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Flu Season Is Coming: Here’s How to Protect Yourself

SUNDAY, Oct. 6, 2019 — If you don’t want to be one of the 40 million Americans who get the flu each year, it’s time to roll up your sleeve.

Everyone 6 months of age or older should have a flu shot by late October, before flu season begins, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends. Flu puts hundreds of thousands in the hospital each year and last year it claimed up to 61,000 lives, the CDC estimated.

Even once the flu season is in full swing, it’s not too late to get protected, experts from Rutgers Medical School said. The vaccine covers both influenza A and B strains, and this year’s shot has been tweaked to account for changes in the virus.

“Besides protecting you from common strains of the flu, the vaccine will lessen the severity of symptoms if you contract a strain that was not included,” said Dr. Tanaya Bhowmick, an infectious diseases specialist.

“Having the vaccination will stop the virus from infecting others,” especially vulnerable populations such as the elderly, children and those who have an impaired immune system, she explained in a news release from Rutgers Health.

Bhowmick added that a nasal spray vaccine, FluMist, can be given to people between the ages of 2 and 49, and it’s as effective as a needle.

Her colleague, Dr. David Cennimo, an assistant professor of medicine, said other precautions include staying home for at least 24 hours after your fever breaks; covering your nose and mouth when sneezing or coughing; washing your hands with soap and water after using a tissue; and avoiding touching your eyes, nose and mouth.

It’s also a good idea to skip large public gatherings, he suggested.

Flu can have serious complications, Cennimo said, such as pneumonia; inflammation of the heart, brain or muscles; and organ failure. Seniors and people with chronic conditions are at highest risk of dying, he added.

Flu season lasts from October through May, peaking between December and February, Cennimo said. Because the vaccine’s peak effectiveness lasts about six months, October is prime time for the shot.

And, don’t worry, the vaccine won’t give you the flu, Bhowmick said. But because it exposes you to a weakened form of the virus, you might feel a little sick after getting vaccinated, she added.

More information

Learn more about the flu from the CDC.

© 2019 HealthDay. All rights reserved.

Posted: October 2019

Drugs.com – Daily MedNews

Beating Opioid Addiction Can Be Tough, Here’s What Helps

THURSDAY, Sept. 26, 2019 — A constant barrage of news on America’s opioid epidemic stokes feelings of hopelessness, and with good reason: Every day, more than 130 people are dying from overdoses, according to government statistics.

But amid the harrowing stories, there’s some good news: It is possible to recover from an opioid addiction.

That’s the primary message from a study published recently in the Journal of Addiction Medicine, in which an estimated 1.2 million American adults reported recovering from an opioid addiction.

While the research demonstrated that an opioid problem can be overcome, it also showed that the road to recovery is likely to be long and challenging. It will also require more resources than it takes to kick an alcohol problem.

“It can take up to five years of continuous remission before the risk of symptoms drops to levels seen in the general population,” said study lead author Lauren Hoffman, a research fellow at Massachusetts General Hospital’s Recovery Research Institute and Harvard Medical School.

Using data from the 2017 National Recovery Survey, Hoffman and her team analyzed treatment and recovery services used by U.S. adults who had resolved opioid problems compared to those who had overcome an alcohol problem. Results showed stark differences between the two groups’ recovery route.

By mid-recovery (between one and five years), individuals who had resolved an opioid problem were four times more likely to have used pharmacotherapies (drugs to prevent cravings or relapse such as methadone or buprenorphine), two-and-a-half times more likely to use formal addiction treatment (such as cognitive behavioral therapy), and around two times more likely to use recovery support services and mutual help organizations than adults in mid-recovery from an alcohol problem.

Mid-recovery, adults recovering from opioid abuse also were more likely than those battling alcohol issues to report low self-esteem. During early recovery, the groups didn’t exhibit these differences.

The study “implies that perhaps those who have an opioid problem might need to utilize more services or utilize services for a longer period of time to maintain recovery and achieve recovery durations beyond one year,” Hoffman observed.

The findings don’t come as a surprise to some addiction experts.

“Once you are dependent on opioids, you are more likely to fall into the category of having a more severe problem,” said Frederick Muench, president of the Center on Addiction.

The study, he said, reinforces the need to incentivize recovery supports over long periods of time. This isn’t something the U.S. treatment system historically has advocated for, explained Muench. “Ongoing support isn’t necessarily covered by insurance,” he said.

