Friday, March 7, 2008

That was a close call

Influenza did *not* hit the house. A collective sigh of relief was heard throughout when we realized this.

My daughter went to a clinic where she was told that she had a virus that had triggered her asthma, so she's now taking care of that and, although she still doesn't feel well enough to do what she had planned for the weekend, there's an improvement already.

I felt lousy all day, ended up taking some ibuprofen to ward off the headache and chills I had. I have no idea what it was that caused it, but I'm feeling better today. Not 100%, but better.

What do you do when you're feeling under the weather? As someone who is self-employed, it's hard to take off a day - or more - for being sick. On the other hand, sometimes, you just don't have a choice.

I'll be making a nice big pot of chicken soup later. That's got to help everyone feel a bit better at least. :-)

News for Today:
Teenage girls aren't the only ones who tan indoors -- older adults do so as well
US health agencies stand behind safety of vaccines
Biking, Walking Best for New Knees
Pregnant Women Who Binge Drink Risk Stillbirth
Strokes More Common in Springtime

Thursday, March 6, 2008

Looks like we have the flu here

An FYI for my regular readers - posts may be sparse over the next week. One of my teens has the flu and I feel pretty horrid myself right now. This, despite the flu vaccine we received.

I don't regret getting the vaccine and will continue you to each year, but these things happen.


Acupuncture update

Some of my regular readers may remember that I said I was going to try acupuncture for a horrendously intense itch I have on my left shoulder. This itch was beyond description - it would wake me at night and be so intense that there was no way it could be ignored. I can honestly say that it is worse than pain.

No treatments, creams, medications, nothing would help the itch go away, so I finally tried acupuncture. I am SO happy to report that after three sessions, the itch is gone, completely and totally gone.

I went into the sessions believing it would help. Interestingly, the acupuncturist told me that in Chinese medicine, the left shoulder and the colon/intestines are connected. After my first session, I had some relief, but 24 hours after that session, I experienced cramping and 3 or 4 days of IBS symptoms. That did not happen after the second and third sessions, so it is entirely possible that it was just a coincidence, but I thought it was interesting.

Anyway, it's been 3 weeks since my third session and the itch is still gone. Believe it or not, I had been suffering with that itch for *9* years. I'm definitely a believer in acupuncture right now.

Some interesting posts at Help My Hurt:
Hiring Help for the Helper
Burns on Kids' feet can often be prevented
Company’s calling - a year of knee pain

News for Today:
Online autism therapy gets national recognition
Arthritis medications reduce the risk of heart attacks and strokes
New Guidelines Update Recommendations on Colorectal Cancer Screening

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

When is one placebo better than another?

It's not a trick question - honest!

According to a recent study, if a placebo A is more expensive than placebo B, it will work better.

Here is the press release from MIT:

Costly placebo works better than cheap one

DURHAM, N.C. -- A 10-cent pill doesn't kill pain as well as a $2.50 pill, even when they are identical placebos, according to a provocative study by Dan Ariely, a behavioral economist at Duke University.

"Physicians want to think it's the medicine and not their enthusiasm about a particular drug that makes a drug more therapeutically effective, but now we really have to worry about the nuances of interaction between patients and physicians," said Ariely, whose findings appear as a letter in the March 5 edition of the Journal of the American Medical Association.

Ariely and a team of collaborators at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology used a standard protocol for administering light electric shock to participants' wrists to measure their subjective rating of pain. The 82 study subjects were tested before getting the placebo and after. Half the participants were given a brochure describing the pill as a newly-approved pain-killer which cost $2.50 per dose and half were given a brochure describing it as marked down to 10 cents, without saying why.

In the full-price group, 85 percent of subjects experienced a reduction in pain after taking the placebo. In the low-price group, 61 percent said the pain was less.

The finding, from a relatively small and simplified experiment, points to a host of larger questions, Ariely said.

The results fit with existing data about how people perceive quality and how they anticipate therapeutic effects, he said. But what's interesting is the combination of the price-sensitive consumer expectation with the well-known placebo effect of being told a pill works. "The placebo effect is one of the most fascinating, least harnessed forces in the universe," Ariely said.

Ariely wonders if prescription medications should offer cues from packaging, rather than coming in indistinguishable brown bottles. "And how do we give people cheaper medication, or a generic, without them thinking it won't work"" he asks.

At the very least, doctors should be able to use their enthusiasm for a medication as part of the therapy, Ariely said. "They have a huge potential to use these quality cues to be more effective."

The study was funded by MIT.

News for Today:

WHI follow-up study: Risks of long-term hormone therapy continue to outweigh benefits
Women who have stopped estrogen plus progestin therapy may be at increased risk of cancer

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Influenza - stay away please!

Have you had the flu this year? Influenza, that nasty virus that can knock you flat for at least a week is making its annual rounds.

Have you had a flu shot? Every year, there's a ton of debate as to whether the flu shot is useful or not. This year, the debate is particularly strong because the people who made up the vaccine missed the mark on the most virulent influenza viruses. That being said, I don't think the vaccine was useless. To me, someone who gets dreadfully ill with just a cold, partial immunity is better than none at all.

I'm also a huge proponent for AirBorne and any of the copycat versions. I've been in situations where people all around me have had horrendous colds and, if I take the AirBorne, I don't get it or I get a much lesser version of it. Is it the placebo effect? Maybe - but I know when I tried Cold FX, I ended up with the worst colds I ever had in my life.

What do you do to lessen your chances of catching the flu?

News for Today:
US study shows why winter is "flu season"
Alarm raised on health literacy
Looming daylight time shift will cause lost sleep
Non-medical use of prescription medications associated with drug abuse among college students
Depression linked to subsequent pregnancy in black teens
Low testosterone levels associated with depression in older men
Psychological distress, not depression, linked to increased risk of stroke
Electronic handwashing tool could curb superbug spread

Monday, March 3, 2008

More "duh" studies....a grab bag of stuff today

I'm sorry - I know that many of the studies done are started with good intentions - but really.... do we need a study to tell us this: U of M finds teens who eat breakfast daily eat healthier diets than those who skip breakfast. Why is this a duh study? If a teen takes the time to eat a daily (good!) breakfast, chances are he or she is more aware of nutrition to begin with. Not always, but I think they do go hand in hand for the most part.

This one makes sense, it goes with the need of continuity of care: In early childhood, continuous care by 1 doctor improves delivery of health screenings.

Did you know it's Patient Safety Awareness week in the US? You can read about it here: Patient Safety - A Road Taken Together. Alicia, over at Mental Health Notes will be discussing this all week. She begins her series with Grab Drug Advertisements By The Pills: Let Them Educate You.

March is endometriosis awareness month; I mentioned it at Help My Hurt, and a visitor left some information too:'s National Endometriosis Month.

I'll try to pop back in later today to write something of a bit more substance!

News for Today:
FDA Approves PRISTIQ(TM) for the Treatment of Adult Patients with Major Depressive Disorder
New study in the journal SLEEP finds a high prevalence of eating disorders in narcoleptics
Journal SLEEP: Snoring linked to cardiovascular disease, increased health-care utilization
Kaiser Permanente study shows 1 in 3 women has pelvic floor disorder
Certain vitamin supplements may increase lung cancer risk, especially in smokers