Archive for the 'Health' Category

Why I Don’t Answer the Phone

The last thing I want to do when I’m driving is talk on the phone. (It’s also pretty much the last thing I want to do anywhere anytime.) And if you think hands-free phone calls are safer, think again.

…laws mandating the use of hands-free phones are little help: the increased risk of injury is attributable to the cognitive impairment from the phone conversation, which distracts in ways that a conversation with a seatmate does not, and was just as high for those using hands-free sets as for those with hand-held ones.

~Caution – Driver May Be Surfing the Web, NYTimes, August 24, 2008

No Comments »

Bunk Bed Safety

bunk bedsStephen had such a fabulous time playing on the top bunk bed at his friend’s house last week that we thought we might get him bunk beds when we move to Singapore this summer. Now I’m not so sure.

A study in the journal Pediatrics has found that more than 35,000 children and young adults get hurt on bunk bed each year. Half of the injuries affect children under age 6 and they were related to falls having to do with the ladder or jumping off. Most injuries were cuts, scrapes, and bruises but 20% were fractures.

…most bunk bed–related injuries are associated with objects around the bed, by children playing in and around the bed, or by children jumping on and off the bed

Even worse, males are injured more often than females. There’s even “bunk bed fracture” caused by children jumping or falling with their feet/legs out-stretched.

The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) recommends:

  1. Guardrail gaps are <= 3.5 inches to prevent hanging and strangulation
  2. Side rails are present on both sides
  3. Mattress foundation is sturdy and secure
  4. Mattress of correct size is used
  5. Children younger than 6 years should not sleep in the upper bunk
  6. Children should be discouraged from playing on bunk beds
  7. Night lights should be used to prevent falls
  8. Hazardous objects should be removed from around the bed
  9. Bunk beds should not be placed too close to ceiling fans or other ceiling fixtures

My sister and I shared a room until I started high school and for part of that time, our beds were in a bunk bed configuration. I don’t recall us ever getting hurt on it but then again, our friends were not allowed to play in our bedroom (our house rule kept guests in common areas like the living room) so there was never rough housing going on that involved the beds.

Read the Pediatrics study if you feel like freaking yourself out over bunk beds. :P

via NY Times


Another Old Wives Tale for Predicting Baby’s Sex?

1. Women who eat more calories around the time of conception tend to have sons.

As well as consuming more calories, women who had sons were more likely to have eaten a higher quantity and wider range of nutrients, including potassium, calcium and vitamins C, E and B12. There was also a strong correlation between women eating breakfast cereals and producing sons.

via Think Gene

2. “To calculate the calories you need to maintain your weight, multiply your weight by ten.”

~Submitted to Rules of Thumb by: Dr. Robin Kanarek, in Tufts University Diet Nutrition Letter

Putting the two together, it’s quite likely that #2 may be a boy (even thought the ultrasound indicated a girl). ;)


PSA: Too Much Vitamin A in Airborne

airborneA few years ago, I saw Airborne being discussed with enthusiasm on Oprah. Figuring there was no harm in taking a few extra herbs and vitamins when I felt like I was coming down with the flu, I jumped on the bandwagon and bought several tubes of the effervescent tabs whenever I visited the States. Now I find that not only is Airborne most likely ineffective (not too big of a surprise), but it may even contain unsafe amounts of vitamin A.

Dr. Sydney Spiesel on Slate:

…two years ago ABC News reported that the testing laboratory, GNG Pharmaceutical Services, was a two-man operation with “no clinic, no scientists, and no doctors,” started up to generate the Airborne study. A class-action suit for false advertising followed, and the company just agreed to pay more than $23 million to settle it. Besides its lack of demonstrable efficacy (a little problem shared by virtually all cold medicines), there is the additional concern that Airborne might contain an unsafe amount of vitamin A.

Here’s how you can get a refund on your Airborne:

To receive a refund, you will need to send in your proof of purchase and the store receipt. Please make sure to put “Attn: Refund Request” on the front of the envelope and send it to: Attn: Refund Request Airborne, Inc. P.O. Box 2884 Carmel, CA 93921

Are you an Airborne believer?

