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Health & Medicine Identifying Trauma in Children Early: Prevention Treatments Lower Risk of Stress Disorders

Identifying Trauma in Children Early: Prevention Treatments Lower Risk of Stress Disorders

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First Posted: Sep 23, 2013 01:33 PM EDT
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Background information from the study notes that nearly 3 million children younger than 18 years old are physically, sexually or emotionally abused and neglected each year in the United States alone, making up for about 4 percent of the population. (Photo : Reuters)

Accidents of any kind can create lasting memories of fear, grief and sadness. And when terrorizing memories strike younger individuals, it can cause a great deal problems that may last well into adulthood and throughout life. A recent study takes an in-depth look at how children are affected by traumatizing accidents and how these events can cause them to suffer from stress disorders long after the problems have gone. 

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Researchers from the University of Zurich and the University Children's Hospital Zurich worked to devise and evaluate a systematic questionnaire that can be used to identify pre-school children that may have an increased risk of long-term post-traumatic disorders following a few days of an accident.

For the first time, researchers believe that it may now be possible for pediatricians, nursing staff or emergency psychologists to actually assess small children more accurately regarding their risk of illness.

"Children with an increased risk can thus be identified early and referred to an emergency psychologist for treatment," lead study author Professor Markus Landolt said, via a press release. He notes via the study that this could help prevent acute stress response from developing into a more chronic mental illness that causes a child to suffer spells that could result in the need for a more lengthy treatment process.

Professor Landolt's doctoral student Didier Kramer interviewed 134 parents of two six-year-old children seven days following a road accident or burn injury. The screening instrument used comprised of 21 questions regarding changes in the child's behavior after accidents that were recorded based on a high degree of accuracy. Results showed that 85 percent of the children examined who suffered from a post-traumatic stress disorder after six months had already been identified correctly a week following the accident with the aid of the questionnaire.

"This app will enable the screening to be conducted even more easily and quickly, and above all implemented broadly," Landolt said, who also is planning on a Smartphone application in collaboration with various IT scientists.

More information regarding the study can be found via Pediatrics.

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