Archive for October, 2008

Toys in pediatricians’ waiting rooms found to harbor viruses

Child playing with toysRemnants of the virus that causes the common cold and the flu were found on 40% of the toys in pediatricians’ waiting rooms, according to a recent study from the University of Virginia Children’s Hospital.  And even after cleaning with a disinfectant cloth, 22% of the toys still contained the viruses.  What’s more, cleaning the toys yielded only a modest germ-killing effect in this study, and two toys that were not contaminated before cleaning became contaminated afterwards.

In another study, the researchers tested the surfaces in homes where a person with the rhinovirus (common cold) lived, and 41% of the surfaces tested were found to be contaminated with the virus. The most commonly infected home surfaces included door knobs, bathroom faucets, refrigerator door handles, and remote controls.

An hour after volunteers touched the contaminated surfaces, 22% of the samples taken from their fingertips still contained rhinovirus. A day afterwards, the number dropped to 3%, and after two days, no viral remnants were detected at all.

The hands are clearly a major source of the spread of the cold and the flu.  Touching a contaminated surface, and then touching your food while eating, or touching one’s eyes, mouth, or nose is a common pathway for viral spread.  Wiping down toys and household surfaces appears to do little to stop the spread of the cold and flu.  Hand washing or using alcohol gels before eating or touching one’s face remains the best way to prevent exposure to viruses. 

“Why the common cold is so common is because it’s on a lot of surfaces,” and the viruses stay alive for up to 24 hours, Dr. Hendley, the main researcher, told MedPage Today.

Read more about What you can do to prevent the flu from Bay Area Medical Information

via MedPage Today, October 28, 2008


Muscle burns more calories than fat

Resistance trainingMuscle burns calories more efficiently than fat and other body tissues. So even at rest, the more muscle tissue a person has the more calories a person is burning.

Taking a walk every day is a great way to stay healthy, but don’t forget to work on keeping your muscles strong.  Repetitive low-weight lifting not only helps with weight loss, but improves muscle strength, flexibility, endurance, dexterity, and balance.

Resistance training is repetitive, low-weight lifting and is recommended for adults of all ages who don’t have health restrictions.  Exercise two to three times weekly with at least 1 day of rest between sessions. 

It is advisable to check with your doctor before beginning an exercise program, and ideally have a physical therapist or an exerercise trainer design a program to meet your specific needs.  Injuries to such fragile joints as the shoulder can easily occur from  improper techniques.

Read more about starting an exercise program from Bay Area Medical Information

Don’t let Halloween become a nightmare

Halloween partiersHalloween can be a great time for both kids and adults, but it can quickly turn into the worst night of your life, for a number of reasons. 

Halloween is a particularly deadly night due to drunk drivers. Over half of all the highway fatalities across the nation on Halloween night involve a driver or a motorcycle rider with a blood alcohol level of .08 or higher, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.  It’s critical that you never drink and drive — and always remember to designate a sober driver. 

Parents beware of the dangers on the streets and the many other hazards your child can easily encounter.  Read the following extremely important safety tips you need to keep in mind, even before your child picks out a costume.

Photo courtesy of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA)

Avandia dropped from list of recommended drugs for Diabetes

PillsNew medical guidelines released, with regard to treating people with type 2 diabetes, which excludes the use of the drug Avandia.  A related  drug, Actos, remains on the list of recommended treatments.

Amid concerns over a possible link with an increased risk of heart attack, the FDA has issued black box warnings for Avandia regarding the potential for myocardial infarction.  Both rosiglitazone (Avandia)  and pioglitazone (Actos) carry black box warnings for congestive heart failure. 

Sales of Avandia this past year have plummeted yet the drug remains on the market. The FDA has asked for extensive long-term trials to determine Avandia’s cardiovascular safety.

Further troubling news about both Avandia and its’ cousin, Actos, includes a link with an increased risk of osteoporosis.  While there has been a growing body of evidence that both Actos and Avandia promote bone loss, a concerning study by Swiss researchers, published in April 2008, found that both drugs may actually double or even triple the risk of broken bones after a year or two of use.  The researchers did not find any increased risk for bone loss related to any of the other diabetes drugs.

via MedPage Today, October 22, 2008

via Nathan D, et al “Medical management of hyperglycaemia in type 2 diabetes mellitus: a consensus algorithm for the initiation and adjustment of therapy” Diabetologia 2008; DOI: 10.1007/s00125-008-1157-y

Chantix at the top of drugs linked with serious injuries

Prescription drugsThe smoking-cessation drug varenicline (Chantix) has been associated with 1,001 serious adverse events, including 50 deaths, during the first quarter of 2008.    A drug-safety watchdog group, The Institute for Safe Medication Practices, said recently that this now puts varenicline at the top of its list of drugs associated with serious injuries.  Heparin was second. 

Since varenicline was approved in 2006, there have been 3,325 reported serious injuries in the U.S., including 112 deaths. The FDA has warned of suicide ideation among patients taking varenicline, and the Federal Aviation Administration has banned the drug from use by pilots and air traffic controllers. 

Pfizer, which markets varenicline, questioned the institute’s conclusions, but the Institute contends the FDA is more likely to have undercounted the number of adverse events.

