What’s the Deal with Summer Sniffles?

Summer colds are so annoying! What causes them? The National Institutes of Health sheds light on summer colds, what causes them and what, if anything, can be done about them.

summerMost everyone looks forward to summer—time to get away, get outside and have some fun. So what could be more unfair than catching a cold when it’s warm? How can cold symptoms arise when it’s not cold and flu season? Is there any way to dodge the summer sniffles?

Cold symptoms can be caused by more than 200 different viruses. Each can bring the sneezing, scratchy throat and runny nose that can be the first signs of a cold. The colds we catch in winter are usually triggered by the most common viral infections in humans, a group of germs called rhinoviruses. Rhinoviruses and a few other cold-causing viruses seem to survive best in cooler weather. Their numbers surge in September and begin to dwindle in May.

During summer months, the viral landscape begins to shift. “Generally speaking, summer and winter colds are caused by different viruses,” says Dr. Michael Pichichero, a pediatrician and infectious disease researcher at the Rochester General Hospital Research Institute in New York. “When you talk about summer colds, you’re probably talking about a non-polio enterovirus infection.”

Enteroviruses can infect the tissues in your nose and throat, eyes, digestive system and elsewhere. A few enteroviruses can cause polio, but vaccines have mostly eliminated these viruses from Western countries. Far more widespread are more than 60 types of non-polio enteroviruses. They’re the second most common type of virus—after rhinovirus—that infects humans. About half of people with enterovirus infections don’t get sick at all. But nationwide, enteroviruses cause an estimated 10 million to 15 million illnesses each year, usually between June and October.

Enteroviruses can cause a fever that comes on suddenly. Body temperatures may range from 101 to 104 °F. Enteroviruses can also cause mild respiratory symptoms, sore throat, headache, muscle aches and gastrointestinal issues like nausea or vomiting.

“All age groups can be affected, but like most viral infections, enterovirus infections predominate in childhood,” says Pichichero. Adults may be protected from enterovirus infections if they’ve developed antibodies from previous exposures. But adults can still get sick if they encounter a new type of enterovirus.

Less common enteroviruses can cause other symptoms. Some can lead to conjunctivitis, or pinkeye—a swelling of the outer layer of the eye and eyelid. Others can cause an illness with rash. In rare cases, enteroviruses can affect the heart or brain.

To prevent enterovirus infections, says Pichichero, “it’s all about blocking viral transmission.” The viruses travel in respiratory secretions, like saliva or mucus, or in the stool of an infected person. You can become infected by direct contact. Or you might pick up the virus by touching contaminated surfaces or objects, such as a telephone, doorknob or baby’s diaper. “Frequent hand washing and avoiding exposure to people who are sick with fever can help prevent the spread of infection,” says Pichichero.

The summer colds caused by enteroviruses generally clear up without treatment within a few days or even a week. But see a health care provider if you have concerning symptoms, like a high fever or a rash.

TV Viewing and Young Children

The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) has published several articles about TV time for young children from the amount of time spent watching TV, to what is being watched and where it is being watched.

TV

The AAP published the findings of a study by Dr. Michelle Garrison, Kimberly Liekweg, and Dr. Dimitri Christakis from Seattle Children’s on what effects watching violence on TV has on preschoolers. They studied over 600 children between 3 and 5 years of age and reviewed their media diaries.

Their findings:

  • Preschoolers watched on average over an hour of TV daily (72.9 min) with the minority being at bedtime (14 min after 7pm).
  • Children with a bedroom TV watched 40 more minutes of TV than those without one.
  • Children with a bedroom TV watched more TV after 7pm.
  • Children with a bedroom TV were more likely to have parent-reported daytime tiredness (8% vs 1% without bedroom TV).
  • Children were more likely to have trouble falling asleep, have more nightmares, and more awakenings if in the 1 hour prior to going to bed, if they watched TV, violent or not.
  • Fortunately, nonviolent daytime TV didn’t seem to change or impair preschoolers’ sleep.
  • It didn’t make a difference on sleep if parents watched TV alongside their children.

