Kids fall down and go boom all the time. We have six children between us, so we know. Most scrapes and cuts heal in the blink of an eye. But some get infected, and some of those infections can turn deadly.
We're making scary noises here because MRSA — the dangerous, antibiotic-resistant infection that's plagued hospitals for years — is now multiplying in communities (where it's called CA-MRSA, "CA" for "community-acquired"). The number of children requiring hospital care due to MRSA, most community-acquired, has doubled since 2000.
MRSA bugs aren't rare. Actually, they're everywhere, especially in schools and gyms (including gyms in schools, and also, oddly, on your nose). Mostly, they don't cause trouble. But when MRSA bacteria get into open wounds, it's serious. Here's how to put the odds in your kids' favor (and yours):
* Before you wash your child's cut and squirt on disinfectant, wash your own hands.
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* Keep open wounds clean and covered.
* When your kid has a cut, stress the importance of good hygiene and frequent hand-washing (including by practicing it).
* If you notice growing redness, swelling, tenderness, warmth or pus, call your pediatrician. If it is MRSA, your doc may prescribe an antibiotic, such as clindamycin or trimethoprim/sulfa (common brands: Bactrim, Septra).
* Tell your kids not to share athletic gear and to clean gym machines with disinfectant wipes before and after using. You do the same.
The fastest way to relieve low-back pain
When our patients have low-back pain, the last thing most of them want to do is get a move on. But here's the thing: That's often the first thing you should do — well, the second. The first is to see your doc and make sure it's OK. Once you get a go-ahead, get moving.
Low-back pain is practically as common as the cold. During any given three-month period, about one in four Americans are wincing from it. Usually it's due to muscle pulls and swelling, which presses on nerves. Activity decreases inflammation and swelling, as long as you don't overdo it. While most low-back pain improves by itself within a month, who wants to go through a month of wincing?
Swimming and gentle yoga often help, but here's something that's simpler and quicker: Put one foot in front of the other. Yep, turns out that our favorite activity — walking — can ease low-back pain in as little as seven days. Even if you walk very short distances (picking up the mail, stopping by the neighbors, going to the copier), just doing normal activities helps you recover and feel better faster. Why?
1. Moving, not resting, pumps fluid out of your muscles (fluid's what causes the swelling, or edema) and keeps you from getting trapped in a downward spiral of inactivity, stiffness, pain and depression.
2. Focusing on helping yourself, rather than on how much it hurts, is good medicine all by itself. Never underestimate the pain-easing power of positive thinking.
Going through tough times? Be nice to you
Unfortunately, like you, we've seen plenty of friends and colleagues go through divorce. While it's never pleasant (understatement, we know), some people manage to come out the other side in pretty good shape, while others crumble and have a terrible time, even in similar situations.
Why? We've just read one explanation. Turns out that if you're trying to regroup from a divorce, or any difficult emotional event (and there are many in these tough times), cut yourself plenty of slack. Show yourself as much compassion as you'd show a best friend struggling through the same mess. Being kind to you may be the most vital thing you can do — even more important than being optimistic or having a healthy sense of self-esteem. Here's how:
* Don't beat yourself up. Think, "I did the best I could in the circumstances." If something keeps gnawing at you, forgive yourself. Don't get mired in a cycle of self-recrimination.
* Get that it's not just you. Everyone goes through loss. Difficult experiences are part of the ups and downs of being a human.
* Tap into life's deeper meaning. Be authentic and spiritual, in whatever way makes sense to you.
* Oh, there's one other thing that will help you get through it: being a woman. Sorry guys, but surveys show that women recover better from divorce. They even gain less weight afterward.
Women: Strong bones, less cancer
One of the things we see over and over again is that while all medicines have side effects, not all side effects are bad. Some are astonishingly good. Aspirin's a classic case: While your intestinal tract may not love regular doses, its protective side effects decrease heart disease and breast and colon cancer.
The latest example: If you're taking one of the bone-building drugs called bisphosphonates given to many to combat osteoporosis triggered by menopause, you've cut your risk of endometrial cancer by more than half.
Bisphosphonates also slice your threat of colon cancer almost in half and reduce your breast cancer risk by about a third. Pretty nifty side effects.
How come? In the process of strengthening bones, bisphosphonates make a mess out of what's called a cancer "pathway," inhibiting cell growth in some tumors. They may turn out to do more. The Cleveland Clinic has a big trial under way to see if bisphosphonates keep breast cancer from coming back.
Now, we don't wish osteoporosis on anybody. The breaks can be life-threatening. And bisphosphonates aren't perfect. For instance, if you don't sit or stand for 30 minutes after taking them, they can cause intense heartburn and nausea. And long-term use can, ironically, increase certain unusual fractures (why docs may advise an occasional "drug holiday"). Still, any bone-building drug that has cancer-fighting side effects... who's going to knock that?
Have that second cup of coffee while reading this
As far as we can tell, all of America would grind to halt without coffee. In fact, the entire world might. Finns are the top coffee drinkers at four cups a day — not per coffee drinker, per capita! Norwegians are close behind. Then Swiss, Italians, Brazilians and Americans in sixth place, averaging about 1.5 cups per person (though about 3.4 cups per coffee drinker).
If you like coffee and it likes you (it doesn't give you migraines, jitters, an upset stomach or off-beat heart rhythms), enjoy. Here's why:
1. Coffee wards off Alzheimer's. Something in coffee releases a substance called GCSF that helps sweep beta-amyloid deposits out of your brain — the plaque buildup seen in Alzheimer's.
2. Coffee fends off Parkinson's. Why isn't clear, but the finding is consistent, and more coffee equals more protection.
3. Coffee fights diabetes. As coffee consumption goes up, diabetes risk goes down. More is better here, too: Risk drops about 7 percent with each daily cup.
No time to brew a fresh pot? No worries. Healthwise, instant holds its own because it starts out as brewed coffee and retains some of the healthy substances in brewed.
Also, there's a bonus: Instant has two-thirds more fiber. Yep, believe it or not, a 12-ounce cup of instant contains about 3 grams of fiber, versus about 1.8 grams in brewed. And that extra fiber helps your body absorb the other healthy goodies in coffee.