Kids’ health – Avoid medication errors

The right medication at the right dose

The journal Pediatrics recently published a study that showed about 85% of parents make mistakes when measuring out doses of liquid over-the-counter medications.

That reminded me of this short video from Nationwide Children’s Hospital in Ohio talking about medication errors made by parents or other caregivers.

Using over 10 years of data from the National Poison Center, researchers found that children under the age of 6 are exposed to a medication error every 8 minutes: too much, too little, or the wrong drug altogether.

Most often, they found … Continue reading

Overuse of antipsychotics in teenagers

I read a disturbing bit of news a couple of weeks ago: Antipsychotic use rising among teens and young adults.

A growing number of teens and young adults are being prescribed antipsychotics, a new study suggests.

In particular, it appears they’re being used to treat attention deficit and hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) – a condition for which the powerful drugs are not approved.

The study mentioned was recently published in the medical journal JAMA Psychiatry.

Antipsychotics include such heavily-marketed drugs as Abilify (aripiprazole), Risperdal (risperidone), Seroquel (quetiapine) and Zyprexa (olanzapine).

Related posts:

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Tanning beds and skin cancer

tanning beds and skin cancerLast month a nurse posted this selfie on her Facebook page with the following message:

If anyone needs a little motivation to not lay in the tanning bed and sun here ya go! This is what skin cancer treatment can look like. Wear sunscreen and get a spray tan. You only get one skin and you should take care of it. Learn from other people’s mistakes. Don’t let tanning prevent you from seeing your children grow up. That’s my biggest fear now that I have a two year old little boy of my own.

I hope a picture is worth … Continue reading

Breathing exercises to improve sleep

I just ran across this video of Andrew Weil, MD, explaining how to do yoga breathing exercises, specifically the 4-7-8 breathing technique. It’s based on the yoga practice of pranayama.

I’ve always had trouble getting to sleep and staying asleep, and I want to give these breathing exercises a try as they are an inexpensive and drug-free approach to hopefully improving my quantity and quality of sleep.


The steps of the 4-7-8 technique are simple:

  • Exhale completely through your mouth while making a ‘whoosh’ sound.
  • Close your mouth and inhale quietly through your
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Jamie Oliver – Teaching children about food

I love the British chef Jamie Oliver. He’s funny and he’s passionate about food.

He’s also the father of several small children, and he’s made it a personal crusade to improve the health of children, through food, in his country as well as ours.

A few years ago, he did a reality series, Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution, in which he attempted to change the way children are fed in our public school system. He introduced us to the infamous “pink slime”!

I shared his frustration as he ran into one bureaucratic roadblock after another.

Related posts:

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Better patient education for mammograms

I’ve mentioned in several posts that I think screening tests, especially mammograms, are used too widely in this country. Every woman over age 40? Every year? It’s overkill.

Even the US Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) only recommends a screening mammogram every other year between the ages of 50 and 75.

But most women still think the yearly mammogram is health care at its finest.

Related post: Screening mammograms—benefits vs harms

The British medical journal, Lancet, recently published a study that shows women who are better informed about the risks and benefits of screening mammograms are less likely to … Continue reading

Belsomra – use with caution

I posted about Belsomra (suvorexant), the newest sleeping pill to hit the market, a few months ago. At that time, it wasn’t available to buy yet. Now it is.

As I predicted, it’s expensive, although not quite as costly as I thought it might be. According to GoodRx, a 30-day supply of 10mg tablets in my area code will cost on average $275.

Generic Ambien—zolpidem—costs about $30.

Belsomra works differently in the brain than Ambien or Lunesta. Will it work better? Hard to know, since there have been no studies directly comparing the efficacy of Belsomra with the other … Continue reading

Number Needed to Treat

A few months ago I posted about a new website that could help you find the Number Needed to Treat, aka the NNT.

How many people need to be treated with a drug or procedure before one person is helped? That’s the NNT.

It’s a tool I wish more patients and physicians used. Medical interventions should be limited to those that are proven to work for more people than not.

That seems like a pretty simple aim, doesn’t it? But you’d be surprised how many commonly used treatments are either useless or do more harm than good.

Aaron Carroll, … Continue reading

Headaches are overtreated

A study coming out of Harvard this week reveals that ordinary headaches are being overtreated, and it’s costing billions of extra dollars in health care spending.

Each year more than 12 million Americans visit their doctors complaining of headaches, which result in lost productivity and costs of upward of $31 billion annually. A new study by researchers from Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center (BIDMC) suggests some of that cost could be offset by physicians ordering fewer tests and an increased focus on counseling about lifestyle changes.

The study looked at over 9,000 doctor visits for headaches over a 10-year … Continue reading

Save money – Cleaning for a Reason

Free housecleaning for women undergoing cancer treatment

I write a lot of posts complaining about the high cost of health care, and cancer care specifically.

Related post: The high costs of cancer drugs

So it’s a nice change to be able to give a shout out to a non-profit group that seeks to take some of the burden off women with cancer.

Finances aside, cancer treatment can be a huge drain on an individual’s or family’s time and energy. Keeping up with house cleaning chores is often the first thing to go, and few families can afford house cleaning … Continue reading

The Placebo Effect

The power of positive thinking

I’ve been meaning for some time to write a post about the placebo effect.

A placebo (from the Latin “I shall please”) is a fake treatment—such as a sugar pill—that is intended to deceive the patient. If that patient improves, or at least thinks so, that is known as the placebo effect.

Before a new drug can be approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), the drug maker must have studies to prove that it is more effective than a placebo. If neither the patients nor the researchers know who is getting the … Continue reading

Be informed – Number Needed to Treat

number needed to treatHow many are helped; how many are hurt

My son sent me a great link to an article in Wired magazine about a physician and his colleagues who have started a website called

What is the NNT? It stands for “the number needed to treat” and it’s a pretty common measurement talked about in health care. Simply put, it quantifies how many people need to be treated for one person to be helped.

The best therapies have a low NNT:

If your kid is throwing up and you take her to the hospital, she might get a drug

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The problem with for-profit health care

for profit health careOr whose best interests are being served?

It’s no secret that our health care system is filled with conflicts of interest.

That’s because, for the most part, the doctors, hospitals and insurance companies that are the framework of the system are for-profit businesses. Like any other for-profit industry, health care sells a product and encourages you (or your insurance company) to buy it.

A friend of mine had a recent experience with for-profit health care that she wanted to share:

In my opinion, anyone who has been told they “must” replace their orthotic inserts every year or every few years Continue reading

Watch out for pharmacy errors

pharmacy errorsTwo things happened last week that reminded me you can never be too careful in our health care system, especially when medications are involved.

Large pharmacies oversee hundreds of prescriptions every day. Add that to numerous phone calls, glitchy computers and impatient customers, and mistakes are bound to happen.

Protect yourself with a few simple steps at the counter:

Check the name on your prescription

Or, a tale of two patients (with the same last name)

My 84-year-old mother called me on Friday afternoon in a bit of a panic. She had just returned from visiting my brother on the … Continue reading