Review Category : Health

Your Body: Technology and Parenting

iStock/ThinkstockBy DR. JENNIFER ASHTON, ABC News Senior Medical Contributor

What place do mobile devices have in a parent’s hands? Researchers at Boston University and the University of Michigan aim to find out more by interviewing a diverse group of parents and caregivers.

They asked them just simply “How do you feel about your devices and your parenting?” Some described the technology as a peacekeeper, but others felt these modern conveniences created a modern disconnect.

However parents feel, this technology is part of life, and it’s here to stay. So try to have some phone-free times during your day. Ask yourself if something you’re about to text or email could be or should be communicated face-to-face or verbally, the old fashioned way.

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Virtual Reality Headsets Should Be Used in Moderation by Children, Doctor Says

ABC News(NEW YORK) — Virtual reality headsets are expected to be a hot item this holiday season but their use by children has some doctors concerned.

“Virtual reality is still a very new technology, still evolving and we really don’t yet know what the impact may be on children,” Dr. Rudrani Banik, a neuro-ophthalmologist with New York Eye and Ear Infirmary of Mount Sinai, told ABC News.

A virtual reality (or VR) headset is worn over your eyes like goggles and shows you an up-close view on a high-definition screen in order to immerse yourself in the image or game.

Banik said the headsets could potentially cause long-term issues for children, although it is too soon to know.

“In virtual reality, basically the brain is only getting input from the eyes and we don’t know if that isolated input is really going to have an impact on the other senses and how we integrate and experience,” she said.

Manufacturers of virtual reality headsets warn that the headsets are not meant for young kids. Samsung says its products are for kids age 13 and older, while Sony recommends its Playstation VR be used by kids 12 and older.

“PlayStation VR provides an immersive gaming experience that allows players to feel as though they are transported out of the living room and into a virtual game world,” Sony Interactive Entertainment America told ABC News in a statement. “The product is not recommended for children under the age of 12, and this information is included on our packaging. We recommend that PlayStation VR users take regular breaks, about 15 minutes during each hour of play.”

Banik said that as parents wait for more definitive facts on virtual reality headsets, they should closely monitor their kids’ use.

“I would say moderation is most important when allowing our children to use these devices,” she said.

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Roe v. Wade: The Potential Implications of Donald Trump’s Election for Abortion Rights

iStock/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) — When President-elect Donald Trump takes office on Jan. 20, one of the most immediate and critical decisions he’ll have to make is filling the vacancy left on the Supreme Court by the death of Justice Antonin Scalia.

President Obama nominated Judge Merrick Garland earlier this year, but the nomination will expire before Obama leaves office in January if he is not confirmed, which is likely.

Trump — whose own position on abortion has shifted over time — told CBS News’ 60 Minutes last week he was “pro-life” and would appoint individuals that held the same position to the nation’s highest court. Speaking hypothetically, the president-elect said, “If it ever were overturned, it would go back to the states.”

While the addition of one conservative justice is unlikely to realign the nation’s highest court in such a way that the landmark abortion rights decision Roe v. Wade could be threatened, the replacement of additional justices, could, according to Kate Shaw, an ABC News contributor and Cardozo law professor, have major consequences. We asked Shaw to help explain how this might work.

1]What is Roe v. Wade and what did it do?

KS: In Roe v. Wade, the Supreme Court held that the Constitution protects a woman’s right to decide whether to terminate a pregnancy. At the time Roe was decided, 1973, many states criminalized abortion, and Roe struck all of those criminal statutes down. Following the decision, states weren’t able to prohibit abortion outright; but they do have the power to regulate it.

2] What can states do to regulate abortion?

KS: Roe held that while the Constitution protects a woman’s right to decide for herself whether to continue with a pregnancy, states also have a strong interest in regulating abortion, both to protect women’s health and to promote potential life.

