A surprising and disturbing number of Americans are ill-prepared for the financial consequences of a health emergency.

In a new survey by Kaiser Permanente, only 44 percent of families said they had funds or cash in hand to cover a $500 emergency health expense; 13 percent said they would need to redirect funds from their food budget.

Obesity Up, Diabetes Down

Despite high rates of obesity in the United States, new cases of diabetes are paradoxically going down, according to new data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The number of new diabetes cases fell to 1.3 million in 2017 from 1.7 million in 2009, but the downward trend applied only to whites, Asians and persons with at least a high school education.

Obesity and Type 2 diabetes usually go hand in hand. The new study could not reliably distinguish between Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes, which might help explain why obesity and diabetes rates aren’t trending the same way.

The study authors say that how diabetes is now diagnosed may be contributing to the decreased number of new cases.

Get Me That, Stat!

In a survey of California high schools students, 14 percent said they were bullied. Those who were bullied were more likely to use harmful substances such as alcohol (40 percent compared to 29 percent of students who didn’t report being bullied).


18: Number of states that ban conversion therapy for minors (to change sexual orientation or gender expression).

4: Number of states that implemented bans this year (Colorado, Maine, Massachusetts and New York).


Stories for the Waiting Room

A new CDC report says that sports injuries increase as children get older, whether from recreational sports or simply play.

Researchers estimated that 83 injuries out of every 1,000 in children ages of 1 to 17 required professional help or treatment.

The rate for children between 1 and 4 was about 48 per 1,000 kids, but increased to almost 73 for ages 5 to 11 and 117 for ages 12 to 17.

Doc Talk

Epistaxis: A nosebleed. A pseudoepistaxis appears to be a normal nosebleed, but the blood is not actually originating from the nasal cavity; it is simply passing through and exiting from the nose.

Never Say ‘Diet’

The Major League Eating record for peas is 9½ 1-pound bowls in 12 minutes, held by Eric “Badlands” Booker of Selden, N.Y. After the contest, Booker booked, peas out.

Best Medicine

Statistically speaking, 9 out of 10 injections are in vein.


“Don’t eat anything your great-great-grandmother wouldn’t recognize as food. There are a great many food-like items in the supermarket your ancestors wouldn’t recognize as food. … Stay away from these.” — Michael Pollan, author of The Omnivore’s Dilemma

Medical History

This week in 1965, the last cigarette commercial appeared on British television. Cigarette commercials would continue on American airwaves for another six years, until banned by the Public Health Cigarette Smoking Act in 1970.

The last national ad touted Virginia Slims. It aired at 11:59 p.m. Dec. 31, 1970, on The Tonight Show.


Q: What percentage of saliva is water?

A: 99 percent

The remaining 1 percent consists of electrolytes and organic substances, such as digestive enzymes, uric acid, cholesterol and mucins (proteins that form mucus).

Fit to Be Tried

There are thousands of exercises, and you’ve only got one body, but that doesn’t mean you can’t try them all.

Air swimming — lie on your stomach with your arms extended overhead by your ears. Lift your chest, arms and legs off the floor and squeeze your glutes. Flutter your arms and legs up and down while still keeping them off the floor.

Inhale for four seconds, and then exhale for four; repeat both again for a total of 16 seconds. Do three sets, resting up to one minute between each set.

Air swimming strengthens the postural muscles, particularly the backside of your body, which helps prevent back pain.

Curtain Calls

In Los Angeles, a 33-year-old man and his brother decided to remove a beehive from a shed on their property using an illegal firecracker equivalent to a half-stick of dynamite.

They ignited the fuse and retreated inside their house to watch the blast from a window 10 feet from the hive. The concussion of the explosion shattered the window, seriously lacerating the 33-year-old man, whose brother determined he needed immediate medical care at a nearby hospital.

While walking to their car, the wounded man was stung three times by bees that had survived the blast. Unknown to either man, the injured brother was allergic to bee venom and died of suffocation en route to the hospital.

Scott LaFee is a staff writer at UC San Diego Health and the former chief science writer at The San Diego Union-Tribune, where he covered science, medicine and technology. Click here to read previous columns. The opinions expressed are his own.