Posts tagged ‘cold’

Extreme Athletes May Benefit from Vitamin C Supplements

Cold season is upon us and even the latest scientific technology can’t prevent us from catching a cold. The lack of a real “cure” has led to all sorts of crazy remedies, including Epsom salts and onions (even I don’t know what’s going on with those!). There are a few major misconceptions surrounding the common cold and I’d like to knock them out one at a time.

Antibiotics will help my cold go away

Colds are usually caused by a group of viruses called rhinoviruses. There are hundreds of viral strains that can cause a cold and these strains change from year to year. This makes it difficult to create a single “cure” for colds. There’s also a reason your doctor can’t simply prescribe antibiotics: they won’t work. Antibiotics only kill bacteria, not viruses. Viruses, including influenza, tend to be trickier to treat. There are some antiviral drugs out there but the most effective defenses against viruses are vaccines. Unfortunately, we don’t yet have a vaccine for the common cold. Since colds are caused by a variety of constantly mutating viruses, it’ll be a while before we see any real preventatives.

Vitamin C will cure my cold

Vitamin C is commonly touted as both a treatment and preventative for the common cold. The idea is that vitamin C supplements will boost your immune system, preventing you from catching a cold (or treating one you already have). Actual research, however, doesn’t support this theory.

popeye graffiti

There have been multiple studies designed to look for relationships between vitamin C and colds. Currently, there is no evidence that vitamin C will actually prevent a cold. A vitamin C supplement is also unlikely to treat an existing cold. In an analysis of 55 different studies, a research team concluded, “The lack of effect of prophylactic vitamin C supplementation on the incidence of common cold in normal populations throws doubt on the utility of this wide practice.”

There was only one case where vitamin C supplements helped prevent and reduce the duration of cold symptoms. The supplements appeared to help one group of people: those who were already deficient due to lifestyle. Patients who regularly engaged in rigorous exercise benefitted mildly from vitamin C supplements. The same was true for people exposed to extreme temperatures. In both groups, colds were less frequent and symptoms were reduced when participants took vitamin C tablets. In conclusion, a vitamin C supplement won’t help your cold unless you’re a marathon runner or work outside in frigid temperatures.

You should “sweat out” a fever

There’s a strangely common belief that you should purposely sweat during a fever. Proponents of this method will recommend wrapping in blankets, keeping the thermostat turned up, and drinking hot beverages. The idea is that by maintaining a high body temperature, you can kill the virus faster. That’s not how fevers work, however. Fevers are a symptom of your body’s immune system fighting off something—whether a virus, bacteria, or some kind of toxin. The high temperature alone isn’t killing anything and most fevers go away on their own within a day or two. Doctors generally recommend resting, staying hydrated, and taking an antipyretic medication (such as ibuprofen) if the fever is especially bad.

Cough syrup reduces coughing and helps sore throats

I was guilty of believing this one for a while. Most of us know that cough syrup won’t “cure” a cough but we expect it to at least help, right? The general consensus is that cough syrup will reduce coughing and help soothe a sore throat. However, there is very little scientific evidence for these claims. An analysis of commonly available over-the-counter cough syrups found that most of them had the same effectiveness as a placebo.

In a 2007 analysis of codeine, a common ingredient in cough medicine, the authors concluded, “Recent placebo-controlled studies have shown that codeine is no more effective than placebo in suppressing cough caused by either upper respiratory disorders or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.”

Dextromethorphan is the only cough medicine with any scientific backing. It’s been proven slightly effective but only in adults; studies have shown that the drug is ineffective in children. The benefits are also small enough that some doctors question the value of taking the medication. Interestingly, pure honey provides mild cough relief and was found to be more effective than cough syrups in the same study.

Why do so many of these myths persist? Cold symptoms don’t last long for most people. If someone takes cough medicine and then begins to feel better after a day, they might believe that the medication helped. In reality, the cold symptoms would have improved on their own thanks to the body’s immune system. The best “cure” for the common cold? Time.

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Photo: Mike Mozart / MiMo

Sources: cdc.gov, emedicine health, plos.org, medlineplus.gov, nih.gov, lww.com

September 26, 2016 at 5:00 am Leave a comment

The Meaning of Care Symbols on Clothes Tags

By Kaye Nemec

When it’s time to wash a new item of clothing, most people check the tag to see what the manufacturer recommends for washing and drying.

