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Automobile Head Restraints Prevent Injuries—Use Them Correctly!

Automobile Head Restraints Prevent Injuries—Use Them Correctly!

Many people are under the mistaken impression that the head-sized extension at the top of your car’s seat is a head rest. It’s actually not a place to rest your weary head during a long drive, but rather a safety feature called a head restraint that is there to help prevent whiplash in the event of a rear-end collision. And having it adjusted properly can mean the difference between emerging unscathed and enduring weeks of neck pain, along with the cost and inconvenience of medical treatment. 

Whiplash is the most common type of injury in an auto accident. The Insurance Bureau of Canada has conducted studies showing that the proper use of head restraints can reduce the incidence of whiplash by as much as 40%. Russ Rader of the U.S. Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) explains what happens when you are involved in a rear end collision: “The head restraint is designed to work with your vehicle’s seat; it keeps your body and head moving together. The problem comes in if your head lags behind your body and snaps backward. That’s what leads to neck injury, or what’s commonly known as whiplash. Modern head restraints are designed to prevent whiplash, and that’s why they’re so much taller than they used to be.” 

One problem is that some people find the newest head restraint designs to be uncomfortable. Some of the common complaints from users at include this one from the owner of a Volkswagen Jetta: “The front headrest points so forward that I get neck pain after just a few miles of driving.” Then there’s this one from a Subaru owner: “Unless you enjoy your face aiming toward your crotch, you may not be able to find a comfortable position for the headrest or your head.” 

One of the reasons for the above complaints is that, in order to get good reviews from the IIHS (many people check the IIHS’s ratings for vehicles before they purchase a car) and comply with the regulations established by the Federal Government for head restraints, auto manufacturers must provide head restraints that meet specific criteria. In particular, the head restraint must be no more than 2.2 inches from the driver’s head and it must be two or more inches higher than was previously required.  

A head restraint can prevent whiplash only if it is as close to your head as possible when a collision happens. When hit from behind, your head snaps quickly backward, then forward, which causes the muscles and tendons in the neck to overstretch and tear. If the head can’t snap back very far, there is much less chance of an injury occurring.  

Most head restraints adjust upward and downward, and some also tilt forward and back. The best position for a head restraint is one in which the head is as close to it as possible, ensuring it is no more than two inches away. The top of the head restraint should ideally be even with the top of your head and should never be any lower than your ears. 

Taking just a little time and effort to position your head restraint correctly can save you a lot of pain and suffering if you are ever in an auto accident. Your health and safety are worth it! 


Health Risks for Frequent Flyers

Health Risks for Frequent Flyers


Back in the early days of commercial flight, flying was a costly, exclusive and elegant form of travel. People would dress in their best clothes and be treated like celebrities by flight attendants. Most frequent flyers would tell you that those days are long, long gone.

Even as air transportation has become far less expensive and more widely available over the years, the experience itself has generally become less pleasant. Extensive security checks, crowded planes and airline cost-cutting all play a part.  However, did you know that there are a number of aspects to flying that can also be detrimental to your health, especially if you’re a frequent flyer? Following are a few of the health risks you should be aware of if you must fly often.

Noise-induced hearing loss – The white noise of a plane may be able to lull us to sleep, but it is still loud enough to be to cause hearing damage with regular exposure. Those who sit at the back of the plane fare worst, as those passengers get the brunt of the engine noise, which can sometimes rise as high as 100 decibels. For comparison, the noise of heavy traffic is around 80 decibels and normal conversation is approximately 60 decibels. If you can, try to get a seat nearer to the front of the plane, where the average noise level is about 75 decibels. Experiencing this level of sound once in a while is not bad, but frequent flyers risk permanent damage to their hearing unless they take precautions to protect their ears, such as by using earplugs.

Deep vein thrombosis (DVT) – Also sometimes called “economy class syndrome,” this can be a life-threatening condition in which blood clots form in the legs due to being seated in cramped conditions for long periods of time. These clots sometimes break free and can travel to the lungs, causing a pulmonary embolism. Those in business and first class are not entirely immune either, however. An examination of 68 deaths on flights due to DVT found that 12% of the victims were in first or business class. To prevent this, there are a number of strategies you can employ, including wearing special “flight socks,” taking aspirin, drinking water and walking around periodically during the flight.

Increase in disease risk – Although the disease you are most at risk of contracting is the common cold, your risk of catching a cold when flying is over 100 times greater than if you had not flown. Although studies have shown that the plane’s air recirculation system is not the cause of increased illness, the fact remains that people still get sick far more often after a flight. One of the primary reasons for this is the extremely low humidity in the cabin. This dries out the mucus membranes in our respiratory tract that tend to catch harmful microbes and destroy them before they can cause damage. If you are concerned, you can purchase a special respiratory mask that will screen out 98% of airborne particles. You may look a bit unusual, but at least you have a better chance of remaining disease-free.

Jet lag – The disturbance of your circadian rhythms can cause both physical and mental impairment for a number of days after the flight. Jet lag creates a disruption to your sleep and hormone patterns that can lead to short-term episodes of psychosis for some. If your trip crosses fewer than three time zones you will probably not have a problem. If your trip is going to last for fewer than three days, experts recommend that you keep to your “home time” to avoid symptoms of jet lag. Otherwise, your best bet is to try to adjust to local time as quickly as possible. Stay up as late as is normal at your destination, then get up at a normal hour in the morning and expose yourself to bright light for as long as possible.

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