• The threat of long COVID means we can’t pull punches on vaccines, tests, and masks

    Fortune April 19, 2022

    By Carolyn Barber

    Their stories are shared through social media, the fear and agony front and center in almost every conversation: breathing issues, chronic pain, unexplained bruising, hallucinations, brain fog. “No way to describe besides six daggers in my back,” wrote one. Added another, a doctor exposed on the job in 2020, “I am a shell of my former self.” Of the many facets […]

  • New Cases of Childhood Diabetes Rose during the Pandemic

    Scientific American April 15, 2022

    By Carolyn Barber

    The little girl felt poorly, but both she and her mom thought they knew the reason. Aliyah Davis, just nine years old, was battling COVID. Fatigued, repeatedly sick to her stomach, with no sense of smell or taste and some shortness of breath, she seemed to have a near-textbook case of the virus. Aliyah had […]

  • When Is It Safe to Have Sex after COVID?

    Scientific American March 9, 2022

    By Carolyn Barber

    Recently, my husband endured a mild case of COVID—a cough, a sore throat, some aches and fatigue. Fortunately, he is vaccinated and boosted, and he recovered quickly. On day 10 after infection, he produced a negative rapid antigen test. Cool! So when can we have sex? This, it turns out, is a more complicated question […]

  • Some COVID Patients Need Amputations to Survive

    Scientific American January 12, 2022

    By Carolyn Barber

    In late summer Candice Davis and her brother, Starr, returned to South Philadelphia from a trip to Mexico, and Davis quickly knew that something was wrong. Both she and Starr felt ill, and both subsequently tested positive for COVID-19. But Starr, who had been immunized, experienced only mild flulike symptoms and felt better within a […]

  • Texting Thumb, Trigger Finger, Gamer’s Thumb and Other Smartphone Injuries

    Scientific American November 19, 2021

    By Carolyn Barber

    As a longtime emergency department physician, I have a case study I’d like to share with you. The patient’s right thumb knuckle is inflamed, swollen and often painful, especially toward the end of the day, and the inside part is a little numb. Her grip is slightly weakened, and her palm aches. Her middle finger […]

  • Pregnant and Unvaccinated: Delta’s Deadly Toll

    Scientific American October 1, 2021

    By Carolyn Barber

    She was having trouble getting a full breath. That was the first thing. The day before, Autumn Carver, seven months pregnant with her third child, had enjoyed a CrossFit class. Now a simple cough was compounded by the breathing issues, which rapidly worsened. It wasn’t long before her husband, Zach Carver, took Autumn to Community Hospital […]

  • Critical Care Doctors Are in Crisis

    Scientific American August 9, 2021

    By Carolyn Barber

    As a critical care physician, Kelli Mathew knew her days were spinning in the wrong direction. For one thing, her well of empathy was dry. When unvaccinated people came to her, suffering the effects of COVID, Mathew began snapping back. She had run out of comforting or even neutral things to say. “In my mind, […]

  • How Designer DNA Is Changing Medicine

    Scientific American July 17, 2021

    By Carolyn Barber

    For as long as he could remember, Razel Colón had known pain. It ripped down his neck and back, shot through his legs and traveled on to his feet, often leaving him writhing and incapacitated. He suffered occasional attacks of “acute chest,” in which breathing suddenly becomes difficult. “It felt like an elephant was sitting […]

  • How the Pandemic Roiled the Foster Care System

    Scientific American June 27, 2021

    By Carolyn Barber

    For the first four years of her childhood, Vanessa Brunetta’s family was homeless. Later, her family was rocked by domestic violence to the point that “my older brother and I would spend most nights at a neighbor’s house or locking ourselves in our room,” she says. By age eight, she’d been placed in foster care; in […]

  • Giving COVID survivors just one dose of the vaccine could help end the pandemic faster

    Fortune May 18, 2021

    By Carolyn Barber

    A couple of weeks ago, a friend of mine went in for his second dose of Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine. “It absolutely kicked my butt,” he told me. He spent most of the following day on his back, feeling fog-headed and achy, before things returned to normal about 24 hours after that. That sort of reaction […]