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August 12th, 2014
04:38 PM ET

Hand sanitizer doesn't help in schools

School children get low marks when it comes to spreading germs, often sharing bugs with their classmates. So scientists wondered if putting hand sanitizers into elementary school classrooms would lead to fewer absences.

The study

Researchers in New Zealand set out to discover if using alcohol-based hand sanitizers, in addition to regular hand washing, would cut back on absentee rates in schools.

They recruited 68 primary schools, and all students were given a half-hour hygiene lesson. They then assigned half of the schools to a control group where children washed their hands with soap and water. The schools in the intervention group did the same, but were also asked to use classroom hand sanitizers when they coughed or sneezed, and before meals.
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Genetics play a bigger role than environmental causes for autism
July 22nd, 2014
01:23 PM ET

Genetics play a bigger role than environmental causes for autism

Genetics plays more of a role in the development of autism than environmental causes, according to new research published Sunday in Nature Genetics.

The study found that 52% of autism risk comes from common genes, while only 2.6% are attributed to spontaneous mutations caused by, among other things, environmental factors.

“These genetic variations are common enough that most people are likely to have some,” said Joseph Buxbaum, a researcher at the Mount Sinai School of Medicine and one of the lead authors on the study. “Each one has a tiny effect on autism risk, and many hundreds or thousands together make a significant risk.”
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Filed under: Autism • Living Well

Child medication measurements confuse parents
July 14th, 2014
11:03 AM ET

Child medication measurements confuse parents

Do you know the difference between teaspoons and tablespoons?

Many parents don’t, according to a study published Monday by the American Academy of Pediatrics, which found more than 10,000 calls to the poison center each year are due to liquid medication dosage errors.

The study says part of the reason parents may be confused is because a range of measurement units such as teaspoons, tablespoons and milliliters are often used interchangeably on labels for prescription and over-the-counter medications.

Parents who used the teaspoon and tablespoon dosage were much more likely to use kitchen spoons to measure their child’s medication and were twice as likely to make an error in medication, according to the study. Parents who measured their child’s medication in milliliters were much less likely to make a dosage mistake.

About 40% of parents in the study incorrectly measured the dose their doctor prescribed.
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Have you had the 'sext' talk with your kids?
June 30th, 2014
01:33 PM ET

Have you had the 'sext' talk with your kids?

It’s called sexting, the act of sending and/or receiving sexually explicit text or photo messages via your mobile phone. And one in five middle school-aged students are doing it, according to a new study published in the medical journal Pediatrics.

Among the 1,285 Los Angeles students aged 10 to 15 surveyed for the study, 20% reported having received at least one sext, while 5% reported having sent at least one sext.

“Very frequently it’s the image or the sex, that is finding its way to the middle schooler first, prior to any sort of conversation or education" by parents, said Ian Kerner, a sexuality counselor and father to two boys. "That makes it even more confusing (for kids).”

The study authors also looked at how sexting relates to sexual behavior among these adolescents. The survey showed that those who reported receiving a sext, were six times more likely to report being sexually active than teens who hadn't received a sext. Those who sent a sext were about 4 times more likely to report being sexually active.
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5 studies you may have missed
Eating more fruits and vegetables won't help you lose weight if you don't reduce the number of calories you're eating overall.
June 27th, 2014
12:39 PM ET

5 studies you may have missed

Here's a roundup of five medical studies published this week that might give you new insights into your health, mind and body. Remember, correlation is not causation – so if a study finds a connection between two things, it doesn't mean that one causes the other.

Eating more fruits and veggies won’t make you lose weight
American Journal of Clinical Nutrition

We’re often told to eat more fruits and vegetables, but the chances that you’ll lose weight just by eating more of these foods are slim. New research suggests increased fruit and vegetable intake is only effective for weight loss if you make an effort to reduce your calorie intake overall.

In other words, you need to exercise or consume fewer calories to shed those pounds.
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How reliable is the drug info you find online?
June 26th, 2014
08:04 AM ET

How reliable is the drug info you find online?

When people want to learn more about a new drug warning, they turn to the internet - that’s no surprise. But is the information they find there accurate and up-to-date? Not always, according to a report published in the New England Journal of Medicine this week.

