Archive for January, 2016

More than just a game: Yoga for school-age children

Marlynn Wei, MD, JD
Marlynn Wei, MD, JD, Contributing Editor

Yoga is becoming increasingly popular among American children. Emerging research has shown that yoga has a number of physical and psychological benefits for children, and many classrooms now integrate yoga into a typical school day. Yoga can also be a great way for parents and children to play and interact at home. We’ve included several fun yoga-based exercises and games that parents and children can enjoy together.

Why are doctors writing opioid prescriptions — even after an overdose?

Joji Suzuki, MD

A recent study of nearly 3,000 patients who had an overdose during long-term opioid treatment found that more than 90% of these patients continued to receive opioids — even after their overdose. Poor communication between emergency rooms and prescribing doctors is likely the culprit. What’s more, doctors receive little training in recognizing patients at high risk for overdose, or in treating addiction when they do spot it. An important strategy to address the current opioid crisis is to improve how doctors are educated about opioids.

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.

What parents need to know about pain in newborns

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

We used to think newborns are too young to truly experience pain, but they do — and it can affect their later development. Fortunately, there are plenty of simple ways to lessen a newborn’s discomfort during many medical procedures. If your baby needs a procedure done, let your medical team know you want to do whatever you can to prevent or lessen his or her pain.

The empowering potential of end-of-life care

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

There’s almost always something we can do to improve our health and well-being — even at the end of our lives. Palliative care is designed to improve the quality of life for people with life-threatening illnesses and their families by keeping a person comfortable and making sure his or her values and preferences guide the medical team’s actions. For this reason, good communication with your care team — and your loved ones — is essential, even before you or a loved one has developed a serious illness.

Anti-depressants for teens: A second look

Nandini Mani, MD
Nandini Mani, MD, Contributing Editor

Many parents of teens with depression worry that antidepressants could cause an increase in suicidal thoughts or behaviors. Previous research had suggested antidepressants are safe for teens. But recently, researchers have re-examined the original data and found antidepressants may not be as safe for teens as once thought. As always, whether to start an antidepressant depends heavily on your teen’s personal situation.

How is the Affordable Care Act doing?

Updates in Slow Medicine
Updates in Slow Medicine, Contributing Editors

A recent summary paper published in The New England Journal of Medicine outlines where the Affordable Care Act (ACA) has succeeded and where it has fallen short. Although health care is now more accessible and affordable than before, many still lack coverage, and the available plans have some drawbacks. Rather than expanding insurance coverage, it will take a culture shift in how we provide care to truly improve the health of our nation.

Taking new aim at cancer

Matthew Solan
Matthew Solan, Executive Editor, Harvard Men's Health Watch

Last year, only months after announcing that he had an aggressive form of melanoma, former President Carter declared that he was cancer free — thanks at least in part to a recently approved immunotherapy drug. Immunotherapy is a type of targeted therapy that helps boost the body’s own immune response to cancer. It does so while sparing healthy cells, thus minimizing side effects.

Teens and medicines that cause birth defects: Do doctors drop the ball?

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

Doctors may prescribe medicines for teenage girls — for example for acne, depression, or migraines — that are known to cause birth defects. While most parents and doctors hope that these young women avoid pregnancy for many reasons, adults need to help adolescent girls understand the risks of the medications they take and have frank conversations about sex and birth control.

Retail health clinics: The pros and cons

Heidi Godman
Heidi Godman, Executive Editor, Harvard Health Letter

Retail health clinics are popping up everywhere, from drugstores and supermarkets to large retailers like Target and Walmart. Staffed by nurse practitioners or physician assistants, retail health clinics can be a great option, particularly if you’re younger and in generally good health. These clinics list their prices up-front and tend to be cheaper than a doctor’s visit. They’re convenient too: usually open extended hours, with no need for an appointment.