Health News

kitzcorner/iStockBy DR. L. NEDDA DASTMALCHI, ABC News

(NEW YORK) -- Prior to COVID-19, Dr. Julia Few, director of the Dartmouth-Hitchcock Moms in Recovery Program, gathered a group of women in a small room, joined together by the struggles of motherhood while battling opioid addiction. These women learned from each other, grew with each other, through an intensive three-hour session three times a week.

Now, because of the pandemic, these women have lost this important community. These sessions are hard to replicate on Zoom, and for many with unreliable internet access that's not an option anyway.

"Women with substance-use disorders, particularly in rural areas, face a lot of barriers to telehealth access," Few said. "Many of these women don't have cell reception or high-speed internet."

With the pandemic putting programs like these on hiatus, patients like Megan, who has been with Moms in Recovery, was relieved when the program started up again virtually. (She declined to give her full name for privacy reasons.)

"When groups did start going virtual, I started to feel like myself again and getting back on track," Megan said. "I am worried about the people I was close with in the program who cannot attend anymore, because it is not a question of 'if,' it's a question of 'when.'"

Secondary repercussions in health as a result of the pandemic have been profound. Three times as many people reported battling depression, and there have been more deaths from opioid overdose. Additionally, a recent peer-reviewed study found an increased susceptibility to complications from COVID-19 infection among patients struggling with substance abuse.

"I know at least one or two [people] a month who have died since July [from opioid overdose]," Megan explained. "I am just worried about the kids. The next generation all the kids will share something -- a parent who died from overdose."

Group visits for treating substance abuse and mental health disorders is not a novel idea. These programs, by creating a common bond and sense of unity, can help heal patients facing similar physical and emotional struggles.

Dr. Chanel Heermann, the director and an integrative psychiatrist at SynerGenius Telepresence and an assistant professor of psychiatry at the University of Colorado School of Medicine, finds that in-person group therapy can be helpful for many people who suffer from mental illnesses, especially among patients who battle depression and suffer from social anxiety.

"One of the great gifts that groups offer us is the realization that we have so much more in common as human beings who suffer than the diagnostic or demographic differences that divide us," she said. "That realization -- of not being alone -- can be profoundly healing."

Tawny Jones, an administrator at the Cleveland Clinic Center for Functional Medicine, said that chronic diseases don't occur in isolation. About 1 in 4 people have chronic diseases driven by modifiable lifestyle factors, including nutrition, physical activity and substance abuse. As a result of these "unifying" contributors to ill health, group visits are an excellent alternative to traditional care delivery models in dealing with chronic disease and mental health disorders.

"Group visits allow more time with practitioners to improve a patient's medical literacy and understanding of their treatment plan," Jones said. "There is also peer-to-peer sharing that can elicit information from patients that the physician may not be able to get in an individual setting, which leads to a healthy sense of pressure and motivation from peers to actively manage their condition and adhere to treatment plans."

Megan said she feels privileged to have the ability to continue her therapy virtually via Moms in Recovery, but experts have said they fear for those without similar digital access.

Dr. Andrew Myers, director of the Cleveland Clinic Community Care, agreed that the reliance on telemedicine and virtual care has led to an increase in the health care access disparities.

"Not all patients have the technical expertise or logistical support needed to fully utilize virtual care," Myers said. "The growing reliance on virtual care during this pandemic has heightened the impact of this divide."

Moms in Recovery and the Cleveland Clinic have made salient efforts to help alleviate this.

"We are actively working with community partners to mitigate this divide by extending broadband access into some of the underserved neighborhoods around our campuses," Myers explained. "More work is underway to further mitigate this divide."

Even for those with access to telemedicine, many chronic conditions, such as depression, still are better treated with in-person care, Heermann noted.

"I do believe that physical touch is critical for helping people recover from depression," she said. "For patients who live alone, those who are single, those without children or other nearby family, this can be a real concern, especially during this difficult period."

Copyright © 2020, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


bymuratdeniz/iStockBy KATIE KINDELAN, ABC News

(NEW YORK) -- After struggling for years with disordered eating and more recently a severe eating disorder, Kwolanne Dina Felix, a college junior in New York City, realized early this year that the eating disorder had taken over her life and she was ready to seek recovery.

Then, the coronavirus pandemic hit the United States and, like so many others with eating disorders, Felix saw her condition spiral out of control.

"I tried to go into the pandemic with a sense of recovery, but that wasn't really the case," she told ABC News' Good Morning America. "Eating disorders are about routine and control and I was in a place where I was completely out of control."

"When the world is spiraling out of control, I felt like the only control I had was whether to not eat ice cream," Felix explained. "I found myself being a lot more restrictive ... I really doubled down on my habits."

Felix, 21, said the stay-at-home orders and strict social distancing brought on by the pandemic also stripped her of the social support that may have helped her eating disorder recovery in more normal times.

Stuck in isolation in New York City, she described having a "crippling fear" about weight gain, brought on in part by the "COVID 15" and "COVID 19" weight gain memes that circulated on social media.

"The 'COVID 15' was such widespread hysteria," Felix said. "I had to unfollow people and celebrities who were talking about that."

During the height of the pandemic, Felix said she did her best by following body positive accounts on social media and relying on virtual support through sites like The Unplug Collective, a platform that allows Black women to speak openly about mental health and body discrimination.

Social media influencer Charli D'Amelio, 16, a TikTok star, opened up about her own eating disorder during the pandemic. When she included a swipe-up link to the National Eating Disorder Association (NEDA), the association saw a 300% increase in website traffic, according to a spokesperson.

"I've always tried to use my voice when it comes to issues surrounding body image, but I've never talked about my own struggles with eating disorders," D'Amelio shared in an Instagram story earlier this month. "It's so uncomfortable to admit to even your closest friend and family, let alone the world. I've been afraid to share that i have an eating disorder, but ultimately i hope that by sharing this i can help someone else."

"I know disorders are something that so many other people are also battling behind closed doors," she added.

Throughout the coronavirus pandemic, the NEDA has reported a spike of more than 70% in the number of calls and online chat inquiries to its hotline compared to the same time period last year.

"This has been a time of heightened anxiety for everyone," NEDA's CEO Claire Mysko told GMA. "For people with eating disorders, either those who are actively struggling or those who are pursuing recovery, there's an added stressor with the pandemic."

Jillian Lampert, Ph.D., chief strategy officer of The Emily Program, a national network of eating disorder treatment centers, said the program has seen inquiries both online and by phone "fly off the charts" during the pandemic.

"We're seeing people calling now in a more acute, intense stage [of an eating disorder]," she said. "So we're seeing not only are more people calling, but more people are calling in a more crisis situation."

The nature of the pandemic, with its uncertainty and isolation, makes it one that "checks every box" for putting people at a higher risk for eating disorders, according to Lampert.

