How to Stop Texting While Driving (And Why People Do It)

The law against texting while driving in Texas (complete with fines of $99 to $200) went into effect in Sept 2017. But do we really need a law to prevent us from doing what we know is potentially deadly? In 2016, the Texas Department of Transportation reported that 455 people were killed in crashes involving distracted driving in Texas. Distracted driving has been called the “new drunk driving” because people who text while driving are:

  • As impaired as if they’d consumed 4 beers
  • 23% more likely to cause a crash

Melanie Leonard, RN, Trauma Program Manager at Medical City North Hills, encourages people to commit to not driving distracted and to “put texting aside and arrive alive.”

According to Matt Carrick, MD, Trauma Medical Director at Medical City Plano, the average driver who sends a text glances at their phone for 5 seconds, during which time the car, at 55 mph, will travel the length of a football field.

So why are people still texting while driving?

A survey commissioned by AT&T® found that at least 7 in 10 people use their smartphones while driving. Although texting and emailing top the list of activities, the survey revealed that people are also using social media, Web surfing, video chatting and taking selfies … while driving.

Among those who text while driving, survey respondents said they:

  • Want to stay connected to family, friends and work (43%)
  • Do it “out of habit” (Nearly 33%)
  • Can multitask, even while driving (Nearly 33%)
  • Have FOMO, or fear of missing out on something important (28%)
  • Can text while driving without affecting their driving performance (25%)
  • Believe others expect them to respond to texts “right away” (25%)
  • Feel a “sense of satisfaction” when they read or respond to a text (17%)
  • Feel “anxious” if they don’t respond right away (14%)
  • Are “addicted to texting” (6%)

Addicted to tech.

Ninety-eight percent of those who admitted to texting while driving said they know it’s dangerous but they do it anyway, using many of the reasons above to rationalize their behavior. According to experts, this is a classic sign of addiction. Compulsively checking your phone and reading and responding to texts, tweets, emails and posts causes an increase in dopamine, a chemical released by our brains that makes us feel happy.

In addition to the risks of texting while driving, being too plugged in can take a toll on your physical and mental health. In his article “Is Too Much Tech Making You Sick?,” Roger Butler, MD, a psychiatrist at Medical City Green Oaks Hospital and Medical City McKinney, says that the drawbacks of the digital age can include depression, social awkwardness (especially for children), back and neck problems, headaches, eye strain and sleeping disorders.

To find out if you have a digital addiction, take the Digital Distraction Test created by The Center for Internet and Technology Addiction, the organization that conducted AT&T’s survey.

Breaking the habit: How to stop texting while driving.

Let’s say that you’re one step ahead of the texting while driving ban. You already drive with your phone out of reach or you’ve downloaded an app that helps you avoid distractions while driving, such as AT&T’s Drive Mode®. Great job. But now you’ve got to fill that smartphone-sized empty space and try to get to where you’re going without lapsing into boredom-induced road rage. Here are a few ideas.

  • Listen to a podcast

Podcasts are episodic digital audio files that are available to download from the Internet for free or via subscription. There are podcast titles for every taste, including politics, pop culture, romance, mystery, celebrity gossip, true crime sports and more. Check out TIME magazine’s 50 Best Podcasts of 2017.

  • Listen to audio books

No time for reading? Download an old classic or the latest bestseller and enjoy having someone read it to you while you get from A to B. Find a list of free audio book websites here.

  • Talk to your kids

When you’re the chauffeur, it’s only fair that the kids put down their phones, too. Make this your catch-up time — sometimes it’s easier to talk in the car than among all the distractions at home. You can also play car games if you’re on a long trip. Check out Pinterest for a list of games such as license plate bingo, eye spy and road trip scavenger hunt plus the ultimate road trip playlist.

  • Listen to a movie or soundtrack

If you’re bored by your radio’s choices, listen to your favorite movie (just don’t watch it) or the music from the latest Broadway hit. A current favorite: the original Broadway cast recording of “Hamilton,” available on Amazon and included with a Prime membership.

