The Reason Doctors Have Such Sloppy Handwriting

Rostislav_Sedlacek/iStock via Getty Images
Rostislav_Sedlacek/iStock via Getty Images

It seems counterintuitive that doctors—widely regarded as some of the smartest, most detail-oriented people out there—so often have horrible handwriting. From a patient’s standpoint, it could seem downright terrifying. If your pharmacist misinterprets your trusted physician’s chicken scratch, you could wind up with a dangerously high dosage of medicine, or even the wrong medicine altogether.

In 2006, the National Academies of Science's Institute of Medicine estimated that doctors’ sloppy handwriting was killing more than 7000 people per year, and preventable medication errors were harming around 1.5 million Americans annually. Many medical offices have since switched to electronic medical records and prescriptions, and some states have even required them to do so.

But that doesn’t tell us why doctors’ penmanship is so poor in the first place. One reason is because doctors have to write much more than we realize.

“In the medical field, if it’s not documented, it didn’t happen,” Celine Thum, medical director at ParaDocs Worldwide, told The Healthy.

If you’re the very first patient of the day, the record of your visit and any prescription slips you get might be perfectly legible. Ten hours and dozens of appointments later, however, your doctor’s hand muscles are probably pretty cramped.

The content they’re writing isn’t particularly easy to spell, either. If a doctor is jotting down glomerulonephritis, for example, they may not stop to make sure all those vowels are in the right places.

“We have so many technical terms that are impossible to write,” Thum said. “You sometimes scribble to cover the error.”

However, if a prescription looks indecipherable to you, it’s possible that your doctor is using shorthand that your pharmacist will immediately understand—like the abbreviation QD, from the Latin phrase for “one a day.”

If you’re confused about what the doctor has written on your prescription slip, you can always ask them to clarify aloud, and double-check that it matches what’s printed on your prescription bottle.

[h/t MSN]

The Reason Toilet Paper Is Always White

Toilet paper keeps it simple.
Toilet paper keeps it simple.
gjohnstonphoto/iStock via Getty Images

It doesn't matter whether you grab it at Costco or Walmart or whether it's Cottonelle or Charmin. Toilet paper is always stark white, which makes every bit of residue from its selfless mission to clean one’s rear end visible. But assessing whether a proper wipe job has been done is not why toilet paper is white.

According to Reader’s Digest, toilet paper is made from cellulose fiber harvested from trees or recycled paper and then mixed with water to create wood pulp. Manufacturers then bleach the pulp to remove the polymer lignin, a process that creates softer tissue. (Removing lignin also extends the life of the paper. With it, your tissue might age as poorly as newspaper.) Naturally, that same bleach also renders the pulp white. Otherwise, there would be brown streaks—and not the kind you’re thinking of. The glue holding the cellulose together is usually darker in color.

Obviously, white toilet paper makes it easier to determine when a person has finished cleaning up after themselves. But it’s not unheard of to find colored toilet tissue. In the 1950s, pastels were popular, with people looking to match the color of the paper with their bathroom design. Consumers picked up lavender and beige rolls until the 1980s, at which point concerns over skin irritation and possible environmental damage due to the dyes saw them disappear from the market. Other countries, like South America and Europe, offer toilet paper in different colors. In France, even scented toilet paper can be found on shelves, which seems like it would be a losing battle considering what the fragrance is up against.

As festive as that all sounds, Americans seem to be pleased with white bathroom tissue. Considering dyes only add to the cost, it would be like flushing money down the toilet.

[h/t Reader’s Digest]

What Does 'State of Emergency' Really Mean?

Firefighters battle a state of emergency.
Firefighters battle a state of emergency.
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Local and state officials across the U.S. are declaring states of emergency in their efforts to manage the coronavirus pandemic. Some entire countries, including Italy and Japan, have also declared a state of emergency. But what does this phrase really entail?

Local and State Response

The answer varies a bit from state to state. Essentially, declaring a state of emergency gives the governor and his or her emergency management team a bit of extra latitude to deal with a situation quickly and with maximum coordination. Most of these powers are straightforward: The governor can close state offices, deploy the National Guard and other emergency responders, and make evacuation recommendations.

Other powers are specific to a certain situation. For example, in a blizzard, a governor can impose travel restrictions to clear roads for snowplows and other emergency vehicles.

Calling in the Feds

If a disaster is so severe that state and local governments don’t have the cash or the logistical ability to adequately respond, the governor can ask for a declaration of a federal emergency. In this case, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) does a preliminary damage assessment to help determine whether the governor should petition the president for a federal emergency declaration.

When the declaration from the president comes through, state and local governments can get funding and logistical help from the feds. What makes a crisis a federal emergency? The list is pretty broad, but FEMA shares some criteria here.

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