May 2006 News Tips

Note to media: To reach the media contacts for any of these health news tips, call the Office of News and Publications at 214-648-3404.

Wearing a bike helmet sends you down right path, but still be careful

Warm weather means kids outside riding their bicycles. And while helmets are a good idea and may be the law in some communities, people shouldn't assume that they protect against every kind of injury, says Dr. Ramon Diaz-Arrastia, associate professor of neurology at UT Southwestern Medical Center.

"People need to be aware that wearing a helmet is no panacea," he says.

Helmets can protect against skull fractures, for instance, but can still leave a child susceptible to closed-head injuries such as concussions, Dr. Diaz-Arrastia says. So have your child wear a helmet, but make sure he or she still knows how to ride safely.

A properly-fitting bike helmet should be horizontal on the head, with a snug but comfortable fit, using the manufacturer's foam pads if necessary. The front should be about two fingertips' width above the eyes, the "Y" of the side straps should meet just below the ear, and the chin strap should be snug enough that when the child opens his or her mouth very wide, the helmet will pull down a bit.

Visit to learn more about UT Southwestern’s clinical services in neurosciences.

Media Contact: Aline McKenzie

Use of pesticides, insecticides a potentially dangerous mix

Summer's green foliage can bring out a host of potential new chemical dangers from pesticides and insecticides. When used with caution, however, these chemicals should be safe.

"The single most important thing to do is read the directions on the container," says Dr. Rebeca Gracia, a toxicologist at UT Southwestern Medical Center and managing director of the North Texas Poison Center.  "Too many people ignore those directions and get injured."

Always store chemicals in their original containers, keep them locked up and keep them away from food. If spraying pesticide, wear protective clothing like long sleeves, pants and gloves. Don't spray toward people and avoid the treated area for several hours. Never mix chemicals.

Call the Poison Center at 1-800-222-1222 with any questions or concerns regarding chemical exposures. For questions about pesticide use and application, call the National Pesticide Telecommunications Network at 1-800-858-7378.

Media Contact: Connie Piloto

Negative calories? Not with those add-ons

Information on Web sites and in some diet books can be misleading when it comes to the facts about metabolism.

"You hear about how eating celery actually burns more calories than are present in the vegetable itself, but this is not true," says Lona Sandon, a registered dietitian at UT Southwestern Medical Center.

"Most people don't just chew on raw celery sticks," she says. "They dip them in ranch dressing or put peanut butter on them. Those kinds of additions cancel out any benefit you might get from eating a low-calorie food."

The same goes for coffee and spicy foods, says. Ms. Sandon. Both have been shown to raise the resting metabolism rate of the body slightly, but in the long run, milk, sugar, and recipes with spices tend to add on more calories.

So what is the best way to burn off excess calories and rev up your metabolism?

"Exercise," she says.

Visit to learn more about UT Southwestern’s clinical services in nutrition.

Media Contact: Katherine Morales

Fresh-water recreation, contact lenses don't mix

As warm weather brings people back to fresh-water recreation, people who wear contact lenses should remember to remove them before they swim in ponds, lakes or rivers, doctors at UT Southwestern say.

There's an amoeba — Acanthamoeba — that may live in those waters that can bind to contact lenses, causing serious cornea damage, says Dr. Dwight Cavanagh, vice chairman of ophthalmology at UT Southwestern.

These infections are quite rare, but if they're not treated, they can lead to blindness or require a cornea transplant. See a physician if the wearer's eyes become red and sore and there is decreased vision.

"People who wear their contact lenses while taking a shower, who use tap water to remove debris from their lenses or who go swimming in ponds or lakes have an increased chance of becoming infected with this organism," Dr. Cavanagh says. "The amoeba can bind to the contact lens and cause irreparable damage to the cornea."

Contact lens wearers shouldn't even relax in a hot tub without first removing their lenses.

Visit to learn more about UT Southwestern’s clinical services in eyes (ophthalmology).

Media Contact: Russell Rian

Landscaping tasks no time to lower guard, attention

Every year people are seriously injured or killed in lawn mower accidents. According to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, about 230,000 people are treated each year in hospital emergency rooms for injuries related to various lawn and garden tools. The American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons reports that mower injuries most often involve the hand, fingers, wrist, foot, ankle or toes.

Dr. Maureen Finnegan, associate professor of orthopaedic surgery at UT Southwestern, says during the spring and summer she sees an increase in lawn mower-related injuries that involve accidental partial or complete amputations to the fingers or toes.

"Lawn mower injuries are more common among children than adults," Dr. Finnegan says. "Many of the injuries treated could be prevented, if people concentrated on the task at hand and used common sense when operating machinery."

This means always wearing sturdy shoes with grip soles, not allowing children younger than 14 to operate the mower, keeping bystanders out of the mowing area, using a stick to remove debris from the mower (after first shutting off the engine) and clearing objects from the lawn that could be projected by the blade.

"In case of an accidental amputation, it's important to cleanse the amputated part with saline water, wrap it in gauze and put in a watertight bag," Dr. Finnegan says. "Place the bag over ice and take it with you to the emergency room."

Visit to learn more about UT Southwestern’s clinical services in orthopaedic surgery.

Media Contact: Connie Piloto



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