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Holidays Can Be Sensory Overload for Kids With Autism
November 23, 2014


SUNDAY, Nov. 23, 2014 (HealthDay News) -- The holidays can be a challenge for families of children with autism because sensory overload can trigger major meltdowns, an expert says.

"Holidays with family can be dicey under the best of circumstances, but when you have children with special needs, some care must be taken," Varleisha Gibbs, an occupational therapy professor at University of the Sciences in Philadelphia, said in a university news release.

"It's best to let your hosts or visitors know what special requirements are needed to make sure your child and entire family have a pleasant experience," she advised.

Before a holiday gathering, inform family and friends about any triggers that might set off your child, such as not liking to be hugged, or a child's need to spend time alone in a quiet location to relax and calm down.

If your child has food sensitivities or dislikes certain foods, bring the child's favorite foods with you so he or she has something to eat during the meal, Gibbs suggested.

It's also a good idea to bring a backpack full of sensory items, such as headphones and music, toys and chewing gum. These will help calm your child if he or she feels overwhelmed and needs some "me time."

Dress your child in clothing he or she prefers, and pack sunglasses and ear plugs for those who are hypersensitive to their surroundings.

If you host a gathering that includes people unfamiliar with your child's condition, speak to them beforehand about some of the unusual behaviors your child may exhibit. This will help your guests from being alarmed or uncomfortable, Gibbs said.

More information

The U.S. National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke has more about autism.Copyright © 2014 HealthDay. All rights reserved.

SOURCE: University of the Sciences, news release, Nov. 11, 2014...

'Tis the Season of Challenges for Those With Food Allergies
November 22, 2014


SATURDAY, Nov. 22, 2014 (HealthDay News) -- The wide variety and complexity of foods served at holiday gatherings can pose a threat for people with food allergies, an expert warns.

"Every person is different and there are so many types of food allergies that it can be really difficult to avoid all allergens over the holidays," Dr. Guha Krishnaswamy, director of allergy and clinical immunology at Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center, said in a hospital news release.

"If you know you have food allergies, caution should overrule your desire to taste something new, and always carry an EpiPen that is up-to-date," he advised.

Most allergic reactions to foods occur within minutes. The most common allergens are shrimp, soy, egg, wheat, milk and fish. While the main ingredients in a dish may be safe, allergic reactions can be caused by additives, spices and colorings, Krishnaswamy said.

Some people have a condition called Alpha-gal syndrome, which is an allergy to the sugars in beef, pork and other red meats. Unlike most other allergies, people with this condition don't have symptoms until hours after they eat meat.

Another unusual allergy is called food dependent exercise-induced anaphylaxis. This is a severe allergic reaction triggered by intense exercise a few hours after eating certain foods, including wheat and celery.

Some people who become ill after eating certain foods don't have food allergies, but rather conditions called food idiosyncrasies or intolerances. For example, some people get migraines after they consume certain combinations, such as cheese and wine, Krishnaswamy said.

More information

The American Academy of Family Physicians has more about food allergies.
Copyright © 2014 HealthDay. All rights reserved.

SOURCE: Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center, news release, Nov. 11, 2014...

Close Friends May Be Key to Teens' Drinking
November 21, 2014


FRIDAY, Nov. 21, 2014 (HealthDay News) -- Close friends have more influence on teens' alcohol use than their general peer group does, a new study says.

"We've known for a long time that friends and peers have an influence on individual alcohol use, but there are no common studies that distinguished between the broader peer group and the friend group's influence on those decisions," Jonathon Beckmeyer, an assistant professor at Indiana University's School of Public Health, said in a university news release.

Beckmeyer analyzed data gathered from 15-year-olds in a U.S. government study and found that the drinking habits of their close friends had a greater effect on their own alcohol consumption than did alcohol use among their peers.

For example, even if a teen believed that many other teens drank, they were less likely to have tried alcohol if they believed their friends didn't drink.

"We're spending our time changing perceptions of the broader peer group, but really what might be the more key determinant of teen alcohol use is what's going on in their own friend group," Beckmeyer said.

"Really working to encourage teens to make friendships with non-alcohol-using friends could be one of the more effective things parents can do to help," he suggested.

The study was presented Wednesday at the annual meeting of the American Public Health Association in New Orleans. Research from meetings is generally considered preliminary until it's been published in a peer-reviewed journal.

More information

The U.S. National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism outlines what parents can do to prevent young people from drinking.
Copyright © 2014 HealthDay. All rights reserved.

SOURCE: Indiana University, news release, Nov. 19, 2014...

Treating Irregular Heartbeat With Digoxin May Come With Risks
November 21, 2014


FRIDAY, Nov. 21, 2014 (HealthDay News) -- The widely used heart drug digoxin is associated with increased risk of death and hospitalization among patients who have the heart rhythm disorder atrial fibrillation but no evidence of heart failure, a new study finds.

Atrial fibrillation is a common form of irregular heartbeat that has been linked to a rise in risk for stroke among older Americans. Digoxin has been used for more than a century to help treat irregular heartbeat, the authors of the new study said, and many guidelines recommend the drug for the treatment of atrial fibrillation.

However, the new findings "suggest that the use of digoxin should be re-evaluated for the treatment of atrial fibrillation in contemporary clinical practice," study co-author Dr. Anthony Steimle, chief of cardiology at Kaiser Permanente Santa Clara Medical Center, said in a Kaiser news release.

One expert wasn't surprised by the findings.

"In my experience as an electrophysiologist, specializing in heart rhythm, I've seen time and again that digoxin can be toxic to atrial fibrillation patients, proving useful in only a tiny subset who are bedridden," said Dr. Soad Bekheit, director of electrophysiology services at Staten Island University Hospital in Staten Island, N.Y.

