Doctors screen children for toxic stress susceptibility

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Kids take a quiz on a tablet to help identify stress. WINK News photo.
Kids take a quiz on a tablet to help identify stress. WINK News photo.

While we all have been stressed at some point in our lives, some people experience levels that are considered toxic.

Guadalupe Gonzalez knows something about clammy hands and a racing heart. She is used to concealing her emotions and anxiety from others.

At Florida State University College of Medicine Center for Child Stress and Health in Immokalee, Gonzalez is getting help to deal with her toxic stress.

“That causes your heart rate to increase, your breathing rate increases as well,” said Javier Rosado, a psychologist. “It’s your body’s way of helping you cope with the stressful situation. The problem becomes when that’s happening over and over again across several years.”

It is that compounded stress with no break at all that Jaime Rosado, an FSU psychologist,  said makes it toxic. It can be brought on by anything from bullying at school to neglect or a child could not have enough to eat.

To spot these stress stressors early, the FSU Medicine Center partnered with the Healthcare Network of Southwest Florida to have a psychologist embedded in several of the network’s pediatric offices.

Its work has been funded in part by Naples Children and Education Foundation.

“There is a direct correlation with increased toxic screening scores with chronic diseases in adulthood,” said Dr. Alicia Fernandez, of Healthcare Network of Southwest Florida.

They are using technology to help identify it. With the help of a tablet, kids take a quiz in the waiting room that is designed to be fun to play. By the time the doctor is in, so are their results. If needed, a psychologist can start critical treatment.

Researchers at the FSU Center designed the software for the quiz. They plan to implement it in more doctors officers in Collier County.

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