Safety

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.

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.