Tag Archives: harms

Bicycle Riding During COVID-19

By: Jamie Harms, M.D.

With families looking for safe outdoor activities during this time of COVID-19, many people are turning to bicycle riding to get some fresh air and exercise. Your chances of being exposed to the coronavirus while riding are low, but there are still some precautions you should take. And it wouldn’t hurt to brush up on good riding practices before you hit the road.

Coronavirus bicycle tips

  • Face mask: You don’t have to wear a face mask in Maryland while bike riding, but it’s a good idea to have one handy for when you stop or are riding close to others. In hot weather, try an athletic mask made from fabric that wicks moisture. Make sure your mask fits well and covers both your mouth and nose.
  • Social distancing: Try to keep at least 6 feet from other riders and pedestrians, especially at stops. If you’re on a busy bike trail, or if you’re drafting other riders, wear a mask.  Pack drinks and snacks so you can avoid stopping at crowded stores.
  • Shared bikes: If you plan to rent a bicycle, sanitize the handlebars and seat before and after you ride ─ and wash your hands.


Other bicycle safety tips

  • Wear a helmet:  Helmets are required for riders under 16. For everyone else, they’re your best safety gear. Wear one every time you ride.
  • Obey traffic signs and signals: Bicycles must follow the rules of the road like other vehicles.
  • Watch speed limits: Bikes are not permitted on roads with a speed limit of 50 MPH or faster.
  • Keep an ear open: You may not wear headsets or earplugs in both ears.
  • Don’t ride against traffic: Always go the same direction traffic is moving.
  • Know where other vehicles are: Learn to look back over your shoulder, or use a rear-view mirror.
  • Use hand signals: Hand signals tell motorists and pedestrians what you intend to do.

Graph of bikers hand signals

  • Ride in the middle of the lane in slower traffic: Get in the middle of the lane at busy intersections and whenever you are moving at the same speed as traffic.
  • Use lights at night: The law requires a white headlight and a rear reflector or taillight.
  • Sidewalk riding: You can ride on sidewalks, but pedestrians have right of way.


Special rules for electric bikes

  • Electric bike motors must automatically disengage at 20 MPH to keep you from going too fast.
  • Any person operating an electric bike must wear a helmet.
  • Electric bikes must follow the same traffic laws as cars and bicycles.
  • You can ride them on roads and bike paths, but not on sidewalks.
  • Electric bikes must yield to pedestrians and roadway traffic.

Helping Your Kids Deal with COVID-19 Anxiety

By: Jamie Harms, M.D.

Everyone is talking about the coronavirus, and you can be sure that little ears are listening.  This can be a scary time for children. They may hear about COVID-19 deaths and worry what will happen if they or you get the disease.

Children and teens are influenced by what they see in their parents. If they see you dealing with the coronavirus calmly and confidently, they will feel more secure. Here’s how to help your children deal with COVID-19 anxiety.

Symptoms of anxiety

Anxiety is often expressed in your child’s behavior. Watch for these common symptoms of anxiety and stress:

  • Returning to behaviors they have outgrown, such as thumb-sucking, throwing tantrums, engaging in baby-talk, or bedwetting
  • New or recurring fears
  • Inability to relax or calm down
  • Excessive crying or irritation in younger children
  • Irritability and “acting out” behaviors in teens
  • Stomachaches, upset stomachs, or a loss of appetite
  • Trouble falling asleep, staying asleep, or having frequent nightmares
  • Difficulty with attention and concentration
  • Unexplained headaches or body pain
  • Use of alcohol, tobacco, or other drugs in teens

Ways to support your child

  • Talk with your child or teen about the COVID-19 outbreak. Answer their questions in a way that your child or teen can understand.
  • Reassure your child or teen that they are safe. Tell them not everyone gets COVID-19 and discuss things your family is doing to stay safe, such as handwashing, cleaning and social distancing. See tips for fighting COVID-19 below.
  • Let them know it’s ok if they feel upset. Tell them how you deal with your own stress so that they can learn how to cope from you.
  • Limit your family’s exposure to news coverage of the event, including social media. A steady stream of COVID-19 news can raise your child’s anxiety level. Also, some information on social media is sensational or outright false and may frighten children.
  • Try to keep up with regular routines to help your kids feel more “normal.” With schools closed, create a schedule for learning activities and relaxing or fun activities.
  • Be a role model. Take breaks, get plenty of sleep, exercise, and eat well. Connect with your friends and family members.

