Archive for December, 2014

Does hand sanitizer really work in schools?

School children get low marks when it comes to spreading germs, often sharing bugs with their classmates. So scientists wondered if putting hand sanitizers into elementary school classrooms would lead to fewer absences.

The study

Researchers in New Zealand set out to discover if using alcohol-based hand sanitizers, in addition to regular hand washing, would cut back on absentee rates in schools.

They recruited 68 primary schools, and all students were given a half-hour hygiene lesson. They then assigned half of the schools to a control group where children washed their hands with soap and water. The schools in the intervention group did the same, but were also asked to use classroom hand sanitizers when they coughed or sneezed, and before meals.

When children missed school, calls were made to find out if the child was sick. The research team checked-in with the caregivers of more than 2,400 children, keeping track of the type and length of their illnesses during 20 weeks of school.

The results

Absentee rates between the two groups were virtually the same, the study authors found.

“These findings suggest that, in high-income countries where clean water for hand washing is readily available, putting resources into extra hand hygiene by providing hand sanitizer in classrooms may not be an effective way to break the child-to-child transmission of infectious diseases,” an accompanying editorial in the journal concluded.


An unexpected flu epidemic during the course of the study may have affected the findings. Heightened awareness about the benefits of clean hands during the epidemic may have led to more hand washing overall, making it more difficult to see if hand sanitizers gave added benefit, says Dr. Jennifer Shu, a pediatrician in Atlanta who was not involved with the study.

But the study authors say that the impact of hand sanitizer would be particularly important during an influenza pandemic, and they found “providing hand sanitizer was not an effective mechanism for reducing illness absence.”

The takeaway

So what is the takeaway message for schools and parents? The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says it’s best to have children wash their hands with soap and water. If a sink is not available, hand sanitizers with an alcohol concentration of at least 60% are a good second choice.

The bottom line, do what it takes to rub those germs away.



Fifty Percent of Americans Take Prescription Pills

About half of all Americans take at least one prescription drug each month, and 10% take more than four, according to a new government report.

Health, United States, 2013” is an annual report on the nation’s health prepared by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s National Center for Health Statistics. This year’s report includes a special section on prescription drugs.

Here are a few key facts from that section:

We spend a lot on prescription drugs. In 2011, Americans spent $263 billion on prescription drugs, which accounts for 9.7% of all national health expenditures (up from 5.6% in 1990).

Pharmaceutical companies aren’t relying on doctors to sell their pills. Spending on direct-to-consumer advertising for all drugs more than tripled between 1996 and 2005 to $4.2 billion, according to the report.

Americans are depressed. Adults’ use of antidepressants increased more than fourfold between the years of 1988-94 and 2007-10, from 2.4% to 10.8%.

Doctors are prescribing fewer useless antibiotics. Antibiotics prescribed during medical visits for cold symptoms declined 39% between 1995-96 and 2009-10. That’s good news, as the overuse and misuse of antibiotics is contributing to antibiotic resistance worldwide and limiting our arsenal to fight infections.

Sinus infection? Antibiotics won’t help

The prescription drug death epidemic is a big problem. Consumption of pain medications called opioid analgesics increased 300% between 1999 and 2010, and death rates in people age 15 and older involving these drugs more than tripled between 2000 and 2010.


Herbs that treat inflammation

#1 Black Pepper
People refer to black pepper as the King of Spices because of its intoxicating, rich aroma and complex flavor. Black pepper owes its distinctive pungent flavor to piperine, which also provides an astonishing anti-inflammatory effect. Piperine inhibits the expression of a gene associated with arthritis and the spread of cancer, MMP13. Even at low doses, piperine reduces inflammation by depressing prostaglandin production. Furthermore, piperine significantlysuppresses the perception of pain (2) and arthritis symptoms while decreasing inflammation in joints.

#2 Cardamom
As the Queen of Spices, cardamom also reduces inflammation. Part of the ginger family, cardamom is native to India and Sri Lanka; healers there have used cardamom to reduce inflammation for centuries.

#3 Cayenne
Cayenne pepper contains capsaicin. Exposure to capsaicin causes body tissues to release substance P, which your body usually releases immediately after tissue damage. Capsaicin does not actually damage tissue — this chemical only tricks your body into acting as if damage had occurred.

Repeated exposure of one part of your body to capsaicin will deplete that area of its substance P, which increases tolerance to capsaicin in people who regularly eat hot peppers.

Reducing substance P in one area of your body also decreases your sense of pain in that part. Capsaicin cream products take advantage of this effect to reduce arthritis pain in joints and other sources of chronic pain. Best of all, the capsaicin in cayenne pepper can help protect your stomach (3) from ulcers associated with NSAID use.

#4 Chamomile
Ancient physicians Dioskurides, Galen and Plinius recommended tea to relieve inflammation of the mouth. Chamomile is a sun-loving plant whose flowers smell like fresh apples. Oil distilled from these flowers contain a-bisabolol and chamazulene cyclic sesquiterpenes, which directly reduce inflammation. Chamomile oil also contains bisabolol oxides, farnesene and spiro-ether that have anti-inflammatory and antispasmodic properties.

#5 Ginger
Traditional medicine has relied on ginger’s anti-inflammatory powers for centuries. According to the University of Maryland Medical Center (4), there is also evidence that ginger eases pain associated with that classic inflammatory disease, arthritis. Additionally, ginger eases stomach upset, nausea and vomiting.

#6 Turmeric
Turmeric gives curry its flavor and yellow color; food manufacturers also add turmeric to butter and cheese for color. Healers have used turmeric for more than 4,000 years to relieve inflammation, treat digestive problems and fight infections.

The active ingredient in turmeric, curcumin, is an antioxidant that removes dangerous free radicals from the body. Free radicals cause cell damage that leads to inflammation, including damage to cell membranes, negatively affect DNA and cause cells to die. Additionally, turmeric lowers two types of enzymes known to cause inflammation.

#7 Aloe
Aloe not only reduces inflammation but also eases pain and promotes skin repair and healing. According to the University of Maryland Medical Center, the anti-inflammatory effects of aloe gel are superior to 1 percent hydrocortisone cream.

#8 Celery seed
Celery seed works to reduce inflammation by acting as a diuretic, which means it helps the body get rid of excess fluid by increasing urine output. Celery seed is especially effective in treating inflammation caused by arthritis and gout, a type of arthritis.

#9 Green tea
Green tea contains polyphenols, micronutrients that work in the body to prevent certain disease mechanisms — such as inflammation — from happening. The main polyphenol in green tea is epigallocatechin gallate, or EGCG. Together, EGCG and the other polyphenols in green tea have anti-inflammatory and anticancer properties.

Green tea is especially helpful in reducing inflammation in the digestive tract. This natural herb may reduce gastrointestinal inflammation associated with Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis. Green tea may also help with arthritis by reducing inflammation and slowing down cartilage destruction associated with the disease.

#10 Pomegranate
Pomegranates contain flavonols, a type of antioxidant, which seem especially helpful in reducing inflammation associated with osteoarthritis. In that condition, inflammation contributes to the destruction of cartilage. Pomegranate seems to block the production of an enzyme associated with cartilage destruction.