In fact the FDA has issued an Alert regarding serious neuropsychiatric symptoms that have occurred in patients taking Chantix. These symptoms include changes in behavior, agitation, depressed mood, suicidal ideation, and attempted and completed suicide. For those taking Chantix, the FDA advises the following “If either you, your family or caregiver notice agitation, depressed mood, or changes in behavior that are not typical for you, or if you have suicidal thoughts or actions, stop taking Chantix and call your doctor right away.”

Ask your doctor or health care provider about other medications that have been helpful for people trying to quit smoking. 

via MedPage Today, Oct. 22, 2008
via Curt D. Furberg, M.D., Ph.D., of Wake Forest, The Institute for Safe Medication Practices, Oct. 22, 2008

Eating quickly and eating until full, linked with weight gain

Eating pizzaIt is well known that eating quickly is associated with being overweight, but new research adds that combining it with eating until full could have a substantial impact on being overweight.  In this study from Japan, the liklihood of being overweight was greater for both men and women who reported both behaviors than for those who reported neither.

via Maruyama K, et al “The joint impact on being overweight of self reported behaviors of eating quickly and eating until full: Cross-sectional survey” BMJ 2008; DOI: 10.1136/bmj.a2002
via Medpage Today, October 21, 2008

Nasal surgery to remove airway obstruction can improve sleep apnea in some patients

Woman sleepingIn patients who had nasal blockages, breathing problems during sleep improved significantly after nasal surgery. The patients experienced a marked decrease in snoring and daytime sleepiness as well as some improvement in their quality of life.

Surgery is always a last resort, however.  There are many simple changes that you should try first before resorting to surgery.  Read more:  

  • Sleep Apnea  from Bay Area Medical Information
  • Tips for Better Sleep  from Bay Area Medical Information
  • Complete this questionnaire and find out if you might have sleep apnea from Bay Area Medical Information.  Ask your doctor or health care provider about your symptoms, and take this completed questionnaire with you on that visit.
  • via Archives of Otolaryngology — Head & Neck Surgery
    via MedPage Today, April 2008

New insight into obstructive sleep apnea

BurgersA diet loaded with cholesterol and fat appears to be an independent contributing link to disturbed sleep in those who have severe obstructive sleep apnea.  It has long been known that the sleep disorder has a strong association with obesity, particularly abdominal obesity, but diet in and of itself was an independent predictor of disturbed sleep even after controlling for body mass index, age, and daytime sleepiness in this recent Harvard study. 

It is unclear how dietary habits alone can affect obstructive sleep apnea, but if you’re having symptoms of sleep disordered breathing and your diet is loaded with fat, cutting down on cholesterol and fat in your diet may be the most important step you ever take to improving your health.  Relief of sleep disordered symptoms may be immediate, even before you lose inches around your waist. 

Read about Sleep Apnea  and Tips for Better Sleep  from Bay Area Medical Information
via MedPage Today, Oct. 15, 2008
via Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine, Oct. 15, 2008 

FDA finds more melamine in food products from China

Milk drinkThe FDA has once again found melamine in two milk products made in China.  Sold in Asian grocery stores in New York, the products YILI Brand Sour Milk Drink and YILI Brand Pure Milk Drink have been recalled by distributor HUA XIA Food Trade USA of Flushing, N.Y. The drinks are packaged in 250-ml flexible paperboard boxes. The Sour Milk Drink container has blue, red, and green Chinese writing and a picture of an Asian man in a green shirt and white tie clapping his hands. The Pure Milk Drink has black, red, and white English and Chinese writing, with a picture of two cows playing basketball.

Certain Mr. Brown instant coffee and tea products sold in the United States have also been recently recalled because of possible contamination with melamine. Melamine contamination of infant formula has resulted in a major public health problem in China, where thousands of children have been diagnosed with kidney stones related to the contamination.  The FDA has said that it has not yet found infant formula in the U.S. contaminated with melamine. 

The FDA lists all products which have been recalled due to detection of melamine.

via FDA, October 2008
via MedPage Today, October 2008

New guidelines for Vitamin D supplementation in children

BabyChildren should get 400 IU vitamin D daily from infancy through adolescence, according to new guidelines by the American Academy of Pediatrics. This new recommendation is twice the amount previously endorsed by the academy.

The risk is highest among exclusively breastfed infants, whose mothers often do not get enough vitamin D. Although breastfeeding is the best source of nutrition for infants,  vitamin D deficiencies in the maternal diet affect the vitamin D in a mother’s milk,  so it’s  important that breastfed infants receive supplements of vitamin D, say the researchers from the University of South Carolina in Charleston.

A growing body of literature and clinical studies point to the fact that adequate vitamin D consumption throughout childhood not only prevents rickets but appears to provide life-long benefits such as  protection against infections, autoimmune diseases, cancer, and diabetes.

Specific recommendations in the report include:

  • 400 IU of supplemental vitamin D daily for all infants who are exclusively or partly breastfed
  • 400 IU of supplemental vitamin D for nonbreastfed infants and older children who consume less than a quart of vitamin D-fortified formula or milk daily
  • The same dose of supplemental vitamin D for adolescents who do not get 400 IU daily from dietary sources
  • Possibly higher doses of supplemental vitamin D for children who have an increased risk of deficiency because of certain medications (such as antiseizure drugs) or medical conditions (such as chronic fat malabsorption)

Parents, ask your pediatrician about these new recommendations.

via Pediatrics, November 2008
via MedPage Today, October 2008