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Archive for January, 2009

Gene Increases Risk of Asthma

     According to a report published in the New England Journal of Medicine, a small variation in the CHI3L1 gene increases the risk of asthma and bronchial hyperresponsiveness.  Researches originally studied the Hutterites, a genetically isolated population in South Dakota, but expanded their efforts to include three genetically-diverse populations around the globe to in order to examine the behavior of the gene variation.
     The discovery is a huge step in the study of asthma — it may lead to the ability to identify the susceptibility of asthma, as well as lead us to a treatment to prevent it.

Kids can outgrow asthma, right? Well, some can. According to a Canadian study, more than half of children who develop asthma during their first 6 years will continue to have the respiratory disease when they are at age 12.Of the 34,216 asthmatic children in the study, about 54% experienced an asthma attack the following year, and nearly 75% had attacks within three years of being diagnosed with the disease. The study also revealed that children who were diagnosed between ages two and five were more likely to have asthma at age 12 than children who were diagnosed before age two. Of the children studied, persistent symptoms were more common among boys.

Researchers recognized a difference between children who lived in urban areas as opposed to rural areas. Persistent symptoms were more common among asthmatics from cities, thought there was not a difference between socioeconomic class. What does that tell us? If kids in cities have more persistent symptoms, regardless of class and living conditions, pollution must play a large roll, considering it effects everyone.

By Juliet Eilperin

Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, January 22, 2009; Page A15


Reducing air pollution has extended average life expectancy by five months for urban residents in dozens of U.S. cities over the past two decades, researchers found.

A team from Brigham Young and Harvard universities reached that conclusion based on data on changes in air quality and life expectancy between 1980 and 2000 in 51 cities, including Washington. After taking into account the life-extending effects of other factors, including changes in population, income, education, migration, demographics and smoking, they calculated that cleaner air had lengthened urban dwellers’ life spans significantly — the first time researchers have been able to document an effect of improved air quality on longevity.

The researchers found that nationally, urban dwellers’ life expectancy rose by an average of 2.72 years from 1980 to 2000, and five months of that increase was attributed to breathing cleaner air.

People in and around the District benefited more than most because the region has enjoyed a greater reduction in airborne fine particulate matter, or soot, which is linked to heart and respiratory diseases, than many other metropolitan areas. Overall, D.C. area residents were living roughly three years longer in 2000 than in 1980, and more than seven months of that improvement was attributed to the drop in airborne soot.

Between 1980 and 2000, levels of this type of pollution fell by more than 10 micrograms per cubic meter of air in the metropolitan region, the study found. It was only 15 years ago that other researchers discovered the link between airborne particles smaller than 2.5 microns in diameter (less than 4/100 the width of a human hair) and lung and heart disease.

C. Arden Pope III, lead author of the study published in today’s New England Journal of Medicine, called the increase in life expectancy due to better air quality “remarkable.”

“We are getting a return on our investment,” said Pope, an epidemiologist and economics professor at Brigham Young University, adding that cutting air pollutants in major cities amounted to “a large, nationwide, natural experiment.”

Between 1980 and 2000, federal regulations on power plants, including the acid rain program, helped reduce smog ingredients such as sulfur dioxide significantly, while the installation of catalytic converters on vehicles cut nitrogen oxide pollution across the country.

Every five years the government evaluates whether it should tighten the standards for fine particulates. In September 2006, the Environmental Protection Agency decided to keep the limit unchanged at 15 micrograms per cubic meter averaged over an entire year, but it tightened the maximum permissible in any one 24-hour period from 65 to 35 micrograms. Both the EPA’s scientific advisory panel and independent researchers urged the agency to impose a more stringent annual standard.

Janice Nolen, assistant vice president of policy and advocacy for the American Lung Association, said she hoped the new findings would spur policymakers to tighten federal soot standards the next time they issue new regulations, scheduled for 2011.