Mysko points to the isolating nature of the pandemic -- which has forced people to stay home and forced eating disorder treatments to go virtual -- as a particularly damaging element.

"We know that eating disorders strive with isolation," she said. "The public health guidelines with social distancing really stand in contrast to what we learn in recovery, which is all about connection and standing outside of that isolation."

In addition to isolation, the pandemic has brought on issues of food insecurity and fears for people, a disruption from norms and routines, stress related to job and financial woes and social pressure to reinvent one's self during quarantine, all of which can be contributing factors to eating disorders, experts say.

The pandemic has also brought on a mental health crisis in the U.S., of which eating disorders are a major part, according to Mysko.

"Eating disorders are very complex mental health issues with a strong relation to anxiety, depression, past histories of trauma and substance abuse," she said. "We really need to talk about them as part of this mental health crisis."

Felix -- who sought in-person treatment once New York City began to reopen -- said she learned firsthand during the pandemic that her eating disorder was a mental health concern, one that was taking over her life.

"When people talk about eating disorders, they talk about it like it's a diet," said Felix. "It's like, no, eating disorders have [one of] the highest mortality rates of any mental health disorder."

Eating disorders are second only to opioid overdose as the deadliest mental illness, with eating disorders responsible for one death every 52 minutes in the United States, according to data shared by the National Association of Anorexia Nervosa and Associated Disorders.

Eating disorders are treatable, especially if treatment is sought early, which is why, despite the alarming spike in inquiries, Mysko is glad to see so many people reaching out for help.

"We often hear from people who have waited a very long time [to seek help] because they don't feel their experience is validated or it doesn't fit into the stereotypical narrative," she said. "If you've never been in treatment or never reached out for help, that can be scary."

"We want to stress that there is help out there. There are options. There is support," added Mysko. "Recovery is not canceled."

If you or someone you know is battling an eating disorder, contact the National Eating Disorders Association (NEDA) at 1-800-931-2237 or

Copyright © 2020, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


frantic00/iStockBy ANGELINE JANE BERNABE, ABC News

(NEW YORK) -- When Tavi Kaunitz and Tom Lerner had to postpone their May wedding due to the coronavirus pandemic, it was stressful and upsetting for the couple, who had spent nearly a year planning their dream ceremony.

"We'd already been in the throes of planning, and you just get excited for it," Lerner told ABC News' Good Morning America. "That time was really tough and stressful."

Kaunitz and Lerner, from California, are one of many couples from all across the country who were planning on getting married in 2020, but instead quickly had to pivot, decide on a new date and rethink what their celebrations would look like.

"There was a lot of disappointment and a lot of fear about what their new wedding was going to look like," said wedding planner Victoria Holland, founder and CEO of Victoria Ann Events in Los Angeles, who worked with Kaunitz and Lerner. "For my weddings that were in May, I told them they needed to make a decision sooner than later because we needed to come up with a plan B. I think the best thing was [for us] that we were at the first line of defense right away."

The couple rescheduled for April 2021.

Event planners Neha Shah and Amanda Mendez of Blue Lotus Insights in Orange County, California, took a similar approach by creating multiple backup plans for their couples with bigger weddings.

Shah had a list of several alternative options for couples to cut down on guest lists or pivot to an outdoor wedding versus an indoor one.

While most of their couples postponed their weddings until next year, Holland, Shah and Mendez are all starting to pick up planning again with their clients, as 2021 is just around the corner. Unfortunately, with the timing of a COVID-19 vaccine still in flux, couples still have many questions.

Wedding planners are being asked by their clients how the wedding industry is going to look in 2021, but "unfortunately we know as much as anybody else does at this point that we don't know what's going to happen," Shah said.

Shah's main piece of advice for couples planning a wedding is to prepare for any roadblocks that could happen due to COVID-19.

To help other couples who have postponed their wedding to next year, Shah, Mendez and Holland all shared their top tips on what to consider when planning their special day.

Here are their top 10 pieces of advice for couples who have postponed their weddings to 2021:

1. Check to see if events are being rescheduled near your venue

Holland's first piece of advice for couples who have postponed their weddings to next year is to see when events in the city you're having your wedding have been rescheduled to. Check the city's visitor bureau to get an idea, she suggested.

"A lot of couples here in Los Angeles get married in Palm Springs," said Holland. "You definitely don't want to pick Coachella weekend for your wedding or Stagecoach weekend for your wedding because a lot of hotels are completely booked and restaurants [too]."

2. Research your local ordinances

For couples who have opted for a smaller wedding in 2021 and are having the event in their backyard, Shah suggests taking a look at your local ordinances. Different counties have their own set of rules and regulations and some counties might be more relaxed or strict than others when it comes to loud music, gatherings and more.

"If you know your local ordinances, and then are able to move around those ordinances within different counties, that can also be really helpful," she said. "With that comes safety tips. Those counties will recommend what the minimum and maximum safety tips are, which will help you navigate your wedding day itself."

3. Ask your vendors for referrals

One of the big things couples are experiencing after they've postponed their weddings is having to pick out new vendors, so Holland suggests couples ask vendors if they have any friends or people they know that they can refer you to.

"If you're looking for a photographer and your original was this beautiful, light and air, and you're looking for another one that can do that same style, ask [your photographer] them if they have any referrals," said Holland.

4. Ask your vendors about their deposit policy -- and negotiate

Planning a wedding is stressful, and one of the things that can be daunting for couples to do is putting deposits down for a wedding that may or may not happen next year amid the ongoing pandemic.

"We understand very intimately that it's money that's being put down and you don't know if that money will come to fruition or those services will come to fruition because we don't know what 2021 is going to look like," said Shah.

Ask what the deposit, postponement, cancellation and refund policies are for all your vendors. According to Shah, many vendors are agreeing to smaller deposit amounts because they also understand the uncertainty of planning a wedding during these times.

5. Read over contracts with your vendors

Holland suggests thoroughly reading contracts for each of your vendors and make sure all dates match on each contract to avoid any mixups from happening.

"Read all the addendums that are in the contracts because sometimes there's things that you might not really want to agree to," she said. "Once you sign on that dotted line, you're locked in."

6. Safety first! Sanitizing stations, matching masks and more

Now more than ever, it's so important to stay safe. Mendez suggests that guests wear masks at next year's wedding celebrations and hand sanitizing stations are made available for them throughout the venue. One way to make this stylish is to custom-make hand sanitizing bottles that fit with your decorations and even custom-make face masks for your guests.

"This is the time that we're living in right now, so you got to make the best of it," she said.

Another addition that Shah suggests couples consider for their weddings next year is to have a COVID compliance officer. Many film productions in Southern California have designated a COVID compliance officer who will do a quick assessment of guests and perform temperature checks before they enter the event.

7. Ask your guests to take COVID tests

While it may feel strange to ask guests to take COVID tests before attending your wedding, Holland said it's not an odd question to ask.

