Shorts

* Three recent case reports suggest that ear piercing, particularly high on the ear, can lead to deforming ear infections. Piercing through the cartilage of the upper ear (or pinna) can lead to a particular form of soft tissue infection perichondritis of the pinna caused by the bacteria Pseudomonas aeruginosa. The infection can lead to loss of cartilage and a severe and unsightly deformity known as 'cauliflower ear', which can't easily be reconstructed through plastic surgery (BMJ, 2001: 322: 906-7).

* Sportsmen and women, take note stretching is an ineffective way to prevent sports related injuries, according to Canadian researchers, who came to this conclusion on reviewing the admittedly limited evidence on stretching, including a large randomised trial and a systematic review. Neither showed any benefit from stretching, and there was evidence that even gentle stretching can cause damage at a cellular level (West J Med, 2001; 174: 282-3).

* 'Healthy' alternatives to mother's milk, such as rice and soya milk, can lead to poor health in babies. In one case report, a 22 month old boy developed kwashiorkor, a form of severe protein deficiency, on a diet of rice milk and occasional solids. Another infant was found to have advanced rickets because the soya drink he was given was not fortified with vitamin D. Such drinks, say paediatricians, are simply not suitable for infants and should clearly be labelled as such by manufacturers (BMJ, 2001: 322: 938).