The Court balanced these competing interests using a trimester framework, holding that during the first trimester of pregnancy, the abortion decision is in the hands of a woman and her doctor. During the second trimester, the state can regulate abortion in ways that are reasonably related to women’s health. And in the third trimester, the state’s interest in potential life is strong enough to allow states to prohibit abortion outright, except where necessary to preserve a woman’s life or health.

In a 1992 case called Planned Parenthood v. Casey, the Court abandoned the trimester framework and held that states have a valid regulatory interest for the duration of a pregnancy. But it also held that prior to viability, states may regulate abortion only so long as the regulations do not impose an “undue burden” on a woman’s right to choose. Under Casey, states have regulated abortion in a range of ways, from requiring counseling about the availability of adoption to mandatory waiting periods to the regulation of facilities that perform abortions. Earlier this year, in a case out of Texas, the Supreme Court made clear that where states act to regulate abortion facilities, those regulations must be grounded in objective medical standards.

3] Let’s assume Trump appoints a person ideologically in line with Scalia. What will be the court’s ideological makeup at that point?

KS:
Justice Scalia was a strong opponent of Roe and Casey; a jurist who shared his views in this area would maintain the status quo, which is four strong votes in favor of Roe, four Justices who don’t believe the Constitution protects the right to abortion, and Justice Kennedy, who has voted with both blocks when it comes to abortion (though it’s significant that his most recent vote in an abortion case was with the liberals). So statutes like the Texas clinic regulation, which Kennedy joined the liberals in striking down, would remain invalid.

4] Let’s assume liberal Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg and swing vote Anthony Kennedy retire, leaving open two slots. And then Trump appoints two more conservative justices. How precisely would the court be able to overturn Roe v Wade. What needs to happen?

KS: There are a couple of ways this could happen. First, a legislature could pass either an outright abortion ban or an extremely restrictive abortion regulation, either of which could set up a test case in which the Supreme Court would be invited to overrule Roe.

It could also happen more gradually, and I think that’s more likely, as the Court tends to prefer to act incrementally; the Court could uphold a series of abortion regulations, gradually weakening the foundations of Roe and Casey and then finally overruling those cases.

But — and this is a big but — there’s no absolute guarantee that Roe would be overruled, even with three or more Trump appointees. It’s at least possible that the Court would decide to adhere to Roe on the grounds that sometimes “it is more important that the applicable rule of law be settled than that it be settled right.” Even a conservative Court could decide it would simply be too disruptive to overrule this long-settled precedent on such a divisive social issue. That’s essentially what happened in Casey, when everyone thought Roe would be overruled — but it wasn’t.

5] Would that ruling have immediate nationwide impact?

KS: A decision overruling Roe would allow states to ban abortion, but wouldn’t require them to do so. And the big question would be which states would do that. A number of states have laws on the books that would essentially ban abortion immediately if Roe were overruled; other states would likely move quickly to pass such laws. In all, over half of the states would likely eliminate or severely restrict access to abortion within their borders if Roe were overruled.

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Hundreds Hospitalized with Breathing Difficulties Due to Wildfires in Southeast

iStock/Thinkstock(CHATTANOOGA, Tenn.) — Hundreds of people have been hospitalized in Tennessee from the wildfires scorching several states in the southeastern United States, authorities said Tuesday.

Wildfire smoke has hit Chattanooga-area residents particularly hard, where more than 200 people have been hospitalized for shortness of breath and other breathing difficulties, according to the Tennessee Emergency Management Agency.

In the last 24 hours alone, 15 new fires have broken out in Tennessee, spanning over 293 acres. Relief from the drought and wildfires is not expected in the near future, as weather forecasts are not showing any significant precipitation in Tennessee for the remainder of 2016. The best chance of rain for Tennessee is Friday and possibly into Saturday.

Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam has issued a proclamation declaring a regional ban on burning in 51 counties in response to the ongoing drought and destructive wildfires throughout the state. Residents in those counties are prohibited from conducting any open-air burning, including campfires and burning of brush, vegetation, household waste or construction debris.

