Safety

How can start a safe stretching routine?

DEAR DOCTOR K: At my last appointment, my doctor noticed that my movements have become stiffer. He suggested that I do some stretching exercises daily. Is there anything I should know before I start? I'm in my 80s, and I don't want to hurt myself.

DEAR READER: Our bodies become less flexible as the years roll by. Inflexibility puts a crimp in daily acts, making it harder to walk, raise your arms or turn your head while backing up the car. It undermines balance, too, which can cause life-altering falls. Stretching can help. You'll make the best gains if you stretch frequently -- all or most days of the week. At the very least, stretch two or three times a week.

What should I look for in mosquito repellents?

DEAR DOCTOR K: Which ingredients should I look for in a mosquito repellent? Are there any I shouldn't use on my kids?

DEAR READER: Ah, summer. Time for relaxing, playing outside, going to the beach -- and mosquitoes. The itchiness from the bites can be maddening. And these tiny, annoying insects can carry serious illnesses, such as West Nile virus and Eastern equine encephalitis.

What should I know about traveling during pregnancy?

DEAR DOCTOR K: My job requires a lot of travel, and I recently became pregnant with my first child. What do I need to know about traveling safely during pregnancy?

DEAR READER: Being pregnant doesn't mean you have to stay at home for nine months. There are exceptions; particularly in the last three months, some women develop complications of pregnancy that require them to be resting. But for most women, travel poses no threat to the mother or child. But travel by car, train or airplane can be less comfortable when you're pregnant, so you should take a few precautions to travel comfortably and safely.

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: