Safety

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.

My fall last fall: Reaction time and getting older

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

Being able to react to a fall — throwing out a hand, grabbing a railing — often makes the fall less serious. But our reaction times slow as we age, making this kind of quick adjustment much harder as we get older. We’ve examined some of the biological reasons why falling becomes more serious as we age and some ways to make falling less likely — including the possibility of improving slowed reaction times.

Zika, pregnancy, and winter travel: Many unknowns, and a cautious message

Hope Ricciotti, MD
Hope Ricciotti, MD, Editor in Chief, Harvard Women's Health Watch

If you’re planning an escape from the dreary winter weather, and you’re pregnant or trying to get pregnant, you may want to plan your destination carefully. There’s still a lot we don’t know about Zika virus — which is now widespread in several favorite tropical destinations, such as the Caribbean — and its potential pregnancy-related complications. Until we know more, it’s better to be safe and follow the precautions we’ve listed here.

Starting your baby on solids? Here are three new things I tell parents to do

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

Over the past few years, research has changed pediatricians’ recommendations for when — and how — to introduce babies to solid foods. For example, many doctors now recommend giving young children peanut products and fish very early, as this actually reduces the risk of developing allergies. Of course, every baby and family is different, so it’s always best to run your baby’s “first foods” by his doctor before giving them.

Is football safe for kids?

Mark Proctor, MD
Mark Proctor, MD, Contributing Editor

Many team sports have tremendous health benefits for children, but youth football, in particular, continues to pose a concern because of the high risks of concussion and other injuries. A recent NEJM article has taken a stance against allowing tackling in youth football. But is this position really the best way to promote the health and safety of youth athletes?

What the rise of Zika (and other viruses) might tell us about our planet

John Ross, MD, FIDSA
John Ross, MD, FIDSA, Contributing Editor

Zika, a virus that was almost unknown just a short time ago, is now certain to spread to almost every country in the Americas. But why have the U.S. and other countries become more vulnerable to the threat of exotic pathogens? There currently aren’t enough data to make any solid connections, but many experts agree that the rise of global trade and travel, climate change, and ecosystem changes are all major factors.

Lead poisoning: What everyone needs to know

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

Even though the use of lead has been regulated for many years, tragedies like the one currently ongoing in Flint, Michigan still occur. Exposure to lead in childhood can have health effects that can change a child’s life forever. We’ve listed steps you can take to keep your child — and everyone in your home — safe from lead poisoning.

What you need to know about Zika virus

John Ross, MD, FIDSA
John Ross, MD, FIDSA, Contributing Editor

Zika, a formerly rare and obscure virus, has recently spread throughout the Pacific islands and the Americas. Although Zika virus rarely makes people seriously ill, it’s been implicated in a huge rise in the number of birth defects in babies born to mothers who’ve had Zika. Although its impact in the U.S. is expected to be much less severe than in warmer climates, we’ve listed some tips to reduce your exposure to the type of mosquito that carries Zika.

Cold and flu warning: The dangers of too much acetaminophen

Susan Farrell, MD
Susan Farrell, MD, Contributing Editor

Many common cold and flu medications and prescription-strength pain relievers contain acetaminophen (Tylenol) as one of their active ingredients. If you take several of these drugs at once during a bout of cold or flu, you might accidentally take more than the safe dose of acetaminophen, potentially causing liver damage. It’s always best to read the labels — and to keep in mind that most winter viruses get better on their own with rest, fluids, and time.