“Despite debates over its credibility, Wikipedia is reportedly the most frequently consulted online health care resource globally,” the authors write. “Wikipedia pages typically appear among the top few Google search results and are among the references most likely to be checked by internet users.”

Wikipedia, along with Google and WebMD, is where more than half of all Americans turn to for health information, according to the report.

Researchers found that when the FDA issues a drug safety warning, Google searches about that drug increase 82% on average in the following week. Wikipedia pages about the drug see a 175% increase in views on the day of the announcement.

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Pesticide exposure during pregnancy may increase autism risk
June 24th, 2014
02:36 PM ET

Pesticide exposure during pregnancy may increase autism risk

Scientists have long hypothesized that chemicals found in our environment play a role in causing autism. Research published this week in Environmental Health Perspectives supports that theory, finding children whose mothers are exposed to agricultural pesticides during pregnancy may be at increased risk for autism spectrum disorders, or ASD.

Researchers at the University of California, Davis, looked at the medical records of 970 participants. They found pregnant women who lived within a mile of an area treated with three different types of pesticides were at a two-thirds higher risk of having a child with ASD or developmental delays. These pesticide-treated areas included parks, golf courses, pastures and roadsides.

The study investigated the use of three classes of pesticides: organophosphates, which include the widely used insecticide chlorpyrifos, as well as pyrtheroids and carbamates.
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Filed under: Autism • Conditions • Environment • Pregnancy

5 studies you may have missed
Food trucks are generally as safe or safer than restaurants, a new study found.
June 20th, 2014
03:05 PM ET

5 studies you may have missed

Here's a roundup of five medical studies published this week that might give you new insights into your health, mind and body. Remember, correlation is not causation – so if a study finds a connection between two things, it doesn't mean that one causes the other.

You are the (Facebook) company you keep
Journal: PNAS

It may be time to think twice before accepting that friend request on Facebook. A new study by scientists at Cornell University and Facebook suggests that emotions can be spread via Facebook and other social networks. Yes, you read that right: Your Facebook posts are contagious. The scientists looked at 3 million Facebook posts from a group of 155,000 randomly selected users.

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June 13th, 2014
12:01 AM ET

5 studies you may have missed

Here's a roundup of five medical studies published this week that might give you new insights into your health, mind and body. Remember, correlation is not causation – so if a study finds a connection between two things, it doesn't mean that one causes the other.

Keep your phone out of your pocket – your sperm will thank you
Journal: Environmental International

Since guys don’t usually carry handbags, they tend to keep mobile phones in their pants pockets. A recent study from the University of Exeter suggests this may not be a great idea.

That cell phone could actually have a negative effect on your sperm quality.
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Filed under: Aging • Brain • Cell Phones • Conditions • Dental health • Diet and Fitness • Fertility • Heart • Living Well • Men's Health • Mental Health

5 studies you may have missed
Despite their high fat and calorie content, nuts are better for you than diet sweets, experts say.
June 5th, 2014
09:07 PM ET

5 studies you may have missed

Here's a roundup of five medical studies published this week that can give you new insights into your health, mind and body. Remember, correlation is not causation – so if a study finds a connection between two things, it doesn't mean that one causes the other.

Hope for people with Parkinson’s
Journal: Cell Reports

Scientists at Harvard University say they see promising signs from their study on an experimental treatment for Parkinson's disease. The researchers transplanted tissue from fetal dopamine cells into the brains of patients with Parkinson’s in Canada.

Patients with severe symptoms experienced 50% fewer symptoms in the years after surgery. People who had been taking medication to control their Parkinson’s but found that the medicine no longer worked also saw significant improvements after surgery.

Looking at the brains of five patients after they died from non-Parkinson’s related illnesses, the scientists found that the transplanted cells stayed healthy. Earlier research led scientists to hypothesize that the cells would become corrupted, but the cells remained functional for at least 14 years after the patients got them. This is the first proof that this kind of transplant method could work.
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About this blog

Get a behind-the-scenes look at the latest stories from CNN Chief Medical Correspondent, Dr. Sanjay Gupta, Senior Medical Correspondent Elizabeth Cohen and the CNN Medical Unit producers. They'll share news and views on health and medical trends - info that will help you take better care of yourself and the people you love.

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