“Air pollution shortens life, and when we reduce air pollution, it actually adds months to our life,” she said. “While it’s hard for people to see the connection, we can document it, and we know that the connection exists.”

Pope added that one of the encouraging aspects of the study, which was co-authored by Douglas Dockery and Majid Ezzati at the Harvard School of Public Health, is that further reductions in particulate matter continue to produce health benefits.

“There is room to improve,” Pope said, noting that even relatively clean cities can experience the benefits of cutting down more on airborne particulates. Furthermore, he said, “there’s a lot of room to improve in Chinese cities, and Indian cities, and cities throughout the world.”

Study finds blood-sucking critters’ resistance to insecticides increasing in urban areas

WEDNESDAY, Jan. 14 (HealthDay News) — A resistance to insecticides appears to be why bed bugs are making a comeback in some urban areas, a new study says.

Bed bugs in New York City, where infestations have grown in recent years, appear to have developed nerve cell mutations that weaken the effect of the pyrethroid toxins, such as deltamethrin, commonly used against them, according to a report in the current issue of the Journal of Medical Entomology. Such nervous system poisons normally would paralyze and kill the nocturnal blood suckers.

Toxicologists at the University of Massachusetts Amherst and Korea’s Seoul National University found that the New York City bed bugs are now as much as 264 times more resistant to deltamethrin than an easier-to-kill type of bed bug found in Florida.

“This type of pyrethroid resistance is common in many pest insects, and the failure of the pyrethroids to control bed bug populations across the United States and elsewhere indicates that resistance is already widespread,” senior researcher John Clark said in a University of Massachusetts news release.

The resistance appeared to be from the bed bugs’ having an insensitive nervous system, rather than their ability to better breakdown the poisons in their system, the researchers said.

While bed bugs feed on the blood of their host about every five to 10 days, they are not believed to spread disease.

More information

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has more about bed bug infestations.

It’s time to kick back and go on vacation, but are you gonna let allergies ruin your trip? As you may already know form experience, hotel rooms can be a hot bed for allergens. Here’s a great list of ways to make your hotel room allergy free, from the Allergy Buyer’s Club:
1. Very few hotels have “green rooms” but it’s worth asking. Green rooms carry less allergen than traditional rooms. They are specially equipped with hardwood floors rather than carpets, blinds rather than drapes, hypoallergenic bedding, and allergy free dust mite encasings.

2. Get a non-smoking room and if you are allergic to pets, a room that has not had pets stay in it.

3. Take a spray along to kill the mold and remove the dust in the air conditioning system. I recommend “Filter Plus”, available at Home Depot.

4. Ask that the air conditioner filter be changed before you arrive.

5. Hotel room a little dry? Throw a few wet towels around, or turn on the shower to fill-up the room with steam and keep your sinuses moist. Keep using your saline spray frequently. We don’t recommend asking the hotel for a humidifier – many of them only spray around ugly bacteria.

6. Allergic to dust mites? Take your own dust mite pillow encasings with you. You might try taking your own allergy free pillow if you travel by car.

7. If you are allergic to mold, do not get a room near the swimming pool- it is likely to have a higher concentration of mold spores.

8. Ask the hotel to provide you with a hypoallergenic, feather free pillow.

9. Ask that the room not be sprayed with scented air freshening sprays before you arrive.


If you can minimize the dust in your home, you can minimize the risk of eczema, according to a study published in the Journal of Investigative Dermatology. Why’s that? Well, dust is comprised of dirt, fibers, and allergens from dust mites and cockroach allergens, the latter two which can damage the protective layer of the skin. This increases your risk of eczema inflammation. So, here are some tips pulled from The Open Press newswire about minimizing dust in your home:

• Make sure you don’t leave food out to attract roaches. However, those who live in an environment prone to roaches may have to take extra care. Try boric acid. If you buy it in chalk form it’s easy to run the chalk along the joins of cupboards (all of them) and along the floor/wall joins. It’s much more effective than the usual roach killer products, and you don’t load up your house with toxic chemicals that will exacerbate your dry skin or eczema even further.

