People like tests. You get numbers, and maybe a printout, and there’s science and blood and things just feels more ... serious, when testing is done. You can picture Marcus Welby (or perhaps a more modern physician), looking solemn, declaring “We’d better run some tests.” Are medical tests magical and mysterious, and can they unlock the secrets of life? Usually, no. And among the worst and most misunderstood tests we do are ...

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Myth #1: Vaccines work by preventing disease in individuals who are vaccinated. Nope, that’s not actually true -- it’s quite wrong, but in a subtle way. And a misunderstanding of this concept, I think, has led to a lot of mischief. If people understood how vaccines really work, how they can best protect us from disease, it might help overcome some skepticism. Vaccines do indeed prevent diseases in individuals, but that’s ...

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Some people who argue against vaccinations claim that vaccine policies infringe on their “rights” -- their rights, as parents, to make medical decisions for their children. It’s a scary, misleading, and chilling message. We need to be careful about where one person’s rights end and the next person’s rights begin. We need to remember that children (their children, and your children too) have rights of their own. For example, Dr. Bob ...

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This past Christmas holiday, an as-yet-unidentified “index case” -- the first person to start an epidemic -- visited Disneyland in California. Five employees became infected, along with dozens of visitors to the park. Since then, the outbreak has spread to about 80 people, including people who’ve caught it not directly from visiting Disney, but by coming in contact with Disney cases. These “secondary” cases will soon lead to “tertiary” cases ...

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NPR recently reported, “Measles makes an unwelcome visit to Disneyland.” Nine people who visited Disneyland theme parks in California over winter break had caught measles, almost all of them unvaccinated children. The next day, ABC reported that the number of cases has grown to 19. Of these, only two had been fully vaccinated. Some of the cases were too young to receive vaccines, others apparently chose not to get ...

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The action steps, in any health emergency, are: ABC. Airway, breathing, circulation. The airway has to be open, the patient has to be making an effort to breathe, and the heart has to pump blood. In any emergency, health care people are trained to address these, one by one, in order. Fix what you can before moving on, and concentrate on what’s going to kill the child first. Then, arrange ...

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shutterstock_115992457 Look here: I am a breastfeeding supporter. I regularly help new moms breastfeed successfully, and I even took a special class to learn how to do a brief procedure to help babies overcome breastfeeding problems caused by tongue-tie. I’ve got a happy breast support sticker, right on my AAP card. But I think honesty is (or should be) the breast policy. Some ...

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shutterstock_91422131 A thought provoking article in the November, 2014 edition of Pediatrics highlights a growing problem with modern medicine: Just because we can make a diagnosis doesn’t mean we should. The article, titled “Overdiagnosis: How our compulsion for diagnosis may be harming our children,” has been made available for free to everyone. It’s fairly dense and technical, but if you’ve been following this blog ...

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In June, a man became very ill during a flight into Lagos, Nigeria. On the plane, he developed vomiting and diarrhea, and he collapsed in the very busy airport. Contacts on the plane and on the ground had no idea that he had Ebola -- initially, he was treated for malaria -- and many health care workers and bystanders on the plane and in the airport were exposed to his ...

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The Journal Psychological Science just published a complicated, long, and fascinating study about happiness. The full text is tucked behind a paywall, but it’s great reading if you can get your hands on it. The authors arranged four separate experiments, looking at the effects of getting things versus experiencing things, and how the anticipation of waiting might affect happiness. Some of the studies involved just imagining a future purchase or vacation; ...

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