Tag Archives: American Academy of Pediatrics

Flu Vaccine Recommendations for 2017-18 and a Quick Influenza Primer


The American Academy of Pediatrics has released its recommendations for the upcoming flu season. There is no equivocation in these recommendations, and we strongly support your complete adherence to them.

Recommendations:

  • Pediatricians offer influenza vaccine to all children 6 months of age and older, as soon as the vaccine becomes available, in order to complete vaccination and provide protection before the flu season starts. Preferably, this should be accomplished by the end of October for best benefit.
  • All household members should be vaccinated, including child care providers, grandparents and women who are pregnant, are postpartum or are breastfeeding during the flu season.
  • The live attenuated intranasal vaccine is NOT recommended, as it has performed poorly in recent years.
  • Special effort should be made to vaccinate all children 6 months and older who have conditions that increase their risk of complications of flu. This includes those born preterm (premmies) and with chronic medical conditions, including the following:
    • asthma and other chronic lung diseases
    • heart disease
    • diabetes and other metabolic problems
    • weakened immune systems.
  • All health care and child care personnel should receive an annual flu shot.

Why:

  • Last year over 100 US children died of the flu, and thousands more were hospitalized from influenza or its complications.
  • Historically, more than 80% of flu deaths in children have been in those not vaccinated.


Etc:

  • Antiviral medications are not a substitute for the vaccine and offer best results only if started within 48 hours of symptoms. If you present after 48 hours of symptom onset, you likely will not receive the medicine.
  • Be clear: the benefits of influenza vaccines greatly outpace the occurrence of any risks, especially in the calculus of death from the disease compared with deaths from the vaccine.

Feel free to ask your SMA expert consultant any questions you may have on this topic.
Take the #72HoursChallenge, and join the community. As a thank you for being a valued subscriber to Straight, No Chaser, we’d like to offer you a complimentary 30-day membership at www.72hourslife.com. Just use the code #NoChaser, and yes, it’s ok if you share!
Order your copy of Dr. Sterling’s new books There are 72 Hours in a Day: Using Efficiency to Better Enjoy Every Part of Your Life and The 72 Hours in a Day Workbook: The Journey to The 72 Hours Life in 72 Days at Amazon or at www.72hourslife.com. Receive introductory pricing with orders!
Thanks for liking and following Straight, No Chaser! This public service provides a sample of what http://www.SterlingMedicalAdvice.com (SMA) and 844-SMA-TALK offers. Please share our page with your friends on WordPress, like us on Facebook SterlingMedicalAdvice.com and follow us on Twitter at @asksterlingmd.
Copyright © 2017 · Sterling Initiatives, LLC · Powered by WordPress

Straight, No Chaser In the News: New Guidelines on Fruit Juice and Fruit Intake for Kids

The American Academy of Pediatrics has offered revised recommendations regarding children’s intake of fruits and fruit juice. If you’re wondering why such a thing is necessary, think no further than avoiding a lifetime of bad teeth and reducing the risks of childhood obesity and failure to thrive. The recommendations are adjusted by age, but the most fundamental consideration is parents should age giving any fruit juices during the first year of a child’s life. In short, it’s time to toss the sippy cup.

Here are the recommendations:
Birth to Age 1:

  • Breast milk or formula should be the only nutrient fed to infants for the first six months of life.
  • After six months of age, parents can introduce fruits (either mashed or pureed) but not fruit juice.

Ages 1-4:

  • At this age, children need one cup of fruit a day.
  • Up to 4 ounces (half a cup) can come from 100% fruit juice.

Ages 4-6

  • At this age, focus on whole fruits.
  • Fruit juice shouldn’t exceed 4-6 ounces a day.

Ages 7-18

  • At this age, children and teens should get 2 to 2.5 cups of fruit daily.
  • Fruit juice shouldn’t exceed 8 ounces (1 cup) a day.

Don’t worry. Kids adopt the habits you introduce. Nutritious eating is a lifestyle. Develop the habits of fruits in cereals, yogurt or smoothies. Introduce apples and oranges as snacks or deserts. You can even use mashed apples or applesauce as a sugar replacement in baked good.
A final reminder is to avoid fake fruit. Fruit chews, strips or gummies don’t deliver the same nutritional content (especially fiber) as whole fruit. And definitely avoid fruit “drinks,” “beverages” or “cocktails.” These are typically signs that it’s not 100% juice.
Here’s to your health!
Take the #72HoursChallenge, and join the community. As a thank you for being a valued subscriber to Straight, No Chaser, we’d like to offer you a complimentary 30-day membership at www.72hourslife.com. Just use the code #NoChaser, and yes, it’s ok if you share!
Order your copy of Dr. Sterling’s new books There are 72 Hours in a Day: Using Efficiency to Better Enjoy Every Part of Your Life and The 72 Hours in a Day Workbook: The Journey to The 72 Hours Life in 72 Days at Amazon or at www.72hourslife.com.
Thanks for liking and following Straight, No Chaser! This public service provides a sample of what http://www.SterlingMedicalAdvice.com (SMA) and 844-SMA-TALK offers. Please share our page with your friends on WordPress, like us on Facebook SterlingMedicalAdvice.com and follow us on Twitter at @asksterlingmd.
Copyright © 2017 · Sterling Initiatives, LLC · Powered by WordPress

Straight, No Chaser: What Should NOT Be in Your Medicine Cabinet

medicine-cabinets
In the previous Straight, No Chaser, we discussed the ideal use of your medicine cabinets to prepare for life’s nagging aches and pain. However, has it ever occurred to you that many people run straight to the medicine cabinet to do harm to themselves or others? I want you to know the harder the effort is to obtain items to hurt oneself, the less likely one is to follow through on the notion. On a related note, there’s a quick not-so-fun-but-interesting fact regarding one of the differences between America and say, certain European countries that has to do with the oversized influence of corporations in the States. Why am I talking about that on a medical blog? Read on. If you can’t tell where I’m going with this, you’ll get it pretty quickly.

Here’s my top five items I want you to take out your medicine cabinets and lock up.

