Prevention

Saving lives by prescribing naloxone with opioid painkillers

Sarah Wakeman, MD, FASAM, Medical Director, Massachusetts General Hospital Substance Use Disorder Initiative

Unintentional opioid overdose is now the leading cause of accidental death in the United States. These drugs are prescribed to patients to help relieve pain, but overdoses happen because opioids can also depress breathing, sometimes stopping it altogether. But naloxone, also called Narcan, can help reverse the effects of an overdose. If doctors prescribe naloxone at the same time as opioids, overdose deaths may decrease.

Another study shows parents of newborns don’t always follow safe sleep recommendations

Claire McCarthy, MD
Claire McCarthy, MD, Faculty Editor, Harvard Health Publications

A study found that parents of newborns frequently do not follow safe sleep guidelines for their babies even though it’s likely they are familiar with them. The most common mistake is putting blankets or other items in a baby’s crib, but cribs should be empty. While it’s hard to imagine sleeping on a bare mattress, babies really don’t need bedding. And it’s not worth risking your baby’s life for the sake of a blanket.

Why are our girls killing themselves?

Monique Tello, MD, MPH
Monique Tello, MD, MPH, Contributor

An analysis by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention shows a significant increase in suicides in the United States since 1999. The increase was particularly high in girls ages 10 to 14, especially in the past decade, and this is likely attributable in part to risky use of social media and the prevalence of cyberbullying.

Get up, stand up, for your health: A little exercise offsets a lot of sitting

Monique Tello, MD, MPH
Monique Tello, MD, MPH, Contributor

Sitting has been described as the “new smoking.” While that may sound discouraging if you’re always driving long distances or sitting in an office chair for hours on end, there is something you can do about it. Moderate exercising like walking the dog or riding a bike for just an hour a day could alleviate or even eliminate the dangers caused by sitting all day. And if you’re worried about a full hour, benefits still come from spreading those 60 minutes out throughout the day.

Tossing flossing?

Robert H. Shmerling, MD
Robert H. Shmerling, MD, Faculty Editor, Harvard Health Publications

The recent media focus on the lack of evidence supporting the benefits of regular flossing overlooks the fact that it has not been studied in depth. Given the established links between gum disease and other health conditions, continuing to floss regularly makes sense.

Perspective on alcohol use and cancer risk

Steven J. Atlas, MD, MPH

There seems to be general agreement that, for most people, moderate alcohol use isn’t particularly harmful to health. At the same time, some people have seen the negative effects of alcohol up close and personal. A new study makes alcohol seem even more controversial, suggesting that there is sufficient evidence to say that alcohol causes several types of cancer. However, this startling news it is based on reinterpretation of existing data and may further muddy the waters on the benefits and risks of alcohol use.

The 5 things parents need to know about drowning

Claire McCarthy, MD
Claire McCarthy, MD, Faculty Editor, Harvard Health Publications

About 10 people die from drowning every day. Of these 10 people, two are children. For every child that dies from drowning, five other children are treated in hospitals for injuries sustained from drowning. Although swimming can be a dangerous activity for even the most experienced swimmer, there are ways that parents can help protect their children from the dangers of drowning. Fencing off your pool, teaching your child how to swim and simply being observant of your child in any sort of water are all easy steps to help keep your child safe.

Fentanyl: The dangers of this potent “man-made” opioid

Sarah Wakeman, MD, FASAM, Medical Director, Massachusetts General Hospital Substance Use Disorder Initiative

Fentanyl is a powerful synthetic opioid. It is far more potent — and potentially more dangerous — than heroin and morphine. Overdose deaths related to fentanyl are on the rise. The drug is cheaper than heroin and recently is being used to dilute heroin or substitute for it. Users may be unaware that they are taking this potent drug, or may even seek its intense high. People at risk from using fentanyl can be treated successfully with therapies used for other opioid use disorders, but taking steps to prevent overdose are critical until a person is ready to seek care.

“Double dipping” your chip: Dangerous or just…icky?

Robert H. Shmerling, MD
Robert H. Shmerling, MD, Faculty Editor, Harvard Health Publications

The idea of double dipping became a mainstream public worry because of an episode of Seinfeld, bringing up the idea that double dipping might be grosser than we originally thought it was. Although it originally started as a playful debate, double dipping does raise questions about the spread of bacteria, and believe it or not, research has tried to address these questions.

Female athlete triad: Protecting the health and bones of active young women

Elizabeth Matzkin, MD
Elizabeth Matzkin, MD, Contributor

Women who are especially active may be susceptible to a spectrum disorder known as the female athlete triad, a combination of symptoms rooted in inadequate nutrition that can ultimately lead to a greater risk of osteoporosis.