"Don't feel funny about asking your guests to get COVID tested," said Holland. "Depending on what your situation is, you can try to take some of the costs of a COVID test. You want your wedding to be enjoyable and the best way for it to be enjoyable is to know that everyone is healthy."

8. Think of new ways to serve food

How to serve food in a safe but celebratory way is one of the things at the top of wedding planners and caterers' lists. With buffet and family-style meals in limbo, Holland has seen caterers use covers for food that go with the decor, individualized hors d'oeuvres and pre-made drinks where there are less hands on the food or drinks that are being picked up.

9. Create smaller guest lists in case you need to scale down

Although couples are considering smaller weddings with a limited guest list these days, it can be tough for couples whose cultures celebrate the occasion with people beyond their immediate families. So, if the time comes that your wedding needs to shift to a smaller event, Shah suggests that you prepare smaller guest lists.

"Let's come up with 25, 50, 75, 100 person guest lists. Specifically, when it comes to saying only 25 people and then scrambling to cut people makes it a little harder," said Shah.

10. Take a deep breath

While this time can be stressful, Holland is reminding couples to take a deep breath.

"Don't get yourself crazy about what you originally thought your day was going to look like," she said. "Enjoy the engagement portion, which a lot of people don't get to do because they get right into wedding planning."

Copyright © 2020, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


matimix/iStockBy LAURA ROMERO, ABC News

(NEW YORK) -- Every morning, before making breakfast, Chris Tyndorf looks at a sign on the kitchen wall that has become his family's motto: "God, Family, Football."

For more than 10 years, Tyndorf’s 14-year-old son has been playing football and during that time family vacations and work schedules have revolved around daily practice, weight and agility training, and games on the weekend. But as businesses and facilities began to close down as coronavirus ravaged his home state of New York in late March, football practice, a sacred family routine for Tyndorf’s son, came to a screeching halt. As the state of New York began to reopen in late July, football remained sidelined, deemed too risky by health officials.

But now, with the fall season approaching, Tyndorf, along with other parents, is objecting. He said he's preparing a lawsuit against New York State and the governing athletic association to allow fall football.

"I got tired so I decided to do something about it," Tyndorf told ABC News.

Should Tyndorf go ahead with the suit, he wouldn't be the first. At least a handful of similar suits over youth sports reportedly have been filed already in different areas of the country. The legal efforts follow the #letthemplay hashtag parents coined and which has spread as a popular rallying cry for parents and students eager to play sports during the fall.

Legal experts told ABC News the debate is likely only to get louder, and come with more lawsuits, as the fall athletic season begins with some football fields, baseball diamonds and hockey rinks empty.

Amid the pandemic, sports -- especially organized team sports with players in close contact -- could present a serious risk of coronavirus transmission, according to medical experts. But for many American parents like Tyndorf, youth sports have become a central focus of weekend free time, a building block of social interaction, and, in some cases, a path to college or the embodiment of even bigger dreams.

"We know we are not alone," said Tyndorf. "Families all over the country are fighting to get our kids back out there."

The state of New York did not respond to a request for comment for this report, and the New York State Public High School Athletic Association declined to comment. State guidance said football practices could start next week, but still no games are allowed.

Dr. Robert Glatter, an emergency physician at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York, told ABC News that he thought organized group sports are "problematic at best" -- at least until a viable vaccine is available.

"While students gain significant health benefits from playing group sports, they also constitute a chain of transmission that places all athletes, coaches, family and friends at risk for COVID-19," Glatter said. "The bottom line is this: we need to wait until an effective vaccine is widely available before we can safely allow organized sports at all levels of competition to go forward. One death is too many."

With the coronavirus pandemic still widespread and a death toll topping 200,000, parents are being forced to weigh the value of the sports for their children and themselves against the new health risks they could pose. For some, the choice has not been an easy one.

"I did not want to go through this process," said Paul Berry III, a father of a high school senior athlete who filed a lawsuit last Thursday in Missouri to overturn St. Louis County's restrictions on youth sports. The lawsuit filed by Berry claims that because of the restrictions in place, athletes, especially those of color, will be at a disadvantage to obtain scholarship and grant money.

"These restrictions are putting athletes of color in a horrible position for them to get scholarships," Berry told ABC News. "Their performance during their junior and senior year is vital. I'm definitely in support of health and safety but there's been a failure of our leadership and our kid's futures are being affected by these decisions."

"We can keep coronavirus under control," added Berry. "With the right regulations, student-athletes can go back to being part of a team and being happy."

Nadav Shoked, a professor of law at Northwestern University School of Law, said he expects to see more lawsuits and added that he's been "somewhat surprised" over the success of similar suits brought by churches and gyms against local coronavirus restrictions.

The federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention offers detailed "guiding principles" for youth sports organizations who decide to go ahead with practices and games -- like considering the "physical closeness of players" and outbreaks in the local area when assessing risk. But if permitted by state or local coronavirus restrictions, which can vary from state to state and sport to sport, the decision to go forward falls to the organizations or school districts themselves. The result has been a patchwork of policies affecting children and parents across the nation.

Dr. Jay Bhatt, an ABC News contributor and former chief medical officer of the American Hospital Association, said he was worried about the risks that some sports pose.

"Sports that allow for individual participation and distancing like golf, tennis, or running are going to be less risky than sports that involve a lot of close contact like basketball, football, and soccer," said Bhatt. "Postponing a sporting event can be a difficult thing but has to be done to keep people safe."

Glatter, the Lennox Hill physician, added that many schools don't have the resources that professional leagues do to take precautions like daily testing and facilities that allow for outsized social distancing.

"The majority of middle and high school sports programs aren't financially or operationally able to perform frequent rapid COVID testing to assure the safety of students participating in such programs," Glatter told ABC News. "This places teachers and all family members at elevated risk for not only acquiring COVID-19 but transmitting it to others in the community."

Jeremi Duru, a law professor at American University Washington College of Law, said he was not surprised by the lawsuits that have been filed and he, too, expects more to come, considering how "politicized the threat posed by the coronavirus" has become.

"Even without a declared state of emergency, authority to order quarantine or, in this case, restrict public gatherings like youth sporting events generally exists and if a governor declares a formal state of emergency on health grounds, that authority exists too," Duru told ABC News. "But the authority requires that the restriction be rooted in something tangible – that there exists a need for the restriction. And that is where the rubber meets the road with these lawsuits. Those who are suing are essentially arguing the threat is not great enough to justify the state's use of its authority to restrict activity."

In Ohio, Tom Sunderman, the president of the Southwest Ohio Basketball, joined local sports complexes to file a lawsuit against the state department of health and the Warren County Health District in June. Two months later, they were granted a preliminary injunction, which allowed the league to resume, for now.

"We were able to show that we could open up basketball in a safe way," said Sunderman. "We are following social distancing guidelines and we have implemented temperature checks and the entire facility gets sanitized every night."