SILO-POISON

1. Any jumbo sized container of any medication. Think about two of the most common over the counter (OTC) medications used for suicide attempts: acetaminophen (Tylenol) and salicylate (aspirin). One thing they have in common is you can buy what amounts to a tub-full of it at your local superstore in the United States. They should call these things ‘suicide quantities’, because often those in the midst of a suicide attempt will grab and swallow whatever is convenient. Many different medications will hurt you if you take enough; Tylenol and aspirin certainly fit that bill. Observing that (and additional considerations after the deaths due to the lacing of Tylenol with cyanide back in 1983), the Brits decided to not only pass a law limiting quantities, but certain medications that are high-frequency and high-risk for suicide use are now mandatorily dispensed in those annoying containers that you have to pop through the plastic container. Needless to say, observed suicide rates by medication rates plummeted as a result. Wonder why that hasn’t been implemented in the good ol’ USA?
2. Have teens in your house? Lock up the Robitussin and NyQuil. Dextromethorphan is the active ingredient in over 100 OTC cold and cough preparations. Teens use these to get high, folks. To make matters worse, they are addictive, and if taken with alcohol or other drugs, they can kill you. Then there’s “purple drank” (yes, that’s how it’s spelled), in which these cough syrups containing codeine and promethazine (Benadryl) are mixed with drinks such as Sprite or Mountain Dew.
3. Have any sexual performance medications? This is part of a category of medicines called ‘medicines that can kill someone with just one pill’. That usually refers to kids or the elderly, but remember that those sexual enhancement drugs are medicines that lower your blood pressure. In the wrong person and in the wrong dose, taking such medicine – whether intentionally or accidentally – could be the last thing someone does.

opioid30p

3. Any narcotic. Need I say more? Remember, you do have people rummaging through your cabinets on occasion!
4. Any sharps. That includes sewing pins, needles, etc.
5. Any medication with an expiration date. The medication date actually is more of a ‘freshness’ consideration than a danger warning. However, in the wrong patient, a medicine that has less than the 100% guarantee of its needed strength that the expiration date represents could be fatal. Play it safe and get a new prescription.
There’s a lot more that could be added to this list, but I like keeping things manageable for you.  Please childproof all your cabinets, and use childproof caps on your medications.
Feel free to ask your SMA expert consultant any questions you may have on this topic.
Order your copy of Dr. Sterling’s new book Behind The Curtain: A Peek at Life from within the ER at jeffreysterlingbooks.com, iTunes, Amazon, Barnes and Nobles and wherever books are sold.
Thanks for liking and following Straight, No Chaser! This public service provides a sample of what http://www.SterlingMedicalAdvice.com (SMA) and 844-SMA-TALK offers. Please share our page with your friends on WordPress, like us on Facebook SterlingMedicalAdvice.com and follow us on Twitter at @asksterlingmd.
Copyright © 2017 · Sterling Initiatives, LLC · Powered by WordPress

Straight, No Chaser: What Should Be in Your Medicine Cabinet

medicine cabinet sick-care-vs-health-care

You’ve all done it. I’ve caught a few of you doing it. Why do you rummage through someone’s else’s medicine cabinet? Are newer homes even built with medicine cabinets anymore? Oh well… Today, Straight, No Chaser tackles a simple but important question in an ongoing effort to better empower you. For starters, here’s hoping your cabinet doesn’t resemble any of these pictured, but there is a role for medicines in your medicine cabinet.
medicine-cabinet_59x73.5_we
1. What should be in your medicine cabinet? Here’s my top five and why.

  • Aspirin (324 mg).

Aspirin-tablet-300x300

On the day you’re having a heart attack, you’ll want this available to pop in your mouth on the way to the hospital. Of all the intervention done in treating heart attacks, none is better than simply taking an aspirin. It offers a 23% reduction in mortality (death rates) due to a heart attack all by itself.

  • Activated charcoal.

activated charcoal

This one may surprise you. Talk to your physician or pharmacist about this. If someone in your family ever overdoses on a medicine, odds are this is the first medication you’d be given in the emergency room. The sooner it’s onboard, the sooner it can begin detoxifying whatever you took. That said, there are some medications and circumstances when you shouldn’t take it, so get familiar with it by talking with your physician.

  • Antiseptics such as triple antibiotic ointment for cuts, scratches and minor burns.

triple abx

It should be embarrassing for you to spend $1000 going to an emergency room when you could have addressed the problem at home. I guess I should include bandages here as well.

  • A variety pack for colds, including antihistamines (like diphenhydramine, aka benadryl) and cough preparations.

OTCdrugs

As a general rule, give yourself 3-5 days of using OTC preparations for a cold to see if it works or goes away. If not, then it’s certainly appropriate to get additional medical care. I guess I can lump a thermometer in this bullet point.

  • The fifth item would be this number: 800-222-1222, which is the number to the national poison control center.

poisoncontrol

They will address your concerns, route you to your local poison center, advise you on the appropriate use of activated charcoal and help coordinate your care when you go to your emergency department.
Be smart about the items in your home in general and in your medicine cabinet in particular. We’ll continue the theme with the next Straight, No Chaser.
Feel free to ask your SMA expert consultant any questions you may have on this topic.
Order your copy of Dr. Sterling’s new book Behind The Curtain: A Peek at Life from within the ER at jeffreysterlingbooks.com, iTunes, Amazon, Barnes and Nobles and wherever books are sold.
Thanks for liking and following Straight, No Chaser! This public service provides a sample of what http://www.SterlingMedicalAdvice.com (SMA) and 844-SMA-TALK offers. Please share our page with your friends on WordPress, like us on Facebook SterlingMedicalAdvice.com and follow us on Twitter at @asksterlingmd.
Copyright © 2017 · Sterling Initiatives, LLC · Powered by WordPress

