Health Advice



Hack to School

Scott LaFee on

As schools reopen to in-classroom instruction, there may be a cautionary tale from Hong Kong. When children there returned to school in October, large numbers of kids began getting sick, despite mandatory masking, more spacing between desks and other measures intended to reduce the spread of the SARS-CoV-2 virus.

But the vast majority of sick students did not have COVID-19. They were infected by rhinoviruses, i.e., the most common cause of the common cold. Researchers believe that the surge in illness was the consequence of children congregating after so many months of social distancing, which left them more susceptible to respiratory viruses.

Body of Knowledge

Your little finger contributes more than 50% of your hand's strength.

Get Me That, Stat!

The pandemic has plagued health care in myriad ways, not the least being its impact on regular health screenings. Case in point: Cervical cancer screenings have dramatically reduced illness and death, beginning with the introduction of the Pap test decades ago.

But a new Centers for Disease Control and Prevention study of cervical cancer screenings in California during the COVID-19 stay-at-home order last spring showed screening rates plunged 80% across all demographics. Even after the order was lifted, rates remain 29% below 2019 levels.

Mark Your Calendar

April is awareness month for irritable bowel syndrome, autism, child abuse prevention, facial protection, minority health, Parkinson's disease, sarcoidosis, oral cancer, sexually transmitted diseases and testicular cancer. That's a lot to be aware of. Not surprisingly, April is also stress awareness month.

Never Say Diet

The Major League Eating speed-eating record for hard-boiled eggs is 141 in 8 minutes, held by Joey Chestnut. It is not known whether the eggs were of the what-do-we-do-with-all-of-these-colored-Easter-eggs variety.

Doc Talk

Abdominoplasty: a procedure to remove excess abdominal skin and tighten the underlying stomach muscles, otherwise known as a tummy tuck.

Phobia of the Week

Automatonophobia: fear of humanlike figures, i.e., mannequins

Food for Thought

Islinglass is a kind of gelatin derived from the dried swim bladders of fish, especially sturgeon, that is used to help clarify some beers and wines. It's also used in making jellies and glue.


"I have to exercise in the morning before my brain figures out what I'm doing." -- Marsha Doble


Medical History

This week in 1973, researchers produced human blood cells in a living mouse.

Perishable Publications

Many, if not most, published research papers have titles that defy comprehension. They use specialized jargon, complex words and opaque phrases like "nonlinear dynamics." Sometimes they don't, and yet they're still hard to figure out. Here's an actual title of actual published research study: "Experimental replication shows knives manufactured from frozen human feces do not work."

The researchers wanted to test an old, well-known Inuit story of a man who, caught in a snowstorm, fashioned a knife from his own frozen poop and used it to butcher a dog. After producing the necessary materials, the researchers used metal files to shape various fecal blades and then attempted to carve up a pig hide.

The result was an intact but messy pig hide.


Q: A keloid is ...?

A) A disease that mimics multiple sclerosis, causing misdiagnosis.

B) An overgrowth of scar tissue.

C) A fiber-rich food.

D) An instrument used in operating rooms to measure weight.

A: B) an overgrowth of scar tissue that can form after surgery or injury. Though often lumpy or alarming in appearance, it is usually harmless.

Curtain Calls

In 1923, jockey Frank Hayes suffered a fatal heart attack during a race, but his body remained in the saddle -- and he won, crossing the finish line at 20:1 odds.


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