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Why girls now reach puberty early

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Showing all the trappings of a young adult, one would need more than just words to believe that Funke (surname withheld) is just eight years old.

At her age, she already developed breasts, one of the primary indicators of puberty in females. And the way other parts are growing very rapidly would almost give an impression that she’s someone in her early 20s.

But, truly, Funke is eight, according to her dad, who also expressed surprise with the way she’s ‘growing’, and is now unsettled due to the girl’s likely premature sexual attention from men. He is equally unsure if the situation is normal, more so that she has also started menstruating. The medical term for early puberty is called precocious puberty.

Realistically, Funke is not alone and her father’s fear is quite understandable. In fact, her case is a fitting reflection of what now obtains across the world, whereby young girls now show obvious signs of reaching puberty, as against what obtained in the past, say about 20 years ago, when girls wouldn’t exhibit any sign of puberty until about 15 years upwards.

Meanwhile, other indicators of puberty include underarm hair, certain body odour, since the sweat gland would have become active, pubic hair and vaginal discharge, which is a precursor of menarche, the first occurrence of menstruation. All these are now happening to girls below 12, and according to a study published in Paediatrics as far back as 2010, a number of the girls surveyed had reached puberty as early as seven years, evidenced by breast development.

According to a consultant paediatrician, Dr. Rotimi Adesanya, the average age a girl is supposed to attain puberty is 11, but “these days some of them show those signs at age eight.”

However, there are reasons for this early puberty, and it is pertinent to point them out, perhaps to allay the fears of such parents. These reasons include:

Obesity: Literally, obesity is caused by eating too much and moving too little. Thus, if you consume a high quantity of food, particularly fat and sugar, and you don’t burn off the energy through exercise and physical activity, much of the surplus energy will be stored by the body as fat and that leads to overweight or obesity.

This was the explanation given by the National Health Service in the United Kingdom. While it is seen as a general problem, obesity has been found to be a major cause of early puberty, especially in girls. Dr. Adesanya explained that girls now reach puberty early because they eat junk food, snacks, oily food, etc., without doing exercises.

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He said these days; children would rather play computer games or play games on their parents’ or siblings’ smartphones rather than go out to do exercise. Thus, that lifestyle of eating without exercising has led to obesity and now makes them to reach puberty early.

He said, “Obesity has strong links with precocious puberty and what favours it is the diet and sedentary lifestyle. Children no longer do exercises; they don’t trek to their school the way we did back then, which helped us to burn fat from our body. So, that is one major cause of early puberty.”

Stress: This is one other factor that has been found to aid early puberty in girls. Adesanya explained that traumatic experiences and emotional problems impact on the female reproductive system. He said this had to do with the interconnection among the brain, emotions and the reproductive system, like the hormones controlling breast growth and menstruation. “Children that go through a traumatic experience or emotional problems may see their period earlier, even though the impact is not as high as that of obesity.

Also, a study by a professor of family studies and human development, Bruce Ellis, and Prof. Marilyn Essex of the University of Wisconsin found that family conflict could influence how early or late girls attain puberty. In the study, which was reviewed on WebMD, a website that provides valuable health information and tools for managing health, they asked the parents of the girls about their economic difficulty, marital problems, parenting style and family stress.

It was revealed that girls who live in families with great parental support and less marital conflict experience their first hormonal changes later in life than girls who live in homes where there are marital conflict, family issues, poor parent support, depressed parents and other such unpleasant issues.

These were identified to be associated with puberty. “Even modest family conflict or stress may influence a young girl’s sexual development and these were the normal stresses of growing up, not serious abuses,” Essex tells WebMD.

Now that it is almost inevitable for children to reach puberty early, because children from the rich or average income earning homes are likely to eat so much or even eat junk food, those from poor homes could be stressed emotionally, and those from either divide could come from home with family issues, girls who show signs of puberty should not be treated as aliens.

