Safety

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.

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.

“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.

The U.S. longevity gap

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

It may surprise some to realize that life expectancy in the United States is lower than in other developed countries. The reasons include higher rates of motor vehicle accidents, drug overdoses, and gun violence. They have a large effect on longevity because they predominantly affect young people. If there is good news, it’s that these contributors are preventable. Other factors that may be more difficult to tackle include inaccessible or unaffordable health care.

When hot gets too hot: keeping children safe in the heat

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

As temperatures around the U.S. continue to rise, it’s important for parents to recognize the risks that sunny summer days can pose to children. Heat exhaustion and heat stroke are some of the most common issues overheated children may face, but simple measures, like taking rest breaks in the shade, watching the weather forecast for excessive heat, and drinking cold water can help keep children safe during the sunny summer days.

The right reasons to choose a sunscreen—and the right way to use it

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

There are a wide variety of sunscreen products on the market today that can help to prevent sunburns and skin cancer, but in a recent study published in the journal JAMA Dermatology, researchers found that 40% of the top 65 most popular sunscreens didn’t meet American Academy of Dermatology guidelines. When buying sunscreen, it is important to choose a product that is broad-spectrum, has an SPF over 30, and is water resistant. In addition to choosing the right sunscreen, it’s important to use it correctly in order to truly protect your skin from the sun.

Avoid this common hazard of being in the hospital

Beverly Merz
Beverly Merz, Executive Editor, Harvard Women's Health Watch

A hospital stay can be confusing and disorienting for anyone — but especially for older people, who are prone to episodes of delirium when in the hospital. Several hospital-based programs exist to help identify people at risk for delirium and prevent episodes before they happen. We’ve discussed one such successful program, plus listed tips to help you or your loved one avoid delirium during a hospital stay.

Preventing playground injuries: The fine line between safe and overprotective

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

You may have noticed that many playgrounds are now “safer” than they used to be. It’s great to think about safety, especially since there are hundreds of thousands of playground-related injuries every year, and a significant chunk of those are brain injuries like concussions. But it’s also important not to get overprotective — some life lessons about risk and self-confidence are best learned in a fun, stimulating, well-supervised environment like a playground.

FDA warns parents about arsenic in rice cereal

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

Rice has an unusually high arsenic content — and high amounts of arsenic in the body can increase the risk of cancer and learning difficulties. The FDA has recently proposed an upper limit on the amount of arsenic in infant rice cereal, but it hasn’t yet been adopted. In the meantime, we’ve listed steps you can take to reduce your — and your child’s — consumption of arsenic.

Medical alert systems: In vogue, and for some, invaluable

Heidi Godman
Heidi Godman, Executive Editor, Harvard Health Letter

Medical alert devices can be a lifesaver — literally — if you suffer a fall. But not all medical devices are created equal. Here, we’ve listed the most common types and described the pros and cons of each, as well as the important things to consider when deciding which type to purchase.