The new study involved nearly 15,000 adults who were recently diagnosed with atrial fibrillation and had no prior history of heart failure or digoxin use. During the three-year study, more than 4,800 of the patients began taking digoxin.

Those who took digoxin had a 71 percent higher risk of death and a 63 percent higher risk of hospitalization than those who did not take the heart drug, according to the study published online Nov. 21 in the journal Circulation: Arrhythmia and Electrophysiology.

"Given the other options available for heart-rate control, digoxin should be used with caution in the management of atrial fibrillation, especially in the absence of symptomatic systolic heart failure," Steimle believes.

"Digoxin remains commonly used for rate control in atrial fibrillation, but very limited data exist to support this practice -- mostly small, older clinical studies with very limited follow-up that did not assess the long-term effects of digoxin on mortality or hospitalization," added study senior author Dr. Alan Go, a research scientist at the Kaiser Permanente Division of Research in Oakland, Calif.

A 2013 study by the same research team found that digoxin was associated with a 72 percent higher risk of death among adults recently diagnosed with systolic heart failure.

One expert agreed that it may be time to re-evaluate the use of this very old drug in patients with atrial fibrillation.

"This study is certainly in keeping with what many heart rhythm doctors have been generally saying about the use of digoxin over the past years," said Dr. Conor Barrett, director of the Arrhythmia Institute at Mount Sinai St Luke's and Mount Sinai Roosevelt Hospitals in New York City.

"We know that digoxin use alone does not satisfactorily regulate heart rates in active individuals; this has limited its use to more sedentary individuals," he pointed out.

However, "given the findings of this study," other medications such as beta blockers or calcium channel blockers might be a better alternative for these patients, Barrett said.

Bekheit agreed. "Other, newer drugs have been shown to be safer and more efficient than digoxin for atrial fibrillation patients," he said. "While I won't say digoxin should never be used, it should be prescribed only with great caution."

More information

The U.S. National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute has more about atrial fibrillation.
Copyright © 2014 HealthDay. All rights reserved.

SOURCES: Conor Barrett, M.D., director, Arrhythmia Institute, Mount Sinai St. Luke's and Mount Sinai Roosevelt Hospitals, New York City; Soad Bekheit, M.D., director, electrophysiology services, Staten Island University Hospital, Staten Island, N.Y.; Kais...

Restroom Hand Dryers Spread More Germs Than Paper Towels, Study Finds
November 21, 2014


FRIDAY, Nov. 21, 2014 (HealthDay News) -- Those air-blown hand dryers in public restrooms may spread far more germs than conventional paper towels, a new study suggests.

British researchers placed a harmless type of bacteria on the hands of volunteers in order to simulate poorly washed hands. They then had them use warm-air dryers, high-powered "jet-air" dryers or paper towels to dry their hands.

The investigators measured airborne bacteria levels and found higher amounts of germs around both types of dryers than around towel dispensers.

Jet-air dryers were the worst, the study found. Bacteria levels in the air around jet-air dryers were 4.5 times higher than around warm air dryers and 27 times higher than around paper towel dispensers, said a team led by Mark Wilcox of the University of Leeds.

His team also found that the bacteria persisted in the air around hand dryers long after they were used. Forty-eight percent of the bacteria around hand dryers was collected more than five minutes after use, and the bacteria could still be detected 15 minutes after use.

"Next time you dry your hands in a public toilet using an electric hand dryer, you may be spreading bacteria without knowing it. You may also be splattered with bugs from other people's hands," Wilcox said in a university news release.

"These findings are important for understanding the ways in which bacteria spread, with the potential to transmit illness and disease," he added.

The study was published Nov. 20 in the Journal of Hospital Infection and was also presented at the Healthcare Infection Society International Conference in Lyon, France.

More information

For tips on proper hand washing, head to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Copyright © 2014 HealthDay. All rights reserved.

SOURCE: University of Leeds, news release, Nov. 20, 2014...

Being the Boss Tied to Depression Risk for Women, But Not Men
November 21, 2014


FRIDAY, Nov. 21, 2014 (HealthDay News) -- Being the boss at work seems to raise the odds for symptoms of depression among women, but not men, a new study finds.

"Women with job authority -- the ability to hire, fire, and influence pay -- have significantly more symptoms of depression than women without this power," lead author Tetyana Pudrovska, an assistant professor in the department of sociology at the University of Texas at Austin, said in a news release from the American Sociological Association.

"In contrast, men with job authority have fewer symptoms of depression than men without such power," she added.

The research included more than 1,500 middle-aged women and 1,300 middle-aged men who graduated from high schools in Wisconsin.

"What's striking is that women with job authority in our study are advantaged in terms of most characteristics that are strong predictors of positive mental health," Pudrovska said.

"These women have more education, higher incomes, more prestigious occupations and higher levels of job satisfaction and autonomy than women without job authority. Yet, they have worse mental health than lower-status women," she continued.

Pudrovska offered a possible explanation for the findings.

"Years of social science research suggests that women in authority positions deal with interpersonal tension, negative social interactions, negative stereotypes, prejudice, social isolation, as well as resistance from subordinates, colleagues and superiors," she said.

"Women in authority positions are viewed as lacking the assertiveness and confidence of strong leaders. But when these women display such characteristics, they are judged negatively for being unfeminine. This contributes to chronic stress," Pudrovska said.

On the other hand, male bosses generally have less stress because they don't face the same resistance or negative stereotypes, she suggested.

"Men in positions of authority are consistent with the expected status beliefs, and male leadership is accepted as normative and legitimate. This increases men's power and effectiveness as leaders and diminishes interpersonal conflict," Pudrovska said.