Texting while not driving.

If you’re wondering whether it’s okay to text while stopped in traffic or at a light, the answer is yes. However, drivers are cautioned to pay attention so they won’t stop the flow of traffic.

For fast, emergency help when you need it most, look to one of our many Medical City ER locations across North Texas. With average wait times posted online, if you do have an emergency, you can spend less time waiting and more time on the moments that matter most.

Find a fast Medical City ER near you or call our free 24-hour Ask-A-Nurse hotline.

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Revised 3/8/2018

Summer Safety Digest: 14 Things You Need to Know for a Safe, Sane Season

LifeSigns-FB-2Yo, summer! You think you’re pretty hot here in North Texas, don’t you? Well, okay, you are … but we’ve got tips for how to chill and enjoy all you have to offer without ending up in the ER. Here’s a roundup of our best summer safety advice.

Top 3 Summer Safety Tips from an Emergency Medicine Physician.

Manisha Gupta, MD, an emergency medicine physician at Medical City Denton, gives her 3 top tips for sailing through summer safely and injury-free:

10 More Tips for Summer Safety.

There’s nothing quite like a top 10 list. In this case, we’re actually giving you 14, but who’s counting? All that really matters is that your family stays safe so you can stay sane.

Your comprehensive guide to mosquito-borne illnesses.


Alison Wortman, MD, a maternal and fetal medicine physician with Medical City Alliance, discusses the signs and symptoms of Zika virus.

HCA Medical City Ask a Nurse Infographic_RevisedIf your summer plans get derailed by breaks, aches, bug bites or snakes, one of our many Medical City ER locations across North Texas has you covered. With average wait times posted online, if you do have an emergency, you can spend less time waiting and more time on the moments that matter most.

Find a fast Medical City ER near you.

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How “13 Reasons Why” Can Be a Lesson for All Ages

The controversial Netflix series about a teenage girl’s suicide, “13 Reasons Why,” has kids and parents everywhere talking. In our previous blog, Five Opportunities and Insights from “13 Reasons Why,” a Medical City Green Oaks Hospital adolescent psychiatrist discussed the show’s potential impact on teenagers. But there are other populations that are at even higher risk for suicide: older adults. Medical experts at the Geriatric Behavioral Unit at Medical City North Hills are hoping the Selena Gomez-produced series, which has just been renewed for season two, will also bring attention to the disturbing rates of senior suicide.

The American Foundation for Suicide Prevention reports that from 1999 to 2011, suicide rates among adults 45 to 64 years of age jumped 40 percent. Statistics show that this trend is continuing.

Suicide rates by age (per 100,000 individuals) from 2000 through 2015

  • 19.6 (45-64)
  • 19.4 (85 and older)
  • 17.1 (35-44)
  • 16.1 (65-84)
  • 15.5 (20-34)
  • 3 (Under 20)

The sense of loss of control over one’s life, from financial circumstances or the pain and physical disability associated with chronic health problems, can contribute to depression, a key factor for suicidal thoughts in older adults, a counselor with Medical City North Hills’ Geriatric Behavior Unit said.

Texas ranks near the bottom — No. 41 — in number of deaths by suicide but even so, on average, one person dies by suicide every three hours in the state.

Other factors that influence senior suicide rates include:

  • Gender and age: Middle-aged white males have the highest suicide rate and accounted for 7 of 10 suicides in 2015 (men of all ages die by suicide 3.5 times more often than women)
  • A previous diagnosis of mental illness: This accounts for more than 90% of suicide deaths, regardless of age
  • Social isolation: Including from death of a spouse or divorce
  • Substance abuse
  • Poor sleep quality and having trouble falling asleep: These factors increased seniors’ risk of suicide by 1.2 times, according to a JAMA Psychiatry study

It’s vitally important for family members to take note of changes in sleeping or eating habits in elderly loved ones. You should consider all verbal remarks about ending a life as a sign for intervention or assistance. Those types of comments should be taken seriously and professional mental health help should be sought immediately.