While we know that a TV, once in the bedroom, is hard to remove, we also know it is harder for a parent to monitor what is being watched. It can also be turned on in the early am, while the rest of the house is still sleeping, which leads to even more daily viewing time.

We also know that children also pick up additional viewing  time in some child care settings

The AAP guidelines  recommend no TV viewing before age 2 and then after age 2, only 2 hours maximum screen time daily.


False Prophets of Health Care

Beware of the snake oil sales person; the health health care false prophetscare scam pro who uses the TV, the Internet, the mail and the telephone to peddle fake cures for what ails you.

This is the message the Food and Drug Administration is trying to get out to all of us in their recently released article on the subject of health care scams.

The FDA’s Health Fraud Scams website (www.fda.gov/healthfraud) pulls together videos and articles on how to avoid fraudulent health care schemes, and offers information about products that have been seized, recalled or are the subject of warnings from the agency.

The site also provides links to government resources on health fraud involving FDA-regulated products, such as drugs, dietary supplements, tobacco products, alternative medicines, medical devices, and cosmetics.

Gary Coody, R.Ph., national health fraud coordinator at FDA, calls the site “one-stop shopping” for people who want to learn how to recognize and avoid health care fraud scams. Anyone can search the site to see if FDA has taken an action against a product or company. However, just because a product is not listed does not mean that it is legally marketed or safe to use.

Consumers spend a fortune on health care products that “are either worthless or may cause harm,” says Coody. “Consumers can buy dangerous products on the Internet and in stores that can cause serious injury or death.” The waste of money is bad enough but using one of these unproven treatments can delay getting a potentially life-saving diagnosis and medication that works, he says.

The schemes can take many forms. “Some products billed as “all natural” in fact have prescription drugs and other chemicals not listed on the label that could be dangerous,” Coody says.  The most common categories of these tainted health care products include weight loss, sexual performance, and bodybuilding.

Other health care products claim to be a cure-all for such serious chronic diseases as cancer, arthritis, diabetes, Alzheimer’s disease and multiple sclerosis. Seniors are particularly vulnerable to this kind of deception but consumers of all ages are taken in by fraudulent products, says Coody, adding, “Everyone is vulnerable.”

With every new health threat, phony products appear overnight, Coody says. For example, after the Japan nuclear incident in March, 2011, he says the market was flooded with products that falsely claimed to offer protection from harmful radiation.

“The snake oil salesman is still alive,” says Coody.

Health fraud is more pervasive today, says Coody, because “the Internet has opened up the world market to people from their personal computers.” If you’re tempted to purchase any unproven or little known health care treatment, especially if it’s sold on the Internet, check with your doctor or health care professional first, he advises.

Shady products are also peddled by TV infomercials, radio, direct mail, word-of-mouth marketing and ads in newspapers and magazines.

“There are many ways that consumers are getting these messages,” says Coody, and they should view these ads with a healthy dose of skepticism.”

Food Safety at Summer Fairs and Festivals

foodThe Centers for Disease Control want us to practice food safety at fairs and festivals throughout the summer.

One of the CDC publications  asks us to remember that the usual safety controls that a kitchen provides, like thermostat-controlled cooking, refrigeration, and washing facilities, may not be available when cooking and dining at these events. Here are some things they suggest you do or find out to prevent foodborne illness:

Before you buy food from a vendor check out the following:

  • Does the vendor have a clean/tidy workstation?
  • Does the vendor have a sink for employees to wash their hands?
  • Do the employees wear gloves or use tongs when handling food?
  • Does the vendor have refrigeration on site for raw ingredients or pre-cooked foods?
  • Has the vendor been inspected? Requirements vary by state, but in general, temporary and mobile vendors, like those at fairs and carnivals, should have a license to sell food and beverages in a particular state or county. You can check with the local health department to see if the vendors are licensed and if a food inspection has been completed.

