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Chef Symon’s Seven Tips to Help You Start Gardening this Earth Day

ABC/ Craig Sjodin(NEW YORK) -- You know Chef Michael Symon as the co-host of ABC’s The Chew. But what you may not know on this Earth Day is that Symon comes from a long line of gardeners.

“My grandfather had his own garden, my father had his own garden, and I’ve had my own garden for over 20 years,” Symon said in an interview with ABC News Radio.

“There’s something so soothing about digging in the dirt,” he said. “With the stress we all have in our day-to-day lives, there’s nothing better to me than going out in the morning with a cup of coffee and putzin’ around in my garden.”

Symon’s garden includes multiple varieties of heirloom tomatoes and chilies, eggplants and “every herb under the sun that you could fathom.”

Here are seven tips from Chef Symon that will have you gardening -- and eating! -- in no time:

Take a cue from the sun.
“You always need sun. The best sun is morning sun,” he said. “So when you’re planning on where to put your garden in your yard, stand outside and look where you’re getting the best morning sun. And that’s a very good place to start.”

Mix it up!
Never plant something in the same place two years in a row, Symon said. “Tomatoes take certain nutrients out of the soil that peppers may not, so you want to keep moving things around your garden. There are even parts of my garden that I leave dormant for a year or two to kind of rejuvenate the soil.”

Space ‘em out.
“Plants are like people. If you crowd them a little bit and they actually touch as they’re growing, they tend to grow better. You know, they’re happier. You need less water. You need less fertilizer.  And you could grow more in a compact space.”

Consider composting.
“We always keep a big compost at our house,” Symon said. “We’re using coffee grounds” and other things to create and maintain healthy soil.

Get to know Mother Nature.
“Understand what bugs eliminate other bugs,” he said. For instance, “if you have a lot of slugs (in your garden), let ladybugs in. They’re typically going to eliminate a good amount of those. Eliminate certain pests by adding other pests.”

Get the kids involved.
“It’ll make them less picky eaters because they’ll always want to try to cook things that they’ve grown.”

Use your taste buds.
“Things that taste good together typically grow well together,” Symon said. “Next to my tomatoes will be basil or peppers or eggplant.”

NOTE: some responses have been edited for brevity.

Copyright 2014 ABC News Radio

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Anti-Thigh Gap Jeans a Hit with the Muscle Set

iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- A Kickstarter campaign for jeans that cater to strong butts, meaty thighs and curvy calves crushed its funding goal of $15,000 in just 47 minutes.

“These are the anti-thigh gap jeans," said Barbell Denim co-founder Hunter Molzen, adding that the idea hit a nerve among investors. “Athletes work hard for their strong, meaty thighs and they should be proud of them. It’s how human beings were built to function.”

Molzen, who started Barbell Denim with four other lifelong recreational athletes last year, stressed that the jeans aren’t jeggings -- spandex tights designed to look like jeans. Nor are they extra baggy.

The team took the measurements of sporty friends and willing strangers in the gym to come up with average measurements for athletically-built men and women, and then modified the basic proportions of a regular jean to fit a stronger physique.

Adding just a whiff of spandex to a high quality cotton makes the pants more flexible, Molzen said, and double stitching at the seams ensures that all that muscle fiber stays contained.

The campaign, which launched on Monday, already has nearly 800 backers and over $100,000 in funding. Molzen said the company also has designs to accommodate ripped abs and shredded pecs in the works.

Copyright 2014 ABC News Radio

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Girl Mauled by Raccoon Leaves Hospital with Ear on Arm

Beaumont Children's Hospital(NEW YORK) -- An 11-year-old girl who was mauled by a pet raccoon as a baby is back home Tuesday after a seven-hour surgery to embed a makeshift ear in her arm.

Charlotte Ponce of Spring Lake, Mich., lost her right ear, nose and part of her lip in the attack.

“The raccoon pretty much ate the right side of her face, all the way back to the ear,” Charlotte’s adoptive mom Sharon Ponce told ABC News. “Now, all she wants is to wear two earrings.”