The good news is, depression is not a normal part of aging, but a true and treatable medical condition. According to the CDC, the majority of older adults aren’t depressed and most who are can get relief from their symptoms with treatment.

Warning signs of senior suicide.

If you see any of these warning signs in a spouse or loved one, seek immediate medical help.

  • Loss of interest in hobbies or activities previously enjoyed
  • Decreased social interaction, self-care and grooming
  • Breaking medical regimens, including going off diets, refusing medications
  • Significant personal loss, such as the death or impending death of a loved one
  • Feelings of hopelessness or worthlessness
  • Putting affairs in order, giving away possessions, making changes to a will
  • Stockpiling medications or obtaining other lethal means (remove access to firearms; about half of all suicides are attributed to the use of firearms, according to the CDC)
  • Preoccupation with death or loss of regard for personal safety
  • Comments indicating finality, including “This is the last time you’ll see me,” or “I won’t be needing any more appointments”
  • Talking about or attempting suicide

The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline (800-273-8255) provides free and confidential resources and support for people of all ages in distress or crisis.

Call Medical City Green Oaks Hospital’s crisis line 24/7/365 at (972) 770-0818.

For fast, emergency help in a crisis, look to one of our many Medical City ER locations across North Texas. With average wait times posted online, if you do have an emergency, you can spend less time waiting and more time on the moments that matter most.

Find a fast Medical City ER near you or call our free 24/7 Ask-A-Nurse hotline.

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Revised 1/25/2018

When Insects Sting: How to Avoid Allergic Reactions

If you think Texas has it all, you’re right — including all five insects whose stings are known to cause allergic reactions: fire ants, honeybees, hornets, wasps and yellow jackets. Yay us.

It’s estimated that roughly 2 million Americans are allergic to the venom of stinging insects. According to the American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology (ACAAI), it’s not uncommon to have a “normal” reaction the first few times and then experience increasingly severe reactions with each subsequent sting.

Types of reactions that can occur with insect stings.

  • A normal local reaction, which includes pain, swelling and redness at the sting site.
  • A large local reaction, which results in swelling that extends well beyond the sting site — such as a sting on your hand that causes your whole arm to swell. Swelling usually peaks several days after the sting and can last up to a week or more.
  • A systemic allergic reaction is a severe allergic reaction and requires immediate medical attention, such as calling 911 or going to the closest ER. Symptoms can include:
    • Hives
    • Itchy skin
    • Flushing
    • Swelling beyond the sting site
    • Dizziness or a sharp drop in blood pressure
    • Hoarseness, swelling of the tongue or difficulty swallowing
    • Abdominal pain, vomiting, intense nausea or diarrhea
    • Fainting or cardiac arrest
  • Anaphylaxis is a severe allergic reaction that occurs when the body releases an overdose of allergen-fighting chemicals, sending the body into shock. It’s life-threatening and can worsen quickly. Additional symptoms can include:
    • Breathing problems
    • Constricted throat
    • Rapid heart beat
    • Feeling of doom

People who have a known or suspected allergy to insect stings should carry at least one self-injectable epinephrine pen at all times; the ACAAI recommends two for those who have had a possible systemic reaction.

Gan Su, DO, an emergency medicine physician at Medical City Arlington, discusses signs that an allergic reaction should send you to the ER.

When the bee stings.

Texas Parks and Wildlife offers these tips for treating normal (mild) sting reactions:

  • Remove the stinger
  • Wash sting site with soap and water
  • Cover and keep clean
  • Apply cold pack for 15 to 20 minutes to reduce swelling
  • Administer over-the-counter pain relievers and cortisone/anti-itch cream
  • Mild allergic reactions can be treated with antihistamines (Benadryl)

It’s important to act fast if someone who may be allergic has been stung.

