NPR Health

WATCH: How A Tick Digs Its Hooks Into You

Mar 20, 2018

Spring is here. Unfortunately for hikers and picnickers enjoying the warmer weather, the new season is prime time for ticks, which can transmit bacteria that cause Lyme disease.

How they latch on — and stay on — is a feat of engineering that scientists have been piecing together. Once you know how a tick's mouth works, you understand why it's impossible to simply flick a tick.

Federal officials have recommended a vaccine against shingles that is more effective than an earlier version at protecting older adults from the painful rash. But persuading many adults to get this and other recommended shots continues to be an uphill battle, health providers say.

Updated on March 21 at 7:35 p.m. ET

Supreme Court justices on both sides of the ideological spectrum expressed skepticism Tuesday about California's "truth-in-advertising" law requiring anti-abortion clinics to more fully disclose what they are.

The anti-abortion "crisis pregnancy centers" objected to the law on free-speech grounds.

While some more liberal justices appeared receptive to the state's case initially, doubt about the law seemed to increase as the argument progressed.

In his State of the State Address in 2014, Gov. Phil Bryant announced a goal: "to end abortion in Mississippi."

If you want to cut your risk of catching the flu on your next flight, pick a window seat and stay put.

That's a key take-home message of a study published Monday in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Sherry Alvarez says she knew there was something different about her son since he was about 9 months old. Back then Sherry says his pediatrician told her there was nothing to worry about, " 'Boys are a little slower than girls, so let's just wait until his second birthday.' " We aren't using Sherry's son's name to protect his privacy.

By her son's second birthday, Sherry says she was getting desperate. She didn't know why he wasn't talking yet or showing affection like other kids. At 2 1/2, he was referred to Children's Hospital Los Angeles.

It's the worst Lassa fever outbreak ever recorded in Nigeria, according to the World Health Organization.

"In January alone there were more cases [203 suspected cases] than during the whole year 2017 combined," says Lorenzo Pomarico, emergency coordinator for the medical group ALIMA, the Alliance for International Medical Action. "This is an extraordinary and unprecedented outbreak in its sheer scale."

Lawmakers in California will begin debate next month on a bill that would require doctors to screen new moms for mental health problems — once while they're pregnant and again, after they give birth.

But a lot of doctors don't like the idea. Many obstetricians and pediatricians say they are are afraid to screen new moms for depression and anxiety.

The inspiration arrived in a haze at a Paul McCartney concert a few years ago in San Francisco.

"People in front of me started lighting up and then other people started lighting up," says Matthew Springer, a biologist and professor in the division of cardiology at the University of California, San Francisco. "And for a few naive split seconds I was thinking to myself, 'Hey, they can't smoke in AT&T Park! I'm sure that's not allowed.' And then I realized that it was all marijuana."

Celina Raddatz quit her job at a nursing home in 2014 when she realized she would have to take care of her mother full-time. Raddatz's mother, Guadalupe Pena Villegas, 83, suffers from Alzheimer's and bipolar disorder, a combination that sometimes makes her a danger to herself and others, and thus requires her to be supervised 24 hours a day.

Childhood obesity was on the decline, or so it seemed. Both scientific journals and media outlets, including from NPR as late as 2012, have reported within the last decade that its numbers were moving down.

I feel the urge again. My fingertips run along my face, feeling for imperfections, and I slip into the bathroom to be alone. After a glance in the mirror, I stalk back out, my nails digging into my palms. Not today.

Since my adolescence, I've had a tumultuous relationship with my reflection. That's because I suffered from trichotillomania, or hair pulling, and currently struggle with its cousin excoriation disorder, dermatillomania, or skin picking.

Part 2 of the TED Radio Hour episode The Consequences of Racism.

About Miriam Zoila Pérez's TED Talk

Why do pregnant women of color have different health outcomes from their white counterparts? Writer and activist Miriam Zoila Pérez explains the ways racism manifests for these women and their babies.

About Miriam Zoila Pérez

When Anne Soloviev went to Braun Dermatology and Skin Cancer Center in Washington, D.C., for her semiannual dermatology checkup in early January, the physician assistant diagnosed fungus in two of her toenails.

