Read to Your Health

Reading may save your life. (One study found that literacy influences longevity, likely because it reflects education… like healthier lifestyles and better healthcare.) But even if we can read doesn’t mean we do. Complex wording, confusing verbiage, and small type cause many to skim directions at best.

And while lawsuit risks prompt companies to issue inane warnings (like one on a hairdryer that discourages operating while asleep), most consumer labels reveal vital information. Follow these instructions for protecting your safety and health.

Avoid assumptions: When was the last time you read through an airline safety pamphlet? Even if you think you know the drill, read thoroughly to avoid misunderstanding. (One study found that patients misread the word external as extreme on a pharmaceutical label.) Pretend you’re completely ignorant so you can catch advice you might otherwise miss.

Ask questions: Clarify confusion with an expert and recite back what you understand to be key points, like dosage, side effects, and warnings. If you’re unsure about a direction or definition, inquire until the facts make sense.

Vocalize and emphasize. Reading aloud not only slows you down, it helps you absorb the information both visually and audibly. Then highlight or underline significant statements that will stand out when you need to refer back to the instructions.

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