Read Roald Dahl’s Heartbreaking 1986 Letter About the Importance of Vaccinations

Roald Dahl photographed in 1954.
Roald Dahl photographed in 1954.
Carl Van Vechten Collection, Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division // No Known Restrictions on Publication

In 1986, Roald Dahl set aside friendly giants, chocolate rivers, and all other whimsical fantasies to talk directly to parents about a real-life tragedy: the loss of his daughter, Olivia.

Olivia had passed away in November 1962 after a bout of measles that caused encephalitis, or brain swelling. She was only 7 years old, and her death left Dahl shocked and bereft; “Roald really almost went crazy,” his wife later told People. But while Olivia’s fatal illness had been devastating, it hadn’t exactly been preventable—a trusted measles vaccine wasn’t available at the time.

By the 1980s, that had changed. As Snopes reports, the UK had recently rolled out a vaccine for measles, mumps, and rubella (MMR), and many people were wary about potential side effects. So Dahl wrote a letter for the Sandwell Health Authority to explain how important it was that parents vaccinate their children.

Dahl began the missive by recounting Olivia’s sudden deterioration. “As the illness took its usual course I can remember reading to her often in bed and not feeling particularly alarmed about it,” he wrote. She had steadily improved when, one morning while twisting pipe-cleaners into animal shapes, Dahl realized that “her fingers and her mind were not working together and she couldn’t do anything.” He asked her if she was feeling all right, and she responded that she felt “all sleepy.”

“In an hour, she was unconscious,” he wrote. “In twelve hours she was dead.”

Dahl went on to address the general lack of awareness about how measles could cause deadly conditions like encephalitis, and he also included statistics to show how unlikely it would be for a child to contract harmful side effects from the vaccine.

“I should think there would be more chance of your child choking to death on a chocolate bar than of becoming seriously ill from a measles immunization,” he wrote. “So what on earth are you worrying about? It really is almost a crime to allow your child to go unimmunized.”

You can read the full letter on Roald Dahl’s website here.

[h/t Snopes]

12 Creative Ways to Spend Your FSA Money Before the Deadline

stockfour/iStock via Getty Images
stockfour/iStock via Getty Images

If you have a Flexible Spending Account (FSA), chances are, time is running out for you to use that cash. Depending on your employer’s rules, if you don’t spend your FSA money by the end of the grace period, you potentially lose some of it. Lost cash is never a good thing.

For those unfamiliar, an FSA is an employer-sponsored spending account. You deposit pre-tax dollars into the account, and you can spend that money on a number of health care expenses. It’s kind of like a Health Savings Account (HSA), but with a few big differences—namely, your HSA funds roll over from year to year, so there’s no deadline to spend it all. With an FSA, though, most of your funds expire at the end of the year. Bummer.

The good news is: The law allows employers to roll $500 over into the new year and also offer a grace period of up to two and a half months to use that cash (March 15). Depending on your employer, you might not even have that long, though. The deadline is fast approaching for many account holders, so if you have to use your FSA money soon, here are a handful of creative ways to spend it.

1. Buy some new shades.

Head to the optometrist, get an eye prescription, then use your FSA funds to buy some new specs or shades. Contact lenses and solution are also covered.

You can also buy reading glasses with your FSA money, and you don’t even need a prescription.

2. Try acupuncture.

Scientists are divided on the efficacy of acupuncture, but some studies show it’s useful for treating chronic pain, arthritis, and even depression. If you’ve been curious about the treatment, now's a good time to try it: Your FSA money will cover acupuncture sessions in some cases. You can even buy an acupressure mat without a prescription.

If you’d rather go to a chiropractor, your FSA funds cover those visits, too.

3. Stock up on staples.

If you’re running low on standard over-the-counter meds, good news: Most of them are FSA-eligible. This includes headache medicine, pain relievers, antacids, heartburn meds, and anything else your heart (or other parts of your body) desires.

There’s one big caveat, though: Most of these require a prescription in order to be eligible, so you may have to make an appointment with your doctor first. The FSA store tells you which over-the-counter items require a prescription.

4. Treat your feet.

Give your feet a break with a pair of massaging gel shoe inserts. They’re FSA-eligible, along with a few other foot care products, including arch braces, toe cushions, and callus trimmers.

In some cases, foot massagers or circulators may be covered, too. For example, here’s one that’s available via the FSA store, no prescription necessary.

5. Get clear skin.

Yep—acne treatments, toner, and other skin care products are all eligible for FSA spending. Again, most of these require a prescription for reimbursement, but don’t let that deter you. Your doctor is familiar with the rules and you shouldn’t have trouble getting a prescription. And, as WageWorks points out, your prescription also lasts for a year. Check the rules of your FSA plan to see if you need a separate prescription for each item, or if you can include multiple products or drug categories on a single prescription.

