Monitor children’s music volume to prevent ear damage

Drs. Sally Robinson & Keith Bly

Drs. Sally Robinson & Keith Bly

Keeping Kids Healthy

The latest song is blasting through the earphones of a teen’s iPod. It’s so loud the other kids can hear it, even though they’re a good 10 feet away.

We’ve all heard the noise: Whether it’s coming from a car radio, a concert, or yes, even those personal music players that are so popular now-a-days, it seems the volume on life is cranked up and the knob ripped off.

Can you hear your mother’s words ring in the back of your mind? “Turn that down, you’re going to go deaf.”

Nearly 27 million Americans age 3 and older suffer from some sort of hearing loss. That’s double the number 30 years ago.

In children, three main culprits make up the majority of causes of hearing loss. They are otitis media, hearing loss at birth and other acquired causes such as complications from the measles, mumps or a head injury. Continue reading

Bats as Viral Reservoirs

Drs. Norbert Herzog & David Niesel

Drs. Norbert Herzog & David Niesel

Medical Discovery News

In tales, bats are feared because they could be blood-sucking vampires in disguise. Obviously, Dracula isn’t real, but science has recently uncovered a dark secret that bats have been keeping: viral reservoirs.

Reservoirs are bodies of collected water. Viral reservoirs are a collection of viruses carried by one species. Bats are an important source for a variety of viruses that can infect other animals and humans, such as deadly viruses SARS, Ebola and MERS.

Bats are among the most abundant and diverse vertebrates on earth and are found on every continent except Antarctica. Their ability to maintain viruses may date back to ancient times. Viruses can cause persistent infections in bats or they can lay dormant. Since bats also have relatively long lifespans — up to 25 years — if they have a persistent virus they have a good chance of infecting others with it, especially since they can fly and travel long distances. Bats also live in close-knit communities, so they are likely to pass infections to other bats, thereby maintaining viruses in the population. Some viruses spread by direct contact, while others such as rabies can be spread by droplets of saliva, mucus, urine or feces. Continue reading

Parents who smoke around kids increase ear infections

Drs. Sally Robinson & Keith Bly

Drs. Sally Robinson & Keith Bly

Keeping Kids Healthy

Here is some information on ear infections and smoking in children’s living space.

Ear infections are common in children. They include acute otitis media, which is an infection in the middle ear space associated with pain and fever. There is an estimated 5 million ear infections each year in the United States.

There also is otitis media with effusion. Children with otitis media with effusion have extra fluid in the middle ear, so symptoms may include feeling like the ear is plugged or difficulty hearing.

Even if these infections are common, they can have consequences. Sometimes they require surgery, and they may make the children at risk for hearing loss and delayed speech development. Continue reading

The Zen of safer driving

Dr. Victor Sierpina

Dr. Victor Sierpina

Driving a car actually takes a lot of skills. It is a daily example of complex multi-tasking.

Since most of us have been doing it so long, it can seem automatic. Yet just think of how many tasks — or switches between what we are paying attention to — happen as we drive.

We glance at the dash, the mirrors, gauge the speed and location of our vehicle and those around us, accelerate, brake, read road signs and so forth.

Now that is just the driving part. It doesn’t include drinking a beverage, adjusting the sound system or answering a phone call.

Having worked in emergency rooms for many years, I have seen some horrific outcomes of poor driving, intoxication, distraction, poor road conditions, equipment malfunctions and bad judgment. Continue reading

What you need to know about measles

Dr. Lauren Raimer-Goodman

Dr. Lauren Raimer-Goodman

Recently, my colleagues and I have been hearing reports about measles outbreaks around the country. New York, California, Dallas and even Hawaii have seen cases this year.

Many epidemiologists feel it’s only a matter of time before most major metropolitan areas in the U.S. are affected. Unless we see an improvement in vaccination rates, the Houston area is at risk of having its own outbreak.

So what is measles and why are doctors across the country up in arms about some people coming down with a little virus?

In short, because it’s highly contagious, can be deadly and is completely preventable with vaccination. Measles causes fever, cough, runny nose and pink eye in the early stages. People then usually develop a rash that starts at the top of the head and spreads down the body. Measles can cause encephalitis or inflammation of the brain. This can happen during the initial infection or any time after you have been infected with the virus, even years later. Some people who get measles will die from it. According to the World Health Organization, 122,000 people died of measles in 2012 globally. That’s 14 people an hour.

Why are we even in this situation? It started in 1998 when Andrew Wakefield, a former surgeon and researcher in the UK, published a paper suggesting a link between the MMR vaccine and autism. Guess what? Continue reading

Putting Your Bacteria to Work

Drs. Norbert Herzog & David Niesel

Drs. Norbert Herzog & David Niesel

Medical Discovery News

A biotech startup company called uBiome has adopted the concept of crowdsourcing, using the Internet to rally people around a cause, for research on the human microbiome. The microbiome is all the microscopic flora and fauna that live in and on the human body. Humans have 10 times as many bacterial cells as human cells. But science is just beginning to understand the populations of the microbiome and how they affect a person’s health for good or bad.