Treatment services’ prohibitive costs and scarcity, especially in rural areas, have long been blamed as the primary obstacles standing in the way of recovery from opioid dependence. But Muench points to some positive trends. Notably, they include recent federal funding increases allocated to medication treatment for drug recovery, as well as recognition by the medical community of addiction medicine as an official subspecialty of preventive medicine.

As policymakers become more aware of the need to adequately address opioid use, the stigma that opioid users feel may simultaneously decline. That would be another step in the right direction for recovery, experts believe.

“Individuals with opioid use disorder are less likely to disclose their recovery status,” said Hoffman. Unlike alcohol use, which is more widely accepted, she sees the shroud of secrecy and stigma surrounding the use of opioids as detrimental, making countless individuals afraid to reach out for help. Knowing that there is hope for opioid users may spur them to seek outside assistance, she added.

For these reasons, professionals in the addiction field applauded Hoffman and her team for addressing recovery as part of their research.

“We mostly focus on the mortality of opioid users. Of course, it’s devastating. But we need to pay attention to the fact that people can recover,” said Dr. Wilson Compton, deputy director of the U.S. National Institute on Drug Abuse.

The new research may have put opioid recovery on the map. But for Hoffman, it spurs new inquiries.

“Recovery doesn’t look the same for everyone. It’s going to vary by substance, at the very least,” she suggested. “Those who suffer from an opioid problem might need prolonged clinical care or additional recovery support to maintain recovery in the long term.”

More information

There’s more on fighting drug addiction at the U.S. National Institute on Drug Abuse.

© 2019 HealthDay. All rights reserved.

Posted: September 2019

Drugs.com – Daily MedNews

Second Thoughts About That Tattoo? Here’s Some Advice

FRIDAY, Sept. 20, 2019 — If it’s time for that tattoo to go, here’s some advice from the American Academy of Dermatology.

Lasers removal of tattoos has become safer and more effective, but the results depend almost entirely on the person doing the work.

“For the best results and to reduce your risk of serious side effects, such as scarring, burns and other wounds, it’s important to make sure the person treating you is a physician who is extremely skilled in using lasers and has in-depth knowledge of the skin,” said New York City dermatologist Dr. Marie Leger.

“After that, it’s also important to properly care for the treated skin between sessions, as your skin needs time to heal and flush out the ink,” Leger added in an academy news release.

After each treatment, wash the treated area twice a day with water and a gentle cleanser. Use a clean cotton swab to apply petroleum jelly to the area to help keep the skin moist so it doesn’t dry out or form scabs. To prevent infection, cover the treated area with a dressing until the skin heals.

The treated skin is more susceptible to sun damage, so you should protect it from direct sun exposure. When outdoors, wear protective clothing, such as a lightweight, long-sleeved shirt, pants and a wide-brimmed hat, Leger advised.

After the treated skin heals, use a broad-spectrum sunscreen with an SPF of 30 or higher that contains zinc oxide. Zinc deflects the sun’s harmful ultraviolet rays.

Don’t pick at any flaking, peeling, blisters or scabs that form, and don’t pop any blisters. Doing so can cause infection.

After a laser tattoo removal session, it’s normal to see some redness, swelling and blistering as your skin heals. However, if you notice signs of an infection, such as increasing redness and pain, swelling or pus, see a doctor.

“Tattoo removal requires many treatments, with weeks between sessions,” Leger said. “For the best results, follow your dermatologist’s instructions for at-home care, and keep all of your appointments for laser tattoo removal, as each treatment removes more ink.”

More information

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has more on tattoo removal

© 2019 HealthDay. All rights reserved.

Posted: September 2019

Drugs.com – Daily MedNews

Here’s How Too Much Social Media Can Harm Girls

By Steven Reinberg
HealthDay Reporter

WEDNESDAY, Aug 14, 2019 (HealthDay News) — Bingeing on social media isn’t good for any teen, but new research has pinpointed three ways in which hours spent on Instagram, Twitter, Snapchat and Facebook may harm the mental health of young girls in particular.

“Almost all of the influence of social media on mental health could be explained by the three mechanisms examined — namely experiencing cyberbullying, sleeping for less than eight hours a night and reduced physical activity — all of which have known effects on mental health,” said researcher Dasha Nicholls, a reader in child psychiatry at Imperial College London.

