Archive for January, 2016

Where is best for birth: Hospital or home?

Jeffrey Ecker, MD

Contributing Editor

By the mid-20th century, most births took place in the hospital. But increasingly, some women are choosing to have their babies at home in an effort to avoid seemingly unnecessary interventions and find an alternative to hospital environments. We don’t have the best data to assess the safety of home birth. But a recent analysis offers insights that can help women make choices based on what they value the most.

Guns and your health

Wynne Armand, MD

Contributing Editor

Many people choose to own guns for sport or protection. But from a physician’s standpoint, guns create as many — or more — problems than they solve. Several studies have found that guns injure or kill far more people, often unintentionally, than they’re intended to protect.

Why your wheezing baby may need TLC, not medication

Claire McCarthy, MD

Senior Faculty Editor, Harvard Health Publishing

If your baby is sick with fever, cough, and wheezing, it’s natural to think he or she needs medication. But if the culprit is bronchiolitis — a bad cold that has settled into the lungs — the best treatment is usually no treatment at all. That’s because treatments like antibiotics don’t work against bronchiolitis, and can cause unwanted side effects. Of course, you should always check in with your doctor if you think your baby has bronchiolitis.

What happens when you faint?

Robert H. Shmerling, MD

Senior Faculty Editor, Harvard Health Publishing

About 1 in 3 people report at least one episode of fainting during their lifetime, so it’s surprising that we don’t see people fainting more often. Fainting is usually harmless, the body’s response to emotional or physical stress. But in some cases, fainting can indicate an underlying problem such as heart abnormalities or seizures. And even when the cause of fainting is not that serious, fainting that leads to a fall can cause injury.

C-section rates: Consider this when deciding where to have your baby

Hope Ricciotti, MD

Editor in Chief, Harvard Women's Health Watch

For years, there has been concern about the high rate of cesarean births — but just how many cesareans are too many? A recent study suggests that a cesarean rate of 19% is about right. The reasons for high cesarean rates may be related more to each hospital’s circumstances and processes than to other, more commonly cited reasons. If you’re concerned, find out the C-section rate at the hospital where you plan to deliver your baby.

New cures for hepatitis C — but are they affordable?

Gregory Curfman, MD

Assistant Professor of Medicine, Former Editor-in-Chief, Harvard Health Publishing

Recently, several new drugs have been developed to treat hepatitis C, a serious viral infection that can cause severe liver damage if allowed to run unchecked. But these new drugs are incredibly expensive, and are unaffordable for many people who need them. Until drugs for hepatitis C (and other high-cost drugs) are priced at affordable levels, many people will be left unable to benefit from modern advances in drug therapy.

Can your coffee habit help you live longer?

Mallika Marshall, MD

Contributing Editor

Coffee is nearly a national obsession in the United States. For years, experts have debated whether drinking coffee is good for you. Recently published research suggests that regular, moderate coffee consumption is associated with a lower risk of overall mortality, and that heavy consumption of coffee isn’t linked with a greater risk of death.

The truth about altruism

Michael Craig Miller, M.D.

Senior Editor, Mental Health Publishing, Harvard Health Publishing

Many people believe that the human tendency to want to act for the greater good is rooted in kindness. But research suggests that altruism may have evolved alongside the impulse to condemn and even chasten those put self-interests first.

Four new recommendations for adolescent health

Claire McCarthy, MD

Senior Faculty Editor, Harvard Health Publishing

Each year, the American Academy of Pediatrics updates it recommendations for well-child visits. The latest version emphasizes screening adolescents for high cholesterol, drug and alcohol abuse, depression, and HIV. Many families may feel that their children don’t need these “checks,” but when it comes to the health and well-being of children, it’s always better to be safe than sorry.