Ask the Doctors

Hello, dear readers!

We're on the cusp of summer and that means it's our duty as doctors (and mothers) to remind you to please protect yourselves and your family against the sun as you spend more time outdoors, and against the ticks and mosquitos the season always brings. We've written about this before, but if you have any new questions or need clarifications, please drop us a line.

A column in which we addressed the topic of hackers interfering with the proper workings of wireless medical devices, such as pacemakers, got a lot of response. Many readers found it extremely unsettling, and honestly, we're right there with you. The good news, as we said in the column, is that despite how easy television dramas and films make this type of hacking appear, it's actually quite difficult. But if you're worried enough to want to take preventative measures, a letter from a physician in Spokane, Washington, offers an interesting option. His inspiration comes from the range of RFID-blocking products now available to fend off electronic snoops and pickpockets. In this case, the answer is a special vest.

"The vest is lined with metallic mesh to block potential 'pinging' and the theft of personal information," he wrote of a garment he saw in a travel store. "It occurs to me that these would also block 'Bluetooth' and other RF signals being used to hack an internal medical device. It would be simple for a cardiologist to verify this. Simply obtain a vest, have it in the office and when patients come in for modification of settings on an implanted defibrillator or pacemaker, have them wear the vest first, and see if it blocks the modification."

In response to a column about how noise pollution adversely affects health, a reader from Oklahoma asked us to recommend a set of noise-canceling headphones. Because everyone's needs are so different, we suggest scanning the selections from online retailers, like Best Buy, Amazon, Costco and the like. What we find to be helpful about shopping online for items like these are the many reviews posted by fellow shoppers. They can give you a good sense of what each product can (and can't) do, and often answer detailed questions from fellow shoppers, all of which can help you to find the right device for your specific needs.

We'll wrap up with a question stemming from our column about the measles vaccine. A couple who are headed to Paris this fall (lucky you!) ask whether they should get vaccinated for measles. Because you indicate that you both had measles as children, the answer is no. According to guidelines set by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, you are considered to be protected from measles if you have either already had the disease or have already received the appropriate doses of the vaccine. Boosters of the measles vaccine are not needed. If you're not sure whether you're protected, you can find out with a simple blood test.

Thank you again for all of your letters. We hope you have a great summer and look forward to continuing this conversation next time.

(Send your questions to askthedoctors@mednet.ucla.edu, or write: Ask the Doctors, c/o Media Relations, UCLA Health, 924 Westwood Blvd., Suite 350, Los Angeles, CA, 90095. Owing to the volume of mail, personal replies cannot be provided.)

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