Straight, No Chaser: Inappropriate Antibiotic Use

antibiotics

Whenever physicians attempt to discuss inappropriate antibiotic use with patients, too often fear replaces logic. These days, antibiotic use is treated as a convenience consideration, regardless if there’s actually a disease present that can be treated by antibiotics. Here are some principles your physician is mindful of when deciding if you actually need antibiotics.
Significant complications exist from missing any disease. If a heart attack is missed, your heart can rupture, and you can die. If a fracture is missed, you can develop necrosis, arthritis and loss of limb. If pneumonia is missed, you can go into respiratory failure and die. Etc., etc. As an emergency physician, my colleagues and I are more in tune than any other specialty of physicians with the risks and consequences of misdiagnosing critical illness; in fact it’s one of the main components of the speciality.
The point is giving medicine is not based on either fear or treating conditions that have a low probability of existing. Any physician is weighing the value of the information you provide to determine what appropriate management will be; that’s the Art of Medicine, and that will always be left to the individual judgment of your treating physician. That said, the days of such absolute power by physicians are going the way of the dinosaur. Evidence-based medicine and outcomes-based medicine are here to stay. Multiple guidelines for best practices exist across many medical conditions, including when to order ankle x-rays and not, when to order neck x-rays and not, when to treat various infections and not. What’s new here is identifying opportunities to avoid exposing patients to unnecessary, costly medical interventions. What’s also new is you the patient can be better empowered and knowledgeable about the conditions you have and the care you receive.
abx
The risk of inappropriate antibiotic use is more real, more present and more important than practicing defensive medicine. There are classes of antibiotics that we can no longer use. I mentioned previously how Staph is resistant to several of the penicillins we’ve used for decades due to resistance, which occurs from overuse and inappropriate use, most frequently seen in treatment of viral illnesses. Yes readers, MRSA stands for methicillin-resistant Staph Aureus, and that’s why it’s known as a ‘super-bug’. Approximately 80% of those ear, nose and throat infections you’re coming to the emergency room for and asking/receiving antibiotics for are viral illness and would be better on their own in 48-72 hours. Similarly, treatment of gonorrhea has recently been revised by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) because of the emergence of resistance to the medications used against it. Again, this has resulted from overuse and inappropriate use of these medications, largely in treatment of viral illnesses. One of the more powerful antibiotics we had at our disposal (a member of the fluoroquinolone class) just got pulled back from its 15 different indications for usage due to emerging resistance. This particularly powerful entity, instead of being withheld for serious diseases, was being used for urinary tract infections, minor skin and soft tissue illness and other conditions that eventually led to a loss of effectiveness. Why would such things be done? Profits and defensive medicine are two reasons that rapidly come to mind.
This is a lot more serious than just overusing medications. Sepsis is a condition where an infection overwhelms the body and isn’t just limited to the local site where the infection originated. It can be so devastating that your body goes into shock, losing its ability to function and deliver blood throughout your body. Initial treatment of real illness suffers when we’re using medications that are less effective because bacteria have had time to mutate or otherwise become resistant due to non-lethal exposures.

getsmart_16_3731609472

The CDC and the American Academy of Pediatrics have consistently promoted this philosophy. It’s been included in JAMA, the Journal of the American Medical Association. Inappropriate antibiotic use has consequences!

Consider the following lists of conditions that commonly can be treated without antibiotics.

  • Common colds and upper respiratory illnesses, including non-strep pharyngitis
  • Influenza (flu)
  • Most coughs and bronchitis (chest cold with a cough)
  • Many ear infections (also called otitis media)
  • Many skin rashes

To be clear, no one is recommending or promoting inappropriate or less than appropriate treatment of conditions that actually exist. No one is suggesting that anything you read here or anywhere else is more important than the real-time judgement of your physician. Just appreciate that opportunities exist to do the right thing and the wrong thing, and medicine is better with an informed patient.
Feel free to ask your SMA expert consultant any questions you may have on this topic.
Order your copy of Dr. Sterling’s new book Behind The Curtain: A Peek at Life from within the ER at jeffreysterlingbooks.com, iTunes, Amazon, Barnes and Nobles and wherever books are sold.
Thanks for liking and following Straight, No Chaser! This public service provides a sample of what http://www.SterlingMedicalAdvice.com (SMA) and 844-SMA-TALK offers. Please share our page with your friends on WordPress, like us on Facebook SterlingMedicalAdvice.com and follow us on Twitter at @asksterlingmd.
Copyright © 2017 · Sterling Initiatives, LLC · Powered by WordPress

Straight, No Chaser: What Should NOT Be in Your Medicine Cabinet

medicine-cabinets
In the previous Straight, No Chaser, we discussed the ideal use of your medicine cabinets to prepare for life’s nagging aches and pain. However, has it ever occurred to you that many people run straight to the medicine cabinet to do harm to themselves or others? I want you to know the harder the effort is to obtain items to hurt oneself, the less likely one is to follow through on the notion. On a related note, there’s a quick not-so-fun-but-interesting fact regarding one of the differences between America and say, certain European countries that has to do with the oversized influence of corporations in the States. Why am I talking about that on a medical blog? Read on. If you can’t tell where I’m going with this, you’ll get it pretty quickly.

Here’s my top five items I want you to take out your medicine cabinets and lock up.

SILO-POISON

1. Any jumbo sized container of any medication. Think about two of the most common over the counter (OTC) medications used for suicide attempts: acetaminophen (Tylenol) and salicylate (aspirin). One thing they have in common is you can buy what amounts to a tub-full of it at your local superstore in the United States. They should call these things ‘suicide quantities’, because often those in the midst of a suicide attempt will grab and swallow whatever is convenient. Many different medications will hurt you if you take enough; Tylenol and aspirin certainly fit that bill. Observing that (and additional considerations after the deaths due to the lacing of Tylenol with cyanide back in 1983), the Brits decided to not only pass a law limiting quantities, but certain medications that are high-frequency and high-risk for suicide use are now mandatorily dispensed in those annoying containers that you have to pop through the plastic container. Needless to say, observed suicide rates by medication rates plummeted as a result. Wonder why that hasn’t been implemented in the good ol’ USA?
2. Have teens in your house? Lock up the Robitussin and NyQuil. Dextromethorphan is the active ingredient in over 100 OTC cold and cough preparations. Teens use these to get high, folks. To make matters worse, they are addictive, and if taken with alcohol or other drugs, they can kill you. Then there’s “purple drank” (yes, that’s how it’s spelled), in which these cough syrups containing codeine and promethazine (Benadryl) are mixed with drinks such as Sprite or Mountain Dew.
3. Have any sexual performance medications? This is part of a category of medicines called ‘medicines that can kill someone with just one pill’. That usually refers to kids or the elderly, but remember that those sexual enhancement drugs are medicines that lower your blood pressure. In the wrong person and in the wrong dose, taking such medicine – whether intentionally or accidentally – could be the last thing someone does.

opioid30p

3. Any narcotic. Need I say more? Remember, you do have people rummaging through your cabinets on occasion!
4. Any sharps. That includes sewing pins, needles, etc.
5. Any medication with an expiration date. The medication date actually is more of a ‘freshness’ consideration than a danger warning. However, in the wrong patient, a medicine that has less than the 100% guarantee of its needed strength that the expiration date represents could be fatal. Play it safe and get a new prescription.
There’s a lot more that could be added to this list, but I like keeping things manageable for you.  Please childproof all your cabinets, and use childproof caps on your medications.
Feel free to ask your SMA expert consultant any questions you may have on this topic.
Order your copy of Dr. Sterling’s new book Behind The Curtain: A Peek at Life from within the ER at jeffreysterlingbooks.com, iTunes, Amazon, Barnes and Nobles and wherever books are sold.
Thanks for liking and following Straight, No Chaser! This public service provides a sample of what http://www.SterlingMedicalAdvice.com (SMA) and 844-SMA-TALK offers. Please share our page with your friends on WordPress, like us on Facebook SterlingMedicalAdvice.com and follow us on Twitter at @asksterlingmd.
Copyright © 2016 · Sterling Initiatives, LLC · Powered by WordPress

Straight, No Chaser: What Should Be in Your Medicine Cabinet

medicine cabinet sick-care-vs-health-care

You’ve all done it. I’ve caught a few of you doing it. Why do you rummage through someone’s else’s medicine cabinet? Are newer homes even built with medicine cabinets anymore? Oh well… Today, Straight, No Chaser tackles a simple but important question in an ongoing effort to better empower you. For starters, here’s hoping your cabinet doesn’t resemble any of these pictured, but there is a role for medicines in your medicine cabinet.
medicine-cabinet_59x73.5_we
1. What should be in your medicine cabinet? Here’s my top five and why.

