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Is There Actually a Doctor in the House?

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It’s a stock situation in movies and TV shows: Someone collapses, and a crowd gathers around them trying to help or wondering what to do. Inevitably, two things will happen. Someone will tell everyone to step back and give the victim some room to breathe, and someone will shout out to no one in particular, “Is there a doctor in the house!?”

Usually there is, and they save the day. If this ever happened to you in real life, though, how likely is it that there would be someone around who could save you?

Well, if you’re in an airplane, you should be OK. Christian Martin-Gill, a physician and assistant professor of emergency medicine at the University of Pittsburgh, recently combed through the in-flight communications of five different airlines covering a period of almost three years. In them, he found almost 12,000 calls to the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center’s STAT-MD Communications Center, an always-open medical command center that some airlines use to consult with doctors during flight emergencies. 

Going through these calls, Martin-Gill found that a medical emergency happens on one out of every 604 commercial flights. The most common problems are people fainting, experiencing severe air or motion sickness, or experiencing respiratory or cardiac distress.

Physicians who happened to be passengers on the flight were able to treat the victims in about half of the emergencies that Martin-Gill examined. In more than a quarter of the other instances, a nurse or EMT who was on the plane stepped in to help. 

So, the next time you get sick midair, there’s a good chance that shouting “Is there a doctor on the plane?” will actually get you some help.

Martin-Gill also discovered that the passengers treated in these emergencies generally came out of things OK. Of the almost 12,000 cases covered in the study, only 36 deaths occurred, 30 of those during the flight. Of the patients who made it to their original destinations (only 7 percent of the flights had to be diverted because of medical emergency), only a quarter had to be taken to the hospital upon landing, and only 8 percent of those actually had to be admitted. 

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Animals
Owning a Dog May Add Years to Your Life, Study Shows
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We've said that having a furry friend can reduce depression, promote better sleep, and encourage more exercise. Now, research has indicated that caring for a canine might actually extend your lifespan.

Previous studies have shown that dog owners have an innate sense of comfort and increased well-being. A new paper published in Scientific Reports and conducted by Uppsala University in Sweden looked at the health records of 3.4 million of the country's residents. These records typically include personal data like marital status and whether the individual owns a pet. Researchers got additional insight from a national dog registry providing ownership information. According to the study, those with a dog for a housemate were less likely to die from cardiovascular disease or any other cause during the study's 12-year duration.

The study included adults 40 to 80 years old, with a mean age of 57. Researchers found that dogs were a positive predictor in health, particularly among singles. Those who had one were 33 percent less likely to die early than those who did not. Authors didn't conclude the exact reason behind the correlation: It could be active people are more likely to own dogs, that dogs promoted more activity, or that psychological factors like lowered incidences of depression might bolster overall well-being. Either way, having a pooch in your life could mean living a longer one.

[h/t Bloomberg]

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Live Smarter
Not Sure About Your Tap Water? Here's How to Test for Contaminants
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In the wake of Flint, Michigan's water crisis, you may have begun to wonder: Is my tap water safe? How would I know? To put your mind at ease—or just to satisfy your scientific curiosity—you can find out exactly what's in your municipal water pretty easily, as Popular Science reports. Depending on where you live, it might even be free.

A new water quality test called Tap Score, launched on Kickstarter in June 2017, helps you test for the most common household water contaminants for $120 per kit. You just need to take a few samples, mail them to the lab, and you'll get the results back in 10 days, telling you about lead levels, copper and cadmium content, arsenic, and other common hazardous materials that can make their way into water via pipes or wells. If you're mostly worried about lead, you can get a $40 test that only tells you about the lead and copper content of your water.

In New York State, a free lead-testing program will send you a test kit on request that allows you to send off samples of your water to a state-certified lab for processing, no purchase required. A few weeks later, you'll get a letter with the results, telling you what kind of lead levels were found in your water. This option is great if you live in New York, but if your state doesn't offer free testing (or only offers it to specific locations, like schools), there are other budget-friendly ways to test, too.

While mailing samples of your water off to a certified lab is the most accurate way to test your water, you can do it entirely at home with inexpensive strip tests that will only set you back $10 to $15. These tests aren't as sensitive as lab versions, and they don't test for as many contaminants, but they can tell you roughly whether you should be concerned about high levels of toxic metals like lead. The strip tests will only give you positive or negative readings, though, whereas the EPA and other official agencies test for the concentration of contaminants (the parts-per-billion) to determine the safety of a water source. If you're truly concerned with what's in your water, you should probably stick to sending your samples off to a professional, since you'll get a more detailed report of the results from a lab than from a colored strip.

In the future, there will likely be an even quicker way to test for lead and other metals—one that hooks up to your smartphone. Gitanjali Rao, an 11-year-old from Colorado, won the 2017 Young Scientist Challenge by inventing Tethys, a faster lead-testing device than what's currently on the market. With Tethys, instead of waiting for a lab, you can get results instantly. It's not commercially available yet, though, so for now, we'll have to stick with mail-away options.

[h/t Popular Science]

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