General Health and Safety

All Articles in the Category ‘General Health and Safety’

Can too much caffeine hurt you?

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In my clinical work, I’ve seen many changes over the years. One of them is the consumption of caffeinated beverages as a ‘normal’ and even expected part of high school life. Most of my patients (and their parents) come into clinic visits with a beverage in hand. This varies from a latte to energy drinks. With the health of my patients in mind, I often wonder if this is safe.

Caffeine has many side effects: increased alertness, increased ability to concentrate are the reasons most adults drink coffee or tea in the morning (I usually do)! But there are some negative effects as well: jitteriness, heart palpitations, diarrhea, insomnia, muscle tremors. It can also lead to an irregular heart rhythm (cardiac arrhythmia) and even death. With many beverages and foods (like chocolate) containing caffeine, how much is too much? Turns out this question isn’t so simple. Everyone metabolizes caffeine differently. For children, it’s recommended caffeine be avoided completely, but for everyone else, the exact amount is a bit harder to pin down.

It’s thought that up to 400mg per day for an adult could be safe (about 4 large cups of coffee), but if you rarely drink coffee, even that could be too much. The recent death of a teen from caffeine consumption is making me take a hard look at how I counsel my patients (and friends and family members) about the dangers of too much caffeine.

Here are some tips for teens on caffeine intake:

  1. Limit caffeine to just a treat. Instead of a cup of coffee to get your day started, work on sleep hygiene and a good bedtime routine. Turn off electronics (yes, this includes the cell phone) an hour before sleep and try to go to bed and get up around the same time each day. In general, teens need 8-10 hours of sleep.
  2. Don’t drink energy drinks. Energy drinks (including ‘energy water’) can contain up to 200mg of caffeine and a significant amount of sugar.
  3. Avoid sugary beverages. A cola now and then is ok, but avoid drinking sugary drinks (like soda). Even non-cola sodas can contain caffeine (including the fruity ones and root beer). Plus regular drinking of sugary beverages is associated with increased risk of heart disease and diabetes.
  4. Don’t use diet pills. Diet pills contain a number of things that medical providers recommend avoiding, but one of them is a high amount of caffeine. If you want to make healthy changes, instead talk to your medical provider and nutritionist for guidance on eating balanced meals and increasing your daily movement (exercise, walking, dancing, etc).

 

Relationships, connection, and communication

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I recently met a teen who had just broken up with her boyfriend. They go to the same school and have the same circle of friends.  For her, the break up was a tough choice, but she didn’t feel like they had a connection any longer. Instead of calling him or having the conversation to end the relationship face to face, she tweeted the break up. For me, this felt impersonal but for this teen, a tweet was just an alternative mode of communication that was convenient and effective.

In this day and age, we spend so little time actually communicating face to face. Our pace is fast: constantly on the go and instantly responding to the latest text, chat, or instant message. If we send a message and don’t receive an instant response there is concern that we’re not valued, that the person may be upset at us, or worry that something is wrong. What does this instant communication and ongoing use of social media mean for teens and their social development? The answer: we don’t really know. But we do have examples from the past. Read full post »

Confidentiality and why it’s important for teens

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Recently a colleague told me about an encounter that left me thinking, ‘as Pediatricians, we really need to do a better job of explaining confidentiality!’ They were seeing a teen for a follow up visit and had asked the medical assistant to put the patient in room without the parent. The parent became very upset that their 18 year old was seeing the provider alone and complained to the front desk staff in the clinic. From my perspective, as an provider who specializes in adolescent health, rooming an 18 y/o without their parent seemed like standard practice. But what was neglected was the explanation to the teen AND their parent about why this is done. As a parent myself, I can empathize with the frustration the parent likely felt. They came to the appointment with their teen, they’re likely going to receive the office bill and pay it, and the teen lives with them, so they are likely very involved in the youth’s life. So why is confidentiality and the opportunity for teens to visit with their health care providers important? Read full post »

Happy New Year 2017

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This time of year most of my friends, patients, and colleagues are in full holiday mode: they’ve prepared for large family gatherings, are taking vacation from school, or working on setting their New Year’s resolutions. Most people are both stressed with the preparation but also in a good mood and excited to spend time with family and friends.

As I start the New Year and reflect on the memories made this holiday season, I’m also reminded that I have a lot to be thankful for. I’m in good health, a spouse who loves me, happy kids, solid housing, and if I need anything I have a great group of family and friends who I trust to help (this includes emotional and financial need). However, I’m routinely reminded of my privileges as I drive along the freeway and see the tents set up by the homeless, view media accounts of children being bombed in countries overseas, or take care of patients whose parents pull me aside to tell me they can’t afford to purchase any gifts, I know I can’t take my life for granted.

Recognizing my privilege, I ask myself, ‘How can I, as a parent, teach my children to not take things for granted and recognize humanity in others?’ This is a big question without simple answers, but I wanted to share a few tips my parents taught me while growing up.

  1. Volunteer. This exposes you to new people; teaches you skills such as showing up on time, work ethic, and humility; and can be extremely rewarding.
  2. Donate. Donate time, money, skills, etc. There is going to be someone who is in need of help and can benefit from your donation, no matter how big or small.
  3. Have empathy. Everyone has a story, but they may not share the details.
  4. Treat people with kindness. A smile for the person holding a sign on the street corner acknowledges their existence and shows that you see them even if you don’t give them anything else.
  5. People will always remember how you made them feel. The emotions that accompany actions have significant impact. You may not be remembered for what you said, but you will be remembered for how people felt when they were around you.