  • Aspirin (324 mg).

Aspirin-tablet-300x300

On the day you’re having a heart attack, you’ll want this available to pop in your mouth on the way to the hospital. Of all the intervention done in treating heart attacks, none is better than simply taking an aspirin. It offers a 23% reduction in mortality (death rates) due to a heart attack all by itself.

  • Activated charcoal.

activated charcoal

This one may surprise you. Talk to your physician or pharmacist about this. If someone in your family ever overdoses on a medicine, odds are this is the first medication you’d be given in the emergency room. The sooner it’s onboard, the sooner it can begin detoxifying whatever you took. That said, there are some medications and circumstances when you shouldn’t take it, so get familiar with it by talking with your physician.

  • Antiseptics such as triple antibiotic ointment for cuts, scratches and minor burns.

triple abx

It should be embarrassing for you to spend $1000 going to an emergency room when you could have addressed the problem at home. I guess I should include bandages here as well.

  • A variety pack for colds, including antihistamines (like diphenhydramine, aka benadryl) and cough preparations.

OTCdrugs

As a general rule, give yourself 3-5 days of using OTC preparations for a cold to see if it works or goes away. If not, then it’s certainly appropriate to get additional medical care. I guess I can lump a thermometer in this bullet point.

  • The fifth item would be this number: 800-222-1222, which is number to the national poison control center.

poisoncontrol

They will address your concerns, route you to your local poison center, advise you on the appropriate use of activated charcoal and help coordinate your care when you go to your emergency department.
Be smart about the items in your home in general and in your medicine cabinet in particular. We’ll continue the theme with the next Straight, No Chaser.

Feel free to ask your SMA expert consultant any questions you may have on this topic.
Order your copy of Dr. Sterling’s new book Behind The Curtain: A Peek at Life from within the ER at jeffreysterlingbooks.com, iTunes, Amazon, Barnes and Nobles and wherever books are sold.
Thanks for liking and following Straight, No Chaser! This public service provides a sample of what http://www.SterlingMedicalAdvice.com (SMA) and 844-SMA-TALK offers. Please share our page with your friends on WordPress, like us on Facebook SterlingMedicalAdvice.com and follow us on Twitter at @asksterlingmd.
Copyright © 2016 · Sterling Initiatives, LLC · Powered by WordPress

Straight, No Chaser: Inappropriate Antibiotic Use

antibiotics

Whenever physicians attempt to discuss inappropriate antibiotic use with patients, too often fear replaces logic. These days, antibiotic use is treated as a convenience consideration, regardless if there’s actually a disease present that can be treated by antibiotics. Here are some principles your physician is mindful of when deciding if you actually need antibiotics.
Significant complications exist from missing any disease. If a heart attack is missed, your heart can rupture, and you can die. If a fracture is missed, you can develop necrosis, arthritis and loss of limb. If pneumonia is missed, you can go into respiratory failure and die. Etc., etc. As an emergency physician, my colleagues and I are more in tune than any other specialty of physicians with the risks and consequences of misdiagnosing critical illness; in fact it’s one of the main components of the speciality.
The point is giving medicine is not based on either fear or treating conditions that have a low probability of existing. Any physician is weighing the value of the information you provide to determine what appropriate management will be; that’s the Art of Medicine, and that will always be left to the individual judgment of your treating physician. That said, the days of such absolute power by physicians are going the way of the dinosaur. Evidence-based medicine and outcomes-based medicine are here to stay. Multiple guidelines for best practices exist across many medical conditions, including when to order ankle x-rays and not, when to order neck x-rays and not, when to treat various infections and not. What’s new here is identifying opportunities to avoid exposing patients to unnecessary, costly medical interventions. What’s also new is you the patient can be better empowered and knowledgeable about the conditions you have and the care you receive.
abx
The risk of inappropriate antibiotic use is more real, more present and more important than practicing defensive medicine. There are classes of antibiotics that we can no longer use. I mentioned previously how Staph is resistant to several of the penicillins we’ve used for decades due to resistance, which occurs from overuse and inappropriate use, most frequently seen in treatment of viral illnesses. Yes readers, MRSA stands for methicillin-resistant Staph Aureus, and that’s why it’s known as a ‘super-bug’. Approximately 80% of those ear, nose and throat infections you’re coming to the emergency room for and asking/receiving antibiotics for are viral illness and would be better on their own in 48-72 hours. Similarly, treatment of gonorrhea has recently been revised by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) because of the emergence of resistance to the medications used against it. Again, this has resulted from overuse and inappropriate use of these medications, largely in treatment of viral illnesses. One of the more powerful antibiotics we had at our disposal (a member of the fluoroquinolone class) just got pulled back from its 15 different indications for usage due to emerging resistance. This particularly powerful entity, instead of being withheld for serious diseases, was being used for urinary tract infections, minor skin and soft tissue illness and other conditions that eventually led to a loss of effectiveness. Why would such things be done? Profits and defensive medicine are two reasons that rapidly come to mind.
This is a lot more serious than just overusing medications. Sepsis is a condition where an infection overwhelms the body and isn’t just limited to the local site where the infection originated. It can be so devastating that your body goes into shock, losing its ability to function and deliver blood throughout your body. Initial treatment of real illness suffers when we’re using medications that are less effective because bacteria have had time to mutate or otherwise become resistant due to non-lethal exposures.

getsmart_16_3731609472

The CDC and the American Academy of Pediatrics have consistently promoted this philosophy. It’s been included in JAMA, the Journal of the American Medical Association. Inappropriate antibiotic use has consequences!

Consider the following lists of conditions that commonly can be treated without antibiotics.

