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4 ways to kid-proof your health


Open wide, Mama! Here come my scraps.

Being a mom comes with health benefits—lots of feelgood oxytocin from the cuddles, a reduced risk of breast cancer (really)—but a new study from the University of Minnesota Medical School pointed out some sneaky health traps mothers can fall into, too. Avoid them with this expert advice. HEALTH TRAP #1: You clean your kid’s plate. “Calories add up quickly—the moms in our study easily took in 300 more calories per day than women without kids,” says study author Jerica Berge, Ph.D. “That could just be two leftover chicken nuggets.” Repeat after us: We are not human garbage disposals! Don’t feel bad about tossing your kid’s uneaten leftovers if they can’t be saved for another day. HEALTH TRAP #2: Stress is your co-parent. Your many roles—chauffeur, nurse, mediator—can leave you frazzled. And chronic stress lowers your defenses against germs and viruses, and may increase your risk of depression, says Berge. So take some time to mother yourself.

“We need to fit in self-care, even if it’s just taking a shower with the door locked or getting a manicure,” Berge says. You could also squeeze in a little bit of exercise each day—even 20 minutes of yoga or walking can be a near-instant anxiety-buster! HEALTH TRAP #3: You’ve replaced sleep with sugar. In her study, Berge found that moms drink more sugary beverages than women who don’t have kids. Why? It may be because sweetened drinks are around the house, and when you’re exhausted, you use them to fuel up. If you need a jolt, switch to antioxidant-rich green tea instead. HEALTH TRAP #4: Your kids are little germ bombs. A Harvard University study proved it: Researchers found that the flu spread faster in neighborhoods with the most kids. Clearly, washing your hands and teaching your kids to do the same is imperative. But all of the other fixes on this list will let viruses and bacteria knows who’s boss too. “The immune system is stronger when you’re eating right and exercising,” says Berge. —AMY LEVIN-EPSTEIN REDBOOKMAG.COM




Skin tags


Is there any way to remove a skin tag for good?

Yes, but don’t try to do it yourself! Some people pick at them or snip them off at home, but if you’ve ever tried it, you know Andrew Ordon, M.D., that they bleed is a board-certified like crazy. Plus, plastic surgeon that can cause and cohost of the syndicated talk show infection and The Doctors. scarring—and if Check local listings you don’t remove for showtimes. the entire tag, it Send your health questions can simply grow to askthedoctors@ back. Instead, have a dermatologist or plastic surgeon take it off safely and permanently. Because some types of skin cancer look similar to skin tags, your doctor may also want to send it for analysis. That said, most skin tags are benign and are usually caused by skin chafing (often on the neck or armpits) or by the hormonal changes that happen during pregnancy. So you don’t need to rush to have them removed, but you shouldn’t D.I.Y. either.

Don’t let your teen drive tired


f your high schooler stayed up late studying for a test (or texting a crush), don’t let him or her get behind the wheel. A recent study found that teens who attended Virginia high schools with a 7:25 a.m. start time got in 41 percent more car crashes than those in a neighboring city whose schools start 80 minutes later. Study author Robert Vorona, M.D., attributes the findings to the fact that teens need about nine hours of sleep each night— but research shows that only about

20 percent of them get that much. Plus, the circadian rhythms of teens are different than other age groups’, making them naturally want to stay up (and wake up) later. It’s no wonder, then, that an extra hour in the morning makes such a difference. Because well-rested kids also tend to perform better academically, some school districts are rethinking their start times. Meanwhile, Vorona offers this practical advice: “If your teen is overtired, offer to drive him or her to school.” —MALIA GRIGGS