The study findings show the "need to address gender discrimination, hostility and prejudice against women leaders to reduce the psychological costs and increase the psychological rewards of higher-status jobs for women," she concluded.

While this study found an association between authority at work and depression, it wasn't designed to prove that someone's position at work was a cause of depression.

Findings from the study appear in the December issue of the Journal of Health and Social Behavior.

More information

The U.S. National Institute of Mental Health has more about women and depression.
Copyright © 2014 HealthDay. All rights reserved.

SOURCE: American Sociological Association, news release, Nov. 20, 2014...

Special Ambulance Delivers Vital Stroke Care More Quickly
November 21, 2014


FRIDAY, Nov. 21, 2014 (HealthDay News) -- Stroke outcomes are better when patients are treated in an ambulance by a neurologist equipped with a CT scanner and clot-busting drugs, German researchers report.

The sooner patients get the clot dissolver -- tissue plasminogen activator (tPA) -- the better the outcome after a stroke, the researchers noted. For the best outcome, the drug needs to be given within the first hour after stroke symptoms start, the researchers said.

"The so-called 'golden hour' is associated with improved patient outcomes in terms of hospital discharge," said lead researcher Dr. Martin Ebinger, from the Center for Stroke Research at Charite-Universitatsmedizin in Berlin.

"Our findings emphasize the importance of fast treatment in acute stroke," he said. Giving clot-busting drugs in a stroke emergency mobile unit (STEMO) substantially increases the number of stroke patients who get that care in the golden hour, Ebinger said.

For the study, Ebinger and his colleagues looked at how fast clot-busting drugs could be given before patients got to the hospital and how well they did afterwards.

Specifically, they looked at slightly more than 3,000 patients with a suspected stroke treated in a STEMO between May 2011 and January 2013, and compared them with almost 3,000 similar patients when STEMO wasn't available.

Of the 614 patients who suffered a stroke when a STEMO unit was available, 32.6 percent got tPA in the ambulance. Among the 330 stroke patients seen when the special ambulance was not available, 22 percent were given the drug once they got to the hospital.

Patients treated in the STEMO unit got tPA 24.5 minutes sooner than patients given the drug in the hospital. The number given tPA within the golden hour was six times higher with STEMO, according to the report published online Nov. 17 in the journal JAMA Neurology.

Moreover, patients treated with STEMO had no increase in death in the week or three months after their stroke, and they were able to leave the hospital sooner than patients given tPA in the hospital, the researchers found.

"Every effort should be made to reduce delays from symptom onset to treatment," Ebinger said.

Dr. Ralph Sacco, chairman of neurology at the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine, said, "Now we have objective evidence that STEMO not only leads to an increase in the proportion of stroke patients treated with tPA, but also can gets it accomplished much faster, with a six-fold increase in the number of stroke patients treated in the golden hour."

Prototype units are being used and evaluated in Houston and will likely be available in other parts of the United States, he said. "The stroke mobile unit is no longer a fantasy but a reality worthy of further study and consideration," Sacco said.

Dr. Steven Warach is executive director of the Seton/UT Southwestern Clinical Research Institute in Austin, Texas, and author of an accompanying journal editorial. He said, "The mobile stroke unit could be a revolutionary breakthrough in treating stroke victims, but more research is needed to understand how and where to deploy this emergency room on wheels."

It is rare that stroke victims can be treated this quickly, he said. "Patients treated this early in this study were more likely to be able to return to their homes from the hospital and less likely to need go to nursing homes," Warach said.

If these results are confirmed and generalize to other countries and cities, it will be a tremendous advance in helping the victims of stroke, he said.

"But there are many questions still to be answered," Warach said. "STEMO is expensive and the CT scanner won't be needed for most ambulances. Where is it best to have STEMO -- in a city with many strokes but many hospitals nearby or in rural settings far away from hospitals but with fewer strokes?"

According to Warach, the cost can range from around $750,000 to up to $2 million, depending on the components and whether a standard ambulance truck is used or is customized. The CT scanner itself is about $500,000. Also, the ongoing costs of personnel need to be considered, he said.

"To be financially sustainable, the costs of these units must be offset by the benefits they provide, measured in terms of preventing long-term disabilities and deaths," Warach said.

More information

For more on strokes, visit the U.S. National Library of Medicine.

SOURCES: Martin Ebinger, M.D., Center for Stroke Research, Charite-Universitatsmedizin, Berlin, Germany; Steven Warach, M.D., Ph.D., professor, neurology, executive director of the Seton/UT Southwestern Clinical Research Institute in Austin, Texas; Ralph ...

Sickle Cell Anemia Treatment So Successful in Kids That Trial Is Halted
November 21, 2014


FRIDAY, Nov. 21, 2014 (HealthDay News) -- A clinical trial of hydroxyurea therapy for children with sickle cell anemia has been halted a year early because the results show it is a safe and effective way to manage the disease and reduce the risk of stroke.

The announcement about the research, which was conducted at 25 medical centers in the United States and Canada, was made this week by the U.S. National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI).

Researchers compared monthly blood transfusions with daily hydroxyurea pills among children with sickle cell anemia who were at high risk of stroke. To determine this, they measured the velocity of blood flow to the brain in these young patients.

With sickle cell anemia, red blood cells become stiff and sickle-shaped, blocking blood flow throughout the body. Hydroxyurea was first developed as a cancer drug, but with sickle cell anemia it reduces the number of these abnormally shaped red blood cells, the researchers said.

Early results showed that hydroxyurea "works as well as blood transfusions which lowers the risk of the child having a stroke," principal investigator Dr. Russell Ware, director of hematology at Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center, said in a center news release.

"This critical research finding opens the door to more treatment options for clinicians trying to prevent strokes in children living with the sickle cell disease," NHLBI Director Dr. Gary Gibbons said in the news release.

