Safety

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.

Which type of birth control is right for me?

DEAR DOCTOR K: I've recently become sexually active and I'm planning to go on the pill. But there are so many different types of birth control pills. Which one is right for me?

DEAR READER: I don't know enough about you to give an answer that's right for you. From my general remarks about these pills, I'm hopeful you can pinpoint the ones that seem right for you -- and discuss them with your doctor.

I have two young children — Besides small toy parts, what are other choking hazards?

DEAR DOCTOR K: I have two young children. I know not to buy toys with small parts or keep coins within their reach. What other choking hazards should I be aware of?

DEAR READER: Your question is timely, because a large study on this topic was recently published. It provides answers that surprised me and may surprise you. I think this is information that every parent with young children needs to know.

I’ve suffered with bleeding hemorrhoids for many years. My doctor suggested surgery — is this risky?

DEAR DOCTOR K: I've suffered with bleeding hemorrhoids for many years and lifestyle changes haven't helped. My doctor suggested surgery. Is this risky?

DEAR READER: Hemorrhoids are swollen veins in the anus. Many people have both internal and external hemorrhoids. Internal hemorrhoids are located inside the anus, but can sometimes push out through the opening of the anus. External hemorrhoids are located at the rim of the anus. Both types can cause bleeding, itching and discomfort.

I want to start biking to work– any advice before I get back on my bike?

DEAR DOCTOR K: I'd like to start biking to work. Any advice before I get back on my bike?

DEAR READER: Cycling is great exercise. For one thing, it gets you breathing harder and your heart rate up. That pays cardiovascular dividends. Cycling stacks up well against other forms of exercise when it comes to burning calories, too. And it isn't as hard on the knees as running. Perhaps the biggest advantage of cycling is that it can perform double duty as a form of transportation. A number of my patients, and my colleagues here at Harvard Medical School, bicycle to and from work every day.

What is the best way to remove a tick from your skin?

DEAR DOCTOR K: I live in a heavily wooded area, so I'd like to know the best way to remove a tick if you spot one on your skin.

DEAR READER: Knowing how to remove a tick is a useful skill for anyone who spends time outdoors, or who cares for someone who does. The sooner a tick is removed -- correctly -- the less likely the critter can deliver bacteria that cause Lyme disease or other tick-borne diseases.