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Transient Hypoglycemia at Birth Tied to Lower School Scores

But researchers say it’s too soon to recommend routine screening

MONDAY, Aug. 24, 2015 (HealthDay News) — Children who experience transient hypoglycemia right after birth may have a harder time with reading and math when they go to school, according to a new study published online Aug. 24 in JAMA Pediatrics.

Jeffrey Kaiser, M.D., of the Baylor College of Medicine in Houston, and colleagues analyzed records from 1,395 children born in 1998 at the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences, which had a policy of screening all newborns for hypoglycemia. Kaiser’s team matched the children’s medical records with their school records to see whether short-lived hypoglycemia showed any correlation with standardized test scores in fourth grade.

The researchers found that from 6 to 19 percent of the children had suffered transient hypoglycemia as newborns, depending on the definition. And those children were roughly half as likely to perform at grade level on tests of math and literacy. For example, 6 percent of children had had a single blood glucose measurement drop below 35 mg/dL soon after birth. Of those children, 32 percent performed at grade level on literacy tests, compared with 57 percent of other children.

Kaiser said his team did account for factors like children’s birth weight and mothers’ education levels. “But we couldn’t control for what happened to those children over the next 10 years,” he told HealthDay. “We don’t know if their parents read to them. We don’t know what their nutrition was like.” Plus, Kaiser said, transient hypoglycemia might simply be a “marker” of some other problem that occurred during fetal brain development. If that’s the case, it’s not clear that detecting and treating hypoglycemia would be helpful.

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