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Health Capsules: Aug. 8

New drivers at highest risk for accidents

New research shows that teen drivers are at a much higher risk for accidents – and take more chances – in their first few months behind the wheel.

The period between Memorial Day and Labor Day is often referred to as the “100 deadliest days” for teenage drivers, because their rate of fatal car crashes climbs by 15 percent compared to the rest of the year. However, teens with newly issued driver’s licenses may be at very high risk year-round, according to a new study conducted at Virginia Tech.

The study, recently published in the Journal of Adolescent Health, showed that teens were eight times more likely to be involved in a collision or near miss during their first three months after getting a driver’s license, compared to their final three months with a learner’s permit.  New drivers were also four times more likely to engage in risky behaviors behind the wheel, such as accelerating rapidly, braking suddenly and making hard turns. By comparison, teens with learner’s permits had about the same rates of crashes and risky driving behaviors as adults.

Data for the study was collected using software and cameras installed in the participants’ cars. It is one of the first to follow participants’ driving continuously, from when they first obtained their learners permits through the end of their first year of licensed driving. 

The rate of crashes and near-crashes was found to be similar in male and female new drivers.  However, the research showed that risky driving, which did not differ by gender during the learning period, was higher among boys with new licenses than girls. The incidence of risky behaviors decreased over time for girls during their first year of licensed driving, but not for boys. 

“During the learner’s permit period, parents are present, so there are some skills that teenagers cannot learn until they are on their own,” said Pnina Gershon, Ph.D., the study’s lead author. “We need a better understanding of how to help teenagers learn safe driving skills when parents or other adults are not present.”

In the future, the researchers plan to explore whether the length and quality of practice driving time can predict the risk of crashes during the early independent driving period. They also will look into the influence of passengers on young drivers’ behavior during the learning period and through their first months of independent driving.

Confused about supplements? There’s an app for that

A new app from the National Institutes of Health provides consumers with information and potential side effects for the most popular herbal supplements.

From black cohosh to ease menopausal symptoms, to echinacea to prevent colds, to ginkgo biloba to improve memory – the list of herbal remedies marketed to consumers as health aids is virtually endless, and potentially confusing as well. 

Although plants have been used for medicinal purposes for thousands of years, herbal supplements still aren’t as strictly regulated as over-the-counter or prescription medications, and supplement manufacturers do not have to get approval from the Food and Drug Administration [FDA] before putting their products on the market. Yet many of these supposedly “natural” supplements can have medication-like effects, or can interact significantly with prescription medicines, making it important for supplement users to have up-to-date information about possible unwanted effects of these supplements. 

To help consumers navigate the wealth of information about popular herbs and herbal supplements, the National Institutes of Health [NIH] recently launched HerbList,  an app that provides research-based data about the safety and effectiveness of herbal products. Developed by the NIH’s National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health, HerbList is designed for consumers, healthcare providers and others to quickly access scientific information about the most popular herbal supplements sold for health purposes, including kava, acai, ginkgo, turmeric and more than 50 others. 

The app’s users can access information on potential safety problems, side effects, and herb-drug interactions, with links to additional resources. HerbList is available for free download on both Apple and Android devices.

Is your tablet computer a pain in the neck?

“iPad neck” is a painful condition that is becoming increasingly common, especially among young women.

A condition known as “iPad neck” or “tablet neck,” which refers to persistent pain in the neck or upper shoulders caused by slouching, bending unnaturally or sitting without back support while using a tablet computer, is a growing problem in the U.S. – especially among young women, according to researchers at the University of Nevada – Las Vegas.  

Working with hospitals and physical therapy centers in Nevada, UNLV led a survey of university students, staff, faculty and alumni about their tablet usage habits along with their neck and shoulder complaints. They found that the condition is more prevalent among young adults than older adults, and that women are more than twice as likely as men to experience musculoskeletal pain during iPad use.

UNLV physical therapy professor Szu-Ping Lee, lead author of the study, said the results of the survey are concerning given the growing popularity of tablet computers, e-book readers, and other such devices. “Such high prevalence of neck and shoulder symptoms, especially among the younger populations, presents a substantial burden to society,” he said.

To prevent iPad neck, Lee offered the following tips:

• Sit in a chair with back support when using a tablet, rather than slouching over with the computer in your lap. 

• Place your iPad or tablet on a stand rather than a flat surface, and attach a keyboard in order to achieve a more upright posture.

• Exercise to strengthen neck and shoulder muscles [this is particularly important for women, who tend to experience more neck and shoulder pain].

• Use a posture “reminder” device or wearable posture trainer to let you know when you’re slouching.

On the calendar

The O’Fallon Fire Protection District offers a Community CPR class on Wednesday, Aug. 15 from 6-8:30 p.m. at Fire Station 3, 600 Laura Hill Road in O’Fallon. Registrants who successfully pass this class will be issued a Heartsaver CPR-AED card through the American Heart Association that is valid for two years; however, the class does not include first aid instruction. Class size is limited to 18 students, with fire district residents receiving preference. Attendance is free for district residents and $25 for non-residents. Children ages 12- 17 must be accompanied by a parent or guardian. To sign up, complete and return the registration form available online at ofallonfire.org/forms; call (636) 272-3493 with questions.

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BJC offers Know Your Numbers health screenings on Friday, Aug. 17 from 9-11 a.m. at the Middendorf-Kredell Branch Library, 2750 Hwy. K in O’Fallon, in Room A. These screening tests for adults include lung function check and blood pressure checks; cholesterol lipid panel and glucose measurements; body composition analysis, and body mass index [BMI]. Participants should fast for at least 10 hours prior to screening. All screenings are free, but advance registration is required. Appointments can be made online at bjcstcharlescounty.org/Events.

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St. Louis Children’s Hospital sponsors a Staying Home Alone course on Wednesday, Aug. 22 from 6:30-8 p.m. at the Spencer Road Branch Library, 427 Spencer Road in St. Peters. This class, designed for parents and children to attend together, will help determine a child’s readiness – physically, mentally, socially and emotionally – to stay home alone and help prepare them for this experience. The fee is $25 per family. When calling (636) 344-5437 to register, provide the names of all family members attending. 

Mid Rivers Newsmagazine is pleased to announce the availability of Life Celebrations remembrance stories and obituaries. While these memorials cannot include visitation and funeral information due to the paper’s press schedule, they can serve as a last farewell to family, friends and the community. Life Celebrations will appear in print and online at midriversnewsmagazine.com. To learn more, contact Vicky Czapla at (636) 591-0010.
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