While we’re on the topic of faces, lip balm is another great way to spend your FSA funds—and you don’t need a prescription for that. There’s also no prescription necessary for this vibrating face massager.

6. Fill your medicine cabinet.

If your medicine cabinet is getting bare, or you don’t have one to begin with, stock it with a handful of FSA-eligible items. Here are some items that don’t require a prescription:

You can also stock up on first aid kits. You don’t need a prescription to buy those, and many of them come with pain relievers and other medicine.

7. Make sure you’re covered in the bedroom.

Condoms are FSA-eligible, and so are pregnancy tests, monitors, and fertility kits. Female contraceptives are also covered when you have a prescription.

8. Prepare for your upcoming vacation.

If you have a vacation planned this year, use your FSA money to stock up on trip essentials. For example:

9. Get a better night’s sleep.

If you have trouble sleeping, sleep aids are eligible, though you’ll need a prescription. If you want to try a sleep mask, many of them are eligible without a prescription. For example, there’s this relaxing sleep mask and this thermal eye mask.

For those nights you’re sleeping off a cold or flu, a vaporizer can make a big difference, and those are eligible, too (no prescription required). Bed warmers like this one are often covered, too.

Your FSA funds likely cover more than you realize, so if you have to use them up by the deadline, get creative. This list should help you get started, and many drugstores will tell you which items are FSA-eligible when you shop online.

10. Go to the dentist.

While basics like toothpaste and cosmetic procedures like whitening treatments aren’t FSA eligible, most of the expenses you incur at your dentist’s office are. That includes co-pays and deductibles as well as fees for cleanings, x-rays, fillings, and even the cost of braces. There are also some products you can buy over-the-counter without ever visiting the dentist. Some mouthguards that prevent you from grinding your teeth at night are eligible, as are cleaning solutions for retainers and dentures.

11. Try some new gadgets.

If you still have some extra cash to burn, it’s a great time to try some expensive high-tech devices that you’ve been curious about but might not otherwise want to splurge on. The list includes light therapy treatments for acne, vibrating nausea relief bands, electrical stimulation devices for chronic pain, cloud-connected stethoscopes, and smart thermometers.

12. Head to Amazon.

There are plenty of FSA-eligible items available on Amazon, including items for foot health, cold and allergy medication, eye care, and first-aid kits. Find out more details on how to spend your FSA money on Amazon here.

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Why Do Hospital Doctors Wear White Coats?

Is your blood pressure rising?
Is your blood pressure rising?
Online Marketing, Unsplash

Many aspiring doctors dream of the day they can finally flaunt the ultimate symbol of medical legitimacy: the white coat. In fact, it’s such a significant piece of apparel that medical schools hold full ceremonies—aptly called “white coat ceremonies”—to mark the first time incoming students get to don the bright white attire.

But white jackets weren’t always the norm. If you’ve seen a few period dramas set in the 19th century or earlier, you might recall the family physician showing up in a smart black suit. According to Medelita, black made the most sense for figurative and literal reasons alike. Black apparel was considered formal and sober, so it matched the general tone of medical visits. It was also much easier to conceal splotches and stains on a dark garment than a light one.

By the late 19th century, however, doctors and scientists had begun to realize the importance of keeping facilities as clean as possible to prevent bacteria from growing and infectious diseases from spreading. The color white connoted cleanliness, and hospitals started transitioning to white sheets and white garb to reflect their crusade against germs.

As Dr. Mark S. Hochberg explained in a 2007 article for the American Medical Association Journal of Ethics [PDF], the color white stood for something else, too: truth and transparency. The word candor, meaning “frankness” and “freedom from mental bias,” derives from the Latin verb candere, which translates as “to be white and shining.”

Doctors’s sartorial shift from black to white took place pretty quickly, as evidenced by two paintings by American artist Thomas Eakins. In his 1875 work The Gross Clinic, Dr. Samuel Gross and his fellow physicians, all clad in black suits, perform surgery on a man’s leg. Less than 15 years later, Eakins painted The Agnew Clinic, which depicts a different group of doctors—this time, in white shirts and smocks—operating on another patient.

Thomas Eakins's Portrait of Dr. Samuel D. Gross, commonly known as The Gross Clinic, 1875.Philadelphia Museum of Art, Wikimedia Commons // Public Domain

Thomas Eakins's The Agnew Clinic, 1889.Philadelphia Museum of Art, Wikimedia Commons // Public Domain

Though white coats help doctors stand out in crowded hospitals, they’ve also been known to negatively affect patients. “White coat syndrome” or “white coat hypertension” describes the rise in blood pressure that some people experience when they step foot inside a doctor’s office or other clinical atmosphere. Some doctors, especially pediatricians, skip the coat at times to help put their patients at ease.

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