"Our kids are happy and everyone is safe," Sunderman added.

Copyright © 2020, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.



(HELSINKI) -- They say you can't teach an old dog new tricks, but trainers in Finland claim 8-year-old greyhound mix Kössi learned to identify a scent associated with COVID-19 in just seven minutes.

Helsinki Airport welcomed Kössi and nine other "coronavirus-sniffing dogs" as part of a pilot program this week meant to "speed up the process of identifying those infected with COVID-19."

"We are among the pioneers," Helsniki Airport director Ulla Lettijeff said. "As far as we know, no other airport has attempted to use canine scent detection on such a large scale against COVID-19."

Four dogs will work at the airport during a shift, but passengers getting tested will not have direct contact with the dogs.

They will be prompted to swipe their skin with a wipe and drop it into a cup, which is then given to the dog to smell.

"The service is mainly intended for passengers arriving from outside the country," Susanna Paavilainen, CEO of WiseNose Ry, University of Helsinki's DogRisk research, explained.

The airport said that according to preliminary tests conducted by a research group at the Faculty of Veterinary Medicine at the University of Helsinki, "dogs are able to smell the virus with almost 100% certainty."

In the U.S., testing is still underway to determine if dogs can truly sniff out the coronavirus. The University of Pennsylvania's School of Veterinary Medicine (Penn Vet) launched a pilot study in April that would take a group of dogs and expose them to COVID-19-positive saliva and urine samples in a laboratory setting.

Once the dogs learned the odor, investigators would then see whether or not the animals can discriminate between COVID-19 positive and negative samples in a lab setting, according to Penn Vet.

While the results of the study have not yet been released, Penn Vet called it "pioneering" saying it "sets the stage for dogs to be a force multiplier in the mission to detect COVID-19, particularly among asymptomatic patients, or hospital or business environments where testing is most challenging."

Both the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) and U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) told ABC News they are not training their canines to detect COVID-19.

Copyright © 2020, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


ajcespedes/iStockBy KELLY MCCARTHY, ABC News

(NEW YORK) -- As people prepare to dig into their favorite Halloween candy, there's one treat with a new consumption warning for adults.

According to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, eating black licorice in excessive amounts can prompt low potassium levels and trigger a series of irregularities and health issues.

"If you're 40 or older, eating 2 ounces of black licorice a day for at least two weeks could land you in the hospital with an irregular heart rhythm or arrhythmia," the FDA said in a statement about the candy that contains glycyrrhizin (glycyrrhizic acid) -- the sweetening compound derived from licorice root.

Alexandra Lambert, D.O., M.P.H., an ABC News Medical Unit contributor, explained that the compound can be found in other candies and supplements, but it's most commonly seen in the old-school candy with a distinct anise aroma.

"This case may be an extreme example of the deleterious effects of black licorice as there are not many other cases in the literature," Lambert added.

"Not all licorice-flavored foods contain this compound," she said. "Glycyrrhizin can cause low potassium levels in the body which can lead to abnormal heart rhythms, high blood pressure, swelling, lethargy and congestive heart failure in some people."

In some cases, Lambert added, abnormal heart rhythms could be fatal.

While many products with licorice don't disclose how much of it is contained per ounce, the FDA regulates that soft candy can only contain up to 3.1% glycyrrhizic acid.

Black licorice can "interact with some medications, herbs and dietary supplements," Lambert continued. "Experts believe that potassium levels usually return to normal without causing permanent health problems when consumption of black licorice stops."

According to the National Institutes of Health, the root of the low-growing shurb that's native to South Africa has a "long history of use as a folk or traditional remedy in both Eastern and Western medicine."

Although the NIH cites some cases of use for treatment of heartburn, stomach ulcers, bronchitis, sore throat, cough and some infections caused by viruses, the agency said, "there are insufficient data available to determine if licorice is effective in treating any medical condition."

For big black licorice fans, the FDA recommends the following advice: "No matter what your age, don't eat large amounts of black licorice at one time. If you have been eating a lot of black licorice and have an irregular heart rhythm or muscle weakness, stop eating it immediately and contact your health care provider. Black licorice can interact with some medications, herbs and dietary supplements. Consult a health care professional if you have questions about possible interactions with a drug or supplement you take."

Copyright © 2020, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


Courtney IlarrazaBy GENEVIEVE SHAW BROWN, ABC News

(NEW YORK) -- When Courtney Ilarraza's minivan was totaled by a car traveling 60 mph on the three-mile trip from the beach to her home in Brooklyn, New York, her three children walked away unscathed.

Despite the intensity of the collision, the then-3-year-old in a five-point harness was just fine.

"I remember buckling her in and she was saying the straps were too tight," Ilarraza told Good Morning America. "But I told her that's how it was supposed to be."

This week is Child Passenger Safety Week, which focuses on the proper use of car safety seats for children.

Ilarraza, who runs Baby Bodyguards, a baby-proofing company that also offers clinics and private sessions on proper installation of car seats, told GMA that the car seat itself is less important than how it's installed. She is also a certified passenger safety technician.

"All car seats manufactured in the U.S. are held to the same crash-test standards," she said. "The difference is the bells and whistles, some of which have to do with the ease of installation." For example, the Britax Click Tight has a light that turns green when the seat is installed properly. "It's super user friendly," she said.

"Someone like me can get a less expensive seat because I know how to thread the straps and how to install it properly," Ilarraza told GMA. But when she makes recommendations, she said, she does advise parents to buy the seats that make it crystal clear they've been installed properly."

"Installation is crucial," she said. "Say you get your car seat professionally installed the first time it goes in the car, but then your kids throws up in it and you need to remove it to clean it. You want a seat that anyone can put back in the car correctly and safely."

Technology has come a long way, she said.

The American Academy of Pediatrics changed its car seat recommendations in 2018 to keep children in rear-facing seats as long as possible. It had previously suggested rear-facing until the age of 2.

"It's based on size rather than age," Ilarraza said. "And that varies between each manufacturer."

As for specific car seat recommendations, Ilarraza said the Britax Click Tight, the Uppababy Mesa and the Graco 4ever all-in-one are all easy to install. Once the child is in the seat, it's important the chest piece goes across the nipple line. "It's the perfect position to absorb impact," she said.

Finally, never use a second-hand seat, Ilarraza advised. "You don't know the history of the seat," she said, and "any seat involved in a car accident needs to be discarded and replaced."

More expert tips from Alisa Baer, known as The Car Seat Lady:

"In my 22 years experience helping parents install more than 15,000 car seats, the most common mistakes I see are 'loose and lose,' the car seat is installed too loosely in the car, and the harness straps are too loose on the child's body," Baer told "GMA." She sent her top three tips for safe car seat installation.

1. Installation: My inside/outside technique can help parents achieve a tighter installation with the majority of car seats on the market -- both rear and forward-facing. And, using the vehicle seat back recline trick in combination with the inside/outside technique can provide additional help getting the car seat tight with less of a workout required.