What science already knows about the microbiome comes from the $173 million government-funded Human Microbiome Project. This project took five years and researchers collected and sequenced the microbiome of 250 healthy people. It proved there are at least 1,000 different types of bacteria present on every person. The National Institutes of Health has made the four terabytes of data from this project available to all researchers via the Microbiome Cloud Project. Continue reading

Poisons can be found all throughout the house

Drs. Sally Robinson & Keith Bly

Drs. Sally Robinson & Keith Bly

Keeping Kids Healthy

It’s important for parents to remember that not all poisons are in the garage or basement.

A number of poisons can be found throughout the house. Small children are both curious and fast, so parents have to exercise special care not to leave dangerous products open or within their reach.

Take a tour of your house or apartment to see if some of these dangerous conditions exist.

  • In the kitchen, check that all detergents, bleaches, cleaners and especially drain cleaners, as well as soaps and bug killers are not under the sink in an unlocked cupboard, but up high in a cupboard with a childproof lock.
  • Products containing lye are extremely dangerous. Don’t keep these in your home. Keep alcoholic drinks up out of the reach of children.
  • Buy products with childproof or child-resistant caps. Opening them should require thumb pressure beyond the ability of small children.
  • In the bathroom, besides checking that soaps are out of reach, keep medicines, cosmetics, colognes, toothpaste and mouthwashes out of reach — and preferably locked up.
  • Don’t leave pills in open bottles or in a dish of “the day’s dose of medicine.” Make sure all product labels are clear — both on medicine and on products that might be found anywhere in the house. In an emergency, you will need to know what product was involved. Continue reading

Why Do We Cheat?

Drs. Norbert Herzog & David Niesel

Drs. Norbert Herzog & David Niesel

Medical Discovery News

Even a child can explain why cheating is wrong. Students are well-warned about the consequences that ensue, and adults know the legal implications. Yet cases of cheating continue to emerge in classrooms, boardrooms and newsrooms. People cheat on tests, for sports and in elections. Why? Microbiologists Ferric C. Fang and Arturo Casadevall attempted to answer this question by exploring the causes of cheating and why people deceive to get ahead.

Cheating is not unique to any area of society. Seventy-five percent of university students surveyed had cheated, one-third of scientists surveyed admitted to irregularities in their research practices, and an estimated 1.6 million Americans cheat on their taxes. Cheating isn’t even exclusive to humans — even single-celled organisms can “steal” products made by others.

The size of a particular part of the brain called the neocortex is directly related to an animal’s intelligence. It is also responsible for conscious thought and language. Additionally, the size of the neocortex is predictive of the degree that animals engage in deception. The more intelligent the animal, the more it exhibits deceptive behavior. Continue reading

You only need a cleaver and a small knife in the kitchen

Dr. Victor Sierpina

Dr. Victor Sierpina

Do you remember “Leave it to Beaver,” the 1950s-60s show with the quintessential suburban American family

Beaver was an 8-year-old with more existential crises than any 8-year-old deserves. His punk older brother, Wally, was always in trouble, and neither his mother, June, nor his dad, Ward, would ever, despite their surname, at least on TV, wield a cleaver.

The cleaver is a large, flat-bladed cutting instrument and, as I grew up, my exposure to cleavers was limited to butchers holding a big one threateningly to cut up a dead animal or maniacs using cleavers to dismember their victims, sometimes their own family members. None of that for the wholesome Beaver and his Cleaver family.

None of these images left me with a great feeling about cleavers. Nor did my folks even own one. We killed our chickens with a regular hand hatchet. So when I got one as part of a knife set, I slid it into the back of my drawer not to be seen again for five years.

Then, not long back, I discovered the surprising and easy-to-use aspects of the cleaver for preparation of healthy food. Continue reading

Be cautious with hot water around children, elderly

Drs. Sally Robinson & Keith Bly

Drs. Sally Robinson & Keith Bly

Keeping Kids Healthy

No one wants to be burned. Even the smallest burn hurts more than a cut the same size.

Larger burns not only hurt but can result in significant pain, permanent scarring, loss of the use of limbs and even death.

Most scald burns can be prevented. Scald burns occur from accidental spills of hot liquids or from hot tap water.

Scald burns happen most often in children age 5 and younger and the elderly. Several things can be done to prevent these burns.

For accidental spills, always make sure that the handles of pans are turned away so that young children cannot reach up and grab them and extension cords to coffee pots and other electric cookers are not hanging off the counter.

About a 1-second exposure to water at 160 degrees will result in a third-degree burn, which is the most severe burn and will leave a scar. Continue reading