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Baby Bullets

Pediatricians don’t talk about children and gun safety—but they should

MEDICINE

WE’RE USED TO PROBING QUEStions from our doctors. “Are you vaccinated? Do you smoke? Are you sexually active? Do you own a gun?” Well, maybe not that last one.

We expect doctors to talk about habits that may affect our health, and that’s also true of the pediatricians who take care of our children by educating parents about how to minimize risks. “Pediatricians are comfortable talking about seat belts and poisons and stuff because we all, just through living, have exposure to those things,” says Garen Wintemute, an emergency room doctor and public health researcher at the University of California, Davis. Other risks, like smoking, physicians may not experience firsthand but discuss extensively in medical schools so are comfortable bringing up with patients. Wintemute says that’s often not the case when it comes to another common health risk: firearms. That discomfort is clear in results of a survey of pediatric emergency doctors presented September 15 at the conference of the American Academy of Pediatrics.

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