“Allergic reactions can come on suddenly and without much warning,” said Scott Corcoran, MD, an emergency medicine physician at Medical City McKinney. “Whether it’s from a bee sting, an ant bite, a peanut or even a strawberry, various things can cause allergic reactions that can be quite serious. Symptoms can include a rash, such as hives, nausea and vomiting, swelling of the eyes, mouth and throat and eventually, the airway closes off. If any of those symptoms are present, patients need to come to the ER right away.”

How to avoid stinging pests and their nests.

Follow the ACAAI’s helpful tips for avoiding insect stings:

  • An open soda can is like bait to a flying stinger — keep sugary drinks covered or better yet, drink water!


  • Same goes for food — keep it covered
  • DO wear
    • Close-toed shoes when walking in grass or brush; this is where stinging insects forage
    • Long pants, long-sleeved shirts, socks and gloves for working outside
  • DO NOT wear
    • Sweet-smelling perfumes, hair products, deodorants, etc.
    • Bright-colored clothing or flowery patterns
  • Be extra cautious near bushes, eaves, trash cans, picnic areas and in attics
  • Call a professional exterminator to inspect for and remove pests and their nests

If someone in your family has an allergic reaction, one of our many Medical City ER locations across North Texas has you covered. With average wait times posted online, if you do have an emergency, you can spend less time waiting and more time on the moments that matter most.

Find a fast Medical City ER near you or call our free 24/7 Ask-A-Nurse hotline.

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Revised 9/12/2017

Bikes, Trikes, Scooters and Skates: How to Stay Out of the ER

Scooters2-FBWheels. No matter how young or old you are, these Bronze Age inventions not only represent freedom; they provide it. From your first tricycle to your first car or truck and everything in between, wheels take you where you want to go faster (and in better style) than you could get there on your own. So it’s not surprising that Americans are crazy for all things wheeled, including skateboards, scooters, roller and inline skates, bicycles, tricycles, three-wheelers and more.

It’s also not surprising that we tend to crash them into things or ride them where bigger wheels can easily crash into us. According to Safe Kids Worldwide, nearly 400,000 children 19 and under were seen in hospital emergency rooms for biking, skateboard and skating injuries in 2014, while the Consumer Products Safety Commission reported that 61,000 children aged 15 and under went to the ER for non-motorized scooter injuries the year before.


To help parents better understand what types of injuries are most commonly sustained from wheeled activities and how to treat and prevent them, we spoke to John Badylak, MD, an orthopedic surgeon at Medical City Alliance.

“I see all types of injuries, including fractures from falls off of wheeled toys, ATVs and exercise equipment,” Dr. Badylak said. “The most common fracture I see in adults and children who have a ground level fall is a distal radius fracture (broken wrist). I also see children with supracondylar humerus fractures, which is a fracture of the humerus bone (broken upper arm bone) just above the elbow.”

Preventing injuries.

In addition to wrist and arm breaks, other common injuries include cuts, bruises, strains and sprains. About half of injuries occur to the arms and wrists, while the other half is split between the head and the legs and feet.

Gan Su, DO, an emergency medicine physician at Medical City Arlington, discusses when to go to the ER with a head injury.

Follow these tips to help prevent injuries:

  • Wear the approved protective gear for your type of activity (helmets, pads, bright clothing, etc.)
  • Wear sturdy, supportive, slip-resistant, close-toed shoes
  • Ride on flat, smooth surfaces away from traffic
  • Don’t ride at night — most motor vehicle accidents involving pedestrians and non-motorized toy/vehicle riders happen between 7 p.m. and 7 a.m.
  • Learn the rules of your chosen activity — take a bike safety class or ask a more experienced child for skateboarding tips
  • Learn how to fall safely by landing on fleshy body parts, tucking arms in and rolling
  • Never text or talk on the phone while driving anything with wheels
  • Always ride in view of caregivers (younger children) or with one or more friends (older kids)

How to tell if a bone is broken.