Charlotte left Beaumont Children’s Hospital Monday after a week-long stay with two dangly earrings in her left ear, but not for long. A right ear carefully crafted from her own rib cartilage is growing on her right forearm.

In June, doctors will transplant the makeshift ear to Charlotte’s head in what will be her eighth surgery since 2012.

Charlotte wheeled wagons full of gifts and balloons from the hospital.

“I love the attention,” she told ABC News affiliate WXYZ.

Copyright 2014 ABC News Radio

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Does Extreme Water-Drinking Make You Healthier?

VladimirFLoyd/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- Celebrities swear by it. From Gwyneth Paltrow to Jessica Alba and even Jennifer Lopez, A-listers with glowing skin credit drinking lots of water as one of their beauty secrets.

Health care journalist Sabrina Bachai, of New York City, put the theory to the test, drinking three liters of water a day to see if it would improve her skin.

“I was on Instagram and I saw this girl and I saw that she had beautiful skin and hair and she said she drank three liters of water a day and that was her secret,” Bachai, a reporter with, told ABC News. “My skin is kind of dry so I figured it would be a good way to see how it worked.”

For one week, Bachai drank three liters -- 101 ounces of water -- a day. That’s a little bit more than eight 12-ounce glasses of water.

She says she didn’t change anything about her diet, kept her normal gym routine and found it helpful to drink the large quantities through a straw.

“I felt like I was sleeping better,” said Bachai. “And I felt like my skin looked fuller.”

In addition to feeling healthier, she says she lost two pounds. “I wasn’t snacking as much so that helped curb my appetite a little bit,” she explained, “because a lot of times when you’re hungry, you’re not really hungry. You’re just thirsty.”

But there was one pitfall to the experiment.

“Using the bathroom,” she recalled. “I know it’s a natural thing and you have to do it, but using the bathroom seven to eight times during the work day, I was going almost every hour.”

Copyright 2014 ABC News Radio

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Stranger’s Bone Marrow Donation Helps Save Grandfather’s Life

ABC(NEW YORK) -- When Ron Oppedisano received his cancer diagnosis in the winter of 2010, it was shattering.

“Your life stops, literally comes to a standstill,” Oppedisano, then the mayor of Norridge, Ill., said, of the diagnosis of acute myeloid leukemia.

His daughter, Tena McCullough, agrees. “It was one of the worst days that we’ve had as a family,” she said.

After several grueling rounds of chemotherapy, Oppedisano went into remission. Ron’s wife, Linda Oppedisano, said the family thought he was cancer-free after that. He wasn’t.

Two years later he had to put his re-election plans on hold when he had a recurrence. Without a bone marrow transplant, Oppedisano wouldn’t survive for six months and, with no siblings, the Be the Match donor registry was his only hope.

Waiting to see if someone would step up was tough, he said, and when Samantha Nielsen did, Oppedisano’s entire family was grateful.

Nielsen joined the Be the Match donor registry by, like all other potential donors, giving a swab of cheek cells.  After further testing, Nielsen was deemed to be a “perfect match for Ron,” according to Oppedisano’s doctor, Patrick Stiff.

To prepare for the transplant, Oppedisano underwent what Be the Match calls a “conditioning regimen” of chemotherapy and possibly radiation therapy to prepare his body for the new cells.  Donors donate their cells through either peripheral blood stem cell (PBSC) donation -- a nonsurgical procedure that takes place at a blood center or clinic -- or marrow donation -- a surgical outpatient procedure that takes place at a hospital.

The transplant -- in which Oppedisano received the new cells intravenously through a “central line” -- was a success. One Dec. 4, 2013, Oppedisano -- though technically 58 years old -- celebrated his new “first” birthday.

“No amount of ‘thank yous’ could ever adequately express what I owe,” Oppedisano said. “Every day I wake up, I thank God that I’m here.”

His son, Vince, said it was because of Nielson that his father was still with the family.