• Dust mites are rather more difficult to eliminate as they are virtually invisible. However, vacuuming once a week in the spots that build up dust – behind the couch or refrigerator, in stuffed animals, carpet, furniture, pillows, mattresses, and blankets – will help. If you are extremely sensitive, you might want to encase some of them in hypo-allergenic dust covers.

• No matter how dust free your environment appears to be, it’s almost possible to completely eliminate it – which is why you also need a shielding lotion. A good shielding lotion bonds with the outer layer of the skin to form a protective layer that locks in moisture and prevents the absorption of irritants and allergens. With that protection in place, the skin can heal itself.

Sleep: Strange Bedfellows
Peculiar and unknown facts about shut-eye. Did you know sleep affects your memory, heart health, teeth, and more.

From: PsychologyToday.com
By: Stephanie Guzowski
What really happens when your head hits the pillow? Sure, sleep fulfills some very basic needs—like maintaining your physical and mental health, not to mention preparing you for those crucial daytime hours. But a lot more happens after the lights go out. Did you know that sleep affects your memory, your heart, and even the health of your teeth? Here, we unveil some of sleep’s strangest facts.

Flexing Memory

From a special vacation to a holiday gathering, long-term memories are predominantly formed during sleep when the brain replays recent experiences. But how do you remember what happens when? According to researchers at the University of Lubeck in Germany, shut-eye not only strengthens a memory’s content but also the sequence in which they are experienced. Students were presented sets of words in a particular order. One group of these students was allowed to sleep and another was not. Those who were allowed to sleep could more often recall the order of words than those who were not allowed to sleep.

Sleep to a Better Beat

A good night’s sleep is essential for a healthy ticker. Lack of sleep can lead to hypertension, a condition in which blood pressure is chronically elevated. Of course, with it comes a higher risk of heart attack or stroke. Even normal, healthy people, who are persistently deprived of proper sleep, suffer increased risk of hypertension, say researchers at the American Academy of Sleep Medicine. Ongoing sleep deprivation can set up chemical and hormonal changes in the body, including the release of stress hormones like adrenaline.

Snooze and Smile

Tossing and turning can affect your smile. A Journal of Periodontology study shows that the amount of sleep you get can significantly affect your teeth. While smoking negatively impacted oral health the most, hours of sleep closely followed. The study tracked 219 Japanese factory workers from 1999 through 2003. Participants who slept seven to eight hours a night had less periodontal disease than those who slept six hours or less a night. Researchers speculate that sleep shortage impairs the body’s immune system, something that can lead to bad teeth.

Weighing in on Kids’ Sleep

Want to keep Johnny slim and trim? Sleep will help. Researchers at Northwestern University found that children who get more sleep tend to have lower body mass index and are less likely to become overweight than kids who sleep less. Sleeping an additional hour a night reduced a child’s chance of being overweight by about 30 to 35 percent. The link between sleep and childhood obesity is still up for grabs, but researchers have noted that tired children may very well be less active. Also lack of sleep could disrupt hormones that influence metabolism and hunger.

Sleep to Your Own Rhythm

If you find yourself awake and energetic late at night, you may have a genetic mutation. The altered gene may explain why some people prefer late nights. This gene affects the body’s circadian cycle-the clock that keeps our metabolism, digestion, and sleep patterns in sync. Researchers discovered abnormally long circadian rhythms in some mice-lasting about 27 hours instead of the normal cycle of 24 hours. These mice had the mutated gene. Also, night owls who compensate by staying in bed longer still experience more insomnia than the rest of us. Also, night owls report feeling less in control of their sleep, which may also fuel insomnia.