Show them how to fight COVID-19

Children will feel better if they know there are things they can do to stay well and help prevent the spread of coronavirus. Help them practice these recommendations from the CDC:

  • Cough or sneeze into a tissue or their elbow, then throw the tissue into the trash.
  • Wash their hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, especially after blowing their nose, coughing, sneezing, going to the bathroom, and before eating or preparing food. See this CDC video.
  • If soap and water are not available, use hand sanitizer.
  • Keep their hands out of their mouth, nose and eyes. This will help keep germs out of their body.
  • Practice social distancing: When in public, keep at least six feet away from other people.
  • Stay away from people who are coughing or sneezing or sick.

 Feeling stressed yourself?

 With all disruptions coming from the outbreak, it’s no wonder if you’re feeling more anxious. You can help your children by trying to be calmer. Listen to these simple mindfulness/relaxation exercises to relax and destress.

 To learn more, see this CDC information on COVID-19, or contact your MPCP physician.

Feeling Down? It May Be the Winter Blues

By: Jamie Harms, M.D.

It’s the coldest, darkest time of the year. It seems like spring will never come. For many people, this time of year brings feelings of sadness ‒ the “winter blues.”

Perhaps you recognize some of the symptoms in yourself: increased sleep; increased appetite, with cravings for starches and sugars; weight gain; emotional irritability; and a heavy feeling in your arms and legs. You may find yourself withdrawing from social activities or having difficulty concentrating.

What causes the winter blues?

Scientists think these symptoms result from a decrease in the activity of serotonin in the brain when days get shorter. Serotonin is a chemical that helps nerve cells in the brain communicate with each other. It is important for mood and alertness, and it helps control your appetite.

How to beat the winter blues

For most people, symptoms are mild, and they end when the days get longer. Here are things you can do to feel better:

  1. Get enough sleep. Sleep and moods are closely connected, and many of us skimp on sleep in our busy lives. Most adults need 7-9 hours of sleep a night.
  2. Get some exercise. Exercise increases serotonin in the brain, so it can make you feel better physically and emotionally. Aim for 30 minutes of exercise most days of the week. Bundle up and take some walks outdoors in the daylight if you can.
  3. Get some sun. Exposure to daylight can help boost your mood. Bundle up and go outside whenever you can, even if it’s just for a few minutes.
  4. Pay attention to what you eat. Decrease carbohydrates and caffeine, which may make you feel better for a short time but can make moods worse overall. Choose lean meats, fruits and vegetables.
  5. Pay attention to your thoughts. It’s easy to develop habits of thinking and reacting to life events that just make you sad or worried. Practice looking for a few good things every day, even if they’re small.

Some people have more severe symptoms of depression in the wintertime. This is called seasonal affective disorder (SAD). If you have more than mild symptoms, or symptoms that last more than a few weeks, contact your doctor. Treatments such as light therapy, anti-depressant medication, and psychotherapy can be effective for wintertime depression.

HPV, the First Cancer Vaccine

By: Jamie Harms, M.D.

In 2006, the first vaccine to help prevent a cancer was released in the United States: the HPV vaccine.

Cervical cancer was one of the most common cancers among women in the U.S. until Pap smears became routine and helped identify pre-cancerous and early cancerous cervical cells. Cervical cancer is almost always caused by a virus, the human papilloma virus.

HPV is common

The human papilloma virus (HPV) is also the cause of anal and genital warts, as well as vaginal, anal, penile and oral cancers. It is spread by skin-to-skin contact, including sexual contact as well as oral sex and hand-to-genital contact.

HPV is common. It is estimated that 75-80% of sexually active adults will become infected with at least one strain of HPV by the age of 50. There are over 100 strains of HPV, and while most of them are not harmful, about 15 are known to cause cervical cancer. Most times, HPV infection goes away on its own, but in 10-20% of women, the HPV infection does not go away. These women are at risk of developing cervical cancer.

The HPV vaccine

In 2006, a vaccine against HPV was released in the U.S. The vaccine is recommended for both girls and boys at 11-12 years of age. It is given in a series of two vaccines, 6 months apart. Teens and young adults can get this vaccine later but will need three vaccines if it is given after age 15 because the vaccine is much more effective in younger teens.

Proven safe and effective

Here’s the best news… this vaccine is making a difference in our health. In girls 13-19 years of age, HPV infections have dropped by 83%. The number of women 20-24 years of age infected by HPV has dropped by 66%. That’s HUGE! The frequency of genital warts in girls and boys has dropped, too — girls by 67% and boys by 48%. The number of precancerous findings in girls has dropped by 51%.

So, this vaccine is working, and working well. Since the vaccine was released, there have been no reports of major side effects. The most common side effects are soreness and redness at the injection site, headaches and nausea. Some parents have worried that giving their child this vaccine will result in decreased fertility or will encourage them to have sex earlier or more often, but studies show that this is not true.

MPCP recommends that your child receive the HPV vaccine with their other required vaccines at 11-12 years of age. Talk with your doctor or look at these good sources for more information: