Friday, June 29, 2007

Paintball - fun or danger?

Hi folks. I took a break yesterday, was quite busy with some writing projects that are due next week.

There’s been quite a bit of interesting news lately; one item coming from here in Montreal. Another boy has sustained a severe eye injury during a paintball game. The Montreal Children’s Hospital is calling for a ban on the popular past-time for children under the age of 16.

I’m torn on the subject. I completely understand the concern and I understand the stand that the MCH is taking. In fact, I was in the ER with one of my kids a few years ago when a boy was brought in with one of these eye injuries. My heart went out to him and his parents. The way I understand it, these injuries usually happen when the goggles get fogged up or as the player leaves the area – they lift the goggles to clear them and that is when the eye injuries happen.

Many paintball places don’t allow children under 12 years, others say that it’s up to the parents’ discretion. I agree with the under 12 ban. I’ve seen the bruises that those paintballs can leave it they make a direct hit on a vulnerable spot. But under 16? I’m really not sure. Then, there’s the issue of kids playing with adults. I do agree that this shouldn’t be the case. There are grown men playing paintball with 13-year-olds – I can see how this could cause problems.

I know that my boys have both gone paintballing, I’ve even provided transportation sometimes. My 20-year-old went many times when he was a young teen, my 15-year-old has gone a few times. I am not thrilled with “sport.” I can see a lot of things wrong with it, but I also know that boys have always wanted to play with guns, be they sticks, their fingers, or toys. I remember that toy guns were banned when I was growing up, for my youngest brother. He still made them out of anything he had handy. So, does paintball allow boys the chance to play within a controlled environment? Or is it just another way that they can be hurt?

As I said, I’m torn on the topic. Severe injuries can happen doing many activities. But, we can drill our teens with rules until we’re blue in the face. Many are still very impulsive and don’t think all decisions through. I just hope the boy who was hurt just recently recovers completely.

Today's News:
Doctors say paintball too dangerous for kids
Birth defect risk low from antidepressants
Brain stimulation may help ward off Alzheimer's: study
Exercise legs on long journeys, WHO advises

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Montreal Heats Up - Literally

It’s hot here. Very hot. Montreal can range from degrees in the minus 30s (Celsius) in the winter and the plus 30s in the summer. Yesterday it reached over 30 and with the humidity, the weather people are saying it felt like around 40 degrees. For the Fahrenheit people among us, that’s a winter low in the minus 20s and a summer high in the high 80s, low 90s, or up to 104 with the humidity factored in.

I know lots of places have it hot like that much of the time, but getting it in a few weeks at a time, that’s pretty intense. I’m pretty lucky in that I don’t usually feel the heat. People will be saying “man, it’s hot!” and I’ll be saying, “I guess.” My family has learned that if I say it’s hot, it’s hot. We don’t have air conditioning. Our house can’t have central A/C unless we do the ductless type ($$$) and window A/C would be a lot of wasted energy because of the openness between the rooms on the main level. The racket would be enormous if we put units in every window, and just a few wouldn’t work. So, we live with a unit in the bedroom for sleeping. All the rooms have ceiling fans and if it gets really hot, the kids used to grab cot mattresses and sleep on the floor in our room. Whatever works, right?

Today is Montreal’s second day with this heat. The city administration says that it takes three days in a row with these temperatures to declare an emergency. That means they extend pool hours, open air conditioned shelters for those who can’t cope with the heat, and they make special arrangements to be sure people are as safe as can be. Of course, no-one wants a repeat of the high death toll that hit Paris, France, a few years ago when they had a massive heat wave.

One of the problems I have without feeling the heat as much is that I really don’t drink enough fluids. I never do at the best of times as I’m rarely thirsty, but in heat like this, that can become dangerous. I’ve tried keeping drinks next to me, carrying water bottles, you name it – I’ve tried it. I just don’t think to drink. So, today, I have a 750 mL bottle of sparkling water on my desk and I’m trying hard to think to take a few swigs every so often.

For those of you who are in high heat areas, take it easy, take it slow. If you're like one of my sons and has to work outside, make sure you take care of yourself and really drink enough water. Save the intense exercise for cooler days and nights. Oh - and don't forget our four-legged friends. If it's hot for us, it's hot for them. Keep the walks short and make sure Fido or Fifi have plenty of water when they get back. Heat stroke is just as serious for them.

Won’t be long before the heat breaks here and then we’ll be complaining again about our lousy weather.

Today’s news:
Childhood cancer survivors face health risks
Incomplete colonoscopy more likely at MD's office

Sorry, couldn’t resist adding this one!
Older Cancer Survivors Pull Their Weight in Workplace, Study Finds

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Nasty, miserable colds...

The common cold – no matter what the time of year – anyone can catch the common cold. As many people say, you’d think with all the discoveries we have, someone could come up with a cure for the cold.

Colds are caused by viruses but there are so many that cause colds, to come up with a vaccine is not easy. When someone has a cold, it’s spread through droplets from sneezing or from contact. It can take about 12 hours from the time you’ve been exposed to the cold virus to the time that you start having symptoms.

The symptoms, which we’ve all experienced, usually start with a scratchy or sore throat. Some people feel a pressure in their sinuses. The symptoms increase and get stronger as the virus takes hold: runny and/or nose, cough, sore throat, and sneezing. There shouldn’t be a fever though – that’s one of the differences between a cold and influenza (the flu).