Oppedisano’s other daughter, Lisa Oppedisano-Gannon, shared her sibling’s sentiment.

“He’s such a great grandfather and to see him every time with Lia, it’s just amazing, because I know it was a possibility that he would never get to meet her,” she said.

Oppedisano and Nielsen were recently allowed to exchange contact information, and ABC's GMA was there for their reunion.

“Hi Sam,” Oppesidano said when he saw Nielsen, who lives just outside of Houston. “So good to see you and reach out and touch you and know you’re real.”

“You are the real hero, you really are,” he added. “I wouldn’t be here without you, I mean that, you’ve done so much for our family and for me, especially.”

Nielsen thanked him, then added: “I don’t feel like a hero, I just feel like I made a small sacrifice.”

Nielsen and Oppedisano decided to celebrate their meeting by giving back to the organization that brought them together.

Walking side by side, along with family and friends, they attended the Be The Match Walk Run in Chicago on April 12. The group they dubbed Ron and Sam’s Marrow Mob walked and ran, raising nearly $6,000 for the organization.

Copyright 2014 ABC News Radio

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A Close-up Look at Acupuncture for Pain

iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- A growing number of Americans would prefer to stop popping pills and avoid going under the knife to treat a bum knee, achy lower back or sore hip. Instead, they’re turning to the ancient Chinese practice of acupuncture to help ease chronic joint pain.

More than 14 million Americans have tried acupuncture, according to the most recent statistics from the National Health Interview Survey, a large ongoing study that tracks healthcare habits in the U.S. The study found that nearly six percent of Americans have allowed themselves to be pricked with dozens of slender needles to help alleviate chronic pain, up from just one percent of patients a decade ago.

“Use of acupuncture has been percolating for quite a while and it’s now becoming much more mainstream in medicine,” said Dr. Houman Danesh, director of integrative pain management at Mt. Sinai Hospital in New York.

So mainstream in fact, that it’s one of the few so-called “complimentary” or alternative medicine approaches covered by most health insurance plans. Even the military uses auricular acupuncture, a form of acupuncture that involves gently inserting small needles into various places on the ear that correspond with pain points elsewhere on the body.

Research studies consistently show that acupuncture can be an effective form of pain management, with some studies finding it even more effective than pain relieving drugs or surgery. But exactly how it works remains somewhat of a mystery, Danesh admits.

In theory, acupuncture stimulates the body’s meridian points. By easing pressure on these energy-carrying channels, ancient Chinese physicians believed the needles corrected the body’s imbalances by allowing energy or “chi” to flow more freely. Although traditional Western medicine remains skeptical about the idea of chi, Danesh said that many of the meridian points happen to coincide with trigger points, spots on the body where pain radiates away from the center when pressed.

“Trigger points are widely accepted in modern medicine and one thought is that acupuncture may ease the stress on trigger points thereby lessening pain in that area,” he said.

Meridian points also track closely with major nerve centers, Danesh said. It could be that the needles stimulate the nerves, causing them to release feel-good chemicals known as endorphins. People in pain often have low levels of endorphins, Danesh pointed out, and a release of those endorphins can suppress the sensation of pain.

There are still plenty of Acupuncture skeptics who believe that any pain relief acupuncture offers is strictly psychological. But Danesh said he doesn’t care why it works, so long as it works.

“I’ve had lots of skeptics come in for treatment and when they get better, they believe,” he said.

Chronic pain is one of the most serious health problems in the U.S., affecting an estimated 100 million Americans, according to a 2011 Institute of Medicine report. Nearly 90 percent of respondents to an IOM survey said they coped with some level of pain on a daily basis.

Tuesday’s ABC News Health tweet chat will discuss chronic pain and the best way to manage it. Chat moderator Dr. Richard Besser, ABC News chief health and medical editor, will host the conversation featuring experts, researchers and people experiencing pain.

