Rx for Readers: Put the phone away

A nationwide US study found that pedestrians treated in emergency rooms for texting-and-walking-related injuries more than doubled since 2005.

February 20, 2014 13:14
texting and driving

THE DANGER of texting and driving is well publicized; what is less known is that even when walking and using a smartphone, one can become oblivious to their surroundings.. (photo credit: MCT)

I am 15 years old and, like most people, never go anywhere without my cellphone. I do a lot of texting, even when walking. I want a new smartphone, but my mother says she won’t pay for one until I stop walking and texting. She says it’s dangerous because it means that I am not alert when going into traffic, and insists there could be other risks as well. Is it really so risky to walk while sending SMS messages and reading mail?
B.N., Ra’anana

Judy Siegel-Itzkovich replies:

Obviously, texting while walking is a danger, because you aren’t aware of traffic. There is a law that bars wearing earphones connected to radios and other devices while walking in the street, because the wearer is distracted and could get run over; it is unfortunate that it is never enforced.

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A nationwide US study found that pedestrians treated in emergency rooms for texting-and-walking-related injuries more than doubled since 2005. A well-known YouTube video three years ago showed a woman who fell headfirst into a fountain while using her smartphone.

Now, a new study published in PLOS ONE (Public Library of Science) and conducted at Australia’s University of Queensland on walking and cellphone use found that it is dangerous, even in places where there is no vehicular traffic.

The study found that not only are people less likely to pay attention to their surroundings, but they even have trouble maintaining their balance and walking in a straight line while walking and texting, or reading messages on the screen.

The University of Queensland researchers found that smartphone use affects “gait performance,” which could potentially lead to all kinds of situations – bumping into strangers, running into signs or even falling into a hole – which wouldn’t occurred if you were aware of your surroundings. A total of 26 healthy people were asked to walk along a line while performing three tasks – texting, reading from a smartphone and walking without a phone. After their movement was analyzed, the researchers concluded that texting significantly affected their walking. They moved more slowly, looked around less and deviated more from the required path.

In an urban area with many people doing the same thing, this is very risky, they concluded.

We are new parents and have had several occasions in which our baby son felt unwell and even had a fever.

It isn’t clear to us when we must take him to an urgent care facility, like the Terem clinic not far away from our home or to a hospital emergency room. What guidelines can you give us?
T. and C.C., Jerusalem

Dr. Eilat Ramon, head of the emergency room at Tel Aviv Sourasky Medical Center’s Dana Dwek Children’s Hospital, replies:

Many young parents are confused by what medical situations require urgent care. In general, this is needed if the baby is not stable, when there’s a change in his consciousness, if he is apathetic (doesn’t react) or has difficulty breathing, or if he has a significant weakness resulting from the loss of fluids or blood.

If a child has a fever, without another symptom, there is no reason to go to the emergency room.

However, a newborn baby up to the age of two months who has a fever of 38ºC or more (only measured with a digital thermometer in the rectum – by mouth or under the armpit is not accurate) must be taken to a pediatrician immediately.

If a child has both a fever and a rash – particularly a red/purple-colored one in the form of dots or hemorrhages that does not disappear when the skin is pressed or stretched – he should be taken urgently for an examination. These symptoms may be a sign of meningitis or infection with dangerous bacteria; an itchy rash that disappears when pressed or stretched usually means a viral condition or an allergy.

Dehydration is a reason to seek urgent care. This can result from a high fever, loss of fluids due to vomiting or diarrhea or another reason that causes the child to refuse to drink. Signs of dehydration are confusion, failure to urinate within 10 hours or more, oversleeping for more than 12 hours and, of course, losing consciousness.

About 2 percent of children aged six months to six years are liable to suffer from convulsions when they have a high fever, or even without it. Call for an ambulance immediately.

In children, headaches together with neurological symptoms such as confusion, fuzzy vision and difficulty walking, require an immediate medical examination.

If the headaches are accompanied by fever, vomiting, a stiff neck or confusion, go immediately to an emergency facility.

If severe stomach pains are not alleviated with proper doses of paracetamol or other relevant medications over three days, take the child immediately to an urgent care facility or emergency room. If the pain is on the lower right side of the abdomen, it could be appendicitis or an intestinal obstruction.

If a child suffered trauma to the head and loses consciousness even for a few seconds, one must take him immediately for care. If he loses consciousness, call an ambulance. If an arm or leg is hurt and cannot be moved, take him for an urgent examination.

Significant burns, allergic reactions, bites by animals and suspicion of having consumed poison all require urgent care.

Finally, children who suffer from chronic diseases are more likely to get complications than a healthy child, so when there are worrisome symptoms, take him for an urgent medical examination. 

Rx for Readers welcomes queries from readers about medical problems. Experts will answer those we find most interesting.

Write Rx for Readers, The Jerusalem Post, POB 81, Jerusalem 91000, fax your question to Judy Siegel-Itzkovich at (02) 538-9527, or e-mail it to jsiegel@jpost.com, giving your initials, age and place of residence.

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