“The influence of these mechanisms in boys was much less marked, however, and it is likely that other mechanisms are operating that we were unable to explore,” she added.

Girls use social media much more than boys, Nicholls explained, and girls may use social media differently than boys. They also are exposed to and react differently to the content they see, she noted.

“It’s important to keep a balance, so that social media does not displace other activities that are important for mental health,” Nicholls said.

Another expert said social media is a mixed bag for teens.

Social media use does not necessarily need to be harmful, said Ann DeSmet, a post-doctorate fellow in health science at Ghent University in Belgium.

It can reduce loneliness, but can also increase exposure to harmful outcomes, such as cyberbullying, said DeSmet, who authored an editorial that accompanied the study.

“It is harmful if it displaces time that would be spent on healthy lifestyles, such as physical activity and sleep, or when it increases involvement in cyberbullying,” she said.

For the study, Nicholls and her colleagues interviewed roughly 10,000 teens from almost 1,000 schools in England. Over three years, the researchers checked how much time teens spent on social media. They defined heavy use as using apps like Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Snapchat and WhatsApp three or more times a day.

Nicholls team found that in 2013, 43% of boys used social media throughout the day, compared with 51% of girls. In 2014, social media use had jumped to 51% of boys and 68% of girls. By 2015, 69% of boys and 75% of girls used social media multiple times a day.

Continued

Among girls, the more often they used social media, the more psychological distress they suffered, the findings suggested. In 2014, 28% of girls who used social media a lot reported psychological distress, compared with 20% of those who used it weekly or less. This effect was not as clear in boys, the study authors noted.

Moreover, a well-being survey found that girls who used social media very often were likely to report lower life satisfaction and happiness, and greater anxiety in 2015. This relationship wasn’t seen among boys, the researchers noted.

Well-being in girls was affected most by cyberbullying, poor sleep and lack of physical activity. Nearly 60% of psychological distress was caused by these factors.

These factors accounted for only 12% of psychological distress among boys who used social media frequently, the researchers said.

The differences between boys and girls might be that girls start with higher levels of anxiety. Also, cyberbullying is more common among girls, Nicholls noted.

The findings were published online Aug. 13 in The Lancet Child & Adolescent Health.

Dr. Anne Glowinski, a professor of child psychiatry at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis, said that parents should be aware of how much time their children are spending on social media and what they are doing there.

Also, parents should set guidelines about social media use.

“Parents tend to go all or nothing,” she said. “One of the scenarios I see is that a kid gets handed the smartphone, does whatever they want, and then boom, something bad happens.”

Giving a kid a smartphone should come with guidelines, Glowinski said.

Also, parents should be concerned if their child is not interacting with real people, or is gaining weight or not engaging in physical activity, or sleeping poorly. These can be signs of emotional problems, she said.

WebMD News from HealthDay

Sources

SOURCES: Dasha Nicholls, Ph.D., reader, child psychiatry Imperial College London, United Kingdom; Ann DeSmet, Ph.D., post-doctorate fellow, health science, Ghent University, Belgium; Anne Glowinski, M.D., professor, child psychiatry, Washington University School of Medicine, St. Louis; Aug. 13, 2019,The Lancet Child & Adolescent Health, online

Copyright © 2013-2018 HealthDay. All rights reserved.

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WebMD Health

Here’s How Too Much Social Media Can Harm Girls

WEDNESDAY, Aug 14, 2019 — Bingeing on social media isn’t good for any teen, but new research has pinpointed three ways in which hours spent on Instagram, Twitter, Snapchat and Facebook may harm the mental health of young girls in particular.

“Almost all of the influence of social media on mental health could be explained by the three mechanisms examined — namely experiencing cyberbullying, sleeping for less than eight hours a night and reduced physical activity — all of which have known effects on mental health,” said researcher Dasha Nicholls, a reader in child psychiatry at Imperial College London.

“The influence of these mechanisms in boys was much less marked, however, and it is likely that other mechanisms are operating that we were unable to explore,” she added.

Girls use social media much more than boys, Nicholls explained, and girls may use social media differently than boys. They also are exposed to and react differently to the content they see, she noted.

“It’s important to keep a balance, so that social media does not displace other activities that are important for mental health,” Nicholls said.

Another expert said social media is a mixed bag for teens.

Social media use does not necessarily need to be harmful, said Ann DeSmet, a post-doctorate fellow in health science at Ghent University in Belgium.