Are you coping with an achy back, a bum knee or some other source of chronic pain? If so, come share your story with us and get some insight on how to manage your condition. Even if you’re a Twitter novice, joining the conversation is simple. Here’s how: Join: Pain Management Tweet Chat Tuesday at 1 p.m., ET

Copyright 2014 ABC News Radio

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Language Problems Pervasive in Youngsters with ADHD

iStock/Thinkstock(VICTORIA, Australia) -- Problems with language are much more common with children diagnosed with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder as opposed to youngsters without the disorder linked to over activity and a lack of focus.

A study from the Murdoch Children's Research Institute in Victoria, Australia, looked at 179 youngsters with ADHD, about half of whom didn't take medication, and more than 200 who were ADHD free.

Compared to those without the disorder, ADHD kids were about three more likely to have problems with the ability to listen and understand language as well as speaking and being understood.

Emma Sciberras, a clinical psychologist involved in the study, said these language difficulties among those with ADHD have far-reaching academic consequences that could last throughout a child's education.

Furthermore, language problems also hamper social functioning, which can be a detrimental in young adulthood as social relationships become more complex.

Copyright 2014 ABC News Radio

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Time Doesn't Heal All Head Wounds

iStock/Thinkstock(ROCHESTER, N.Y.) -- A respite of half-a-year won't clear up structural damage to the brain resulting from hundreds of hits the head might take during a sports season such as football.

Jeffrey Bazarian of the University of Rochester School of Medicine and Dentistry conducted a study of 10 university football players and expressed concern that "a subsequent season will lead to cumulative brain injury."

The players Bazarian studied had between 431 to 1,850 blows to the head during a single season, which were counted by helmet gauges.

Although none of the players were diagnosed with a concussion, imaging scans showed physical brain damage at the end of the season and again, six months later.

Bazarian says this would suggest that resting players during a game to minimize further head hits may not be enough to undo the damage.

He would not go as far to say that the brain damage over time results in long-term conditions such as the onset of dementia.  However, Bazarian recommended further research to verify this possibility.

Copyright 2014 ABC News Radio

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What Can Sabotage a Woman Between the Sheets?

Digital Vision/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- Chaunie Brusie is 27 and pregnant with her fourth child.

Brusie's other three children are younger than 5. While she is happily married, she has felt a strain on her sex life.

"Pregnancy for me does not feel like a sexy time at all," she said. "It just feels like we really need to get through these nine months…and get this baby out."

Brusie is one of the millions of women who have lost interest in sex. For her, the issue might not be exhaustion, but the pregnancy itself.

Dr. Lauren Streicher, a Chicago gynecologist and author of the new book Love Sex Again: A Gynecologist Finally Fixes the Issues That Are Sabotaging Your Sex Life, says a hormone called prolactin could possibly be dousing the flame.

Other causes could include diabetes, depression and even birth control pills.

"So many women come to me saying I'm their third, fourth, fifth opinion for a problem that has really been impacting on their relationship," Streicher said.

The book aims to shine a light on the physical and medical conditions that affect women between the sheets.

Many women simply live with bad sex instead of searching for an answer.

"They're just embarrassed to bring it up and they also minimize the importance of it," she said. "You go to your doctor once a year and you think, 'This is not a subject that I should be spending my limited time talking about,'" she said.

For Brusie, realizing that her loss of mojo is temporary has helped her get through it.

"It's hormones, it's breast-feeding, it's not just me," she said. "It doesn't mean I don't think my husband is attractive or I don't love him."

Copyright 2014 ABC News Radio

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Doctors Continue to Prescribe Children Codeine Despite Safety Concerns

iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- Doctors are still giving out hundreds of thousands of codeine prescriptions to children each year, despite warnings of safety concerns, a new study finds.

There's been a slight decline in hospital emergency department prescriptions, according to a study published Monday in the journal Pediatrics, but thousands of kids still receive medications with codeine to treat coughs, colds, and injury pain.

Using the National Hospital and Ambulatory Medical Care Survey, the authors analyzed emergency room visits of children between the ages of 3 and 17 from 2001 and 2010. The drop within 9 years was small, with codeine prescribed in 2.9 percent of visits in 2010, compared to 3.7 percent in 2001.