Are there healthy food alternatives to consider at fairs and festivals?

When purchasing food from a vendor, look for foods that are healthy for you. If they are not available, consider bringing your own food to save money and calories. Don’t forget to keep safe food storage practices in mind.

If bringing food from home, what are the proper food handling and storage practices?

If you bring food to a fair or festival from home, be sure to keep food handling and storage times in mind. Don’t let food sit out for more than two hours. On a hot day (90°F or higher), reduce this time to one hour. Be sure to put perishable items in a cooler or insulated bag

Remember to Wash Hands Often:

  • Find out where hand washing stations are located.
  • Always wash your hands right after petting animals, touching the animal enclosure, and exiting animal areas even if you did not touch an animal.
  • Always wash hands after using the restroom, after playing a game or going on a ride, before eating and drinking, before preparing food or drinks, after changing diapers, and after removing soiled clothes or shoes.
  • Bring hand sanitizers or disposable wipes in case there aren’t any places to wash your hands.

Report Illness:

Anytime you suspect you may have contracted a foodborne illness, report it to your local health department, even if it is after you have recovered. The local public health department is an important part of the food safety system. Often, calls from concerned citizens are how outbreaks are first detected. If a public health official contacts you to find out more about an illness you had, your cooperation is important. In public health investigations, it can be as important to talk to healthy people as it is to ill people. Your cooperation may be needed even if you are not ill.

What to Do About Your Child’s Snoring

I never thought about children snoring until I heard a public service announcement on the radio the other day.

I did  some research on the subject and want to share what I found out as it might be an area of concern if you have a young child who snores. My research sourceThe National Sleep Foundation (NSF).

According to NSF, children, three years old or older tend to snore during the deeper stages of sleep. Primary snoring is defined as snoring that is not associated with more serious problems such as obstructive sleep apnea syndrome (OSAS), frequent waking from sleep, or inability of the lungs to breathe in sufficient oxygen.

Statistics show that about 10% of children experience episodes of snoring at some point during the night. Snoring occurs during sleep when your child is breathing and there is some blockage of air passing through the back of the mouth. The opening and closing of your child’s air passage causes a vibration of the tissues in the throat and the loudness of the snore is impacted by how much air passes through and how fast the throat tissue is vibrating.

About one to three percent of children not only snore, but also suffer from breathing problems during their sleep.

The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that children be screened for snoring and that a diagnosis be conducted to determine if a child is experiencing normal primary snoring or obstructive sleep apnea syndrome. Loud and regular nightly snoring is often abnormal in otherwise healthy children and could be a sign of a respiratory infection, a stuffy nose or allergy; other times it may be a symptom of sleep apnea.

In children, the most common physical problem associated with sleep apnea is large tonsils. Young children’s tonsils are quite large in comparison to the throat, peaking at five to seven years of age. Swollen tonsils can block the airway, making it difficult to breathe and could signify apnea.

According to the National Center for Health Statistics, more than 263,000 children in the U.S. have tonsillectomies each year and sleep apnea is a major reason.

A child suffering from sleep apnea may experience the following symptoms:

  • Loud snoring on a regular basis
  • Have pauses, gasps, and snorts and actually stop breathing. The snorts or gasps may waken them and disrupt their sleep.
  • Be restless or sleep in abnormal positions with their head in unusual positions.
  • Sweat heavily during sleep.

The daytime effects of sleep apnea in children may manifest themselves in ways such as:

  • Experiencing behavioral, school and social problems
  • Being difficult to wake up
  • The child suffering headaches during the day, but especially in the morning
  • Your child being irritable, agitated, aggressive, and cranky
  • Being so tired during the day that they fall asleep or daydream
  • Speaking with a nasal voice and breathe regularly through the mouth

If your child has any of the above symptoms, the National Sleep Foundation suggests speaking with your child’s physician.