I hope you and your family have had a good start to 2017. Have a wonderful New Year!

Talk to your kids about politics

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november-2016Our country just witnessed the democratic process of the United States this week as the 45th President Elect was voted into office. This election has divided the country over the past year as our 2 major political parties tried their hardest to convince the people that they could do a better job as Commander-in-Chief then their opponent. So now what? Regardless of how we voted, there are some common things we can teach our kids. Here are the points I’ve discussed with my own kids and my patients:

  1. If my side lost, that doesn’t mean all hope is lost. If my side won that doesn’t mean all my problems are solved. The amazing thing about living here is that even if I disagree with my neighbor, I’m free to do so. I have a right to disagree or agree. There are so many inequities in our country that still need work. These haven’t changed over this week and won’t change unless we the People use our democratic process as it was intended. So let’s get to work. Encourage your teens to write letters to their State representatives about issues important to them. Be involved in your community. Get to know your elected officials and if you have a strong stance on a topic, tell your legislature about it.
  2. Inclusion. Get to know people who are different from you and be open to hearing other people’s stories. We can learn from each other and recognize that we might have more in common than anticipated. Afterall, every parent I know wants the same thing for their kids: opportunities for financial stability, long healthy and happy lives.
  3. Humility. No one person is right all the time. Be open to ideas that differ from yours. You may find a compromise that benefits more people. This doesn’t mean you back down and ignore your values, instead be open to listening instead of jumping to assumptions about the people around you.
  4. The Golden Rule. Treat others the way you want to be treated. Hatred is intolerable. If you witness a hateful act against someone, remaining silent is passive acceptance.
  5. Voting matters. Half of the people eligible to vote did not. Our right to vote is a privilege. Many countries don’t offer the same opportunity for the citizens to have a say in how the government works. Every vote does matter. This election, it wasn’t just the Presidency that was on the ballot. There were local initiatives related to public transportation and education. We elected our governor and state representatives. Your vote is your voice. Use it! For women and under-represented minorities, the right to vote is fairly new. People fought long and hard to gain this equality.
  6. Acknowledge our differences in order to learn from each other. I’ve already addressed this above. But the only way to continue making improvements on the inequalities in our country (such as education discrepancies between rich and poor, lack of jobs for those without higher education, unequal pay between genders, the list goes on and on) is to acknowledge if we have a privilege, then work hard to decrease the inequality that lead to that privilege.

Concussion and depression

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girls-basketballTips from guest blogger: Dr. Carolyn McCarty

A recent study (from 9/13/16) on concussion in teens caught my attention this week. Sports related concussions in teens can lead to multiple symptoms including dizziness, headache, fatigue, poor sleep, poor concentration, and mood disturbances such as depression and anxiety. Though symptoms usually resolve within a few weeks, they may linger. For teens who continue to have post-concussive symptoms, the results can be debilitating. They may miss school, fall behind in their classes, become socially isolated (especially if unable to participate in their sports or activities of interest), and have symptoms of irritability, depression, and even thoughts of suicide. Treatment for teens who have prolonged symptoms can be a challenge. Read full post »

Sending your teen off to college

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My conversations with colleagues and friends have been dominated by the discussions of two topics: politics and sending my kid off to college. Both are full of emotions and both are full of opinions and ideas. As many of my colleagues are dropping off their first born kids at university campuses, they’ve shared their thoughts, fears, excitement, and emotions. Most of the things they’ve discussed with me would not have crossed my mind! These discussions are ones I hope to remember when I’m in the same situation and I’d like to share some of the tips I’ve learned with you. Read full post »

Processing recent tragedies and violence

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Guest Post: Dr. Raina Vachhani Voss

My colleagues and I recently had a conversation about how we, as providers, can have an impact and a voice when responding shootings in schools, bars, churches – places that we think of as being safe. When we meet with teens in the clinic, amidst conversations about relationships, emotions, and other health concerns, we do our best to check in with our patients about this topic. How they have been feeling about what they see on the news? How has it affected their mood? Do they feel safe in their community? Read full post »

Eating Well over summer break

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Family mealWith the high rates of obesity in our country, families nationwide are trying to find ways to promote healthy and balanced eating. One common conundrum is that finances are often tight and buying fresh produce that only lasts a few days before wilting, shopping at the farmer’s market, or buying organic food just may not be feasible. Incorporating exercise into a busy day is also challenging. A research study last year that showed kids (regardless of household income) on summer break may not be making the best choices around food, so for parents, discussing healthy balanced eating year round with children and teens is important. Read full post »

Should My Son Get the HPV Vaccine

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Guest post by: Rachel Moore, UW School of Nursing

Many parents are wondering why their sons need to get a vaccine that they’ve heard was developed to prevent cervical cancer when their sons don’t have a cervix! Parents may feel confused or frustrated when a health care provider tells them that their son needs the three shot series starting when they are 11 or 12 because they are sure that their child is not sexually active and that’s how you get HPV right? There are a couple misunderstandings that need to be cleared up. Read full post »