2. Harnessing (which is installing the child in the seat...):
When buckling a child, parents often don't realize that moving the chest clip up to armpit level is the final step, and that while tightening the straps you want to keep the chest clip low, and pull upwards on the chest straps to gather the slack and then pull the tail to remove the slack.

3. Tethers:
Every forward-facing car seat -- where the child uses a five-point harness as their restraint -- has a tether strap that secures the top of the car seat to an anchor in the back of the vehicle. Every forward-facing car seat is safer when the tether is used. Regardless of whether the forward-facing car seat is installed with the lower anchors (LATCH) or seat belt, always use the tether. Tethers decrease how far forward the child's head moves in a crash by at least 4-6 inches, which greatly reduces the risk of brain and spinal cord injury. Not sure where the tether anchors are in your vehicle? Check here!

Copyright © 2020, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


martin-dm/iStockBy SASHA PEZENIK, ABC News

(NEW YORK) -- Before the COVID-19 pandemic pushed systemic inequalities and unprecedented stress levels to a breaking point, a crisis in American mental health already loomed.

New data released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's National Center for Health Statistics surveying nearly 32,000 adults and 6,800 children across more than 33,000 households reveals that in 2019 women were more likely to experience symptoms of depression and anxiety than men, and more likely to receive counseling or therapy, or take prescription medication, to promote their mental health.

While white and Black adults reported experiencing symptoms of depression equally, white adults were more likely to receive concurrent mental health treatment. Hispanic adults were the least likely to have received any mental health treatment.

"It's a definite disparity we noticed," Emily Terlizzi, study co-author and health statistician at the NCHS, told ABC News. "These are good pre-COVID benchmarks, and we want to look now and see, do they change in 2020?"

Who needs help -- and who is getting it -- has become even more imperative during a global health emergency. Experts say the solution must first address a structural imbalance in who feels they have the right to ask for support.

"Even outside of the pandemic, women seem to be uniquely vulnerable to depression," said Dr. Pooja Lakshmin, a clinical assistant professor of psychiatry at George Washington University School of Medicine who specializes in women's mental health. "I think there's more permission for women to say, 'Hey, I need help.' That framework exists for women in a way where for men it's much harder to do that. But at the same time, there are still gaps in our mental health system."

Black and Brown communities especially have faced a centuries-long climb toward health equity, experts say.

"You're not supposed to tell strangers your secrets," Alysha Pamphile, 34, a Haitian American video producer based in New Jersey, told ABC News. "There's such a taboo around therapy, and the space of being vulnerable, a sense of weakness, when in fact, it's quite the opposite. But we weren't given the language to do that; we hadn't been allowed that grace."

"The root structure of psychology, and much of what's been baked into even the foundations of mental health, has been stigmatizing and not at all supportive in meeting the needs of communities of color. Beyond that, it is just a very foreign concept," Dr. Joy Harden Bradford, a clinical psychologist based in Atlanta, told ABC News.

She founded "Therapy for Black Girls," a blog meant to make space for Black women to talk about their mental health.

"We convince ourselves we're supposed to be unbreakable even if we're hurting," Bradford said. "So we need to instill that it's OK to not be OK for communities of color -- but even more importantly, to realize when that's so and actively seek support."

Normalizing mental health treatment and availing it to those in need begins with fleshing out an emotional lexicon for groups that have long been left out of the conversation, experts say. Women may be more likely to experience symptoms of depression, but they also may be more likely to admit it. A Black man may not feel equipped to ask for help, even if he feels the need.

"What existed pre-COVID, and certainly exists now, is still tremendous cultural mistrust, on behalf of not just African Americans, but other racially ethnically marginalized people," Dr. Rheeda Walker, professor of psychology at the University of Houston and author of The Unapologetic Guide to Black Mental Health, told ABC News.

"And the way that we assess depression could allow us to miss depression -- in men, for example," Walker said. "And then also, men tend not to use emotional words as much as women do or disclose how they're feeling."

And symptoms can present uniquely: psychosomatic pain can be the body's sly way of indexing emotions we don't feel comfortable feeling.

"Anxiety could show up as a headache or a stomach ache, and you don't necessarily connect it to mental health," Bradford said. "We don't want to show the world we're weak, so that means that we can even have a hard time recognizing for ourselves when we have reached a breaking point."

Now amid a global crisis mode, there is further stress on the groups most vulnerable to the virus itself, most vulnerable to its socioeconomic impact and yet least likely to receive mental health support.

"Pre-COVID, we've already seen nationally increasing anxiety, people feeling overwhelmed, people hurting," Walker said. "Coronavirus kind of puts all of that on steroids because of the level of disruption."

What COVID-19's ravages have compelled, experts say, is more candid confrontation of social injustice and mental health disparities.

"Parallel to this pandemic has been this racial awakening, and I think now we're forced to stare it down," Pamphile said. "And I was forced to meet myself. It's been a beautiful as well as a traumatic experience. Now that we're forced to sit between our four walls, where there's nothing but mirrors -- on top of looking at the world wide web, social media, where we're seeing ourselves be murdered -- we have no choice but to start understanding that help is OK."

"This is not new human suffering, but now the importance of mental health in these contexts has been brought to people's attention in a way I haven't seen before," Lakshmin said. "What remains to be seen is whether we develop the resources to meet that need."

Copyright © 2020, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


smolaw11/iStockBy SOPHIE TATUM, ABC News

(NEW YORK) -- As concern grows among researchers about the extent to which the novel coronavirus might be transmitted through the air, advocates and educators said they have long been concerned about poor air circulation due to outdated ventilation systems.

In June, Terrie Brady, president of Duval Teachers United, walked through the halls of some of the schools in her Florida community, and said she saw "dirt hanging out of the air ducts."

"It was just filthy. So, if you have dirty air vents or air ducts in classrooms, you know that they haven't been cleaned," Brady told ABC News.

"It was an issue before COVID, but I think it's heightened under COVID," said Andrew Spar, president of the Florida Education Association.

A group that represents educators in Texas has been surveying members across the state regarding concerns related to COVID-19 safety procedures. Clay Robison of the Texas State Teachers Association said that as of Monday, the second-highest number of COVID-19-related complaints were for inadequate ventilation or ventilation equipment, behind complaints that schools did not make appropriate accommodations for high-risk employees.

"The inadequate ventilation or ventilation equipment part was cited 477 times out 788 respondents," Ovidia Molina, Texas State Teachers Association president, told ABC News in a phone interview.

"So, it's a really big concern. It's not just the complaints about having dirty filters that school districts can change out as soon as they've been told. But it's the sort of feeling of, you know, waiting until it's a problem to fix it," she said.

Molina said school districts in the state don't have the money to keep up with the changes that need to happen.