Odds of the prescription were higher for children ages 8 to 12 years old, and among healthcare providers outside the Northeast. National guidelines have recommended against the use, as codeine can lead to fatal toxicity due to children's status as poor metabolizers of the drug.

Two recent studies cited in the report found codeine was the second-most widely used opioid drug in medical practice worldwide, and the most commonly prescribed opioid to children in Europe.

The report's authors advise more effective interventions are needed to prevent the prescription of what they call a "potentially hazardous drug" to children.

Copyright 2014 ABC News Radio

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Runner Killed by Allegedly Drunken Driver Honored with Sneaker Memorial

Andrew Burton/Getty Images(BOSTON) --  As Boston marathoners reached the crest of the first hill Monday morning, they saw a towering structure of donated running shoes to honor a Virginia runner killed by an allegedly drunken driver.

“It radiates love,” said Kel Kelly, who created the structure, “Meg Soles of Love,” even though she’d never met the woman for whom it was named. “It’s hard not to stand next to it and not be taken over by the emotion that sort of pours out of it.”

Meg Cross Menzies, a Richmond, Va., mother of three, was planning to run the Boston Marathon to qualify for the Olympics, but was struck by the driver Jan. 13 while she was on a training run with her husband, Scott Menzies.

Scott Menzies visited the Hopkinton memorial Saturday.

“It’s been a tough last couple months, but things like that make it easier to see people care,” said Scott Menzies, a police officer who said his job makes him see the “rougher” side of things. “Maybe I feel like I’ve lost faith in humanity, and it’s been a great reminder that there are great people in this world, people like Kel Kelly and a few other people I’ve never met who have started a lot of different things...It’s just been amazing for me and my family to see.”

Brooke Roney, Meg Cross Menzies’ acquaintance who recently started running, said news of the accident hit her hard in January, so she decided to start a Facebook group encouraging runners to dedicate runs on the Saturday following Cross Menzies’ death. It was called Meg’s Miles.

“It could have been me,” Roney said. “It could have been anyone.”

More than 100,000 people around the world participated in the virtual run, she said. Some knew her. Others were strangers.

But the group wasn’t done yet. People began leaving their shoes at the Virginia intersection where Cross Menzies was struck as a memorial to her.

Kelly, who lives near the first mile of the Boston Marathon route in Hopkinton, said she learned about the story as well and decided to create a shoe memorial to make Meg Cross Menzies’ presence felt on Marathon Monday.

Runners from across the country mailed more than 700 pairs of sneakers to Kelly, who arranged them into a tower shape next to the well-known “Spirit of the Marathon” statue. The leftover shoes will be given to the nonprofit 26.2 Foundation to be donated to charity.

Although Scott Menzies swore on the side of the road the morning of his wife’s death that he would never run again, he soon learned that running made him feel closer to her, he said. Their weekly date had been an 8- to 11-mile run, with Meg slowing down to match Scott Menzies’ pace and then challenging him to speed up on the hills, he said.

Soon, he was calling the Boston Athletic Association, which runs the marathon, to ask whether he could run in her place.

“I just want to run it to finish what she started,” he said. “I just want to be here and see what she would have seen.”

He said he has no doubt his wife would have qualified for the Olympics this year, and he wants to soak in the race the same way she would.

“I just want to feel running each step, seeing the crowd,” he said. “I want to run this because I feel like there are times I struggle to feel her, and I know that I will feel her tomorrow.”

Copyright 2014 ABC News Radio

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Surprising Bacteria That Live on Your Money

Ingram Publishing/iStock(NEW YORK) -- A recent study has identified 3,000 types of bacteria on dollar bills from a Manhattan bank.

Most of the bacteria were, unsurprisingly, microbes found on the skin, while others matched those found in mouths, and even some in vaginas, according to the study conducted by New York University’s Center for Genomics and Systems Biology.

“We are finding viable bacteria that can be taken from paper currency,” said Jane Carlton, the lead investigator of the study and director of genome sequencing at NYU's Center for Genomics and Systems Biology. “That means that money could function as a form of transmission.”

