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Doing More Harm than Good: 8 First Aid Myths

Hyperventilating? Turns out the brown bag is the worst solution.

Hyperventilating? Turns out the brown bag is the worst solution.

When I was kid and I burned my fingers on the stove, my mom slathered butter on the wound. This is just one of many household myths about first aid that can actually make things worse.

Learn to be wary of any first aid advice that you can’t reason out or reminds you of something the witch from Hansel and Gretel might do. We decided to do some research and compile our favorite well-intentioned but ultimately hurtful health tips.

1. Putting butter on a burn Giving a whole new meaning to butter fingers, in reality the oils from butter hold in heat, which is probably not what you’re going for. Instead, use cold water, which makes more sense and has fewer calories. Read more »

Marathoner Beware: Drink H20 with Care

Thirsty? Photo by david.ian.roberts

Thirsty? Photo by david.ian.roberts

Water: you can’t get through a marathon—or much else for that matter—without it, but how much should you actually drink for one of these races?

The right amount depends on factors that vary from person to person (how much you sweat, the amount of time you’re running, your size) so there’s no perfect formula, but research over the last several years has shown that people can, and all too often do, over-hydrate for these 26.2 mile challenges.

Excessive consumption of H20 before and during a marathon leads to hyponatremia, a condition caused by low rates of sodium in the blood, which has produced fatal swelling in the brain in severe cases. According to the New England Journal of Medicine (NEJM), the best way to tell if you’re drinking too much water is by checking your weight: if it goes up during exercise, it’s a sign you need to cut back on fluids.

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Get Into Scuba Diving

Exploring the deep blue sea.

Exploring the deep blue sea.

I think at some point, we all have the desire to make like Jacques Cousteau (or for our younger, Wes Anderson-inspired audience, Steve Zissou) and explore the depths of the ocean. But what does it take to actually go scuba diving? How much does it cost? Is it safe?

I pitched these questions to Heidi Wilken, an independent scuba instructor based in the Seattle area. Scuba diving requires a bit of commitment, but the experience is unlike any other. “Three fourths of the planet is covered in ocean,” Wilken said. “If you never go diving, you’ll miss out on most of the world.”

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Here's a Curiously Strong Hint: Turn Your Altoids Tins Into Survival Kits

An Altoids tin where it belongs — in the wilderness. Photo by sebastian8a.

An Altoids tin where it belongs — in the wilderness. Photo by sebastian8a.

Don’t you love Altoids? Me neither, but at least there’s plenty to adore about the tin cases that house the chalky breath mints. Do-it-yourself and outdoor enthusiasts have turned Altoids tins into lightweight survival kits that are practical and undeniably cute.

Field & Stream has examples of Altoids kits for all occasions: camping, hunting, first aid and of course, fishing. Instructables has a good set of directions on assembling a basic, all-purpose kit for your outdoor endeavors. For those who face the metropolitan dangers of city life on a daily basis, check out this Flickr user’s Urban Survival Kit.

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Parental Controls

If you look up 'shocked' in the dictionary...

If you look up 'shocked' in the dictionary...

Monitoring and censoring your kids’ computer use is a decision that’s left up to parents. But parental controls aren’t just about blocking access to explicit websites. Consider enabling controls to set maximums on computer usage or, for younger users, a safeguard for internet safety. In Windows Vista and Mac OS X, you can also set time limits, block certain programs, and protect your computer settings and private files from being tampered with.

To activate parental controls in Windows Vista, click the Start menu and open the Control Panel. Under User Accounts, click Set up Parental Controls. You’ll probably need to type in the administrator password. Choose the user and choose On under Parental Controls. You can adjust individual features: restricting specific websites, games, programs, and very handily, setting time limits for computer use.

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Energy Bars: Friend or Foe?

Larabar, a healthy option or not? Photo by ario_j.

Larabar, a healthy option or not? Photo by ario_j.

America is wild about health food, and in particular, energy bars have become an increasingly popular item among health-conscious shoppers. They’re convenient and often pitch themselves as a healthy alternative for those who don’t time to eat an entire meal. But it makes one wonder if there’s such thing as fast food that’s good for you.

All that an “energy” bar means is that the food gives you calories, not that it makes you more energetic. Dean Anderson of dailySpark divides energy bars into three distinct categories: bars for exercise, meal replacements, and healthy snacks. Read more »

All The Wii That's "Fit" To Play

Nothing like early morning sun salutations... inside, with the windows closed.

Nothing like early morning sun salutations... inside, with the windows closed.

Video game critics bestowed glowing reviews to Wii Fit, Nintendo’s virtual yoga-aerobics-exercise experience, but is it really a good workout system? The New York Times ran a piece in which four different types of people tested out the game. The consensus was that while Wii Fit wasn’t for serious workouts, it was surprisingly effective as an inexpensive exercise regimen for busy parents and kids.

Users set weight loss or gain goals, and Wii Fit tracks your progress according to the body mass index (BMI) and the player’s performance on each of over 50 different exercises (Wikipedia’s got a full list). The game comes with a sturdy piece of hardware called the Balance Board, which is more or less a Bluetooth-enabled bathroom scale that lets Wii Fit know when you’re doing pushups, sun salutations, or spinning an imaginary hula hoop. (Interesting fact: the Japanese board supports players up to 300 lbs., whereas the “Western” model can support up to 330 lbs.) Read more »

Be Careful of Computers — They're Heavy

Climbing is a fun, inexpensive, and safe way to stay active.

He just wants to see some LOLcats.

Recent studies indicate that video game or chat addictions aren’t the only dangers posed to children by computers. According to an article by Jennifer Thomas of Health Day, over 9,000 children are now injured every year by computer hardware—a dramatic increase from the 1,300 kids hurt by computers in 1994.

The majority of children are under the age of five, and most of their injuries resulted from tripping over computer chords or toppling monitors and other large computer components. While many of the injuries are not very serious—and their prevalence has decreased from a peak of 10,000 injuries a few years ago thanks to flat screens and other lighter technology—some youngsters have suffered damage to their heads. Read more »