  • Common colds and upper respiratory illnesses, including non-strep pharyngitis
  • Influenza (flu)
  • Most coughs and bronchitis (chest cold with a cough)
  • Many ear infections (also called otitis media)
  • Many skin rashes

To be clear, no one is recommending or promoting inappropriate or less than appropriate treatment of conditions that actually exist. No one is suggesting that anything you read here or anywhere else is more important than the real-time judgement of your physician. Just appreciate that opportunities exist to do the right thing and the wrong thing, and medicine is better with an informed patient.
Feel free to ask your SMA expert consultant any questions you may have on this topic.
Order your copy of Dr. Sterling’s new book Behind The Curtain: A Peek at Life from within the ER at jeffreysterlingbooks.com, iTunes, Amazon, Barnes and Nobles and wherever books are sold.
Thanks for liking and following Straight, No Chaser! This public service provides a sample of what http://www.SterlingMedicalAdvice.com (SMA) and 844-SMA-TALK offers. Please share our page with your friends on WordPress, like us on Facebook SterlingMedicalAdvice.com and follow us on Twitter at @asksterlingmd.
Copyright © 2016 · Sterling Initiatives, LLC · Powered by WordPress

Straight, No Chaser: What Should NOT Be in Your Medicine Cabinet

medicine-cabinets
In the previous Straight, No Chaser, we discussed the ideal use of your medicine cabinets to prepare for life’s nagging aches and pain. However, has it ever occurred to you that many people run straight to the medicine cabinet to do harm to themselves or others? I want you to know the harder the effort is to obtain items to hurt oneself, the less likely one is to follow through on the notion. On a related note, there’s a quick not-so-fun-but-interesting fact regarding one of the differences between America and say, certain European countries that has to do with the oversized influence of corporations in the States. Why am I talking about that on a medical blog? Read on. If you can’t tell where I’m going with this, you’ll get it pretty quickly.

Here’s my top five items I want you to take out your medicine cabinets and lock up.

SILO-POISON

1. Any jumbo sized container of any medication. Think about two of the most common over the counter (OTC) medications used for suicide attempts: acetaminophen (Tylenol) and salicylate (aspirin). One thing they have in common is you can buy what amounts to a tub-full of it at your local superstore in the United States. They should call these things ‘suicide quantities’, because often those in the midst of a suicide attempt will grab and swallow whatever is convenient. Many different medications will hurt you if you take enough; Tylenol and aspirin certainly fit that bill. Observing that (and additional considerations after the deaths due to the lacing of Tylenol with cyanide back in 1983), the Brits decided to not only pass a law limiting quantities, but certain medications that are high-frequency and high-risk for suicide use are now mandatorily dispensed in those annoying containers that you have to pop through the plastic container. Needless to say, observed suicide rates by medication rates plummeted as a result. Wonder why that hasn’t been implemented in the good ol’ USA?
2. Have teens in your house? Lock up the Robitussin and NyQuil. Dextromethorphan is the active ingredient in over 100 OTC cold and cough preparations. Teens use these to get high, folks. To make matters worse, they are addictive, and if taken with alcohol or other drugs, they can kill you. Then there’s ‘purple drank’ (yes, that’s how it’s spelled), in which these cough syrups containing codeine and promethazine (Benadryl) are mixed with drinks such as Sprite or Mountain Dew.
3. Have any sexual performance medications? This is part of a category of medicines called ‘medicines that can kill someone with just one pill’. That usually refers to kids or the elderly, but remember that those sexual enhancement drugs are medicines that lower your blood pressure. In the wrong person and in the wrong dose, taking such medicine – whether intentionally or accidentally – could be the last thing someone does.

opioid30p

3. Any narcotic. Need I say more? Remember, you do have people rummaging through your cabinets on occasion!
4. Any sharps. That includes sewing pins, needles, etc.
5. Any medication with an expiration date. The medication date actually is more of a ‘freshness’ consideration than a danger warning. However, in the wrong patient, a medicine that has less than the 100% guarantee of its needed strength that the expiration date represents could be fatal. Play it safe and get a new prescription.
There’s a lot more that could be added to this list, but I like keeping things manageable for you.  Please childproof all your cabinets, and use childproof caps on your medications.
Thanks for liking and following Straight, No Chaser! This public service provides a sample of what http://www.SterlingMedicalAdvice.com (SMA) and 844-SMA-TALK offers. Please share our page with your friends on WordPress, like us on Facebook @ SterlingMedicalAdvice.com and follow us on Twitter at @asksterlingmd. Preorder your copy of Dr. Sterling’s new book Behind The Curtain: A Peek at Life from within the ER at jeffreysterlingbooks.com.
Copyright © 2015 · Sterling Initiatives, LLC · Powered by WordPress

Straight, No Chaser: What Should Be in Your Medicine Cabinet

medicine cabinet sick-care-vs-health-care

You’ve all done it. I’ve caught a few of you doing it. Why do you rummage through someone’s else’s medicine cabinet? Are newer homes even built with medicine cabinets anymore? Oh well… Today, Straight, No Chaser tackles a simple but important question in an ongoing effort to better empower you. For starters, here’s hoping your cabinet doesn’t resemble any of these pictured, but there is a role for medicines in your medicine cabinet.
medicine-cabinet_59x73.5_we
1. What should be in your medicine cabinet? Here’s my top five and why.

  • Aspirin (324 mg).

Aspirin-tablet-300x300

On the day you’re having a heart attack, you’ll want this available to pop in your mouth on the way to the hospital. Of all the intervention done in treating heart attacks, none is better than simply taking an aspirin. It offers a 23% reduction in mortality (death rates) due to a heart attack all by itself.

  • Activated charcoal.

activated charcoal

This one may surprise you. Talk to your physician or pharmacist about this. If someone in your family ever overdoses on a medicine, odds are this is the first medication you’d be given in the emergency room. The sooner it’s onboard, the sooner it can begin detoxifying whatever you took. That said, there are some medications and circumstances when you shouldn’t take it, so get familiar with it by talking with your physician.

  • Antiseptics such as triple antibiotic ointment for cuts, scratches and minor burns.

triple abx

It should be embarrassing for you to spend $1000 going to an emergency room when you could have addressed the problem at home. I guess I should include bandages here as well.

  • A variety pack for colds, including antihistamines (like diphenhydramine, aka benadryl) and cough preparations.

OTCdrugs

As a general rule, give yourself 3-5 days of using OTC preparations for a cold to see if it works or goes away. If not, then it’s certainly appropriate to get additional medical care. I guess I can lump a thermometer in this bullet point.

  • The fifth item would be this number: 800-222-1222, which is number to the national poison control center.

poisoncontrol

They will address your concerns, route you to your local poison center, advise you on the appropriate use of activated charcoal and help coordinate your care when you go to your emergency department.
Be smart about the items in your home in general and in your medicine cabinet in particular. We’ll continue the theme with the next Straight, No Chaser.
Thanks for liking and following Straight, No Chaser! This public service provides a sample of what http://www.SterlingMedicalAdvice.com (SMA) and 844-SMA-TALK offers. Please share our page with your friends on WordPress, like us on Facebook @ SterlingMedicalAdvice.com and follow us on Twitter at @asksterlingmd. Preorder your copy of Dr. Sterling’s new book Behind The Curtain: A Peek at Life from within the ER at jeffreysterlingbooks.com.