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This development has no doubt made them endangered species, given the rate of rape and sexual abuse, but parents have been advised to pay more attention to their young female children, because their changing physique could make them attractive to the males, even when they are not mature enough to refuse such (negative) gestures.

An endocrinologist, Dr. Glenn Braunstein, said open communication, nurture, and knowledge of the child’s activities would be good ways to prevent the child from getting into such avoidable troubles. In his analysis on Huffpost, Braunstein said whether puberty arrives early or later at the more expected time, it is always a challenge for children, especially girls and that it was up to parents, guardians and older siblings to help them to be the finest men and women possible, by assisting them through that stage.

He added, “Parental nurture, generally considered a key factor in curbing risk-taking, may be even more important for early-maturing girls. The thinking is that parental influence can help decrease these youngsters’ susceptibility to peer influence, assist them in developing better coping skills and diffuse negative feelings that might turn into negative thoughts and actions.”

Another solution advanced is sex education, which according to experts, will prepare the girls for the change that is to come and what to do when it comes eventually. However, the experts stressed that one way to make this effective is for parents to encourage their children to communicate freely with them.

A consultant paediatric endocrinologist, Dr. Elizabeth Oyenusi, had said at age eight, a female child should be taught about sex, so they don’t learn about it from outside or do so the hard way.

She had said, “Whether for a male or female child, once they clock eight years, parents should talk to them about sex, and there is no need to use nicknames or graphics, more so that such children are exposed to different images on the television or even the Internet. A girl is ready for such education when her breasts begin to come out or when she clocks eight.”

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Apart from this, parents are advised to teach their children when to say no, and that in certain (identified) situations, it is okay to say no to an adult. It has also been found to be helpful when children are taught where they should not be touched by others; how to get out of an uncomfortable situation and what to do if the adult wouldn’t let go.

A forensic psychologist and expert in the field of mental health, violence, mental health and addiction, Dr. Kathryn Seifert, in his post on Psychology Today, noted that given the way young girls tend to be susceptible to male attention, even at that young age – since they already show signs of puberty – highlighted ways by which parents could avoid such negative occurrences from happening to their children.

She said parents must encourage their kids to talk to them about how their day went, teach them when to run away from an adult, take action and let them see their parents take action when they make reports, which she said would build their confidence level.

She added, “Teach children that the danger may come from someone they trust. Tell your kids that bad touch is bad touch and no one gets to do it to our bodies. If anyone does bad touch, you go to a grown-up for help. When you are not sure about whether something a grown up is doing is okay, ask another grown up to help you.

“Also, take action if you suspect abuse; understand the signs, such as significant changes in sleeping, eating, mood, or strange behaviour that does not quickly go away; and know where your children are and who they are with at all times.”

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Health

Relocate Awotan dumpsite, Oyo APC chieftain advises Makinde

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Prince Oladapo

In view of the health hazard it poses to residents of Apete, Awotan communities in Ido Local Government Area of Oyo state, a chieftain of the All Progressives Congress (APC) in the state, Prince Obatunde Oladapo has called for the relocation of Awotan dumpsite.

Oladapo, in a chat with Mega Icon Magazine, noted that despite the fact that the dumpsite was sited in the area long before most buildings were constructed by people of the community, it will be inconsiderate and inhuman to expect the people to be relocated from the area because of the dumpsite. He, therefore, in order to preserve the health and well-being of the people, advised Governor Seyi Makinde to order for the immediate removal and relocation of the dumpsite.

The former Executive Secretary, Oyo State Agency for the Control of Aids (OYSACA) and the State House of Assembly candidate for Ido state constituency in the 2019 poll, Oladapo stressed that any serious government with a genuine interest of the people at heart would take cognisance of the fact that the real problem at Awotan is not the encroachment of the dumpsite by buildings but the health hazard being posed by the presence of the dumpsite in the vicinity of human habitation.

