General Health and Safety

All Articles in the Category ‘General Health and Safety’

Tanning beds: It’s not just a risk for skin cancer


solariumA new study in JAMA Dermatology will come out this week that shows an association between tanning and teens being engaged in other risky behaviors. We have long known that tanning but this study provides us with more evidence that they may be risky for other aspects of our lives as well. Read full post »

Boys Need to Visit the Doctor too


ftmteenThis week a friend emailed an article about a toolkit for male health. It got me thinking: why don’t boys go to the doctor? It seems that for teen girls, there are numerous reasons that lead them in for medical evaluations (menstrual cramps, acne, concerns about weight, reproductive health). There are screening guidelines that encourage women under age 25 to seek medical care routinely, but our teen boys are often left out. It’s not that teen boys are more or less healthy, it just seems that we’ve been less likely to consider that boys need medical visits too! Read full post »

Puberty: The Horror Movie


Scared young woman afraid of something above her Horror film aficionados know that there are many classes of horror movies. There is supernatural horror, psychological horror, sci-fi horror, religious horror, horror-comedy, etc. Some of the most disturbing horror films for many (including me) are body horror. Body horror is basically a subgenre in which terrifying things happen to bodies. They grow, change, mutate, and/or self-destruct in particularly terrifying ways.

Obviously, going through puberty is different from having an alien burst out of your chest. However, at Dr. Kastner’s lecture last week, she reminded us that puberty is not only a time of emotional upheaval, but of physical upheaval as well. The further we get from puberty, the more it simply seems like a normal time of life that was rather difficult. We know that it happens to everyone and is pleasant for few. Yet while many of us looked forward to puberty and becoming more grown up, the changes our bodies presented us with were often confusing, unpredictable, unwanted, and more trouble than we’d expected. Read full post »

When Your Teen Loses It


angryteengirlI can still recall one of my more memorable adolescent meltdowns, even though I don’t remember what I was upset about. I was about thirteen, and I was yelling and crying and for some reason lying on a pile of laundry in our bathroom. My mother did something wise- she disengaged and left the room- and I sobbed into a pile of T-shirts until I calmed down. Then I was so embarrassed I avoided her like the plague for the next few days.

Most teens, at some point in their life, will have a complete meltdown over something that is, in the long run, not a huge deal. Something like losing their Twitter access for two weeks, getting into an argument with a friend, or having trip plans canceled can put them into a tailspin.

I’m not talking, for the purposes of this post, about teens that cause physical or property damage- that can be a larger issue, and may be outside of the spectrum of normal. I’m talking about screaming, crying, stomping, slamming doors, and the like. It doesn’t necessarily injure anyone, but it can be hard to take.  Read full post »

Vulnerable teens and the Affordable Care Act: Will they be left behind


lonelyteenThis January marks a major milestone in US history, the initiation of the Affordable Care Act (ACA). This Act has been put in place in an effort to help bring healthcare coverage to millions of uninsured Americans and has been the topic of much debate. There is much nuance in the details of the Act and it’s challenging to understand, but I wanted to highlight a special population that may continue to remain uninsured despite the implementation of the ACA: vulnerable teens and young adults.

There are 3 specific populations of teens and young adults who are likely to remain uninsured: homeless youth, older teens in foster care, and youth in juvenile detention. Unfortunately, these teens and young adults are at high risk for poor health, mental illness, poverty, and lack of positive adult role models. They also have higher proportions of under-represented minorities and LGBTQ youth. This special group of teens, in my opinion, has the greatest need for health care coverage. Read full post »

Teaching Teens to be Responsible


teen travelIn my last post, I discussed the case of Ethan Couch, a 16-year-old who drove drunk and killed four people. Many were astonished when his prosecutor successfully argued that because Ethan had not been taught about consequences or responsibility by his parents, that he did not deserve jail time.

Ethan’s parents seemed to refrain from punishment no matter how egregious his offenses. They are far below the bell curve in parental discipline; most of you would never dream of letting a young teen drink themselves to unconsciousness without repercussions. But Ethan’s history does raise the question: How do parents raise responsible teens, ready to accept the consequences of their actions, work hard for their goals, and face the realities of life?

Of course, each teen is born with their own temperament, and there is no magic equation. But I’ve gathered up some suggestions, including past posts, on strategies that may help instill a sense of responsibility in your teen. Read full post »

Maintaining balance during the holidays


safety in numbersIt’s holiday season. Teens with already jam packed schedules are adding in holiday parties, school plays, music performances, time with friends, and family commitments. It can be a challenge to maintain balance. By balance I mean taking time for a break, eating well, exercising, and doing the activities that enable them to manage stress. These are my personal tips for maintaining balance this busy time of year: Read full post »

Teens, Responsibility, and “Affluenza”


drunkdrivingOne night in June, a teen named Ethan was driving with seven friends in his father’s truck. They were highly intoxicated on beer they had stolen from Wal-Mart, and possibly other alcoholic substances, after a house party. Ethan also had Valium in his system. The truck swerved up onto a sidewalk, killing four people. Two teens were thrown from the back of the pickup, and one is currently in a coma.

This case wasn’t made widely public until the sentencing: Ethan received 10 years’ probation. Prosecutors had asked for 20 years’ imprisonment. One of the arguments that a psychologist for the defense used was that Ethan was unable to understand the consequences of his actions. The developmental argument for a still-developing brain was used, but a rather creative one was also brought up: that Ethan suffered from “affluenza”. Read full post »

What is the Band Playing Now?: Adolescents, Young Adults, and HIV


young loveI don’t remember when I first heard about HIV, it was just sort of always present in my world view. When I was very young, I remember overhearing a woman explain that she had left off training to be a lab technician because she was “scared of catching AIDS.” I remember Ryan White. I remember on the show “Life Goes On“, Chad Lowe’s character wouldn’t kiss Kellie Martin’s character, because he was HIV-positive and worried she would catch it.  I remember dark murmurings about people catching HIV from becoming blood brothers. I remember the AIDS quilt getting started. I remember meeting my first HIV-positive person and being surprised at how healthy he looked. I remember virgins going to get tested for HIV before becoming sexually active, just in case. I remember Pedro. (If you haven’t, check out the book this blog title comes from.)

Of course, now we know a lot more about HIV- including how it’s transmitted, and if not how to cure it, at least how to- in many cases- keep AIDS at bay for decades. There is no longer the sense of looming danger we grew up with, tied in with the fascination of sex and the message that only condoms can prevent HIV. HIV has gone from being a death sentence to a chronic disease, and the life expectancy of an HIV-positive person in the U.S. has drastically increased. Read full post »

Throwing Teens Away



In 2006, 15-year-old Travion Blount was party to an armed robbery, along with two 18-year-olds. Nobody was killed during the robbery, and while one person was assaulted, Travion was not the one who committed it.

In 2008, he was sentenced to six back-to-back life sentences, plus 118 years in prison.

When I first read this, I thought there must be some mistake. I searched other news sources to see what else Travion had done to deserve such a punishment, but failed to turn up some murder, rape, or other injurious crime that the original report had failed to mention. Travion Blount, upon committing a crime at age 15, was simply thrown away into the prison system with no hope of return until geriatric release programs become available to him. His sentence is much longer than the average murder sentence for both teens and adults. In fact, it’s equivalent to the 17-year-old who committed some of the sniper killings in D.C.  Read full post »