Safety

Who should NOT get the shingles vaccine?

DEAR DOCTOR K: You've written about who should get the shingles vaccine, and why. Are there any groups of people who should not get the shingles vaccine?

DEAR READER: I'm glad you asked because, yes, there are groups of people who should not get the vaccine. Shingles is a painful skin rash, often with blisters, that lasts from two to four weeks. Its main symptom is pain, which can be quite severe. For some people, the severe pain of shingles continues long after the rash clears up. Called post-herpetic neuralgia, this condition can last for months, or even years. It can be quite debilitating.

Is there a new way to perform CPR?

DEAR DOCTOR K: I thought CPR involved chest compressions, breathing into a person's mouth and checking their pulse. But my daughter told me that the "new" CPR involves only chest compressions. Is this correct?

DEAR READER: That's right. Since 2008, the American Heart Association has recommended "hands only" cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) if an adult suddenly collapses. Cardiac arrest is usually to blame when someone collapses and stops breathing. It occurs when the heart's electrical system malfunctions. The heart beats rapidly and chaotically -- or stops beating altogether. The person stops breathing and becomes unresponsive.

How can I help my children reduce their risk of sport injuries?

DEAR DOCTOR K: I have a fourth-grader and a middle-schooler. Both enjoy playing sports. Is there anything I can do to reduce their risk of sports injuries?

DEAR READER: You ask an important question. Injuries that result from youth sports are becoming more common -- and the injuries aren't just the expected bumps and bruises that come with being active, either. Doctors are seeing more serious injuries, some of which can lead to lifelong disability. At the same time, regular exercise is really important to a child's health. It also sets patterns for exercise when kids become adults, and that's important to their health later in life.

What fish should I avoid while pregnant?

DEAR DOCTOR K: I recently found out that I'm pregnant. I'd like to continue eating fish, but I understand some fish contain mercury, which could be harmful to my baby. What fish should I avoid?

DEAR READER: Fish are a great source of lean protein, and many types are rich in heart-healthy omega-3 fatty acids, which help brain and nerve development and protect the heart. In fact, current dietary guidelines recommend that women who are pregnant eat 12 ounces of seafood a week. But as you noted, some species of fish do contain worrisome amounts of methylmercury. This toxin is especially dangerous to developing brains. High-mercury fish you should avoid during pregnancy include swordfish, shark, king mackerel and tilefish.

When is it safe to have sex after a heart attack?

DEAR DOCTOR K: I'm a man in my 60s. I had a heart attack a few months ago, and now I'm afraid to have sex. Is it too strenuous for my heart?

DEAR READER: Your question is a common one. Many of my patients who've had a heart attack wonder if and when it will be safe to resume sexual activity. I can understand why. Physical exertion causes the heart to work harder, and if you've had a heart attack, your heart has been injured.

Is it unsafe for someone with Alzheimer’s to drive?

DEAR DOCTOR K: My father has Alzheimer's disease. Is it unsafe for him to drive?

DEAR READER: Alzheimer's disease (AD) is a form of dementia that worsens over time. It often affects short-term memory early on, and then progresses to impair other cognitive functions such as thinking and judgment. As AD advances, most people lose their ability to do normal daily activities. Your question -- whether your father should stop driving -- is a common concern for families of a loved one with AD.

What should I know before I start strength training?

DEAR DOCTOR K: I'd like to start strength training, but I have lots of questions. What should I know before I begin?

DEAR READER: Strength-training exercises are those that force your muscles to strain against an opposing force, like a dumbbell or elasticized band. There's a lot you need to know before you begin. I'll answer several common questions to help get you on your way. Below you'll find several more strength-training tips:

Are there any safety precautions for taking acetaminophen?

DEAR DOCTOR K: As I've entered my 50s, I find myself reaching for Tylenol more often for my aches and pains. Should I be aware of any safety precautions?

DEAR READER: Acetaminophen is the active ingredient in Tylenol and several other over-the-counter medications. As with all medications, you should use it cautiously. But if you stick to the guidelines, there's little need to worry.

Do I need a tetanus shot if I cut my finger on an old nail?

DEAR DOCTOR K: Earlier today I cut my finger on an old nail while doing a home improvement project. Do I need a tetanus shot? How soon?

DEAR READER: My advice is: Better safe than sorry. And getting tetanus will make anyone very sorry. I recommend that you contact your doctor immediately. This is especially true if the nail broke through your skin, and you are not sure when you had your last tetanus booster shot.

How can I protect my kids from frostbite?

DEAR DOCTOR K: My kids love to play outside, even in the cold and snow. How can I protect them from frostbite?

DEAR READER: Frostbite, ironically, results from the body's attempt to protect itself against the cold. Our body cares much more about the temperature of its inside self than the temperature of its outer self. What do I mean? The normal temperature inside our body (our "core temperature") is around 98.6 F. The organs inside -- the brain, heart, lungs, liver, kidneys and others -- function best at that temperature.