Soloviev hadn't complained about her toenails or even noticed a problem.

But the physician assistant offered a solution anyway. She called in a prescription for an antifungal medicine to a specialty pharmacy with mail-order services that would send it to Soloviev's Capitol Hill home.

Stimulant drugs like Adderall and Ritalin are commonly prescribed to kids with what's known as ADHD, or attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. But recently, adults became the biggest users of these drugs.

That's partially because more adults are being diagnosed with ADHD for the first time. But the new Netflix documentary Take Your Pills focuses on the use of these drugs to boost cognitive performance in college classrooms and the workplace.

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ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:

Now for a story about an astronaut who is not a space mutant.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

DANIEL HUOT: And liftoff.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

Copyright 2018 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

SARAH MCCAMMON, HOST:

Parents and children lost one of their most dedicated advocates this week. T. Berry Brazelton was a pediatrician and a child psychiatrist, but he will be remembered most for teaching the world and especially parents about babies.

I think it's fair to say that many parents focus a lot of energy — and worry! — on protecting their small kids from risky situations.

But it turns out that integrating limited risk into our kids' playtime may be taking a step toward healthier child development.

Genetic mutations are the driving force of evolution, and now scientists have managed to study the effect of mutations in exquisite detail by watching what happens as they pop up in single cells.

Only about one percent of mutations were bad enough to kill off the cell, according to a report published Thursday in Science. Most of the time, these small changes in its DNA appeared to have no effect at all.

The Food and Drug Administration said Thursday it wants to sharply reduce the amount of nicotine in cigarettes. The idea is to help wean millions of smokers off their deadly habit and prevent millions more from becoming regular smokers in the first place.

Peter Sands took over this month as the new head of the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria. But before he'd even officially taken his seat at the Fund's offices in Geneva, he was under attack for a new partnership with Heineken.

Elizabeth Holmes, the 34-year-old founder and CEO of the health technology company Theranos, had a compelling story of dropping out of college to launch a multibillion-dollar Silicon Valley venture to revolutionize the blood-testing industry.

How Many Opioid Overdoses Are Suicides?

Mar 15, 2018

Mady Ohlman was 22 on the evening some years ago when she stood in a friend's bathroom looking down at the sink.

"I had set up a bunch of needles filled with heroin because I wanted to just do them back-to-back-to-back," Ohlman recalls. She doesn't remember how many she injected before collapsing, or how long she lay drugged-out on the floor.

"But I remember being pissed because I could still get up, you know?"

She wanted to be dead, she says, glancing down. A wisp of straight brown hair slips from behind an ear across her thin face.

Virginia is among 18 states that have not expanded Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act. But this year, the state legislature is going into a special session to continue discussions about whether or not to include it in its budget.

Being a medical student or resident is hard enough, but what if you have a disability that adds to the challenge?

Physical therapy helps Leon Beers get out of bed in the morning and maneuver around his home using his walker. Other treatment strengthens the 73-year-old man's throat muscles so that he can swallow food more easily, says Beers' sister, Karen Morse. But in mid-January, his home health care agency told Morse it could no longer provide these services because he had used all his therapy benefits allowed under Medicare for the year.

In the front yard of a modest house in Cape Town's Khayelitsha township in South Africa, Samantha Tibisono washes her clothes with water from a communal tap.

She lives in Site C, a neighborhood where nearly two-thirds of residents live in shacks with no running water. The city provides communal taps and toilets for sanitation, but lately the taps have run dry.

Inside their home, Tibisono's daughter Asavela, 17, points to buckets of water on shelves and under a table.

"Sometimes [we go] two days without water," she says.

A San Francisco fertility clinic says that a problem with the liquid nitrogen in one of its storage tanks may have damaged thousands of frozen eggs and embryos, triggering calls and letters to more than 400 concerned patients of the Pacific Fertility Center.

Copyright 2018 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

NOEL KING, HOST:

Eventually it happens to everyone. As we age, even if we're healthy, the heart becomes less flexible, more stiff and just isn't as efficient in processing oxygen as it used to be. In most people the first signs show up in the 50s or early 60s. And among people who don't exercise, the underlying changes can start even sooner.

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