Straight, No Chaser: Updated Circumcision Recommendations, Risks and Benefits

Circumcision prevalence

This past week, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) released new draft recommendations for healthcare providers on parental and patient counseling on the decision on whether to circumcise. This Straight, No Chaser reviews those recommendations and the logic behind it. It is of note that these recommendations are a step away from prevailing medical thought.

As a medical professional, circumcision has long been one of those things that has made me go hmmm…. If your religious beliefs include this as a ritual or ceremony, fine. I get it, and I have no criticism at all. No disrespect is intended. Otherwise, circumcision has largely been a procedure looking for an indication. Quick, tell me what other elective surgical procedure or harmful activity of any type is allowed on children, much less newborns? While I’m waiting for you to think about an answer that doesn’t exist, let’s recap the procedure and the medical logic behind it.

screamingbaby

As you know (and many men are painfully aware – pun intended), circumcision is the surgical removal of the skin over the glans (tip) of the penis. Over the last 30 years, the rate of males receiving the procedure has dropped from 64.5% to 58.3%, according to the National Center for Health Statistics. Worldwide about 30% of males are circumcised, and of those receiving it, the religious influence is largely present. 69% of those being circumcised are Muslim and 1% are Jewish (Circumcision is part of religious rituals in both religions).

circumcision hiv risks

Let’s cut to the chase (no pun intended): Here are the best arguments for circumcision.

  • It helps prevent certain infections (e.g. yeast and UTIs – which most males aren’t especially prone to anyway).
  • The cells of the inner surface of the foreskin may provide an optimal target for the HIV virus (This is theoretical and not conclusively decided in the medical literature. In any event, this is NOT the same as saying uncircumcised males do or are more likely to contract HIV.). Even more importantly, this is NOT the same as saying uncircumcised males fail to be sufficiently protecting by use of condoms and other means of safe sex.
  • Circumcised males have a lower rate of penile cancer (which is very low under any circumstances).

Now, there are emergency indications for circumcision, but that really isn’t the topic of discussion here. The one I’ve had to address (twice in twenty years) is an inability to readjust a foreskin that too tightly adhered to the shaft of the penis (paraphimosis). Obviously, that’s a medical emergency and not something frequently seen enough to justify universal circumcision any more than a much higher rate of appendicitis would warrant universal and elective removal of everyone’s appendix.

circumcision table

Here are criticisms of the decision to have circumcision.

  • Any surgical procedure has complications, and that should be taken seriously. That said, the complication rate for circumcision is very small and includes bleeding infection and pain.
  • Circumcision is a violation of a child’s body and is unnecessary and disfiguring. The foreskin might not be cut the appropriate length, might not heal properly and may require addition surgery because the remaining foreskin incorrectly attaches to the end of the penile shaft.

Honestly, both the risks and benefits are quite overstated, with exceptions for certain parts of the world with exceedingly high HIV rates. Circumcision doesn’t appear to be a medically necessary procedure, but it isn’t an especially dangerous one. Interestingly, the American Academy of Pediatrics’ latest comment on circumcision is that the benefits of circumcision outweigh the risks, which stops short of recommending routine circumcision for all. Even that equivocal smacks of conflict of interest, given who’s performing the procedure at a significant cost to the consumer. Again, this appears to be a procedure looking for an indication – but…
The CDC appears to be going agains the grain with its latest comments. Their new message is pretty clear: the benefits of the procedure — including reducing one’s risk of acquiring HIV, herpes virus, and human papillomavirus — outweigh the harms. They even go as far as to suggest that adolescents and adult males consider the procedure. Of course, it must be said that the CDC’s focus is on the prevention and control of disease, as opposed to the American Academy of Pediatrics, whose focus is children and their health. This is a subtle yet important decision while likely has played out in the extra consideration given by the CDC.
If I was having this conversation in Africa, where the sexually transmitted infection rate is substantially higher and can be significantly reduced by circumcision, I’m sure I’d be more firmly on board with circumcision. If my Jewish or Muslim friends and colleagues were asking my medical advice on the safety of getting the procedure done as part of their religious ceremonies, we’d be having a different conversation. However, we’re not, and for the population in general, it’s safe to say that – various preferences (for various reasons) aside – there’s no compelling reason to recommend circumcision on all newborn males. It just feels like a recommendation to do so is giving in to the notion that we can’t be trusted to have safe sex.

circumcision questions

The CDC officials emphasize that the choice is still left to patients, the document suggests the parents of newborn boys, as well as heterosexually active men of all ages, be told about those benefits, which is reasonable but somewhat leading. If you’re a parent of a newborn, and I tell you there’s a small risk of HIV, HPV and penile cancer in your child if they don’t get circumcised, am I really giving you a choice or burdening you with guilt?
And that’s medical straight talk. Oh, and guys – sorry about the lead picture. That wasn’t a good day.
Thanks for liking and following Straight, No Chaser! This public service provides a sample of what 844-SMA-TALK and www.sterlingmedicaladvice.com (SMA) offers. Please share our page with your friends on WordPress. We are also on Facebook at SterlingMedicalAdvice.com and Twitter at @asksterlingmd.
Copyright © 2014 · Sterling Initiatives, LLC · Powered by WordPress

Straight, No Chaser: What Should Be in Your Medicine Cabinet

medicine-cabinet_59x73.5_we
You’ve all done it. I’ve caught a few of you doing it. Why do you rummage through someone’s else’s medicine cabinet? Are newer homes even built with medicine cabinets anymore? Oh well… Today, I’m tackling a simple but important question in an ongoing effort to better empower you.
1. What should be in my medicine cabinet? Here’s my top five and why.

