Should You Tan to Avoid Vitamin D Deficiency?

A slew of recent books and studies have touted the benefits of vitamin D and the perils of not getting enough vitamin D; some even encourage lying in the sun and taking vitamin supplements in order to prevent depression. But dermatologists say more time soaking up the rays isn't necessary—most Americans get all the vitamin D they need just by going outside in the course of their daily duties, and beyond that, it's easy to get adequate levels of the vitamin through nutrients in food. "Sunlight helps us produce vitamin D, but the amount of sunlight you need is so low that you could walk outside for probably five minutes and have enough," says Craig Austin, a New York-based dermatologist and founder of AB Skincare.Vitamin D is important because it helps with calcium absorption; it's found in foods ranging from milk and cheese to liver, beef, fish and eggs. Many cereals are now fortified with vitamin D, as well; most people who follow normal diets probably don't need to take vitamin D...

Should Swimmers Shake Water Out of Their Ears?

If water gets caught in your ear after a swim, jumping up and down will help get it out, but only if you've tilted your head and pulled on the ear so that the canal is at an angle for water to run out, says Ted Epperly, president-elect of the American Academy of Family Physicians. "Hopping up and down only increases the gravitational force by which that will come out," Epperly says. Other solutions include Q-tips and using a hairdryer on a low setting.But if you have pain, prolonged blockage or long-term congestion, get it checked out: Leaving water trapped in the ear canal can be dangerous. It makes the skin inside become soggy, and a cut can allow bacteria from contaminated water to infect the outer ear and ear canal, resulting in acute otitis externa, or swimmer's ear. That causes symptoms ranging from severe pain, itchiness, swelling and fullness in and around the ear, to pus and decreased hearing. It can be prevented by leaving foreign objects out of your ear, not swimming in...

Do Rewards and Contests Help Smokers Quit?

Some workplaces offer employees $10 for every month they're able to kick their smoking habits; others give people lottery tickets every day they don't take a drag. But rewards and contests designed to help smokers quit aren't effective in the long term, according to a review by the Cochrane Collection, which analyzes medical research. None of the 17 studies analyzed was able to see higher long-term cessation rates from rewarded would-be quitters than from a control group. Quitters were able to abstain from smoking at a higher rate for a short period after participating in some of the contests. But researchers concluded that any positive effects inspired by the contests faded away shortly after the incentives ended.