Safeguard Your Toddler's Eyes
Parents worry about toddlers accidentally ingesting things they shouldn’t, but it’s worth remembering household items can also endanger eyesight. Toddlers are at the highest risk for chemical eye burns, according to a report led by Johns Hopkins researchers, who found that household cleaners are most frequently to blame. Chemical burns are among the most critical of eye injuries because they continue to sear into the eye after contact and can cause irreparable damage. The biggest offender? Laundry pods, those soap-filled sacs that could look like a toy. The good news: Injuries are preventable by keeping cleaning agents out of reach.
The Mental Toll of the ICU
Life in the intensive care unit can be psychologically draining, casting a long shadow over patients’ mental health after they’ve been discharged. By analyzing more than 4,000 patient reports from 42 previous studies, Johns Hopkins physicians found that nearly one in three patients has symptoms of depression after being released from the ICU. While the phenomenon was more prevalent among patients who had shown psychological symptoms prior to the ICU or who had displayed psychological symptoms (such as anger, nervousness, or stress) during their hospital stay, the team found that post-ICU depression was spread evenly across patients, regardless of age, gender, severity of illness, or length of time spent there. Senior study author Dale Needham, professor of medicine at Johns Hopkins University’s School of Medicine, says that this effect—which lasts more than a year in some patients—can make it hard for people to return to their normal lives. “If patients are talking about the ICU being stressful, or they’re having strange memories or feeling down in the dumps, we should take that seriously,” Needham says. “Health care providers, family members, and caregivers should pay attention to those symptoms and make sure they’re not glossed over.”
Understanding Postpartum Depression
After enduring a host of biological changes brought on by pregnancy, from weight gain to bleeding gums to hormonal surges, some women wonder if they’ll also be prone to postpartum depression. What accounts for those severe mood swings? The Women’s Mood Disorders Center at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine has found that the presence of a stress-reducing hormone called allopregnanolone helps predict the risk of developing postpartum depression. Known for its calming effects, allopregnanolone targets the same brain receptors as tranquilizers and alcohol.
Researchers followed 62 women diagnosed with mood disorders through pregnancy and after giving birth and found that more allopregnanolone measured during the second trimester resulted in a dramatic reduction in the risk of developing postpartum depression. Jennifer Payne, the center’s director, and Lauren Osborne, the lead study author, say more clinical research is needed to determine whether women could be given allopregnanolone before or after delivery to stave off depression. The next step is to replicate these results in a larger study.
Go outside and play! Perhaps the most uttered phrase of parents once summer break is upon us. When it comes to kids scootering around the neighborhood, here are some things to consider. Scooters have been around since the 1950s, but they’ve risen in popularity in recent years, and so has the number of emergency room visits. Health officials have seen a dramatic increase in scooter-related accidents and injuries, with most happening among boys under the age of 15. Protective equipment helps. Helmets (approved by the Consumer Product Safety Commission, the Snell Foundation, or the American Society for Testing and Materials) can prevent the majority of head injuries; elbow pads can prevent 82 percent of elbow injuries; and knee pads can prevent 32 percent of knee injuries. But hold off on those wrist guards because they may make it more difficult to grip the scooter handle and steer.
Teens Need More Zzzzz’s
In spite of their notorious night-owl habits, teenagers require nine to nine and a half hours of sleep—an hour more than they needed when they were 10 years old. The reason?
“Teenagers are going through a second developmental stage of cognitive maturation,” says Johns Hopkins pediatrician Michael Crocetti, meaning they need the extra shut-eye to support their brain development and growth spurts.
Parents of teens should prioritize rest by becoming models of good sleep habits: adhering to a regular sleep schedule, cutting back on evening caffeine, and exercising regularly. Other time-tested tricks include curtailing time in front of computer screens, which emits a type of light that suppresses the body’s production of the sleep-inducing hormone melatonin; denying car privileges when a teen doesn’t get enough sleep; and helping kids pare down ultra-busy schedules that might interfere with a reasonable bedtime.
An Advocate for Your Care
You hear a lot about how to prepare for a doctor’s visit: Make a list of medications you’re taking. Write down questions. Complete paperwork ahead of time. Here’s one more thing to consider: Bring a health advocate with you, such as a family member or close friend.
When you have a chronic or complex condition—or as you age—you may have more health issues to discuss. Having two sets of ears helps. A good health advocate is someone who knows you well and is calm, organized, assertive, and comfortable asking questions. When selecting an advocate, it’s best to clearly explain the kind of help you need and your concerns. Ask the advocate to take notes or even record conversations with health care professionals (just be sure you ask for your doctor’s permission before recording). You may even want to give your advocate access to your electronic health record so he or she can refer to test results or notes, ask for refills on prescriptions, and even email questions or concerns to the physician. The most important thing is to choose someone you respect and trust.
A Checkup for Health Apps
Forget Facebook and Candy Crush Saga. Your smartphone is more than an entertaining toy; it may also save your life. New smartphone apps, including several developed by Johns Hopkins physicians and researchers, can alert you to an oncoming storm, help you find your family after a hurricane or fire, and give a heads-up about a pending flu pandemic. But how do you know whether a health app is any good?
iMedicalApps.com has you covered. Since its launch in 2009 by Satish Misra, a cardiology fellow at Johns Hopkins, and Iltifat Husain, of Wake Forest School of Medicine, the site has reviewed roughly 2,000 apps designed for both health care providers and patients. The best apps, Misra says, are simple, intuitive, and up-to-date, while also giving people enough information about the app’s source material, background on its developers, and how your personal data will be used.
Visitors can easily search for apps to meet their needs. For example, typing “blood pressure” in the search box quickly brings up a suggestion for an outstanding app to track both blood pressure and medication intake, as well as a warning about another app that may actually put users at risk owing to its inaccuracies.
“We’re like a discovery service that identifies potentially useful apps and less useful or even dangerous ones,” Misra says.
Same-Sex Marriage Laws Reduce Suicide
Suicide is the second most common cause of death among people ages 15 to 24 in the U.S., and gay, lesbian, and bisexual high school students are at particular risk. New research from the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health found that allowing same-sex marriage at the state level reduced suicide attempts by about 134,000 over two years. Activating the policy is key: The reduction wasn’t realized until after a law was implemented. “Permitting same-sex marriage reduces structural stigma associated with sexual orientation,” says study leader Julia Raifman, a postdoctoral fellow at the Bloomberg School.