  • Aspirin (324 mg). On the day you’re having a heart attack, you’ll want this available to pop in your mouth on the way to the hospital. Of all the intervention done in treating heart attacks, none is better than simply taking an aspirin. It offers a 23% reduction in mortality due to a heart attack by itself.
  • Activated charcoal. This one may surprise you. Talk to your physician or pharmacist about this. If someone in your family ever overdoses on a medicine, odds are this is the first medication you’d be given in the emergency room. The sooner it’s onboard, the sooner it can begin detoxifying whatever you took. That said, there are some medications and circumstances when you shouldn’t take it, so get familiar with it by talking with your physician.
  • Antiseptics such as triple antibiotic ointment for cuts, scratches and minor burns. It should be embarrassing for you to spend $1000 going to an emergency room when you could have addressed the problem at home. I guess I should include bandages here as well.
  • A variety pack for colds, including antihistamines (like diphenhydramine, aka benadryl) and cough preparations. As a general rule, give yourself 3-5 days of using OTC preparations for a cold to see if it works or goes away. If not, then it’s certainly appropriate to get additional medical care. I guess I can lump a thermometer in this bullet point.
  • The fifth item would be this number: 800-222-1222, which is number to the national poison control center. They will address your concerns, route you to your local poison center and help coordinate your care when you go to your emergency department.

Straight, No Chaser: Emergency Room Adventures – Trampoline Trauma

trampolines
So I’m back in the emergency room with a little girl who looks like her forearm is going to fall off the rest of her upper extremity.
People love trampolines. Yet somehow the only time I seem to hear the word trampoline is when someone’s been hurt. I’m not the only one who’d vaporize them on site. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that trampolines never be used at home or in outdoor playgrounds because these injuries include head and neck contusions, fractures, strains and sprains, among other injuries.

So my patient had a (posteriorly) dislocated elbow, meaning she fell off the trampoline, landing on the back of the extended upper arm, pushing the upper arm bone (the humerus) in front of the elbow and forearm. This is how that looks.

posterior1

So for the joy of bouncing on a trampoline, the child had to be put asleep so the elbow could be replaced into the appropriate position. This procedure is fraught with potential for complications, including a broken bone on the way back, as well as damage to the local nerves and arteries (brachial artery, median and ulnar nerves), which can become entrapped during the effort to relocate the bone into the elbow joint. Some limitation in fully bending the arm up and down (flexion and extension) is common after a dislocation, especially if prompt orthopedic and physical therapy follow-up isn’t obtained. This really is a high price to pay for the privilege of bouncing up and down.
So if you’re going to allow your kids to play on a trampoline, here are two tips shown to reduce injuries.

  • Find one of those nets that enclose the trampoline, and make sure the frame and hooks are completely covered with padding. This is meant to protect against getting impaled, scratched or thrown from the trampoline.
  • Keep the trampoline away from anything else, including trees and rocks. This works even better if the trampoline is enclosed as previously mentioned.

Think back to the little girl I had to care for and consider whether this predictable event (complete with the mental stress of being in a loud emergency room in pain, getting an IV started and being put to sleep) was worth the effort. As per routine, an ounce of prevention…
I welcome your questions or comments.
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Straight, No Chaser: Inappropriate Antibiotic Use

antibioticsabx

Here’s a great concern regarding strep throat and the previous post that leads to a much more important topic (I’ll take the liberty of paraphrasing.): What about the concern of missing strep throat? Significant complications can result, including damage to the kidney (in a condition caused post-streptococcal glomerulonephritis). First I’ll address the concern, then I’ll get to the topic at hand.
Significant complications exist from missing any disease. If a heart attack is missed, your heart can rupture, and you can die. If a fracture is missed, you can develop necrosis, arthritis and loss of limb. If pneumonia is missed, you can go into respiratory failure and die. Etc., etc. As an emergency physician, my colleagues and I are more in tune than any other specialty of physicians with the risks and consequences of misdiagnosing critical illness; in fact it’s one of the main components of the speciality.
The point is medicine is not based on either fear or treating conditions that have a low probability of existing. Any physician is weighing the value of the information you provide to determine what appropriate management will be; that’s the Art of Medicine, and that will always be left to the individual judgment of your treating physician. That said, the days of such absolute power by physicians are going the way of the dinosaur. Evidence-based medicine and outcomes-based medicine are here to stay. Multiple guidelines for best practices exist across many medical conditions, including when to order ankle x-rays and not, when to order neck x-rays and not, when to treat various infections and not. What’s new here is identifying opportunities to avoid exposing patients to unnecessary, costly medical interventions. What’s also new is you the patient can be better empowered and knowledgeable about the conditions you have and the care you receive.
The risk of inappropriate antibiotic use is more real, more present and more important than practicing defensive medicine. There are classes of antibiotics that we can no longer use. I mentioned just this week how Staph is resistant to several of the penicillins we’ve used for decades due to resistance, which occurs from overuse and inappropriate use, most frequently seen in treatment of viral illnesses. Yes readers, MRSA stands for methicillin-resistant Staph Aureus, and that’s why it’s known as a ‘super-bug’. Approximately 80% of those ear, nose and throat infections you’re coming to the emergency room for and asking/receiving antibiotics for are viral illness and would be better on their own in 48-72 hours. Similarly, treatment of gonorrhea has recently been revised by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) because of the emergence of resistance to the medications used against it. Again, this has resulted from overuse and inappropriate use of these medications, largely in treatment of viral illnesses. One of the more powerful antibiotics we had at our disposal (a member of the fluoroquinolone class) just got pulled back from its 15 different indications for usage due to emerging resistance. This particularly powerful entity, instead of being withheld for serious diseases, was being used for urinary tract infections, minor skin and soft tissue illness and other conditions that eventually led to a loss of effectiveness. Why would such things be done? Profits and defensive medicine are two reasons that rapidly come to mind.
This is a lot more serious than just overusing medications. Sepsis is a condition where an infection overwhelms the body and isn’t just limited to the local site where the infection originated. It can be so devastating that your body goes into shock, losing its ability to function and deliver blood throughout your body. Initial treatment of real illness suffers when we’re using medications that are less effective because bacteria have had time to mutate or otherwise become resistant due to non-lethal exposures.
The CDC and the American Academy of Pediatrics have consistently promoted this philosophy. It’s been included in JAMA, the Journal of the American Medical Association. Inappropriate antibiotic use has consequences!

Consider the following lists of conditions that commonly can be treated without antibiotics.

  • Common colds and upper respiratory illnesses, including non-strep pharyngitis
  • Influenza (flu)
  • Most coughs and bronchitis (chest cold with a cough)
  • Many ear infections (also called otitis media)
  • Many skin rashes

To be clear, no one is recommending or promoting inappropriate or less than appropriate treatment of conditions that actually exist. No one is suggesting that anything you read here or anywhere else is more important than the real-time judgement of your physician. Just appreciate that opportunities exist to do the right thing and the wrong thing, and medicine is better with an informed patient.