The study was part of a pilot project to identify bacteria and health trends in New York City. For example, some of the findings pointed to the prevalence of pneumonia on paper money during wintertime. The researchers found that bills collected in winter, versus the summer, were more likely to have microbes of community-acquired pneumonia, suggesting that money could be playing a role in its spread.

While the most common microbes found were linked to mild conditions such as acne, one other discovery stands out. Some dollar bills had bacteria containing antibiotic resistant genes, such as MRSA. These resistant genes have been a particularly pressing issue for the medical community as doctors prescribe, and patients increasingly ask for, antibiotics to deal with illness.

Nonetheless, the NYU biologists said that there is no reason to overreact. “Microbes are so important, are very ubiquitous and they surround us all the time,” Carlton told ABC News. “We did find certain microbes that we might be a little concerned about, but that doesn’t mean that people should be unduly concerned.”

Copyright 2014 ABC News Radio

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Brothers Get Wheelchair-Friendly Playground

Courtesy Vincent Isner/Miracle Recreation(NEW YORK) -- The Long family used to drive almost an hour to get to a playground that both Connor and Cayden could play on together, but now they don’t have to.

Cayden, 9, has cerebral palsy, which renders him unable to walk or talk, his mother, Jenny Long, said. His big brother, Connor, 10, doesn’t have cerebral palsy, and he has been towing Cayden along on triathlons since 2011. But when they're not competing, the brothers love to play on a playground they can both enjoy.

“To go to a playground and swing -- do what other kids do -- we’d have to drive all the way to Nashville,” Jenny Long said. “Cayden requires accessibility. That doesn’t mean a little part, going up and down a sidewalk. That actually to me means being able to freely maneuver around the playground.”

After earning recognition for their triathlons as Sports Illustrated for Kids’ “Sports Kids of the Year” in 2012, a playground maker called Miracle Recreation included Connor on a panel about how he would design his ideal playground, his mother said. Through those talks, he mentioned how hard it is to find a playground that he and Cayden could play on together.

Then, Miracle Recreation offered to build and fund a playground near their home in White House, Tenn.

During the design process, Connor became Cayden’s voice, offering suggestions for what he thought Cayden would want to play on. He also named the playground “Roll Around the Park.”

Since it opened earlier this month, Jenny Long said she can tell when Cayden wants to play there. He signs “bye-bye” to her to signal that he wants to play outside. Once they get to the park, he starts laughing and waving his arms and legs.

“He lets everybody know he’s excited,” Jenny Long said. “Then he gets mad if we have to leave. He starts to lock up his breaks.”

She said Cayden's favorite part of the park is the ramp, but he also loves the swing. It’s not just a swing for children in wheelchairs; both of his brothers can play on it.

“It’s all about inclusion. It’s all about creating a playground for everyone,” she said. “We don’t want to label it as a special-needs park or a special-needs swing. It’s a park where anyone can come and play.”

Copyright 2014 ABC News Radio

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Experts Question Plane Stowaway's Survival Story

DBhakta/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- Experts are questioning the veracity of a 16-year-old boy’s story after he said he stowed away in the wheel well of a plane and survived a five-hour flight from California to Hawaii.

“Somebody surviving at 35,000 feet for five hours with no supplemental oxygen supply; I just don’t believe it,” ABC News aviation consultant Jim Nance said.

Most people can remain conscious at 32,000 to 35,000 feet for only a few seconds and would most likely be brain dead within five minutes, Nance said. Without some sort of protective suit, it wouldn’t be possible to withstand the minus-50 degree temperatures and the strong winds blowing through the wheel well, he added.

Dr. Richard Besser, ABC News’ chief health and medical correspondent, said, “At high altitudes your body succumbs to hypoxia. It doesn’t get the oxygen it needs to survive and most people would pass out and die within a few minutes."

“The other thing that would happen is hypothermia. At that height you’re going to freeze to death,” Besser added.