"We know that the ventilation systems are very expensive and they're one of the last things to be fixed. You know, pretty much until they get broken," Molina said.

Brady said Duval County, Florida, has some of the oldest schools in the state -- some buildings are 50 years or older. She said most of the air conditioning units are "so outdated and antiquated," that, "even if we wanted to get the specialized air filters that they have now to combat some of the particles, they won't even fit in our units and our handlers."

Brady said the group has pushed for the district to continuously clean out air ducts and air filters, but Brady said it is "absolutely" a concern for her district, noting that some teachers along with parents have purchased air purifying machines for their classrooms.

"Air purification is a big deal. And the thing is, is that's probably one of your most expensive expenditures you could possibly have," Brady said.

In June, a report released by the Government Accountability Office found that about half of public schools in the United States need to update or replace building systems, including about 36,000 school buildings that need updated heating, ventilation and air conditioning systems.

The report raised alarm bells at the time from House Education and Labor committee Chairman Bobby Scott, D-Va., who said, "Even before the COVID-19 pandemic, outdated and hazardous school buildings were undermining the quality of public education and putting students and educators at risk."

"Now, the pandemic is exacerbating the consequences of our failure to make necessary investments in school infrastructure," he said.

On Tuesday, White House Coronavirus Task Force member Dr. Anthony Fauci said it's a reasonable assumption that there is some aerosol transmission of the virus -- raising more questions about virus transmission in the classroom.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's guidance for safely reopening schools also advises ensuring that ventilation works properly, in addition to increasing outdoor air circulation when possible, by doing things like opening windows and doors.

However, Spar said that it's not as easy as just opening windows, either -- especially in Florida where it can get over 90 degrees.

"Just a week or two ago, we were had heat indexes of over 100 degrees," Spar said. "So, you know, opening a window or being outside is certainly not something that was advisable."

Because of this, Spar said schools rely on air conditioning units.

"And you hope that the air conditioning units have adequate filtration, that they're using high-quality filters. But unfortunately, in districts where money is tight, that's not always the case," he said.

Copyright © 2020, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


simon2579/iStockBy SONY SALZMAN, ABC News

(NEW YORK) -- Across the country, a small handful of scientists are brewing up their own homemade and unproven COVID-19 vaccines and giving them to friends, family and themselves.

These scientists hail from disparate groups. Some are shadowy and anonymous, while others are highly organized and Ivy-league affiliated.

"It's actually simpler than most recipes in home cookbooks," said Preston Estep, chief scientist and co-founder of a DIY effort backed by a Harvard geneticist.

Estep said he hopes that his group's unapproved vaccine, which is inhaled through a nasal spray, might give people sheltering at home more confidence and protection.

"In my view, it is unethical to tell people to wait two years for something that's available today," said another DIY proponent, entrepreneur and microbiologist, Johnny Stine, in an email to ABC News.

Still, another group says it won't name its handful of members for fear of Food and Drug Administration retribution.

These DIY groups are united in their belief that traditional vaccine development is too long and cumbersome, and society could have access to a potential vaccine now.

Six months into the COVID-19 pandemic, there are at least three vaccines from major pharmaceutical companies in late-stage trials, but we are still months away from having a vaccine widely available.

But there's one problem: none of these DIY enthusiasts know for sure if their vaccine actually protects people from COVID-19, or whether it's safe. And without carefully controlled experiments, they'll never find out.

"I'm not opposed to speed," Arthur Caplan, Ph.D., founding director of the division of medical ethics at New York University Langone Medical Center said. But the DIY vaccine effort, Caplan said, is "reckless, driving drunk."

Now, Caplan is among a growing chorus of bioethicists condemning the DIY vaccine movement.

"A DIY vaccine is a bad idea," said Dr. Ruth Faden, founder of the Johns Hopkins Berman Institute for Bioethics. "Unless -- and this is the big unless -- [it] was connected with some mechanism for moving this into the regular order."

The DIY nature of these experiments means no one is formally keeping track of what happens to people who take these vaccines -- whether they get sick, or if they're protected from coronavirus infection, explained Jennifer Miller, Ph.D., an assistant professor at Yale School of Medicine and founder of Bioethics International and the Good Pharma Scorecard.

That means we're gleaning little meaningful knowledge about whether the vaccines work, Miller said.

"One of the main reasons why it's OK to medically experiment on humans is the potential to create generalizable knowledge and advance the common good," Miller said.

But with DIY vaccines, there's no standard ethics review board -- a 21st century safeguard for human experimentation.

"Research on humans is never OK without an ethics review," said Miller. "People tend to think that ethics codes and regulations are for barbarians ... [but] those codes are for everybody. Even if you are a Nobel prize winner, you are not above the ethics codes."

The most recent critique, published Thursday in the journal Science, said these efforts are not only unethical, but if unproven vaccines are sold to consumers they also could also be illegal.

"Taking information that you found in some dark corner of the internet but using it to develop your own materials and needing to ship materials or reagents across state lines -- that is interstate commerce and is what triggers FDA oversight," lead author Jacob Sherkow, law professor at Illinois College of Law, said in a statement. "At that point, that's essentially where the FDA can stop you."

But the proponents of DIY vaccines argue that there's an ethical obligation to release a vaccine that can be used immediately even if unproven for efficacy and safety, rather than waiting for the traditional review process that includes a series of FDA-mandated safety and effectiveness studies that can take years to complete.

"I don't have the millions it takes to even get to the FDA [doorstep] nor would I have the patience to wait two years for a vaccine to a virus that was killing people today," said Stine, who made headlines in May when he was hit with an FDA warning letter for selling his DIY vaccine.

In June, the Washington attorney general filed a lawsuit against Stine, which he later settled without admitting wrongdoing, but he agreed to repay upon request any of the 30 people he had vaccinated.

Estep doesn't sell his vaccine, but believes bioethicists critical of the DIY movement "misunderstand the situation."

"All they are talking about is the risks, but that's a completely unbalanced perspective," Estep said. "They're not presenting the risks of not taking [a DIY vaccine] which are substantial and clear and happening every day."

But bioethicists warn the potential damage caused by DIY vaccines goes beyond each person who chooses to participate. These efforts could harm public trust, eroding the already fragile credibility of legitimately tested and vetted vaccines.

"Having a small group of scientists and their admirers develop something in the garage, so to speak, is just another avenue for having the public be leery of what is said about vaccines," said Caplan.

"Look, self-experimentation is an old and sometimes, in some circles, revered tradition in the ethics of research," Faden said. But "this is not like other kinds of do-it-yourself science. The stakes here are enormous. We can't get this wrong."

Copyright © 2020, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.



(NEW YORK) -- Younger people are more likely to believe false claims related to the novel coronavirus than older people, according to a new survey released Tuesday by a team of researchers at Harvard University, Rutgers University, Northeastern University and Northwestern University.