How to get well (not worse) in the hospital Hospitals and ERs can be shockingly unhealthy places, says Joe Graedon, coauthor of the new book Top Screwups Doctors Make and How to Avoid Them. Mistakes are scarily common: One intensive care unit that tracked its errors found that staffers made an average of 1.7 missteps per patient per day. You can make the difference by following this advice if you or anyone you love is hospitalized. ■ INSIST ON CLEAN HANDS (AND EVERYTHING ELSE). An estimated

one in 20 patients picks up an infection at the hospital. The best way to protect yourself? Ask everyone who comes in contact with you, even visitors, to wash his or her hands before touching you. “On average, doctors really only wash up between patients about a third of the time,” says Peter Pronovost, M.D.,



author of Safe Patients, Smart Hospitals. You can also request that stethoscopes and blood pressure cuffs, as well as bed rails and the TV remote, be

disinfected with a wipe, says Graedon. ■ DON’T BE AFRAID TO SAY “NO.” Patients often

don’t realize that they have the right to question and even refuse treatments while in the hospital. If a nurse hands you or your kid some mystery pills, or says it’s time to put in an IV and you don’t understand why it’s needed, feel free to put on the brakes, Graedon says. It could

be an unnecessary intervention, and all drugs and procedures come with possible risks and side effects. ■ DOUBLE-CHECK PRESCRIPTIONS. If you

leave the hospital with a prescription, make a copy of it before getting it filled, Graedon says. The average pharmacy fills four out of 250 scripts incorrectly each day. —CHRISTINE RICHMOND





My husband and I are both on diets, but he’s dropping pounds much faster than I am. What gives? It’s unfair, but it’s true: Men have a much easier time losing weight than women. Blame it on our different body compositions—men have more muscle mass and about 10 percent less body fat than women, and muscle burns at least twice as many calories as fat, even when you’re just sitting around. In fact, a recent study found that men naturally burn 37 percent more calories per day through movement than women. Plus, there’s some evidence that female hormones, estrogen in particular, encourage our bodies to store food as fat. The bottom line? Try not to compete with your husband. You’re both taking an important step for your health—you’re just moving at different paces. —Julie Roth, M.D., is an internal medicine physician at Northwestern Memorial Hospital in Chicago

APPS TO KEEP THE WHOLE FAMILY HEALTHY Given that an estimated 15,000 health-related apps were introduced this year alone, it’s nearly impossible to figure out which ones are worth downloading (after all, you’ve got Angry Birds to play). So we turned to the experts: These are the real must-haves.

KIDSDOC ($1.99) Doesn’t it

always seem like your kid gets sick when the doctor’s office is closed? This app by the American Academy of Pediatrics lets you compare your child’s symptoms to photos of ailments and helps you determine whether you should go to the ER, wait a day to call your pediatrician, or simply treat the problem yourself (the app provides reassuringly detailed instructions on exactly how to do so). LOSE IT! (free) Enter your weight-loss goals and Lose It! determines the daily calorie budget you need to slim down.

Plug in the foods you eat and the exercise you get each day and the app will calculate the calories you’ve eaten and burned. (It’s easy, since Lose It! has a vast database of both.) LEFT: GEORGE DOYLE/GETTY IAMGES. FAR RIGHT: RADIUS IMAGES/GETTY IMAGES. APP ICONS: COURTESY OF MANUFACTURERS.


SMOKELESS ($0.99) Got a puffer in the family? This app delivers motivating messages to your phone, tracks how long you’ve gone without a cigarette, reminds you how much money you’ve saved, and even tells you about the healthy changes that are happening in your body. A recent study found that smokers who receive these types of messages are twice as likely to quit as those who don’t. ITRIAGE (free) Look up your symptoms on an interactive body map, or scroll through a database of diseases to find out, say, what the symptoms of a concussion are. iTriage also uses GPS technology to search for nearby doctors and clinics. —KATE BONGIOVANNI

Kids who are allowed to eat candy don’t get fatter In fact, a recent Louisiana State University Agricultural Center study found that children and teens who eat candy are at least 22 percent less likely to be overweight or obese than those who don’t touch the stuff—despite the fact that they take in more calories and sugar. A possible reason, says study author Carol O’Neil, Ph.D., is that candyeaters are also more active and have a well-rounded diet. “They enjoy candy, but they could also be doing a better job balancing calories in with calories out,” she says. O’Neil isn’t suggesting that candy is a superfood, of course, but don’t sweat it if your trick-ortreater wants seconds.

Profile for Malia Griggs

Redbook October 2011: Don't Let Your Teen Drive Tired  

My first printed byline for Redbook!

Redbook October 2011: Don't Let Your Teen Drive Tired  

My first printed byline for Redbook!