Nancy Shute

Getting the flu while pregnant doesn't appear to increase the child's risk of being diagnosed with autism later on, a study finds, and neither does getting a flu shot while pregnant.

Women are less likely to die of breast cancer than they were a decade ago, but not all women are benefiting from that trend.

White women saw more of a drop in death rates than black women — 1.9 percent a year from 2010 to 2014, compared to a 1.5 percent decrease for black women, according to a report published Thursday by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

If you've got a baby in the neonatal intensive care unit, your first thought is probably not, "Does my child really need that antireflux medication?"

Infections with the bacteria Clostridium difficile are a big problem, killing 29,000 people a year. Many of those people got infected while in the hospital. And antibiotics often don't work.

So how about this: Take spores from a harmless version of C. difficile and use them to fight off the bad bugs?

That's just what researchers at the VA hospital in Hines, Ill., did.

This is for everyone whose parents said, "Sitting too close to the TV is going to ruin your eyes." In other words, pretty much all of us.

Sitting too close to the TV doesn't predict nearsightedness, according to a study that tracked the vision of thousands of children over 20 years. Nor does doing a lot of close work.

Instead, as early as age 6 a child's refractive error — the measurements used for an eyeglass prescription — best predicts the risk.

Sinus infections are miserable, and it's hard not to want to run to the doctor for relief. Rethink that, the nation's ear, nose and throat doctors say.

Most people who get sinusitis feel better in a week, the doctors say, and many of those infections are caused by viruses. Getting an antibiotic isn't going to help.

If you are the parent of a preteen, you are all too aware that they suddenly seem to value the opinions of their peers far more than yours.

The good news, if there is any, is that you're not alone. Young teenagers ages 12 to 14 are more influenced by their peers' opinions than they are by adults', a study finds. That's true only for that age group, not for older teens, children or adults.

It would be nice to think that when you go in for surgery you'd be offered the safest, cheapest alternative, but that's not always the case, a study finds.

Some hospitals are much more likely than others to offer minimally invasive surgery for procedures like colon or lung surgery or appendectomy, according to an analysis published Wednesday in JAMA Surgery.

It's easy to get put on statins, and it can be surprisingly hard to get off them. That's true even for people who are terminally ill and might have bigger concerns than reducing their cardiovascular risk.

People approaching the end of life who did stop statins were not more likely to have a heart attack or stroke than those who kept taking the drugs, according to researchers who tested the idea.

To keep people from getting into trouble with alcohol, it would help to know why they're at risk.

Genes make some people more susceptible to dependence or addiction, while the surroundings exert a stronger pull on others. But it's been devilishly hard for researchers to sort those out. Context — who's drinking where and when with whom — matters a lot.

Add in money and it gets even trickier. And we're not talking about whether you can afford microbrews.

Sleeping in probably sounds like a no-brainer to most teenagers, but their parents aren't so sure that it's worth starting school later to get the extra shut-eye.

If you were seeking a seething mass of microbes, it'd be hard to think of a better place to look than the New York City subway system.

Scientists who descended into that subterranean maze in search of its microbial tenants wanted to find out how the 5.5 million people who use the system each weekday influence the microbes, and vice versa.

But the 18-month-long project, which sampled DNA from 466 stations, was no walk in Central Park.

If you've got a stuffy, drippy or itchy nose from allergies, figuring out which remedies help best can be tough.

New guidelines from the Academy of Otolaryngology should make it easier for people and their doctors to choose the treatments that will help the most, from over-the-counter remedies like antihistamines to more serious interventions like allergy shots and even surgery.

And because allergic rhinitis affects 1 in 6 Americans, that's a lot of stuffy drippy misery potentially avoided.

Women who smoke while they're pregnant are more likely to have health problems, and their babies are at risk, too. But attempts to get women to stop smoking while pregnant usually fail.

When pregnant women in Scotland got paid to quit, 23 percent of them managed to stop smoking, compared with 9 percent who quit after they got counseling, support calls and free nicotine replacement therapy, according to a study published Tuesday in The BMJ.

Extracting medical care from the health care system is all too often an expensive exercise in frustration. Dr. Eric Topol says your smartphone could make it cheaper, faster, better and safer.

That's the gist of his new book, The Patient Will See You Now. Lots of people are bullish on the future of mobile health to transform health care, but Topol gets extra cred because of his major medical chops: Former head of cardiology at the Cleveland Clinic and present director of the Scripps Translations Science Institute in La Jolla, Calif.

Skin disorders rarely make it on the list of big-time diseases, so when we saw a study saying that psoriasis costs the nation $52 to $63 billion a year, it was hard not to think, "Really?"

And that's just for the direct costs of health care for people with psoriasis, according to the study, published Wednesday in JAMA Dermatology.

Bariatric surgery is being widely promoted as the solution for people who are extremely obese, but so far most of the studies haven't followed enough people for enough time to really know if surgery helps improve health long term.

The last thing my 11-year-old does before she goes to sleep is put her iPod on the nightstand. And that could mean less sleep for her, researchers say.

There's plenty of evidence that children who have televisions in their rooms get less sleep. This is one of the first studies to look at whether having a small screen like an iPod or smartphone in the room also affects rest.

Women and their doctors have a hard time figuring out the pluses and minuses of screening mammograms for breast cancer. It doesn't help that there's been fierce dissent over the benefits of screening mammography for women under 50 and for older women.

Lose weight and those pounds shuffle off, unmourned. Good riddance. Please don't come back soon.

But where does weight go when we lose it?

We talk about burning off fat, and it does burn in a way, going through a complex biochemical process. But mass can't be created or destroyed, so the atoms that made the triglycerides that plumped up the love handles have got to be somewhere.

Radiation treatment for breast cancer could take less time and cost less for many women, but doctors aren't putting that knowledge into practice, a study finds.

And one reason is that the doctors in charge of radiation treatment will make less money, according to Dr. Ezekiel Emanuel, a study author and chairman of the Department of Medical Ethics and Health Policy at the University of Pennsylvania.

Draft federal recommendations don't usually raise eyebrows, but this one certainly will — that males of all ages, including teenage boys, should be counseled on the health benefits of circumcision.

In the past 15 years, studies in Africa have found that circumcision lowers men's risk of being infected with HIV during heterosexual intercourse by 50 to 60 percent. Being circumcised also reduces men's risk of infection with the herpes virus and human papillomavirus.

If you've seen the classic movie A Christmas Story, you know that Ralphie really, really wanted that BB gun. And you know that his mother, his teacher, even the department store Santa all said: "You'll shoot your eye out."

Diabetes is an expensive disease to treat, costing the United States $244 billion in 2012, according to an analysis of the disease's economic burden.

When the loss of productivity due to illness and disability is added in, the bill comes to $322 billion, or $1,000 a year for each American, including those without diabetes. That's 48 percent higher than the same benchmark in 2007; not a healthy trend.

The increase is being driven by a growing and aging population, the report finds, as well as more common risk factors like obesity, and higher medical costs.

I'm sure I'm not the only parent who has hovered over a newborn's crib, wondering, "Is she breathing?" Tech companies are now offering to help parents manage that anxiety with devices that monitor a baby's vital signs and beam them to a smartphone.

But that might not be such a good idea, according to Dr. David King, a pediatric researcher at the University of Sheffield. He first heard baby vital signs monitors being discussed on the radio, and "I suspected there wasn't much evidence behind it, because I knew cardiovascular monitoring wasn't recommended in SIDS."

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