The survey of nearly 22,000 individuals from all 50 states comes as a slew of misinformation surrounding COVID-19 is spreading online as the pandemic rages on, and as health officials express worry over rising cases among younger Americans.

The researchers assessed respondents' acceptance of 11 of the most popular false claims that have been circulating in cyberspace and beyond since the beginning of the pandemic -- including that the disease was caused by humans eating bats, false prevention claims and more. It was conducted between Aug. 7 and 26.

People under the age of 25 had an 18% probability of believing a false claim, compared to only 9% of people over 65, the researchers found.

"Indeed, across the 11 false claims, we find a clear pattern: the older the age group, the lower the average level of belief in false claims," the study states.

Respondents in the age group of 25 to 44 were 17% likely to believe a false claim and the group of 45 to 64 had a 12% probability of believing a false claim.

The researchers also found insights into some of the most-believed false claims swirling among various age groups.

Some 28% of respondents under the age of 25 believed that humans originally contracted COVID-19 by eating bats, according to the survey. Only 6% of respondents age 65 or older believed that same false claim.

Moreover, 25% of respondents under the age of 25 believed that the virus was created in a Chinese weapons lab and that taking antibiotics protects against COVID-19.

Another troubling find was that 24% of those under 25 believed that only people over the age of 60 are at risk from COVID-19. This figure was slashed in half to 12% among those over 65.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released the results of a new study on Wednesday showing the demographic of people infected with COVID-19 has shifted significantly toward young people and away from older adults in recent months. The median age of those infected declined from 46 in May to 38 in August, according to the study, and 20% of all confirmed cases in July and August came from individuals 20 to 29 years old.

In June, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., put the blame on social media giants for many of the bogus COVID-19 claims, claiming they were even profiting off the misinformation.

Some have also blamed President Donald Trump, who has faced scrutiny from health officials and more for some of his false claims about the disease.

Copyright © 2020, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.



(NEW BRUNSWICK, N.J.) -- As the race for a safe and effective coronavirus vaccine continues, one manufacturer has announced a major step in the right direction.

American pharmaceutical company Johnson & Johnson said Wednesday it will be starting Phase 3 clinical trials, joining Moderna, Pfizer and AstraZeneca to become the fourth manufacturer affiliated with the U.S. government's Operation Warp Speed.

Phase 3 clinical trials mark an important sign of progress, as the trial is expanded to tens of thousands of volunteers and is generally the last phase before a product reaches the general public.

“Four COVID-19 vaccine candidates are in Phase 3 clinical testing in the United States just over eight months after SARS-CoV-2 was identified,” Dr. Anthony Fauci said in a statement.

“This is an unprecedented feat for the scientific community made possible by decades of progress in vaccine technology and a coordinated, strategic approach across government, industry and academia,” he said.

The trial, which will be funded jointly by the company and the U.S. government, will enroll over 60,000 participants in 215 locations across the U.S. and worldwide. This will make it the largest Phase 3 trial out of the four active vaccine candidates under Operation Warp Speed.

Johnson & Johnson also aims to accomplish several firsts in the vaccine arms race.

Its vaccine will be the first to require a single dose while its competitors use two doses to achieve the expected degree of immunity. Its storage requirements are also better-suited for an average doctor’s office or clinic, compared to Pfizer’s vaccine which needs deep-freeze storage.

“It is likely that multiple COVID-19 vaccine regimens will be required to meet the global need,” Fauci said. “The Janssen [Johnson and Johnson’s parent company] candidate has showed promise in early-stage testing and may be especially useful in controlling the pandemic if shown to be protective after a single dose.”

This vaccine uses an “adenovirus vector” -- a modified copy of a common cold virus to induce immunity to COVID-19.

Dave Harrison, M.D., is a pediatric cardiology fellow in Boston and a contributor to the ABC News Medical Unit.

Copyright © 2020, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


South_agency/iStockBy DR. LEAH CROLL and SONY SALZMAN, ABC News

(NEW YORK) -- More than 100 million COVID-19 tests have been performed in the United States, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's COVID Data Tracker.

But the true number of tests is unknown because of decentralized accounting and the fact that not all tests were created equally.

"Testing has always been at the heart of how we get out of COVID, because without insights into where infection is spreading, you're flying blind. Our response is heavily based on test results, in terms of which phase of reopenings we're in and whether we have to go into lockdown," said John Brownstein, an epidemiologist at Boston Children's Hospital and ABC News contributor.

The CDC only includes polymerase chain reaction, or PCR, tests in its count. These tests look for presence of the virus and are usually sent away from a doctor's office and processed in a large, centralized lab.

But increasingly, doctors' offices are offering a new generation of 15-minute rapid tests, which might not always be counted. A third type of test, antibody tests, also are excluded, but these tests show only if a person was previously infected -- not whether they're still contagious.

Keeping track of diagnostic testing at a national level is essential not only for accurately counting confirmed COVID-19 cases, but also for guiding our efforts to control the pandemic. Unfortunately, it seems that many states either don't report data from antigen testing to the CDC or are not keeping complete data on it.

There's no straightforward answer about whether rapid tests are counted, said Molly Polen, senior director of communications and public relations for the American Association for Clinical Chemistry. One of the most common types of rapid tests is called a nasal-swab-based antigen test -- not to be confused with an antibody test, which requires a blood sample.

"It looks like a number of states combine PCR and antigen testing, but same as with the antibody tests, not all states seem to report antigen test results," Polen added.

That's a problem because it means we may be significantly underestimating the number of people who have COVID-19 at any given time.

"There's a lot of confusion about what gets reported, when it gets reported and how it gets reported," Brownstein said.

Failure to report complete COVID-19 testing data goes against current federal guidelines, but just because doctor's offices across the country are required to report these newer "rapid" COVID test results does not mean they're actually doing so -- or doing so consistently.

The main problem is a lack of efficient and effective infrastructure for centralized data collection, said Blythe Adamson, an epidemiologist and former member of the White House Coronavirus Task Force.

"Different states may have different ways they operationalize clinical reporting to different health departments. CDC does not have a standardized infrastructure for all of this," Adamson said.

Keeping patchy testing data leaves public health officials in the dark as to the true burden of coronavirus-related disease in our country. Testing is the main tool for understanding community transmission, Brownstein added.

"So if there's testing but we don't have that data, that gives us major gaps in our understanding and it could force us into making public health decisions that are not aligned with the best possible evidence," he said.

The gap between the reported number and true number of COVID cases will only widen moving forward, as rapid antigen tests are rolled out by the millions.

Antigen tests are being used more and more because they're fast and cheap. They can produce a result in just a few minutes because they don't need to be processed in a lab, whereas PCR and antibody tests may take days. Antigen tests also are significantly less expensive.

There is even talk of using antigen tests at home, similar to pregnancy tests. That would mean we'd have to rely on regular people -- not health care professionals -- to report their own results, which could get complicated. What's more, many antigen tests results need to be confirmed with a PCR test, which could "open up a whole other Pandora's box," said Brownstein.