The study began in September 2011 and enrolled 121 children, aged 4 to 16, with sickle cell anemia who showed an increased risk of stroke.

More information

The U.S. National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute has more about sickle cell anemia.
Copyright © 2014 HealthDay. All rights reserved.

SOURCE: Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center, news release, Nov. 19, 2014...

Health Highlights: Nov. 23, 2014
November 23, 2014


Here are some of the latest health and medical news developments, compiled by the editors of HealthDay:

New Case of Ebola Confirmed in Mali

A new case of Ebola has been confirmed in Mali, and two more people are being tested on suspicion they may be infected with the virus, government officials said Saturday.

Five people have died of Ebola in Mali already, and health officials are worried that the disease might spread further in that African country, the Associated Press reported.

A government statement issued Saturday said the latest Ebola patient "was placed in an isolation center for intensive treatment," the AP reported. Currently, more than 300 people in Mali who had some contact with Ebola patients are being monitored for signs of the disease.

"The new cases in Mali remind us that no country in the region is immune to Ebola," Manuel Fontaine, UNICEF regional director for West and Central Africa, said in a statement Friday, the AP reported.

Of the more than 5,400 people who have died in the current outbreak, most of the deaths have occurred in Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone, according to the World Health Organization.

Sierra Leone has recorded more than 1,200 Ebola deaths, and only 13 percent of Sierra Leone's Ebola patients were being isolated, according to a WHO report released last week.


House Republicans Sue Obama Administration Over Health Care Law
A long-threatened lawsuit against the Obama administration over its health care law was filed Friday by House Republicans.
The lawsuit against the secretaries of the Health and Human Services and Treasury Departments claims that unilateral actions taken to implement the law are abuses of the president's executive authority, The New York Times reports.
Specifically, the suit claims that the Obama administration unlawfully postponed a requirement that larger companies (50 or more employees) offer health coverage to their full-time workers or pay penalties.
The White House announced in mid-2013 that the requirement was delayed until 2015, and earlier this year announced that it was delayed until 2016 for companies with 50 to 99 employees, The Times reported.
The lawsuit also alleges that the Obama administration unlawfully gave about $175 billion to insurance companies to cover premium subsidies for poor people. The administration will pay that amount to insurers over the next 10 years, but the funds have not been appropriated by Congress, according to the Congressional Budget Office.
That makes it an unlawful transfer of funds, according to the lawsuit.
In the summer, House Republicans passed a resolution authorizing a legal challenge against the president over the use of his executive authority to alter parts of the health care law, The Times reported.
The lawsuit is strange because it targets the Obama administration for delaying enforcement of a law that Republicans strongly oppose, according to Democrats.
No Republicans voted for the health care law when it was passed in 2010, and House Republicans have voted dozens of times to repeal all or parts of it, The Times reported.


Millions of Baby Strollers Recalled Due to Finger Amputation Risk

Nearly five million Graco- and Century-brand baby strollers are being recalled in the United States, Canada and Mexico due to a problem that can result in severe cuts or finger amputation, the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission says.
The folding hinge on the sides of the recalled strollers can pinch a child's finger. Eleven reports of finger injuries, including six fingertip amputations, four partial-fingertip amputations, and finger laceration have been received by the manufacturer, Graco Children's Products.
The model names of the recalled strollers are: Aspen, Breeze, Capri, Cirrus, Glider, Kite, LiteRider, Sierra, Solara, Sterling and TravelMate Model Strollers and Travel Systems, and their manufacture dates range from Aug. 1, 2000 to Sept. 25, 2014, the CPSC said.
Graco will begin offering free repair kits for the strollers in early December. For more information, contact the company at 1-800-345-4109 between 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. ET Monday through Friday, or go to Graco's website.
Until the repair kits are available, consumers should be extremely careful when unfolding the stroller and make sure that the hinges are firmly locked in place before placing a child in the stroller, the CPSC said.


Flu Season Off to a Slow Start ... for Now
November 21, 2014


FRIDAY, Nov. 21, 2014 (HealthDay News) -- This year's flu season is off to a slow but detectable start. And it appears to be a typical one that's likely to peak in January or February, a leading U.S. health official says.

"We are starting to see a little more flu in the country, but we are still at pretty low levels," said Dr. Joseph Bresee, chief of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's Epidemiology and Prevention Branch in the Influenza Division.

"There is a little more each week, but still no widespread flu," he added.

Bresee said that for the last two years, the flu season started early, peaking in December. "This year looks more like a classic flu year, where we are starting to see increasing cases of flu all around the country," he said.

Despite the slow start, now's the time to get a flu shot -- if you haven't already, Bresee said. It's too early to tell which flu strains will predominate this season. But so far, the strains being detected seem to be a good match for the vaccine, he said.

It takes about two weeks for the vaccine to become effective, Bresee said.

More than 135 million doses of vaccine are available this year, according to the CDC.

This year's vaccine is the same as last year's, Bresee said, but that doesn't mean that protection from a flu shot last year is still working.

"You need another shot every year whether the flu vaccine changes or not, because the flu antibodies you got last year with the vaccine decrease over time. And by now, you have low levels of these antibodies. So you want another vaccination to boost those antibodies," he explained.
The CDC recommends that everybody 6 months of age and older get vaccinated. There are several forms of flu vaccine available, including injections, nasal spray and a high-dose injection for people 65 and older.

The CDC doesn't recommend one form over another, Bresee said. "At CDC, we really don't care. We just want everybody to get the vaccine, whether it's the high dose or the standard dose," Bresee said.

The nasal vaccine, however, is recommended for children 2 to 8 years old, he said. "But if a kid shows up at a doctor's office and they don't have the nasal vaccine in stock, go ahead and get the shot," he added.

