Thursday December 5, 2013
The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Health Canada, and other health agencies around the world want to keep you from getting one thing from friends and family during the holidays: the seasonal flu. In the United States, the CDC and US Department of Health and Human Services have named next week (Dec. 8-14th) as "National Influenza Vaccination Week". First established in 2005, the campaign aims to let people know about the dangers of seasonal flu, and that getting a flu shot still offers the best protection against it.
Why seniors are at greater risk: Older adults with chronic age-related illnesses like heart disease, diabetes, and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) are often more vulnerable to complications from the flu because their immune system is already taxed. Likewise, conditions like asthma and congestive heart failure may be made worse by influenza.
The risk is born out by the statistics: as many as 90% of deaths related to the seasonal flu occur in adults older than 65, according to the CDC. In addition, this age group accounts for 60% of hospitalizations due to complications from the flu. People in residential care are perhaps at greatest risk because they live in close proximity with one another, increasing the chances of catching the flu.
Best prevention: Good personal hygiene such as regular hand-washing, along with covering your coughs and sneezes and avoiding people who are sick, can go a long way to preventing the flu. An annual flu shot - provided free of charge in many communities - remains the most reliable way to prevent the flu, which is why the CDC recommends the flu vaccine for all adults over the age of 50.
For all you need to know about the flu shot and other aspects of seasonal influenza (such as whether you have a cold or the flu, see what our Cold and Flu Expert Kristina Duda has to say here.
Seasonal Flu: Protect Yourself, Your Family, and Your Community. Health Canada Public Information Sheet. Accessed December 5, 2013.
Preventing Seasonal Flu With Vaccination. US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Public Information Sheet. Accessed December 5, 2013.
Monday November 25, 2013
If you've been laid up with a fever, chills and aching joints recently, it may be more than the common cold you're battling: you could have seasonal influenza. While most people recover well from the flu, people over the age of 65 are at greater risk of serious complications like bronchitis, pneumonia and sinus infections than younger people.
Despite the discomfort associated with these secondary infections - especially in the case of sinus infections - antibiotics are rarely necessary to help you recover. That's according to recent prescribing guidelines published by the Infectious Diseases Society of America (IDSA), which recommend using nasal anti-inflammatory medications to improve drainage of congestion and nasal irrigation with saline solution to flush out viruses instead.
The ISDA's expert panel was made up of clinicians and researchers in the fields of epidemiology, infectious disease and public health, among others.
Read the entire article: Do I need antibiotics for a sinus infection?
If you are coughing and suspect you may have developed a more serious chest infection such as pneumonia or bronchitis, see your doctor or health-care provider. They can assess whether your illness is likely bacterial or viral in origin, and which medication is most appropriate for you.
And remember, getting the vaccination against seasonal influenza still represents the best way to prevent this potentially serious illness.
Tuesday November 19, 2013
This Thursday the American Cancer Society holds its annual Great American Smokeout. Held on the third Thursday of November, the organization appeals to all smokers to use the day as a trial run for quitting, or to build a smoking cessation plan.
The society has good reason to promote quitting: named by the World Health Organization as the largest preventable cause of death, smoking causes an estimated 6 million deaths worldwide each year. Studies have shown that continuing a heavy habit can rob you of a decade of life, compared with adults who've never smoked. Tobacco can promote heart disease and other serious health problems in addition to lung cancer.
The good news? Quitting even as late as your mid-50s might help you escape as much as 90% of the excess mortality caused by a long-term habit.
What's more, you'll look younger, too.
Saturday November 2, 2013
Judging by research from Carnegie Mellon University, pedestrians should be more careful after tonight's shifting of the clock back one hour. According to a 2007 study of U.S. traffic statistics compiled between 1999 and 2005, there are on average 37 more pedestrians deaths around dinner-time in the month of November when compared with October.</p>
Professors Paul Fischbeck and David Gerard attribute the rise in fatalities to increased darkness, surmising that drivers accustomed to daylight require time to adjust.
"We see the opposite effect in the spring, when the clock is turned ahead," Fischbeck told me in an interview. "It's the morning traffic rush that's affected, though not as much." Pedestrian fatalities do not rise by the same degree in March -- when Daylight Saving Time begins -- as they appear to do in November, according to the team's research.
Though previous research also found a jump in the number of vehicle collisions, Fishbeck's database shows no such increase.
Sood, Neeraj and Ghosh, Arkadipta. "The Short and Long Run Effects of Daylight Saving Time on Fatal Automobile Crashes." The B.E. Journal of Economic Analysis & Policy. Volume 7, Issue 1. DOI:10.2202/1935-1682.1618, February 2007.