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BODY WATCH : It's Height, Not Hips, That Aids Childbirth

November 07, 1995|KATHLEEN DOHENY | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

"The wider a woman's hips, the easier childbirth will be."

No. "The external flare of the hips has no direct relationship to the size of the bony birth canal through which the baby's head has to traverse," says Dr. Irwin Frankel, a Century City obstetrician/gynecologist and USC clinical professor of obstetrics and gynecology.

A woman's height, however, does seem to be associated with the ease or difficulty of childbirth, he says: "Women 5 feet 7 and above generally have bigger birth canals and an easier time of it." But Frankel notes that extra height offers no guarantee of easy labor.

*

"A flu shot can give you the flu."

No. "The flu vaccine is made from a virus that's been killed," says Dr. Raul Prieto, a family physician at Kaiser Permanente, East Los Angeles. "It can't make you sick; the bug's already dead."

But after getting a flu shot, you can get flu-like symptoms. "It's just the body reacting to the injected vaccine," Prieto says. Typical reaction symptoms include soreness in the arm around the injection site and a low-grade fever. Symptoms of flu include a high fever, overall achiness, cough and headache.

Prieto urges flu shot candidates, especially the elderly and those with compromised immune systems, not to bypass it due to fear of reactions.

The best time for a flu shot, he adds, is between Oct. 15 and Nov. 15, to maximize immunity for the entire flu season.

*

"Off-the-rack reading glasses can harm your eyes."

No. But some eye doctors believe you are better off with prescription reading glasses.

The American Academy of Ophthalmology's position, issued in 1991, is: "Ready-to-wear reading glasses are safe in that they cannot damage the eyes physically, whether or not they are the optimal strength, or whether they are used correctly or incorrectly."

Ready-to-wear reading glasses, made in the United States since the 1800s, come in a variety of optical powers, allowing users to try on a pair until they can read printed matter easily.

Temporary eye strain is a possibility, but that's relieved by discontinuing use of the glasses.

"You may not see as clearly," says Jay Schlanger, a Los Angeles optometrist and president-elect of the Los Angeles County Optometric Society. He suggests consumers consider prescription reading glasses.

* Doheny cannot answer mail personally but will attempt to respond in this column to questions of general interest. Please do not telephone. Write to Mythbusters, Life & Style Section, Times Mirror Square, Los Angeles, Calif. 90053.

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