the National Cancer Institute, the incidence of childhood cancer has increased slightly in recent decades. (Survival rates also increased by 18 to 27%, depending on the age of affected children and adolescents, from the mid-1970s to the 2000s.)
Speech pathology has evolved over the years, but language delay is not a new condition. Prior to 1940, according to a 1990 dissertation on the development of speech pathology in the United States, nine states recognized legislative delays in speech, and in 1925, four universities awarded 20 degrees to graduate students with theses focusing on the scientific aspects of speech.
“Speech and its flaws have been treated or abused for centuries by a variety of professions,” the paper says. Records describing defective speech and its treatment date back to the fifth century B.C.
Colic, or severe and frequent discomfort in infants, is also nothing new. Opium was once used to treat excessive crying, and in the 19th century, it was an ingredient in a syrup used to calm babies.
Developed to relieve infections in the middle ear, ear tubes were first used in the late 1890s and reinvented in the 1950s, according to Virginian Pilot.
In 2007, NPR warned that while about 500,000 children are surgically implanted ear tubes each year, experts believe a third do not need them.
Hand, Foot, and Mouth Disease (HFMD)
HFMD was first reported in New Zealand in 1957, and the first known outbreak occurred in Singapore in 1970. It is a common disease and is usually mild in childhood.
The term atopic dermatitis — commonly known as eczema — dates back to 1933, but “despite its recent introduction into our medical lexicon, the historical precursors of atopic dermatitis date back at least to 69-140 CE,” according to a 2017 research paper in its history. It was during the period of the Roman Empire, before the birth of the baby boom generation.
A 2003 study found that the rate of children with eczema has tripled since the 1970s, although the cause isn’t clear, according to The Guardian. “Improvements in hygiene may mean there are fewer opportunities for children to develop immunity to the condition, and genetics, environment and diet may also be,” the paper said.
Respiratory syncytial virus (RSV)
RSV, a common respiratory virus that can be dangerous to infants and the elderly, was first discovered in 1956 and “has since been recognized as one of the most common causes of childhood illness,” says the CDC. In the United States, hospitalization rates have risen over the previous decades, according to a 2016 disease history.
This post incorrectly indicates that the baby-boom generation only suffered from measles, mumps, and chickenpox while children today suffer from a large number of new diseases. While the incidence of some of these diseases and disorders is more prevalent now than in children born in the 40s to mid 60s, they are not new diseases.
Some of the people who commented on the post also linked supposed new medical problems to vaccines, but there is no reliable evidence to support this. Meanwhile, vaccinations have reduced the incidence of measles, mumps, and smallpox among children today.
We’re rating this post mostly wrong.