But Federal Aviation Administration officials told ABC News' Good Morning America there is a way the boy could have survived the trip. The lack of oxygen and extreme cold might preserve the nervous system and slow the body down into a state of suspended animation similar to the way some animals hibernate in the winter, they speculated.

Besser said this is theoretically possible.

“We see this with hibernating animals when their breathing and heart beat slows down to a couple of times per minute and it’s possible if your body slows down enough it doesn’t need as much oxygen and you survive,” he said.

The FAA say there are two cases in the past where stowaways have endured similar, high-altitude flights. The chances of survival of a wheel well stowaway on a commercial aircraft are about 24 percent, according to the FAA's Civil Aerospace Medical Institute.

The 16-year-old boy from Santa Clara, Calif., reportedly ran away from home Sunday morning and went to the San Jose airport where he hopped the fence and sneaked into the wheel well of Hawaiian airlines Flight 45. The boy reportedly said he remained in the unprotected, unpressurized wheel well for the entire five-hour flight.

When the flight landed at Maui airport around 10:30 a.m. local time Sunday, the boy reportedly said he was passed out and did not come to until about an hour later. At around 11:30 a.m., he was spotted by ground crews at the Maui airport walking around the tarmac.

Authorities took the boy into custody and had him checked out by a doctor who declared he had no injuries.

“It’s almost miraculous,” Besser said. “Maybe there’s more to the story.”

Copyright 2014 ABC News Radio

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How to Protect Yourself at Nail Salons

kzenon/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- Just how unsanitary can nail salons be?

ABC News’ 20/20 went undercover to find out and the results may scare you.

DeeDee Crossett of the San Francisco Institute of Esthetics and Cosmetology says it’s hard to know whether a place is unhygienic; it’s much easier to look for signs that it is immaculate. Here are her tips to spot a super-clean salon:

Tip 1: Arrive 10 minutes early. You only need that much time to watch what happens between guests. Once a pedicure is done, Crossett says, disinfectant goes into the tub water and it must be circulated for a full 10 minutes before it’s drained. Less than 10 minutes and the chemicals in the disinfectant can’t break down bacteria and sanitize the foot bath. Also, she says, it takes time to remove tools, take them into the back to be cleaned and get a new sterilized set of tools.

Tip 2: Look for licenses. Each nail tech should have a license. Ask who will be performing your mani-pedi and look for their names on the wall of licenses. If they aren’t licensed, there’s no guarantee they know what’s allowed and what’s not within the sanctioned health guidelines for nail techs.

Tip 3: Each guest should receive a new file and buffer. These items cannot be sanitized and should be used one time only. A dead giveaway is if there is white powder (someone else’s nail filings or sloughed skin) on the file or buffer or if they are inside of the “sanitized” pouch tools often come in.  If the file or buffer were sanitized in an autoclave, the hot steam would destroy the pumice.

Tip 4: If you aren’t sure about the cleanliness but you don’t want to walk out, don’t let the nail tech turn on the jets in the foot spa. Many of the bacteria are in the jets and plumbing. The exterior bowl may have been wiped down with a sanitizer. In that case, the sitting water may be fine but if it is circulated into the jets and pipes, there’s a greater chance of circulating bacteria.

Tip 5: If they are using a Barbicide blue liquid sanitizer for tools, it should be clear, blue and jewel toned. If it is cloudy or green, it needs to be replaced. Also, tools should not be just dipped into the sanitizer; they need to soak for a full 10 minutes to be sufficiently cleaned.

Tip 6: Come to the salon with stubble. Don’t shave before you go get a pedicure. Your shaver could make tiny nicks or cuts in the skin that let in bacteria. The nail techs are fine with a little stubble. Shave after the pedicure.

Tip 7: A cheap manicure could come at a price. If a salon is offering a $6 manicure, they are likely taking shortcuts somewhere. In order to ensure your safety and that the nail tech is making a living wage, go someplace that charges the going rate for your neighborhood.

Copyright 2014 ABC News Radio

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