Friday, December 02, 2016

How to select toys that are fun not funky

It's such a cliche that kids will toss the toy and play with the box. Maybe the cat will get in the box, but kids like the toys.

Obviously in shopping for the tots, no sharp edges or long strings or cords.

Equally importantly, though:

--Be mindful of age. Play is the WORK of childhood," says Sue Rzucidlo, a nurse practitioner at Penn State Pediatrics. But don't think a child will grow into a toy--say a bike--without the "work" skills to operate it.

--Remember, younger siblings may try to play with an older child's toy. Little kids put everything in their mouths...tiny movable parts on big sister's toy--not good.

--If a child is under three, make sure none of their toys would fit through a toilet paper tube.

--Those small, button batteries are often swallowed.

--Latex balloons can choke.

--Small magnets, when swallowed, can glom onto each other through the intestinal wall and cause a blockage or infection.

--When giving a toy with wheels--bike, skateboard--also give the safety gear.

--See what the toy is made of. Some plastics are toxic. Older toys--say from yard sales--can have lead paint on them.

Remember those lawn dart recalled some years ago--yeah. those were genius...

And ant farms? Those ants can escape. Take it from me.

Thursday, December 01, 2016

"Suicide headaches" affect men more than women

They are called "cluster headaches" because they occur in clusters, usually at the same time of day or night, for several weeks. Spring and fall can be especially bad.

They are relatively short in duration but extremely painful--like being mutilated by an icepick, according to one doctor.

Cluster headaches are three times more likely to occur in men than women. They strike one side of the head, often behind or around one eye. They may or may not be preceded by a migraine-like aura and nausea. The intense pain lasts about three hours and can awaken people.

Other symptoms include tears, runny nose or congestion, sweating and redness on one side of the face only.

Luckily these headaches are relatively rare and can be treated. Migraine drugs can work within seconds. And there are preventive drugs, too.

If you suffer from these, seek out a headache specialist at the United Council for Neurologic Subspecialities.

What causes these? Unclear. The important thing is to not suffer in silence, much less commit suicide.

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Grown-ups can also be picky eaters

I once knew a kid who would not eat mushrooms because of the word "mush" in there. My own daughter won't touch a pea, and since an unfortunate food poisoning incident as a toddler, won't eat rice.

Do most people outgrow these little quirks?

Well, says Nancy Zucker, a psychologist and director of the Duke Center for Eating Disorders--as quoted in a piece in the NYT--many adult food dislikes (veggies #1) start in childhood.

How many is many? No stats--adults tend to keep these things on the down low.

One said--there is not a lot of empathy for picky eaters.

Researchers at Duke and the University of Pittsburgh did an online questionnaire of 40,000 adults.

Still, the causes of adult picky eating are not well understood:

--A childhood scare with choking or vomiting

--A lingering fear of certain foods

--A different way of tasting--foods contain hundreds of compounds that determine taste and smell--individuals may perceive these differently.

--Texture--okra, canned spinach--can also play a role. Someone else did not like to cut into tomatoes and "watch the guts spill out."

You can learn to like something or a way of preparing something, of course, My kid would not eat a pea, but she would eat artichoke leaves in sauce when a year old.

Some people come to Duke to relearn eating of certain foods.

Oh--and if you know a picky eater...don't force them to eat one bite.

They don't want to--and you can't make them.

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Californians to meet mall robot

Yeah, that's him.
Mike Murphy, in Nextgov, Nov 23, 2016, says the bots are coming to spread holiday cheer.

The Japanese telecom SoftBank will bring a personal robot named Pepper to two shopping centers in California (Westfield San Francisco Center and Westfield Valley Fair in Santa Clara).

No, this eager fellow won't argue with you over returns or pick out a scarf to go with that jacket. Pepper can, however, say Hello in six languages, take photos of customers from its chest, play games with customers and start up dance parties with its built-in tunes.

Customers can also provide feedback on their experiences in the mall to Pepper. Maybe they can say they didn't come there for a dance party.

Other less chummy robots are already coming to shopping--touchscreens instead of cashiers,  security bots that cruise around and sometimes run over customers.

So Pepper is just the beginning...He may be an automated selfie machine now...but wait...

Personally, I preferred Rosie on the Jetsons. She was no Roomba.

Monday, November 28, 2016

Should medical research take in gender and sex?

Wait a hot one--aren't sex and gender the same thing? No, according to Cara Tannenbaum of the University of Montreal and Janine Austin Clayton, NIH.

These two have written a Viewpoint article in JAMA making a case for dividing research into sex and gender.

By their definitions, sex refers to biology, anatomy and sex hormones. Gender, they say, encompasses social, behavioral, and cultural interactions and the roles between men and women.

Too often, they say sex and gender-specific results are missing in evaluating therapies--because scientists trained last century learned to conduct research mostly in men, believing these results would also apply to women.

But now we know women metabolize drugs differently than men. Sick women may also be pregnant--not segregating results may mean not treating women safely.

Reasons to separate results by sex and gender:

--These results may be hidden in combined results.

--To provide raw material for meta-analyses, a way of combining results to see if results are the same or different across diverse populations of men and women.

--To avoid the need to repeat a trial to check for gender-specific matters that arise.

This brings us to dosage--same for men and women? The FDA is already recommending lower doses of some drugs for women, so no, this probably needs to change.

Also, Addyi, a drug to boost sexual desire in women, was tested for compatibility with alcohol on 23 men and two women--even though it was FOR women. Even in men, the drug increased the likelihood of fainting, dizziness and low BP.  The risk was probably greater for women.

When will the research be 50/50 men and women? Stay tuned--some journals have already adopted guidelines in this direction.

About time! Stay tuned. And stay skeptical.