“Unfortunately, fractures and other injuries happen even with precautions,” said Dr. Badylak. “Every situation and every patient is different. It can be very difficult to know whether an ankle is sprained or broken without an exam by a medical professional and an X-ray. But generally speaking, if an injured individual cannot put weight on a leg to walk or cannot move a joint, he or she should go to the ER to be examined. If a child is not using an arm or leg, then that child should definitely be evaluated by a doctor.”

Michelle Underwood, VP of Emergency Services for Medical City Healthcare, explains when to go the ER with a sprain or fracture.

Treating minor injuries at home.

Dr. Badylak recommends treating minor sprains and bruises with ice, elevation and over the counter anti-inflammatories for swelling and pain. If a minor injury doesn’t get better after a couple of days of rest, seeking medical attention at a doctor’s office or urgent care facility would be wise.

If someone in your family suffers an injury while doing a bit of free-wheeling, one of our many Medical City ER locations across North Texas has you covered. With average wait times posted online, if you do have an emergency, you can spend less time waiting and more time on the moments that matter most.

Find a fast Medical City ER near you.

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Do You Know What to Do in a Snakebite Emergency?

It’s another warm, wet spring in North Texas, and you know what that means. Wildflowers, yes. But also, snakes. The recent storms have stirred them up and the forecast calls for more severe weather. It’s time to hone your reptile radar so that you can protect your family and pets from getting a snakebite.

Linda Gosselin, RN, a trauma services nurse for Medical City Healthcare, has expert advice about when to go the emergency room if a snakebite does occur.

“Time is critical when dealing with snakebites, because the poison can travel fast, begin to affect underlying tissue and cause permanent damage,” Nurse Gosselin said. “We recommend that you seek immediate medical help from a full-service emergency room for all suspected snakebites. This will allow us to determine the extent of the injury and begin immediate treatment.”

Snakebites require full-service emergency care.

Medical City Lewisville’s Emergency Medical Director, James Doyle, MD, agreed that your first action should be to get full-service emergency care for a snakebite.

“The reason that it’s important to go to a full-service emergency room as soon as possible after a snakebite is because they can produce an array of symptoms, including pain and swelling, nausea, convulsions and even paralysis,” he said. “Quick treatment is essential for the best outcome.”

Nurse Gosselin specifies a “full-service ER” because it is going to have the expertise and supplies needed to treat snakebites, including the right antivenin for area snakes.

Elizabeth Kim, MD, Medical City Lewisville Trauma Medical Director, explained, “Our emergency departments have the staff, training, supplies and equipment, as well as the policies and procedures to care for trauma patients.”

Medical City Lewisville last summer treated Lane Smith, an 18-year-old high school student who was bitten by a copperhead snake while playing the wildly popular Pokémon Go smartphone game. Arriving first at Medical City ER Flower Mound with his parents, he was stabilized and transported to Medical City Lewisville for further observation and treatment.

Top tips for snakebite prevention.

The Texas Department of Health and Human Services offers this advice for preventing snakebites:

  • Even if you don’t think a snake is poisonous, don’t attempt to handle or play with it unless you have the proper training
  • Keep your yard or campsite well-manicured; snakes love to hide in brush, inside logs or pipes and under rocks and leaves
  • Wear appropriate clothing, including long pants and boots, in areas where snakes may inhabit
  • Watch where you step and place your hands when outside; most snakebites happen because people accidentally get too close to or step on a snake

Never try to suck the venom out of a snakebite and other helpful tips.

Dr. Jason West, a trauma surgeon at Medical City Denton, explains why it’s a bad idea to try to suck the venom out of a snakebite, cut the venom out or do other things to try to treat the bite yourself.

Medical City ER at Grand Prairie’s Emergency Medical Director, Trent Boyko, offers additional tips for handling snakebites after treating a patient and sending him to Medical Center of Arlington for overnight observation.

If you or a family member is bitten by a snake, dog or stinging insect, one of our many Medical City ER locations has you covered. With average wait times posted online, if you do have an emergency, you can spend less time waiting and more time on the moments that matter most.

Find a fast Medical City ER near you or call our free, 24/7 Ask a Nurse hotline.

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Revised 10/24/2017