Testing needs to be ramped up to combat COVID-19, but data from testing needs to be more easily reportable and actionable -- more signals, less noise in the data.

"It requires more infrastructure and thought and care as we think about how to integrate all this data together," Adamson said.

Copyright © 2020, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.



(NEW YORK) -- As consumers trend toward health and wellness products, PepsiCo has plans to drift into the functional beverage sector with a new drink intended to help people catch some shut-eye.

Driftwell, which will be manufactured for e-commerce availability this December, "is a new enhanced water beverage designed to help you relax and unwind with L-Theanine to promote relaxation and de-stress," the company shared in a fact sheet with ABC News.

The spa-water inspired blackberry and lavender flavored non-carbonated, sugar-free, calorie-free beverage contains two main active ingredients known to help with sleep -- L-theanine and magnesium.

Dr. Leah Croll, a contributor to the ABC News Medical Unit, explained that both ingredients "are said to promote better sleep and help anxiety."

"We frequently prescribe magnesium or melatonin combination pills as sleep aids," she said, adding that magnesium has been studied more as an aid for cognition or anxiety than for sleep, but some studies have cited its potential as an effective sleep aid.

L-theanine, an amino acid sometimes found in teas and mushrooms, has fewer studies behind it than magnesium, Croll said.

Maya Feller, a registered dietitian nutritionist, told ABC News' Good Morning America that the more widely recognized nutrient and sleep promoter helps regulate nerves and muscles.

"Magnesium works by regulating neurotransmitters that send signals throughout the central nervous system," Feller explained. "The mineral is also involved in interactions between internal melatonin production and GABA (gamma-amniobutyric acid) production, both of which are involved in the regulation of the sleep wake cycle."

She explained that sleep aid manufacturers who use magnesium "know that this mineral is integral to hundreds of reactions within the body" and that having adequate levels of magnesium is "necessary for restful sleep."

Although Driftwell was developed before COVID-19, it's hitting shelves at a time when sleep is in short supply for many Americans who are struggling to adapt to work from home, burnout and stress during the pandemic.

About 45% of Americans reported lying awake at night because of stress and 21% report feeling more stress when they can’t sleep, according to the American Psychological Association.

"Americans are over-stressed and as a result have difficulty sleeping, but are often forced to choose between products with little efficacy or products that rely on heavy-handed ingredients meant to quickly put people asleep resulting in groggy aftereffects," a spokeswoman for PepsiCo and Driftwell told Good Morning America.

Individual dose needs for magnesium vary from person to person and can be affected by "substance use, age and overall health status," Feller said.

According to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), daily magnesium needs range between 310mg per day to 400 mg per day.

Feller reasoned that sleep supplements can help people meet their needed recommended intake, but said an excess of magnesium in "people who are sensitive" to it can cause unwanted gastrointestinal symptoms such as loose stools.

"In general, when choosing a sleep supplement look for ones without excess added sugars and unwanted ingredients such as preservatives and fillers," she suggested.

Feller has worked with a number of patients on what she called "sleep hygiene" and daily routines to help them get their bodies ready for bed.

Some of Feller's recommendations include setting a consistent bed time, turning screens off at least 60 minutes before bed, setting a time of day to consume the news -- ideally not to close to bed as it can be very stimulating -- and for those who are sensitive to caffeine, that they limit consumption to the early part of the day.

PepsiCo said it intends to "drive an essential wellness conversation in North America" with the understanding that relaxation and stress relief is a lifestyle shift for many consumers.

Driftwell comes in a 7.5-ounce mini can and will be available nationwide in a 10-pack online for a suggested retail price of $17.99.

Copyright © 2020, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


milehightraveler/iStockBy KARMA ALLEN, ABC News

(NEW YORK) -- With record wildfires raging throughout the West, public safety experts said it's critical for residents to protect their lungs from poor air quality.

Wildfire smoke is typically a harsh mix of gases and fine debris from scorching trees and plants, buildings and other material, according to the Centers for Disease and Control and Prevention.

The smoke can be harmful to both animals and humans, and people with preexisting lung conditions, children and pregnant women are especially at risk for becoming seriously ill from poor air quality. People with asthma are warned to keep their inhalers with them at all times when traveling to wildfire-prone areas.

Outdoor air pollution accounted for 4.2 million premature deaths worldwide -- mostly in low- or middle-income countries -- in 2016 due to stroke, heart disease, lung cancer and respiratory diseases, like asthma, according to the World Health Organization.

Here are a few simple tips from health experts on how to protect yourself from dangerous air pollution:

Monitor local air quality trackers

It's important to stay on top of daily air pollution forecasts in your area. Many cities provide forecasts to help residents navigate areas where air quality may be worse, especially neighborhoods where families were forced to evacuate due to wildfire danger.

Experts said online pollution tracking apps as well as local radio and TV weather reports are a good place to start. They also recommended the government's online tool at to check for daily air quality warnings.

Be sure to familiarize yourself with the Environmental Protection Agency's Air Quality Index, which runs from 0 to 500. The higher the AQI value, the greater the level of air pollution and the greater the health risks. Anything below 50 represents good air quality, while an AQI value over 300 represents hazardous air quality, according to the EPA.

The index is color-coded and divided into six categories, making it easy for people to quickly determine if air quality is approaching unhealthy levels in their area. Each category corresponds to a different level of health concern.

Limit outdoor exercise

While it may be easier said than done for some sports enthusiasts, avoiding heavy outdoor activities is key when pollution levels are on the rise. For those desperate to meet step counts for the day, experts said walking indoors in a shopping mall or jogging up and down the stairs at home can be just as beneficial as walking thorough the park.

Naturally, indoor gyms and at-home exercise machines are also healthy alternatives to outdoor workouts when air quality is low.

Avoid heavy traffic areas

Even when air quality forecasts are good, car fumes from busy roads and highways can also worsen surrounding air quality. Experts said pollution from busy roadways can be felt up to one-third of a mile away.

If you're looking to work out outdoors on days when forecasts permit, experts say it's best to stay as far from busy roadways as possible, especially if you live in high-pollution areas.

Step it up at school

In addition to limiting outdoor play for children, consider connecting with other parents and caregivers who are also interested in protection from the air quality.

Try forming groups among parents and adults to encourage indoor play when quality is low and ask school leaders to consider more energy efficient policies.

The EPA's Clean School Bus Campaign is one of several U.S. school initiatives aimed at cleaning up emissions.

Use energy efficiently

In general, try to conserve as much energy as possible at home to cut down on long-term air pollution. Electricity and other sources of energy are major contributors to air pollution, but experts say reducing energy use can help improve air quality over time by curbing greenhouse gas emissions.

It's also important to encourage those close to you to do their share as well. Visit the EPA's website for a few tips to save energy, and money, at home.

Copyright © 2020, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


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