As of Monday, Tennessee firefighters were battling 67 individual blazes burning through 15,914 acres, according to TEMA. A Code Orange Air Quality Alert has been put in place for the Chattanooga, Knoxville, Great Smoky Mountains and Tri-Cities areas. In a Code Orange alert, the general public is not likely to be affected by the air quality, but those with heart and lung disease, older adults and children are at greater risk from the presence of particles in the air.

Depending on wind direction and proximity to the wildfires, some areas in Chattanooga may have higher air quality concentrations in the Code Red category, which will have wider health impacts on the general population and cause more serious effects on sensitive groups.

Some Tennessee schools have been forced to close. There is so much smoke that firefighters could not reset the smoke alarms because they would just continue to go off, said Dr. James Jones, Director of Schools at Polk County.

North Carolina Gov. Pat McCrory said Monday that the wildfires have cost at least $10 million in damage in the state. North Carolina is one of the hardest hit states, with at least 15 active fires smothering more than 45,000 acres of forest as of Tuesday morning.

Kentucky has been in a “state of emergency because of these fires for almost two weeks,” said John Mura, the director of communications for the Kentucky Energy and Environment Cabinet. As of Monday, the state was managing two dozen fires over 25,000 acres.

State agriculture investigators arrested 27-year-old Matthew Ryan Wallace of Tuscaloosa, Alabama, and charged him with igniting a wildfire along a Sequatchie County road on Monday. The felony charge is punishable by up to six years in jail and a $3,000 fine.

In Tennessee’s Monroe County, deputies arrested 50-year-old Charles Edward Martin for intentionally setting a fire along a road, officials said. The state arson reward fund has increased to $2,500 for tips that lead to an arson arrest and conviction.

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Three More Children Investigated for Rare Neurological Disease in Washington

iStock/Thinkstock(SEATTLE) — Three children have been hospitalized in Washington State after showing potential symptoms of a rare neurological syndrome called acute flaccid myelitis (AFM). Earlier this month, eight children in five counties across the state were diagnosed with the condition.

A spokeswoman for the Washington Department of Health confirmed the three possible AFM cases reported in Tacoma, Seattle and Spokane were being investigated by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Two children are still hospitalized, while one child was treated at Seattle Children’s Hospital and released, according to the department spokeswoman.

The debilitating AFM syndrome affects the nervous system, specifically the spinal cord. Historically, the condition has been caused by a variety of infections, including the polio virus. The condition often causes the spinal cord to be inflamed, which can in turn cause temporary or permanent paralysis.

Earlier this month, the CDC confirmed that eight children in Washington had developed the AFM syndrome. Both federal and state officials are still looking for a cause of the condition.

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Doctors Report More Women Asking About IUDs After Election

iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) — Some doctors in the U.S. are reporting more women asking their physicians about long-lasting birth control devices following concerns about free access to contraception if Trump takes office and ends the Affordable Care Act (ACA).

“We have seen a clear-cut increase in discussion through electronic medical records [and] discussions with patient at gynecologist visits,” Dr. Adam Jacobs, division director of family planning in the department of obstetrics/gynecology and reproductive science at Mount Sinai Medical Center, told ABC News.

He said patients have increasingly voiced their concerns about access to birth control and inquired about IUDs since the election.

On social media, many people have encouraged women to secure birth control before Trump enters office. They have expressed concern that Trump and the Republican-held houses of Congress will repeal the ACA, which requires participating insurers in the healthcare marketplace to cover contraception without any co-payment or coinsurance.

The trending discussions on birth control access have promoted long-lasting methods, especially intrauterine devices, or IUDs. Google searches for IUD spiked exponentially in the hours after Trump was elected, according to Google Trends.

An IUD is one of the most enduring forms of long-acting reversible contraceptives (LARC) — it can can last between three and 10 years depending on the type.