FYI, here’s more from me on cold remedies.


Best Ways to Learn

This month’s O, The Oprah Magazine has tips on how to retain what we’ve learned.

  1. Space Out – Break up learning into separate sessions rather than cram at the last minute. Learning spread over the long term works better than intense, infrequent study.

    This is definitely a habit I want to teach Stephen. We break up his weekly school homework assignment over three days so it doesn’t seem as overwhelming and we do an additional 30 minutes of mommy-assigned work four days out of the week.

    My personal experience has also been that keeping on top of the work is far more effective come exam time than trying to cram the night or even the weekend before. This generally applies to all things in life, including housework!

  2. Sleep On It – Sleep after studying helps your brain “solidify memory” by allowing it to fire in a certain sequence without interruption. This apparently works even after a nap.

    I know so many people who pull overnighters with just 2- 3 hours of sleep before exams. They were also typically below the grading curve yet never seemed to learn that their study strategy wasn’t working. I always got close to a full night’s sleep before exams even if I wasn’t 100% ready. I figured that my brain would be able to retrieve material far better if it were actually awake!

  3. Don’t Overlearn – “Study a lot of material for a little bit of time in one session, rather than a little bit of material for a lot of time.”

    Glad to get this confirmation! I have tried my best to resist drilling Stephen on his weekly spelling even after it’s clear that he knows it. Now I know that I shouldn’t even talk about the spelling the morning of the test. Not only does it put too much pressure on him, but it obviously doesn’t improve long-term retention.

  4. Keep Your Brain Fit – Regular exercise to maintain cardiovascular fitness, mentally challenging activities like reading, social engagement, education, and perhaps blogging all help to maintain brain plasticity. (More from Time.)

What have you been doing to keep your brain fit?


High Blood Pressure? Not Me

checking blood pressureI have a history of borderline hypertension (high blood pressure) dating back to college. For a long time, I thought that was just my normal baseline until this week when I started taking my blood pressure at home and realized that I have a serious case of “white-coat hypertension.” Unlike my measurements at the doctor’s office which puts me at hypertension stage I, my readings at home are in the normal/desireable range.

Dr. Vincent Moloney at Blood Pressure, A Doctor’s Practical Guide With Insider’s Tips says:

Excellent studies using intra-arterial measurements have shown that more than 25% of people who have elevations when someone else takes their blood pressure actually have a false elevation. This error averaged 27 mm of Hg. Twenty-seven! Enough to easily cause you to have a false diagnosis or if you have a true elevation, too much treatment. This false elevation, called “white-coat hypertension”, disappears when you take it yourself.

If you’ve ever been told you have high blood pressure, get a monitor and check it at home. I was amazed at the difference in my blood pressure. Never again will I worry when my blood pressure shoots up at the doctor’s office! (Although the hypochondriac in me rather enjoyed the attention!)


Top Idiots: Enemas

From Top Idiots:

Idiot # 1

I am a medical student currently doing a rotation in toxicology at the poison control center. Today, this woman called in very upset because she caught her little daughter eating ants. I quickly reassured her that the ants are not harmful and there would be no need to bring her daughter into the hospital.

She calmed down, and at the end of the conversation happened to mention that she gave her daughter some ant poison to eat in order to kill the ants. I told her that she better bring her daughter into the Emergency room right away.

Here’s your sign lady. Wear it with pride.

fleet enemaHere’s my idiot story. For a few years on school holidays, I worked at one of the largest pharmacies in Northern California. A common prescription was for two bottles of Fleet enemas for “relief of occasional constipation or bowel cleansing before rectal examinations.”

One day, a woman came in with an empty bottle in the opened box and asked to speak to a pharmacist. She said that there was something wrong with the enema because she didn’t feel the urge to go to the bathroom afterwards.

The pharmacist asked her how she used the enema.

“I drank it!” she replied.