Infectious-disease expert Dr. Marc Siegel said a "recent study shows better effects of the flu vaccine than previously realized."

Siegel, an associate professor of medicine at NYU Langone Medical Center in New York City, said that the 2009 pandemic H1N1 flu has been a prevailing strain the last few years, and it causes more severe illness in some children and pregnant women.

"Flu causes complications in the very young, the very old, pregnant women and those with chronic illness, including asthma, diabetes, heart disease and HIV," he said.

It's thought that, on average, from 5 percent to 20 percent of Americans come down with the flu each season, and more than 200,000 people are hospitalized with complications from the disease. From 1976 to 2006, estimates of flu-associated deaths in the United States ranged from a low of about 3,000 to a high of about 49,000 people, according to the CDC.

More information

To learn more about the flu, visit the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Copyright © 2014 HealthDay. All rights reserved.

SOURCES: Joseph Bresee, M.D., chief, epidemiology and prevention branch, Influenza Division, U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention; Marc Siegel, M.D., associate professor of medicine, NYU Langone Medical Center, New York City...

Senior-to-Senior Aggression Common in U.S. Nursing Homes
November 21, 2014


FRIDAY, Nov. 21, 2014 (HealthDay News) -- Elderly adults who live in nursing homes may commonly deal with aggressive or inappropriate behavior from fellow residents, a new study suggests.

The study of 10 centers in New York state found that, in the space of just one month, nearly 20 percent of residents were involved in some type of incident with a fellow resident.

Most often, it was a verbal clash, with someone yelling or cursing at another resident. In other cases, the incidents involved hitting or kicking -- or, in a small percentage, inappropriate touching.

"We discovered that this is a much more prevalent problem than any of us realized," said researcher Karl Pillemer, a gerontology professor at Weill Cornell Medical College in New York City.

Results of the study were presented at a recent meeting of the Gerontological Society of America. Findings from studies presented at meetings are generally considered preliminary until they've been published in a peer-reviewed journal.

Pillemer's research also zeroed in on the residents who were most likely to be involved in incidents. "Typically," Pillemer said, "they were people who were in the moderate stages of dementia, but were still physically able to get around."

That makes sense, according to Dr. Laura Mosqueda, a geriatrics specialist who was not involved in the study. Mosqueda directs the National Center on Elder Abuse at the University of Southern California, in Los Angeles.

Nursing home residents with dementia commonly become confused, and may act out aggressively -- but only if they have the physical capacity to do so, explained Mosqueda.

"I think the point this study raises is, who's responsible or accountable for this behavior?" Mosqueda said. "It's not the residents. In my view, it's the owners and people running the facilities. Do they have enough staff with the appropriate training?"

Still, Mosqueda also cautioned against an alarmist interpretation of the findings.

She noted that one of the more common forms of "aggression" in this study was "unwelcome entry" into another resident's room or going through another person's possessions.

"I'm not saying that behavior is OK," Mosqueda said. But, she added, it's common for dementia patients to become confused and unintentionally wander into a room that is not theirs.

For the study, Pillemer's team randomly selected 10 nursing homes in New York state that housed more than 2,000 residents altogether. Through staff interviews, surveys of residents and direct observation, the researchers estimated that over one month, nearly 20 percent of residents were involved in at least one incident of aggressive or inappropriate behavior.

Overall, 16 percent were involved in a verbal clash, while 10.5 percent had an invasion-of-privacy issue. Almost 6 percent were involved in a physical incident, like kicking, biting or hitting; and just over 1 percent experienced a sexual incident, like inappropriate touching, according to the researchers.

Pillemer said his team did not try to distinguish between "perpetrator" and "victim."

"It's often difficult to know," he noted. "And when you're talking about people with dementia, the traditional terms of 'perpetrator' and 'victim' don't hold up anyway."

One surprise, Pillemer said, was that men and women were equally likely to be involved in these incidents. "We'd suspected that it might be more common among men, but that wasn't the case," he said.

Pillemer added that the findings highlight an issue for nursing home administrators to address. Facilities need not only enough staff members, but also adequately trained ones, he said.

"We believe that the first line of defense is appropriate staff training," Pillemer said. He added that right now, staff often feel frustrated by incidents between residents, but "relatively helpless" in preventing them.

Beyond training, Pillemer said nursing homes could look at their design, and see whether "crowding" in hallways or shared areas could be minimized. "They could also pay attention to how they assign roommates," he said. "Are there some residents who are likely to do better without a roommate?"

As for families, Pillemer and Mosqueda said awareness of the issue is key. "I'd suggest visiting often and spending time not only in your family member's room, but also the public areas," Mosqueda said. If you notice a problem, tell the staff, she advised.

Pillemer agreed, adding, "If your family member complains of being bullied or being scared of another resident, take it seriously and tell the staff."

"Remember," Pillemer noted, "the staff is probably as concerned about these issues as you are."

More information

The U.S. National Institute on Aging has advice on choosing a nursing home.
Copyright © 2014 HealthDay. All rights reserved.

SOURCES: Karl Pillemer, Ph.D., professor, gerontology, Weill Cornell Medical College, New York City; Laura Mosqueda, M.D., director, National Center on Elder Abuse, University of Southern California Keck School of Medicine; Los Angeles; Nov. 8, 2014, pres...

Hookahs Deliver Toxic Benzene in Every Puff, Study Shows
November 21, 2014


FRIDAY, Nov. 21, 2014 (HealthDay News) -- Many young people consider hookahs a hip and safer way to smoke, but a new study finds fumes from the water pipes contain the toxin benzene.