Jacobs said it’s important that patients don’t make birth control decisions purely out of fear. But, even before the election, he has been recommending IUDs or other LARCs to prevent unwanted pregnancies.

“I make recommendations that long-acting reversible contraception is the best form of contraception in terms of effectiveness,” said Jacobs. “Regardless of what happened last week I was recommending this.”

For teenagers and young adults, he generally recommends trying a form of IUD or other LARC first, instead of a hormonal birth control pill or patch.

“LARC is the 21st century contraception,” Jacobs said. When he talks with adolescents, he explains that “pills and condoms were the flip phone” and asks them, “Do you want the iPhone 7 or do you want the flip phone?”

Other physicians have noted a sharp increase in patients wanting to discuss IUDs after the election, as well. Dr. Marjorie Greenfield, an obstetrician/gynecologist at University Hospitals Cleveland Medical Center, said that both patients and doctors have been talking.

“I’ve been hearing about it from [other doctors] about what patients are saying,” she told ABC News.

She added that some female physicians are considering the devices for themselves because they are highly effective, in addition to long-lasting.

“The number one thing about counseling IUDs is the effectiveness is remarkable,” Greenfield explained. “It’s comparable to getting your tubes tied.”

The popularity of IUDs has been increasing in recent years, before this recent surge in interest.

Planned Parenthood said they have seen both trends: an “unprecedented” uptick in questions about birth control and access after the election and a steady rise in IUD requests over time since the ACA has made them more accessible.

“We have seen an increase in IUDs over the last few years thanks to the Affordable Care Act and growing public awareness of their safety and efficacy, and we expect that trend to continue,” Dr. Raegan McDonald-Mosley, the chief medical officer at Planned Parenthood Federation of America, said in an emailed statement to ABC News. “Planned Parenthood health centers nationally have seen the total number of patients using IUDs increase 91 percent over the last five years.”

The American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology (ACOG) wrote they hoped the form of birth control, which is “20 times more effective at preventing pregnancy than oral contraceptive pills, patches or rings,” will continue to be easily available to women.

“All women should have access to safe contraceptive methods, including Long-Acting Reversible Contraception (LARC), which includes implants and intrauterine devices (IUDs) which have a high up-front cost,” officials from ACOG said in an emailed statement to ABC News. “While I certainly hope birth control methods will be readily available under the Trump administration, I can understand women’s concern over losing such access, particularly to high cost methods.”

Both Greenfield and Jacobs cautioned that the birth control, while effective, many not be right for every woman.

“In terms of risks and benefits, there are two different kinds of IUDs,” said Greenfield. “People with copper IUDs have heavier periods or [more cramps].”

Hormone-based IUDs, which usually contain progesterone like some birth control pills, do not last as long as copper — three to five years as opposed to 10 — but can help lighten periods or diminsh menstrual cramps.

“It’s also used medically for people who don’t have manageable periods,” said Greenfield.

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Molecules We Leave Behind Can Reveal Much About You

Monkey Business/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) — Personal details of a person’s lifestyle — including what medications you take, if you like drinking beer over wine, your mental health status, and even your shopping habits — can be detected just by chemically scanning common items you use, like pens and cellphones.

According to researchers at the University of California San Diego School of Medicine, molecules we leave behind can be picked up by a device called a mass spectrometer — familiar to watchers of crime shows like C.S.I.

Trace molecules we leave behind can be sniffed out by the device, then compared to something called the Global Natural Product Social Molecular Networking database, which the Telegraph reports, can be used to create a specific profile for the owner of that random item.

While the leap can be key for crimefighters, the technology could make privacy experts cringe.

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Your Body: What You Should Know About Breast Lumps

Photodisc/ThinkstockBy DR. JENNIFER ASHTON, ABC News Senior Medical Contributor

A lump is the most common symptom of breast cancer so, naturally, women worry if they feel a mass or notice a change in their breast tissue.