Oops! Wrong end!! The pharmacist replaced the used enema and carefully explained how to use it. If you’re not sure how to use an enema, read these instructions. (Hint: It goes in the bottom, not the top.)


X-Ray Buses for TB Screening

With news about the 31-year-old Atlanta personal injury lawer quarantined for drug-resistant TB, I saw this model of the X-ray bus at the London Science Museum today and wondered if we would ever see these roaming the streets again.

IMG 5508

Model mobile mass X-ray unit, c. 1951

Following rises in the incidence of tuberculosis (TB) during the Second World War, mass X-ray screening was introduced, first for troops and latterly for civilians, in ‘campaigns’ which continued for several decades. A visit of one such unit features in TB or not TB?, a 1970 episode of the situation comedy Steptoe and Son. In the industrialized world, millions were screened in these mobile units, and the so-called ‘X-ray buses’ became highly visible symbols of national crusades against tuberculosis.

The equipment produced miniature X-ray images on conventional 35mm, 70mm or 100mmfilm. Doctors used projectors to view the images, and recalled for a full size S-ray any patients whose lungs showed signs of the disease. Advertisements stressed that patients were not required to undress for the ‘X-ray inspector’, which may explain the improvised shirts supplied for some of the figures in this model.


Healthy Food for Kids at School


The Institute of Medicine has issued new guidelines for the kinds of food American kids will be offered at school.

  • Lots of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and low-fat dairy foods.
  • None can be more than 200 calories per serving.
  • Foods have to be low in fat, saturated fat, sodium, sugar, and have no added caffeine.

In the UK, the School Food Trust emphasizes the same. Here are a few notes from a newsletter Stephen brought hom from his primary school where he eats lunch every day.

  • Sausages and chicken nuggets are completely organic and free from artificial additives.
  • Fish fingers are made from whole cod fillet.
  • Fresh fruit, yoghurt and cheese and biscuits are available daily as an alternative to dessert. (Stephen often eats these instead of “dessert.”)

Most interestingly, they’ve removed sandwiches from the menu! When Stephen first started school, he would tell me he ate a chicken sandwich for lunch every single gosh darned day. Then suddenly, he began telling me that he ate macaroni, fish cake, cold pasta, baked potato, and all sorts of other stuff he normally would never try. Whoopee! The main reason I like having him eat lunch at school is to get him to try different things and FINALLY he was doing it! Could the cooks have read my mind?

continue reading


Popping Out Babies Behind the Bush

Peaceful morning, last one before Easter holidays begin tomorrow, cup of cinnamon dolce latte at Starbucks, The Times open in front of me…. All was good until I came across this piece by Alice Miles:

Natural birth! Hello? This is the 21st century

Hello? Hello?? HELLO???

Alice takes offense to the idea that the UK National Health Service (NHS) will be encouraging women to avoid medical intervention during birth. By 2009, the NHS plans to offer more birthing choices to women by recruiting more midwives and offering the option to have at-home, midwife-led, or consultant (doctor)-led births. And there’s something wrong with that?

When I gave birth in Japan, I appreciated my doctor very much. He provided excellent prenatal care and was very supportive during my long labor. But when it came time to push the baby out, he stepped aside and allowed the midwife to ease Stephen out carefully, slowly, and gently so that I could avoid an episiotomy as I had stated very strongly in my birth plan. What a fabulous partnership!

But Alice will have none of that. She went the planned Caesarean route because she wanted

…a predictable, pain-free birth (yes, I wanted it in the diary; anything wrong with that?) with a surgeon I had met and trusted, accompanied by lots and lots of drugs.

How nice for her.

Guess what, honey? All those drugs and a pain-free birth is just momentary denial. Childbirth and parenting are meant to be painful. It’s what makes you appreciate your children so much more. What’s worth doing in life takes effort and if you think that it’s possible to glide through childbirth, you’re sadly mistaken. Even if a c-section appears to be the tidiest way to go about giving life to children, it isn’t. And it’s wrong to tell women who’re considering their options that your way is the best.

continue reading