Benzene has been linked to an increased risk for leukemia in prior research, according to a scientific team reporting Nov. 21 in the journal Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers & Prevention.

"In contrast to what is believed, hookah tobacco smoking is not a safe alternative to smoking other forms of tobacco," study author Nada Kassem, associate director of the Center for Behavioral Epidemiology and Community Health at San Diego State University, said in a journal news release.

Researchers analyzed levels of S-phenylmercapturic acid (SPMA) -- a metabolite (byproduct) of benzene --- in the urine of 105 hookah smokers and 103 nonsmokers exposed to smoke from the water pipes.

After an event in a hookah lounge, SPMA levels were four times higher than normal in hookah smokers and 2.6 times higher than normal among people who had attended but hadn't puffed on a hookah. After a hookah-smoking event in a private home, SPMA levels were two times higher among hookah smokers, but normal among nonsmokers.

"Hookah tobacco smoking involves the use of burning charcoal that is needed to heat the hookah tobacco to generate the smoke that the smoker inhales," Kassem explained.

"In addition to inhaling toxicants and carcinogens found in the hookah tobacco smoke, hookah smokers and nonsmokers who socialize with hookah smokers also inhale large quantities of charcoal combustion-generated toxic and carcinogenic emissions," she said.

Kassem believes that "because there is no safe level of exposure to benzene, our results call for interventions to reduce or prevent hookah tobacco use, regulatory actions to limit hookah-related exposure to toxicants including benzene, and include hookah smoking in clean indoor air legislation."

More information

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has more about hookahs.
Copyright © 2014 HealthDay. All rights reserved.

SOURCE: Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers & Prevention, news release, Nov. 21, 2014...

Ick! Tapeworm Infecting Man's Brain Yields Genetic Secrets
November 21, 2014


FRIDAY, Nov. 21, 2014 (HealthDay News) -- Scientists say they've mapped the genome -- the genetic "blueprint" -- of a tapeworm extracted from a British man's brain, in hopes it might help others with this very rare infection.

As reported Nov. 21 in the journal Genome Biology, the tapeworm was removed from the brain of a 50-year-old British man of Chinese ethnicity.

"This infection is so rare worldwide and completely unexpected in this country that the patient was not diagnosed ... until the worm was pulled out from the brain," study lead author Hayley Bennett, of the Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute in the United Kingdom, said in a journal news release.

As the researchers explained, most tapeworms live in the gut, causing symptoms such as weight loss, weakness and abdominal pain. However, some species travel to areas such as the eyes, spinal cord and brain.

In this study, researchers sequenced the genome of a 1-centimeter larval tapeworm removed from the man's brain. He had been complaining of symptoms such as headaches, seizures, altered smell and memory problems. The man survived the surgery and is recovering, Bennett's team said.

Through sequencing the tapeworm's genome, researchers identified it as a rare species called Spirometra erinaceieuropaei, typically found in China, Japan, South Korea and Thailand. Infection can occur when a person eats undercooked frogs or snakes, uses frog meat for treating wounds, or drinks contaminated water.

The researchers believe the gene study might lead to improved drug treatment for people with the parasite. By sequencing the tapeworm's genome, they pinpointed genes that provide resistance to a drug called benzimidazole, and other genes that suggest a possible sensitivity to another tapeworm drug, praziquantel.

The researchers also identified a number of genes that may offer targets for drugs that are already on the market but used to treat other conditions.

"We were also surprised at how large the genome was; it is much bigger than those of other known flatworms, and roughly a third of the size of the human genome," Bennett said.

"By comparing the genome to other tapeworms we can see that certain gene families are expanded -- these possibly underpin this worm's success in a large variety of host species," she added. "The data gave us a first look at a whole group of tapeworms that have not been sequenced before."

More information

The Encyclopedia of Life has more about tapeworms.
Copyright © 2014 HealthDay. All rights reserved.

SOURCE: Genome Biology, news release, Nov. 20, 2014...

Health Tip: Check Stress at the Office
November 21, 2014


(HealthDay News) -- Your work environment may be stressful enough without adding your frustration to the mix.

The American Council on Exercise says you can help improve your work environment by:

  • Being kind to your coworkers.
  • Communicating honestly and clearly with your colleagues and addressing any problems head-on, rather than feeling frustrated.
  • Focusing on positive opportunities rather than on disappointing things that affect you.
  • Getting regular exercise, plenty of sleep and eating well.
  • Looking for a new job if your work environment is not healthy and can't be changed.

Copyright © 2014 HealthDay. All rights reserved.


Health Tip: Beware of Bathroom Chemicals
November 21, 2014


(HealthDay News) -- Household cleaners often are poisonous and their containers may be attractive to young children.

The Cleveland Clinic mentions these dangerous products that may be lurking in your bathroom:

  • Toilet bowl cleaners, which often contain irritating bleach. Turn on bathroom fan when in use, and wear gloves to protect skin.
  • Mold and mildew removers, which often include anti-fungal ingredients that are harmful if inhaled or swallowed.
  • Drain cleaners, which typically contain harsh chemicals. Use with the bathroom fan while wearing safety goggles and gloves.

Copyright © 2014 HealthDay. All rights reserved.


FDA Approves 'Abuse-Resistant' Narcotic Painkiller
November 20, 2014


THURSDAY, Nov. 20, 2014 (HealthDay News) -- Seeking to make it tougher for people to misuse prescription painkillers, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration on Thursday approved a new hydrocodone tablet that's designed to help thwart abuse.

Hydrocodone -- best known by the brand name Vicodin -- is a powerful opioid painkiller that has been tied to a surge in dangerous addictions across the United States.

The FDA said that newly approved Hysingla ER (hydrocodone bitartrate) is an extended-release tablet to treat pain severe enough to require daily, round-the-clock, long-term opioid treatment that can't be eased by other pain medications.