Straight, No Chaser – The Week In Review

weekinreview
I hope this was another week of good health for you.  Let’s review how Straight, No Chaser tried to contribute to your health and wellness.  Don’t forget to click on any of the underlined topics for links to the original posts.
On Sunday, we reviewed eye emergencies.  Don’t forget that even transient vision loss could be a stroke in progress, and certain causes of vision loss have a limited window of time in which treatment must occur.  Act quickly!  By the way, I didn’t mention this information that occurs more commonly than you’d think: If you ever have eye discharge so copious that it seems like you’re tearing pus, this is probably gonorrhea.  Get it treated, lest you could lose an eye.  Now that I have your attention…
On Monday, we reviewed syncope (aka fainting) in two parts, talking about the entity (click here) and the life-threatening conditions associated with faints.  You’re way too cavalier with faints; please get them evaluated.  Faints can either be the result of significant disease or can secondarily produce significant head and neck injuries from the falls.  Stop going to the bathroom (with all the hard stuff in there) when you’re feeling dizzy.  That’s not a good place to black out!
On Tuesday, we discussed suicide and depression in-depth, reviewing demographic information, information for your self-assessment, and tips on how to recognize when help is needed (and how you can avoid depression).  I’m pleased that you’ve made these topics the most read topics yet, and I sincerely hope this information helps some of you.
On Wednesday, we reviewed the overuse of the emergency room, which will become a major theme of this blog.  Those creature comfort visits are 8 times more expensive than the same visits done at a primary care physician’s office.  In Texas, the average ER cost is $1020.  Just because you’re not necessarily paying up front doesn’t mean the hospital won’t ensure you’ll pay eventually.  Remember, hospital bills are the #1 cause of personal bankruptcy in the U.S.  Straight, No Chaser was created to point you toward better options.  Stick around, and we’ll get you there.  Wednesday also brought a review of vomiting and diarrhea (viral gastroenteritis).  Learn about oral rehydration therapy.  Viral gastroenteritis is a good example of something that feels really… bad but is usually self-limited and will go away on its own, as long as you stay hydrated.
On Thursday, we reviewed end of life decision-making.  I know this struck home for a lot of you, bringing back not so fond memories.  That said, you must begin to think about how you want to be treated in your last days.  There are many tragedies during this time that tear families apart.  Use the tools discussed on the post on living wills, power of attorney designations and DNR considerations to make sure your interests are the only consideration being addressed when the time comes.
On Friday, we seemed to prick a nerve or two (no pun intended) discussing circumcision.  If nothing else, be an educated consumer.  Even now, considerations are perhaps best summed up by the posture of the American Academy of Pediatrics, which declines to recommend routine circumcisions for all newborns but notes that if you are inclined to get the procedure (which should be a big if), the benefits outweigh the risks.  Friday afternoon, we reviewed hearing loss and the damage the activities of daily living produce.  This is a pretty good example of how we take our health for granted.  Just a little bit of protection and prevention over the first 40 years of your life will make a big difference later on.
Saturday, we discussed two different types of sounds that come out of you.  First, we discussed snoring (which is always annoying but never boring) and gave you some Quick Tips to overcome it.  We also discussed hiccups, which everyone gets at some point, but no one ever wants.  We also gave you Quick Tips on hiccup cures here.  Remember those ABCDEs!
We continue to listen to your comments and feedback, and over the next few months, some major changes will be occurring.  Please continue to forward your topic requests.  I promise I’ll get to them all eventually.  Maybe I’ll start doing reader submission posts.  As we continue to grow, your support, referrals and follows are much appreciated.  Have a happy and healthy week.
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Straight, No Chaser: Circumcision – To Do or Not to Do?

screamingbaby
As a medical professional, circumcision has long been one of those things that’s made me go hmmm…. If your religious beliefs include this as a ritual or ceremony, fine.  I get it, and I have no criticism at all.  No disrespect is intended.  Otherwise, circumcision is largely a procedure looking for an indication.  Quick, tell me what other elective surgical procedure or harmful activity of any type is allowed on children, much less newborns?  While I’m waiting for you to think about an answer that doesn’t exist, let’s recap the procedure and the medical logic behind it.
As you know (and men are painfully aware – pun intended), circumcision is the surgical removal of the skin over the glans (tip) of the penis.  Over the last 30 years, the rate of males receiving the procedure has dropped from 64.5% to 58.3%, according to the National Center for Health Statistics.  Worldwide about 30% of males are circumcised, and of those receiving it, the religious influence is largely present. 69% of those being circumcised are Muslim and 1% are Jewish (Circumcision is part of religious rituals in both religions.).
Let’s cut to the chase (no pun intended): Here are the best arguments for circumcision.

  • It helps prevent certain infections (e.g. yeast and UTIs – which most males aren’t especially prone to anyway).
  • The cells of the inner surface of the foreskin may provide an optimal target for the HIV virus (This is theoretical and not conclusively decided in the medical literature.  In any event, this is NOT the same as saying uncircumcised males do or are more likely to contract HIV.).
  • Circumcised males have a lower rate of penile cancer (which is very low under any circumstances).
  • Now, there are emergency indications for circumcision; the one I’ve had to address (once in twenty years) is an inability to readjust a foreskin that too tightly adhered to the shaft of the penis (paraphimosis).  Obviously, that’s a medical emergency and not something frequently seen enough to justify universal circumcision any more than a much higher rate of appendicitis would warrant universal and elective removal of everyone’s appendix.

Here are criticisms of the decision to have circumcision.

  • Any surgical procedure has complications, and that should be taken seriously.  That said, the complication rate for circumcision is very small and includes bleeding infection and pain.
  • Circumcision is a violation of a child’s body and is unnecessary and disfiguring.  The foreskin might not be cut the appropriate length, might not heal properly and may require addition surgery because the remaining foreskin incorrectly attaches to the end of the penile shaft.

Honestly, both the risks and benefits are quite overstated.  Circumcision doesn’t appear to be a medically necessary procedure, but it isn’t an especially dangerous one.  Interestingly, the American Academy of Pediatrics’ latest comment on circumcision is that the benefits of circumcision outweigh the risks, which stops short of recommending routine circumcision for all.  Even that equivocal smacks of conflict of interest, given who’s performing the procedure at a significant cost to the consumer.  Again, this appears to be a procedure looking for an indication…
If I was having this conversation in Africa, where the sexually transmitted infection rate is substantially higher and can be significantly reduced by circumcision, we’d be having a different conversation.  If my Jewish or Muslim friends and colleagues were asking my medical advice on the safety of getting the procedure done as part of their religious ceremonies, we’d be having a different conversation.  However, we’re not, and for the population in general, it’s safe to say that – various preferences (for various reasons) aside – there’s no compelling reason to recommend circumcision on all newborn males.  Make your judgment based on facts, not a whim.  And that’s medical straight talk.  Oh, and guys – sorry about the picture.  That wasn’t a good day.