Colds are generally benign, meaning they don’t cause any harm, but some people do end up with long-lasting or serious effects because of colds. This is why there is a lot of work being done to try to prevent or cure colds. While most people do experience discomfort, they know that their cold will only last a few days and then it’s back to normal. However, for asthmatics, for example, catching a cold could mean an acute flare up of the asthma and a long recovery. Other people with lower immune systems or respiratory illnesses can develop pneumonia and, unfortunately, pneumonia can have very serious consequences. Many babies develop ear infections after colds, causing pain and misery for both child and parent.

The best way to treat a cold is to prevent it from starting in the first place. As your mother probably taught you when you were a child, washing your hands is the first and best defence. When you’re out in public, avoid touching your face with your hands. If you’ve been exchanging money or touching objects, it is possible that you have picked up a cold virus. So, the best thing to do is to wash your hands the moment you get home – this will keep the virus out of your house as much as possible. Don’t rely on antibacterial hand cleansers for cold prevention. When you wash your hands, it’s as much the action of washing (rubbing your hands together with the soap and water) as it is the actual product you use.

Once you’ve caught a cold, there are many products that people claim can help shorten the cold, or keep it from taking hold. Echinacea is in the news again since the Lancet, a medical journal, published study findings that taking Echinacea can reduce the risk of developing a cold by almost 60%, and if the cold has taken hold, it can shorten the duration of the cold by about a day and a half. They also point out that one study they looked at found that if you combined Echinacea with vitamin C, the risk of developing the cold rose to 85%. Other studies haven’t confirmed these findings, but perhaps this is a start.

Be careful though. Although Echinacea is an herb, a natural product, that doesn’t mean that everyone can or should take it. After all, many poisons are also natural products. Be aware that some people are allergic to Echinacea so watch for signs for allergies. These include rashes and worsening of asthma symptoms. If you are allergic to ragweed, chrysanthemums, marigolds, or daisies, you may be allergic to Echinacea as well.

Be sure that your doctor knows you are taking Echinacea as this could affect some treatments.

Besides Echinacea, there are other treatments that people swear by. They include large doses of vitamin C for the first 24 hours, special herbal preparations and zinc.

Whatever you try, there is an old saying that says “An untreated cold lasts 7 days, a treated one a week.”

Colds are miserable, so if you ever find the cure, you’re sure to have the gratitude of millions of people.

Today’s news:

Echinacea halves risk of catching cold: review
Staph superbug may be infecting 10 times more patients in U.S.
Fructose-Sweetened Drinks Tougher on Arteries
Self-hypnosis helps kids with frequent headaches
Colonoscopy more often successful in mornings

Sunday, June 24, 2007

Sensory overload

While most of us expect to be subjected to loud noise if we’re in the middle of the city, we don’t usually expect it when you live in a quiet suburb. Noise can be both soothing and frustrating, depending on the type of noise and when it’s present.

What I didn’t realize was how strongly noise could affect the psyche too. Although the area where I live is generally very quiet, save for the usual traffic of families coming and going, some yard work, children playing, and barking dogs, it’s been getting progressively noisier over the past few weeks. One neighbour began a project involving getting an in-ground pool and major landscaping. That was about three weeks ago and resulted in back hoes and trucks coming and going in our small crescent plus the accompanying work noises. Then, this past week, another neighbour had to have insulation removed from their house. This involved operating two rather large gas generators and there being a large metal container into which to suck the insulation. The racket was unbelievable and just yards away from my office window.

As if that wasn’t enough, a neighbour a block or so away is getting rid of something (I think an in-ground pool) and we can hear the jackhammers all day. Three or so blocks away, the city is doing major road work that calls for dynamite blasts throughout the day, plus the assorted trucks coming and going with the associated beeping every time they go in reverse. Then, if you add the every day neighbourhood sounds of people mowing their lawns, trimming their hedges, and a family whose dogs bark all day long – the noise was deafening.

On Thursday, I started to feel really down. I couldn’t figure out why because things are going very well. I have enough work to keep me busy, my family is healthy and doing well, the weather, although a bit grey, hasn’t been too bad, and there really wasn’t anything to complain about. So, why did I start having this pit in my stomach and why was the world starting to look so sad all of a sudden?

On Friday, it hit me: it was the noise. The noise was beyond what I could bear. I thought it was going to drive me nuts. As soon as I realized that this was causing my bad feelings, I felt better. I still felt that depression hanging in, but having identified the likely cause really helped me feel like I’d gained a bit of control.

Sure enough, in the late afternoon, the two generators were packed up and the insulation removal was finished. The road work was finished for the weekend (it’s a holiday weekend here in Quebec), and the landscaping work was now in quiet mode. The dogs had stopped barking and no-one was mowing a lawn within ear shot. It was quiet. Peacefully, wonderfully, quiet. And my sadness lifted. Almost magically, I felt ok again.

So, how am I going to deal with this next time? Ear plugs didn’t block out most of the noise. I have a hard time working while listening to music (too distracting), but maybe that’s what I’m going to have to try again. Fire up my MP3 player and try to use that as my buffer to the noisy world around me. Chances are though, this won’t happen again – at least not at the level that happened this past week.

Today's news:

HIV test gives results in just 60 seconds
Glucose may affect more pregnancies
Researchers identify main factors for worsening of glaucoma