The drug is not approved for "as-needed" pain relief, the agency said.

Hysingla has features that are expected to reduce, but not prevent, abuse of the drug. According to the FDA, the tablet is difficult to crush, break or dissolve, making it tougher for abusers to snort or inject it.

"While the science of abuse deterrence is still evolving, the development of opioids that are harder to abuse is helpful in addressing the public health crisis of prescription drug abuse in the U.S.," Dr. Janet Woodcock, director of the FDA's Center for Drug Evaluation and Research, said in an agency news release.

She added that the FDA has had to balance the need for effective pain relief for patients against concerns about the growing epidemic
of prescription painkiller abuse.

In August, the FDA announced new controls on painkillers containing hydrocodone. Under those rules, patients will only have access to a three-month supply of the drug and will have to see a doctor to get refills.

About 22 million Americans have misused prescription painkillers of various kinds since 2002, according to a U.S. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration report. Prescription painkillers now rank only behind marijuana as a drug of abuse in the United States, the agency said.

Today's approval "will better enable the agency to balance addressing this problem [of painkiller abuse] with ensuring that patients have access to appropriate treatments for pain," Woodcock said.

One expert said painkiller addiction is a growing concern in the United States.

"Prescription drug abuse continues to be rampant in many areas of the country and is associated with high mortality rate," said Dr. Scott Krakower, assistant unit chief in psychiatry at Zucker Hillside Hospital in Glen Oaks, N.Y. "In addition, there are decreased perceptions of harm to these agents, especially with hydrocodone products.

"As we move forward in research with new drug development for addiction and pain medicine, we should continue to find agents that will both effectively relieve pain and reduce the potential for abuse," he added.

According to the FDA, different versions of Hysingla contain 20, 30, 40, 60, 80, 100 and 120 milligrams of hydrocodone to be taken every 24 hours. The drug does not carry the serious liver toxicity risks associated with painkillers that contain both hydrocodone and acetaminophen, the FDA noted. The most common side effects reported by users included constipation, nausea, fatigue, upper respiratory tract infections, dizziness, headaches and drowsiness.

As part of the approval, Connecticut-based Purdue Pharma must also conduct postmarketing studies of Hysingla, to assess the effectiveness of its abuse-deterrent features.

More information

The U.S. National Institute on Drug Abuse has more about prescription drug abuse.Copyright © 2014 HealthDay. All rights reserved.

SOURCES: Scott Krakower, M.D., assistant unit chief, psychiatry, Zucker Hillside Hospital, Glen Oaks, N.Y.; U.S. Food and Drug Administration, news release, Nov. 20, 2014...

Study Supports Giving Kidney Donors Priority When They Need a Kidney
November 20, 2014


THURSDAY, Nov. 20, 2014 (HealthDay News) -- Kidney donation is one of the most selfless acts one person can do for another. And now a new study finds that former donors who find they need a kidney later in life are benefiting from policies that give them priority on the transplant waiting list.

Living donors provided organs for almost 6,300 of the 16,900 kidney transplants that took place in the United States in 2010, according to background information supplied by the study researchers.

At the time of donation, most live kidney donors have no health problems after their generous gift. However, recent research has suggested that giving away one kidney might raise the risk of kidney failure later in life.

Researchers led by Dr. Peter Reese of the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine tracked outcomes for two sets of people who were placed on U.S. kidney transplant waiting lists between 1996 and 2010 -- people who had donated a kidney, and non-donors.

The organ donors had much shorter waiting times for a transplant and received higher-quality kidneys than non-donors, Reese's team found.

"This study shows that the policy is working: prior organ donors get rapid access to high-quality organs," Reese said in a journal news release. "After transplant, their survival is excellent compared with similar people who were not organ donors."

However, most live kidney donors needed dialysis before they received their new kidney. Ideally, these patients should receive new kidneys before they got to a stage where they required dialysis, Reese said.

The findings are published Nov. 20 in the Journal of the American Society of Nephrology.

More information

The National Kidney Foundation has more about living donation.
Copyright © 2014 HealthDay. All rights reserved.

SOURCE: Journal of the American Society of Nephrology, news release, Nov. 20, 2014...

MRI Can Be Painful, Disruptive for People With Cochlear Implants
November 20, 2014


THURSDAY, Nov. 20, 2014 (HealthDay News) -- Some people with cochlear implants experience pain, discomfort and problems with the implant's internal magnet when they undergo an MRI scan, a new study finds.

According to background information supplied by the researchers, about 300,000 people worldwide have cochlear implants, devices which provide a sense of sound to people who are deaf or have severe hearing loss. There have been prior reports of problems among people with cochlear implants when undergoing MRI.

One expert said the problem is well-known among clinicians who care for the hearing-impaired.

"The intense magnetic field in the MRI scanner may harm the patient -- dislocate the cochlear implant magnet, change the magnet's polarity, and induce pain and discomfort at the implant site," explained Dr. Darius Kohan, chief of otology/neurotology at Lenox Hill Hospital and the Manhattan Eye, Ear, and Throat Hospital in New York City.

"Patients must be carefully counseled prior to the MRI study to understand the possible consequences and manage their expectations," he said.

In the new study, a team of South Korean researchers tracked the medical records of 18 people with cochlear implants who had MRIs between 2003 and 2014 at a single medical center. The MRIs included 12 brain scans and 18 scans on other areas of the body.

Thirteen patients completed their MRI scans without complications. Five patients fitted with protective head bandages could not complete their MRIs due to pain, and one of those patients also experienced displacement of the magnet in the cochlear implant.