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According to him, “the putrid smell of the water oozing from the dumpsite and seepage of the dirty water to the road during the rainy season as well as choking smoke from the dumpsite during the dry season makes it not just a big source of inconvenience for the people of the community but a huge source of health challenges occasioning serious communicable and non-communicable diseases for the people of the community.

“If the state government is serious about finding a lasting solution to the hazards posed by the dumpsite to the health and well-being of the people of Awotan Community, it should relocate the dumpsite to another location away from human habitation.

“After this, the government may then consider alternative uses to which they can put the dumpsite. They can borrow a leaf from the productive use of the old dumpsite at Ring Road which is where the Palms Shopping Mall is today. This is common sense. Unfortunately, common sense is not a common commodity”, he submitted.

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Health

UCH commends Makinde for continuous support to institution

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The Chief Medical Director, University College Hospital, UCH, Ibadan, Professor Jesse Otegbayo, has applauded Governor Seyi Makinde for the supports given to the college on treatment and management of COVID I9 cases in the hospital.

Professor Otegbayo , gave the accolade on Monday following the donation of a ventilator and oxygen concentrator by the State government to the college .

Professor Otegbayo, who received the donation from government delegates at the college, maintained that the machines were adequate for treatment of coranavirus patients.

He revealed that the existing facilities were already overused considering the interval of their usage, noting that the machines would go a long way in improving service delivery.

While reiterating the commitment of the college in ensuring the well – being of indigenes of Oyo State, Professor Otegbayo appreciated philantropists in the State and beyond for reaching out to the college during trying period.

“This period of COVID is a difficult period in Nigeria and for the College hospitals like ours, that was why we sent out requests to philanthropists and Oyo state government for support.”

“Since two weeks ago, we have been receiving supports in this regard from Governor Seyi Makinde-led administration.

“It is a thing of delight to us to receive the ventilator and oxygen concentrator to take proper care of the people of Oyo state which we are committed to.

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“On behalf of the board, management and staffers of the College, we want to send our appreciation to His Excellency, Engr. Seyi Makinde who has being a partner in progress to the college and the entire people of Oyo state for good things they are doing for us.

“We want to promise that we will make good use of these machines to ensure they render the services they are meant for.”

Earlier in his remark, the Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Health, Dr. Adebisi Ayoola, who presented the equipment on behalf of the Oyo state government, said the donation became imperative to further improve the care given to indigines of Oyo State placed under coronavirus treatment in the hospital.

Dr .Ayoola, while reiterating the commitment of the state government to delivery of quality health care for all and sundry, hinted that the machines would assist in strengthen the operations of the college.

 

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Health

Lagos Doctors to begin warning strike tomorrow

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The leadership of the Medical Guild in Lagos state on Sunday said its members will begin a three-day warning strike from Monday.

The Chairman of the guild, Dr Oluwajimi Sodipo, announced this while addressing a press conference in Lagos State.

Dr. Sodipo informed that the medical practitioners took the decision to embark on industrial action over issues they say affect their safety and welfare.

He stressed that the decision formed part of the resolutions reached during the meeting of the leadership of the association convened to review the challenges of medical doctors in the state.

According to him, “After robust deliberations, the Council observed that the following were some of the unresolved demands of the Guild.

“They include wage disparity between Federal and Lagos State doctors which was not being given attention, the issue of COVID-19 hazard allowances and inducement allowances as approved by the Federal Government which have not yet been domesticated by Lagos State for her doctors; that the doctors working in the isolation centres were still being owed two months’ allowances which have not been paid as at the time of the meeting.

“There were also concerns that they (the doctors) were unceremoniously disengaged without recourse to their welfare,” the guild chairman added.

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In view of the challenges, he revealed that the representative council resolved to activate the resolution of the association on a three-day warning strike.

Sodipo noted that the industrial action would commence from 8am on Monday to 8am on Thursday.

He, however, said members of the guild working in the state’s coronavirus (COVID-19) isolation centres have been exempted.

 

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