Sex While Asleep

Not all is quiet after lights-out. Sleep disorders plague many. There are those who walk, those who talk, or those who eat in their sleep. Now a study in the journal Sleep even documents those who have sex while asleep. In fact, many abnormal sexual behaviors emerge during sleep including sexual vocalizations, intercourse with or without orgasm, and masturbation. Eighty percent of sleep-sex cases involve men, with only males engaging in sleep-sexual intercourse. Women, meanwhile, were more likely to engage in sexual vocalizations. And both genders reported instances of sleep masturbation.

Getting by with Less

Some people can survive on very little sleep, while others require many hours to function normally. If you still perform relatively well when sleep deprived, the reason could be your genes. In one study from the University of Surrey, some people struggled to stay awake after two days of no sleep while others had no problem whatsoever. The researchers looked into this further and gave the participants the opportunity to sleep normally; they found that some participants spend more time in slow-wave sleep, the deepest form of shut-eye. And for them carrying a sleep debt makes it that much harder to stay alert and function.

According to a national survey that was presented at annual meeting of the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology (AAAAI), kids who suffer from nasal allergy symptoms also suffer in the classroom. Here are some startling numbers pulled from the study, which compared the responses of parents with children who have allergies to the responses of parents of children with no allergy symptoms.   
  • 21% of parents said allergies limit their children’s activities; only 11% of parents whose child did not suffer from allergies said health restricts their activities.
  • 41% of parents said that allergies interfere “a lot or some” with their child’s sleep; 8% of parents of children without allergies said health affected sleep
  • 61% of parents said their kids missed school in the past year because of allergies; 26% said the condition interferes with “doing well in school.”
  • 39% of parents of children without allergies said their kids missed classes because of health issues in the past 12 months, and 9% said health issues prevented them from doing well in their classes.
  • 32% of parents said allergies limit their kids’ participation in sports; 10% of parents of kids without allergies said health restricts their children’s participation.
  • Three-fourths of parents of children with allergies said their kids suffer stuffed-up noses that are “extremely to moderately bothersome.” Other common — and bothersome symptoms — include sneezing fits, runny nose, watery eyes, and postnasal drip.
  • About half of parents of kids with allergies had moderately or extremely bothersome facial pain and ear pain.
  • Almost half of parents said their children use prescription medicine to treat their allergies.



Nutritional therapist Norma Kayte O’Dell believes that changing your diet may be more effective than over-the-counter drugs at fighting allergies. A diet that strengthens the immune system and the body’s ability to handle allergy symptoms will be better in the long term.O’Dell informs us that there are foods than can help manage inflammation, which can help relieve allergic reactions. Raw honey is one of such foods, and can help build the body’s resistance to pollen allergies. Honey that is produced within 10 miles of your home is believed to be the most effective. Garlic and onions are also said to be effective because they contain sulfur, which aids the detoxification of the body.

O’Dell recommends food supplements in addition to a change in diet. Omega-3 fatty acids, and other vitamins or minerals that help build a stronger immune system (including Vitamins A, E, and D) will help you in your fight against allergies.

Asthma Camp

Asthma camps are providing the education children need about their asthma, and it’s improving their condition. A new study has shown that children who have attended camps that center around asthma management skills had fewer visits to the emergency department and the doctor’s office, as well as fewer hospitalizations, than those who had never been to such a camp before.Researchers evaluated nearly 1,800 children at 24 separate asthma camps (about 120 asthma camps exist in the United States) that are sponsored by the American Lung Association (ALA). The ALA tries to reach out to children in poorer neighborhoods who are less likely to be receiving the care that they require for their condition.

The study showed that about 44% of the children had already visited the emergency room at some point, and 76% required additional visits to the doctor. It concluded that 37% of children with asthma were inadequately controlling the condition.

The numbers were different when researchers looked at children who had previously attended an asthma camp. They had fewer emergency room visits, fewer doctors visits and displayed much better management skills than others.

Asthma is very manageable, and the study does a lot to show that educational camps like these can help children manage the disease more effectively.