Another patient with head bandages tolerated pain and discomfort during her third MRI scan, but experienced polarity reversal of the magnet in her cochlear implant, according to the study published online Nov. 20 in the journal JAMA Otolaryngology-Head & Neck Surgery.

"Our data clearly demonstrate that a significant proportion of patients experienced discomfort or pain during the MRI process and were unable to complete the scans," wrote the team led by Dr. Bo Gyung Kim, of the Soonchunhyang University College of Medicine. "Therefore, in addition to device safety and image quality, patient comfort should be considered when performing MRI procedures," the study authors concluded.

The findings should be among the considerations when discussing MRI risks and benefits with people who have cochlear implants, Dr. Emanuel Kanal, of the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center, wrote in an accompanying editorial.

Another expert in the United States agreed.

"This study reaffirms the fact that cochlear implant recipients probably should not receive MRI," said Dr. Eric Smouha, director of otology and neurology at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York City. He stressed that, "often a CT scan is a suitable substitute, or if MRI is essential, then the magnet in the cochlear implant can be temporarily removed with a small operation."

More information

The U.S. National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders has more about cochlear implants.
Copyright © 2014 HealthDay. All rights reserved.

SOURCES: Eric Smouha, M.D., associate professor of otolaryngology and director of otology and neurology, Mount Sinai Hospital, New York City; Darius Kohan, M.D., chief of otology/neurotology, Lenox Hill Hospital and Manhattan Eye, Ear, and Throat Hospital...

Abuse-Resistant Prescription Painkiller Approved
November 20, 2014


THURSDAY, Nov. 20, 2014 (HealthDay News) -- The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has approved Hysingla ER (hydrocodone bitartrate), an abuse-resistant, extended release form of the painkiller hydrocodone (best known as Vicodin).

The drug is sanctioned for long-term severe pain that requires daily, around-the-clock treatment. The tablet is difficult to crush, break or dissolve, making it resistant to abuse, the agency said Thursday in a news release.

But the medication can still be abused, and an overdose can lead to death, the FDA warned.

Hysingla ER shouldn't be used for "as-needed" pain relief, the agency added.

The drug's safety and effectiveness were evaluated in clinical studies involving 905 people with chronic lower-back pain. The most common side effects were constipation, nausea, fatigue, upper respiratory tract infection, dizziness and headache.

The FDA said it has ordered a post-marketing study to further assess the drug's potential for abuse. Hysingla ER is produced by Purdue Pharma, based in Stamford, Conn.

More information

The FDA has more about this approval.
Copyright © 2014 HealthDay. All rights reserved.


Exercise Might Not Help Some Type 2 Diabetics Control Their Blood Sugar
November 20, 2014


THURSDAY, Nov. 20, 2014 (HealthDay News) -- Certain genes might prevent regular exercise from improving blood sugar control in up to a fifth of people with type 2 diabetes, a new study suggests.

The issue has long been pondered by doctors working with diabetic patients, one expert said.

"For many years we have been under the impression that exercise helps decrease insulin resistance in muscles," boosting blood sugar control, said Dr. Maria Pena, director of the Center for Weight Management at North Shore-LIJ's Syosset Hospital in Syosset, N.Y.

"However, from clinical experience we are still puzzled by the discrepancies between patients that we see in varying weight loss, exercise, and changes in metabolic profile," she added.

"In other words," Pena said, "why is it that someone who walks 30 minutes every other day and loses 15 pounds is able to significantly reduce their hemoglobin A1c [a measure of blood sugar control], whereas another person who reports to exercising twice as much is unable to achieve the same success?"

In the new study, a group led by Lauren Marie Sparks of Florida Hospital and the Sanford-Burnham Medical Research Institute in Orlando examined clinical trials that looked at the effects of exercise among people with type 2 diabetes. They also looked at genetic research on the topic and research done in animals.

Their analysis revealed that in 15 percent to 20 percent of people with type 2 diabetes, exercise did not lead to improvement in blood sugar control, insulin sensitivity, or their body's ability to burn fat.

The animal and genetic studies suggest that this "resistance to exercise" among people with type 2 diabetes is genetic and can be handed down through generations, according to findings published Nov. 20 in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism.

"Since obesity and lack of physical activity are two key risk factors for type 2 diabetes, physicians frequently recommend exercise and other lifestyle interventions to prevent or manage the disease," Sparks said in a journal news release.

"Most people benefit from an exercise regimen, but our research indicates that a significant minority of individuals with type 2 diabetes do not experience the same improvements in metabolism due to their genes," she said.

The issue is an important one, since about 40 percent of Americans will develop type 2 diabetes in their lifetime, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

"More research is needed to determine which people with or at risk of developing type 2 diabetes will respond to an exercise program and which will not," Sparks said. "With that information in hand, we can target specific interventions and treatments to the individuals who will benefit most and identify novel treatment approaches to help those who do not respond to exercise."

One other expert stressed that this in no way means that people with type 2 diabetes -- which is often linked to obesity -- should give up on regular exercise.

"Ask yourself this: Are you among the 15 percent who purportedly do not benefit from exercise, or among the 85 percent who do?" said Dr. Ronald Tamler, clinical director of the Mount Sinai Diabetes Center in New York City.

"In my practice, I find that different people will respond to different types of exercise," he said. "When patients are matched with the proper type and intensity of exercise, I often see a need for less diabetes medication."

More information

There's more on exercise and blood sugar control at the American Diabetes Association.
Copyright © 2014 HealthDay. All rights reserved.

SOURCES: Maria Pena, M.D., endocrinology & obesity medicine, and director, Center for Weight Management, North Shore-LIJ's Syosset Hospital, Syosset, N.Y.; Ronald Tamler, M.D., clinical director, Mount Sinai Diabetes Center, New York City; Journal ...

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