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Baby Simulators Linked to Higher Risk of Teen Pregnancy

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Bad news for makers of robot babies: Scientists say educational infant simulators like “Baby Think It Over” don’t reduce, and may actually increase, rates of teen pregnancy. They published their findings in The Lancet.

Bringing home an electronic baby (or a sack of flour, or an empty eggshell with a face drawn on it) has become something of a rite of passage in middle and high schools around the world. The latest baby simulators cry when they need to be fed, comforted, burped, or given a diaper change, while tracking whether or not their “parents” are actually doing these things.

In Australia, infant simulators are part of schools’ Virtual Infant Parenting (VIP) program, which also includes lessons about the sacrifices required by pregnancy (no more keg stands, girls!) and the financial costs of childcare, as well as sessions on healthy relationships, sexual health, and contraception. Teaching the VIP seems like an obvious choice—what better way to scare teenagers straight?

To test the program’s efficacy, researchers recruited 57 schools in Western Australia. Half of the schools were assigned the robotic baby VIP program (1267 students), while the other half continued with a standard health class curriculum (1567 students). Because the study aimed to understand teen pregnancy, the recruited students were all girls between the ages of 13 and 15 when the study began. The researchers also looked at medical records from local hospitals and abortion clinics.

The results were not encouraging. Girls in the control group had a 4 percent risk of becoming pregnant by the time they reached age 20, but those who had taken an infant simulator home were twice as likely (8 percent) to become teen moms. Abortion rates were also higher in the VIP group (9 percent) than in the control group (6 percent).

"Our study shows that the pregnancy prevention programme delivered in Western Australia, which involves an infant simulator, does not reduce the risk of pregnancy in teenage girls,” lead author Sally Brinkman said in a press statement. “In fact, the risk of pregnancy is actually increased compared to girls who didn't take part in the intervention."

Brinkman notes that VIP-like programs are growing in popularity around the world. Infant simulator sessions are currently taught in 89 countries, and that number is only growing. If these programs are in fact working against their creators intentions, that’s a serious cause for concern. A suite of infant simulators can cost tens of thousands of dollars—and most schools don’t have money to spare.

The researchers don’t yet know why the VIP program seems to fail so miserably, but what’s clear, says health expert Julie A Quinlivan of the University of Notre Dame Australia, is that we need to do better. “The cure for teenage pregnancy is more difficult than a magic doll,” she wrote in a commentary in The Lancet. “We have to address both mothers and fathers. Programs need to start in infancy. Investment in vulnerable children is needed to entice these adolescents from the path of premature parenthood into brighter futures. We cannot afford the quick fix, especially when it doesn't work."

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Beyond the Label: How to Pick the Right Medicines For Your Cold and Flu Symptoms
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The average household spends an annual total of $338 on various over-the-counter medicines, with consumers making around 26 pharmacy runs each year, according to 2015 data from the Consumer Healthcare Products Association. To save cash and minimize effort (here's why you'd rather be sleeping), the Cleveland Clinic recommends avoiding certain cold and flu products, and selecting products containing specific active ingredients.

Since medicine labels can be confusing (lots of people likely can’t remember—let alone spell—words like cetirizine, benzocaine, or dextromethorphan), the famous hospital created an interactive infographic to help patients select the right product for them. Click on your symptom, and you’ll see ingredients that have been clinically proven to relieve runny or stuffy noses, fevers, aches, and coughs. Since every medicine is different, you’ll also receive safety tips regarding dosage levels, side effects, and the average duration of effectiveness.

Next time you get sick, keep an eye out for these suggested elements while comparing products at the pharmacy. In the meantime, a few pro tips: To avoid annoying side effects, steer clear of multi-symptom products if you think just one ingredient will do it for you. And while you’re at it, avoid nasal sprays with phenylephrine and cough syrups with guaifenesin, as experts say they may not actually work. Cold and flu season is always annoying—but it shouldn’t be expensive to boot.

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Why You Might Not Want to Order Tea or Coffee On Your Next Flight
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A cup of tea or coffee at 40,000 feet may sound like a great way to give yourself an extra energy boost during a tiring trip, but it might be healthier to nap away your fatigue—or at least wait until hitting ground to indulge in a caffeine fix. Because, in addition to being tepid and watery, plane brew could be teeming with germs and other harmful life forms, according to Business Insider.

Multiple studies and investigations have taken a closer look at airplane tap water, and the results aren’t pretty—or appetizing. In 2002, The Wall Street Journal conducted a study that looked at water samples taken from 14 different flights from 10 different airlines. Reporters discovered “a long list of microscopic life you don’t want to drink, from Salmonella and Staphylococcus to tiny insect eggs," they wrote.

And they added, "Worse, contamination was the rule, not the exception: Almost all of the bacteria levels were tens, sometimes hundreds, of times above U.S. government limits."

A 2004 study by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) found that water supplies on 15 percent of 327 national and international commercial aircrafts were contaminated to varying degrees [PDF]. This all led up to the 2011 Aircraft Drinking Water Rule, an EPA initiative to make airlines clean up. But in 2013, an NBC investigation found that at least one out of every 10 commercial U.S. airplanes still had issues with water contamination.

Find out how airplane water gets so gross, and why turning water into coffee or tea isn’t enough to kill residual germs by watching Business Insider’s video below.

[h/t Business Insider]

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