It can reduce loneliness, but can also increase exposure to harmful outcomes, such as cyberbullying, said DeSmet, who authored an editorial that accompanied the study.

“It is harmful if it displaces time that would be spent on healthy lifestyles, such as physical activity and sleep, or when it increases involvement in cyberbullying,” she said.

For the study, Nicholls and her colleagues interviewed roughly 10,000 teens from almost 1,000 schools in England. Over three years, the researchers checked how much time teens spent on social media. They defined heavy use as using apps like Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Snapchat and WhatsApp three or more times a day.

Nicholls team found that in 2013, 43% of boys used social media throughout the day, compared with 51% of girls. In 2014, social media use had jumped to 51% of boys and 68% of girls. By 2015, 69% of boys and 75% of girls used social media multiple times a day.

Among girls, the more often they used social media, the more psychological distress they suffered, the findings suggested. In 2014, 28% of girls who used social media a lot reported psychological distress, compared with 20% of those who used it weekly or less. This effect was not as clear in boys, the study authors noted.

Moreover, a well-being survey found that girls who used social media very often were likely to report lower life satisfaction and happiness, and greater anxiety in 2015. This relationship wasn’t seen among boys, the researchers noted.

Well-being in girls was affected most by cyberbullying, poor sleep and lack of physical activity. Nearly 60% of psychological distress was caused by these factors.

These factors accounted for only 12% of psychological distress among boys who used social media frequently, the researchers said.

The differences between boys and girls might be that girls start with higher levels of anxiety. Also, cyberbullying is more common among girls, Nicholls noted.

The findings were published online Aug. 13 in The Lancet Child & Adolescent Health.

Dr. Anne Glowinski, a professor of child psychiatry at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis, said that parents should be aware of how much time their children are spending on social media and what they are doing there.

Also, parents should set guidelines about social media use.

“Parents tend to go all or nothing,” she said. “One of the scenarios I see is that a kid gets handed the smartphone, does whatever they want, and then boom, something bad happens.”

Giving a kid a smartphone should come with guidelines, Glowinski said.

Also, parents should be concerned if their child is not interacting with real people, or is gaining weight or not engaging in physical activity, or sleeping poorly. These can be signs of emotional problems, she said.

More information

For more on teens and social media, head to the Pew Research Center.

© 2019 HealthDay. All rights reserved.

Posted: August 2019

Drugs.com – Daily MedNews

Love the Smell of a Cup o’ Joe? Here’s What That Reveals About You

FRIDAY, May 17, 2019 — Java junkies can sniff out even tiny amounts of coffee, and the more they drink, the better they can smell it, British researchers say.

It’s a discovery with powerful implications for treating people addicted to substances with a distinct smell.

“The higher the caffeine use, the quicker a person recognized the odor of coffee,” said study leader Lorenzo Stafford. He is an olfactory expert at the University of Portsmouth, in England.

Not only could the regular coffee drinkers among the more than 90 volunteers quickly detect the aroma of a heavily diluted coffee chemical, their ability to do so increased with their level of craving, the findings showed.

“The more they desired caffeine, the better their sense of smell for coffee,” Stafford said in a university news release.

It’s the first evidence that java junkies are more sensitive to the smell of coffee, according to the study published recently in the journal Experimental and Clinical Psychopharmacology.

Researchers had wondered if coffee drinkers and non-drinkers responded differently to the smell, and whether cravings might be related to an increased ability to detect it.

Describing caffeine as the “most widely consumed psychoactive drug,” Stafford said the findings suggest that changes in the ability to detect smells could be a useful index of drug dependency.

The study authors said their work could lead to new methods of aversion therapy to treat addiction to substances with a distinct smell, such as tobacco and marijuana.

“We have known for some time that drug cues (for example, the smell of alcohol) can trigger craving in users, but here we show with a mildly addictive drug, that craving might be linked to an increased ability to detect that substance,” Stafford explained.

Previous research revealed that people who were trained to associate an odor with something unpleasant later showed greater dislike of that odor. That suggests a possible model for conditioned odor aversion, the researchers said.

More information

The U.S. National Institute on Drug Abuse has more about addiction treatment.

© 2019 HealthDay. All rights reserved.

Posted: May 2019

Drugs.com – Daily MedNews

Here’s How the Government Shutdown Could Affect Your Health