But many breast lumps are common and most are not cancerous. That’s why it’s important to have them checked by a doctor to be absolutely sure. Most lumps and changes can be found during a breast exam.

Women may notice breast lumps that come and go with their menstrual cycle. This is common and normal. Noncancerous changes, growths like cysts or connective tissue changes called fibrosis, are common, too.

Breast infections like mastitis can also cause pain and tissue changes.

When it comes to lumps that are cancerous, early detection and knowing your body are key.

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Weight Watchers Dessert Recalled After Listeria Concerns

FDA(CHICAGO) — A dessert from Weight Watchers is being voluntarily recalled after Listeria concerns.

About 100,000 cases of Weight Watchers Smart Ones Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Sundae frozen desserts are included in the recall. Weight Watchers said in a statement the dessert may pose health risks because the cookie dough pieces, from third party supplier Aspen Hills, Inc., tested positive for Listeria monocytogenes.

Weight Watchers said there were no consumer complaints or reports of illnesses, and the recall was done “as a precautionary measure.”

Consumers who purchased the product with a best if used date of December 28, 2016, January 28, 2017, February 28, 2017, March 28, 2017, May 28, 2017, June 28, 2017, and July 28, 2017, are advised to return it for an exchange or full refund.

Read more about the recall from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration here.

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Florida Homicide Rate Increased After Passage of ‘Stand Your Ground’ Law, Study Finds

iStock/Thinkstock(MIAMI) — The rate of homicides, especially homicides by firearms, sharply increased in Florida in the years after the “stand your ground” law was passed, according to a new study published Monday by the Journal of the American Medical Association Internal Medicine.

Passed in 2005, the so-called “stand your ground” law in Florida allows residents to use force, including deadly force, if they “reasonably believe” they are at risk of bodily harm. The law also created a “no duty to retreat” provision if they felt at risk.

To see if they could find any measurable effects in the homicide rate after the law’s passage, researchers from the University of Oxford looked at Florida homicide data at various points in time from 1999 to 2014. They then compared increases or decreases in those rates with four control states (New York, Virginia, New Jersey and Ohio) where a “stand your ground”-type law does not exist.

By examining data from a database run by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, researchers found that in the years after the law was passed in Florida, homicides increased approximately 24 percent — from an average of 82 homicides per month between 1999 to October 2005 to 99 homicides per month between October 2005 to 2014.

Additionally, they found the rate of homicide by firearms went up approximately 32 percent — from a mean of 49 homicides per month to 69 during those same periods.

Researchers found no similar increases in the four control states that did not have a “stand your ground”-type law.

They also examined suicide data but did not find any comparable increase in either Florida suicide rates or, more specifically, suicide by firearm rates after the law’s passage. The authors acknowledged that it’s possible there may be multiple factors that led to an increase in the Florida homicide rate.

“Circumstances unique to Florida may have contributed to our findings, including those that we could not identify,” the authors wrote in the study.

There are 23 states that have implemented some form of a “stand your ground” law, according to the researchers.

Jeffrey Swanson, a professor in Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences at Duke University, has studied the effects of gun-related policies and said the study published Monday was “important.”

“These ‘stand your ground’ laws have proliferated and for the people who favor them, the point is that it’s going to make people safer,” Swanson told ABC News Monday. “You can stand your ground if you perceive your life is being threatened [but] what we’re seeing here empirically is exactly the opposite.”

While the researchers found an increase in homicide rates after the law’s passage, they did not find enough evidence to definitively find the law caused the increase in the homicide rate.

While the study had limitations, Swanson said the research of the four control states makes the study stronger.

“They look at comparable trends in states that didn’t pass the law and don’t see the effect,” Swanson noted.

Swanson said these kinds of studies must continue in order for policy makers to make clear and informed decisions about legislation.

“This is always the question of balancing risk and rights,” Swanson said.

The National Rifle Association, which backed Florida’s “stand your ground” law, did not immediately respond to ABC News’ request for comment on the study.

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