Sometimes instructions are easily spelled out, other times the consumer is given a set of symbols to interpret. With no explanation or key to reference, there is no way to know what these symbols mean. Before you take a gamble with your clothing purchases, use the chart below as a reference guide for the most common symbols. For an extensive list of care symbols visit Textileaffairs.com.

  Machine Wash Normal
  Machine Wash Cold
  Machine Wash Warm
  Hand Wash
  Do Not Wash
  Do Not Bleach
  Tumble Dry Normal
  Do Not Dry
  Iron Normal
  Do Not Iron
  Dry Clean
  Do Not Dry Clean

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Sources: Textile Affairs

April 27, 2011 at 2:00 am 1 comment

Brain Freeze is Triggered in the Sinuses

By Chad Upton | Editor

When I was a kid, the local 7-11 had 20 Slurpee flavors. Every Saturday, my brother Brett and I would bike there with a palm full of allowance and return with a belly full of food coloring. We didn’t know how lucky we were — I’ve never seen another convenience store with that many flavors. But, there was one thing we did know: BRAIN FREEZE.

While it’s frequently called brain freeze or ice-cream headache, this mind numbing pain is known as sphenopalatine ganglioneuralgia in the medical community. Don’t even try to sound-it-out, even the British Medical Journal calls it ice-cream headache.

It happens to some people more easily than others and although your childhood imagination may disagree, your brain is not actually being frozen. The pain stems from a defense mechanism that is employed all over your body.

When it’s cold outside, your arms and legs usually cool down faster than your core because they generally have less insulation (fat) than your core. Because blood flows into your extremities and then back to your heart, the blood coming back will cool down your core. Your body protects itself from rapid cooling by constricting the veins in your extremeties, which reduces flow and slows the return of colder blood into your core.

This is a temporary reaction. After some time, the blood-vessels will expand to allow greater flow so these parts get proper blood flow again. This affect can be quite noticeable in the right conditions. If you’re outside for a while, you may find that your fingers are cold at first, but feel warm later. This is part of the reason they warm up. Also, redness in your cheeks is caused when the blood-vessels expand like this.

As you consume extremely cold food and beverages, the capillaries in your sinuses can rapidly constrict when cooled and expand when warmed. Pain receptors react to this by sending signals to your brain via the trigeminal nerve, the same nerve responsible for sensations in the face. This is why it can feel like the pain is coming from your forehead.

To get rid of a slushie stinger, some doctors suggest holding your tongue on the roof of your mouth to warm it up. Another tip, which you probably learned at a young age, eat slowly!

There is also a belief that you can only get brain freeze in warm environments, but that’s not true.

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Photo: Tom Magliery (cc)

Sources: Wikipedia, British Medical Journal, io9, about.com

March 4, 2011 at 2:00 am 7 comments

Some Eggs Do Not Need Refrigeration

By Chad Upton | Editor

Eggs are incredibly versatile. They can be prepared many different ways and appear in thousands of recipes, from salad dressings to dessert puddings.

While eggs taste great, they can also be dangerous if not treated properly. In the United States, about 1 in 20,000 eggs may contain salmonella — a bacteria that can make people very sick and possibly lead to death. In fact, approximately 142,000 cases of salmonella poisoning are reported each year and approx 30 of those cases result in death.

In many countries, eggs lay on supermarket shelves completely unrefrigerated. In other countries, eggs must be refrigerated when they are shipped, stored and sold.

Eggs have a natural protective layer on the outside of them which preserves the egg for a long period of time without refrigeration. Unfortunately, eggs can become contaminated with salmonella. This happens by contacting feces or other environmental contaminants during production. It can also be caused by the ovaries of an infected hen.

Because of this risk, countries such as the US and Canada insist that eggs be washed before they are sold. The advantage of this is that potential bacteria is removed from the outside of the egg. The disadvantage: the natural protective coating will also be removed, which requires that eggs be refrigerated to mitigate the risk of other contamination.

Although rare, there is also a risk that the egg yolk is infected. Refrigerating eggs prevents the potential bacteria from multiplying further, which reduces the risk of illness if a contaminated egg is consumed.

Typical egg care varies by country. If you buy eggs that are refrigerated, you should refrigerate them at home. If the eggs are not refrigerated at the time of purchase, you may optionally refrigerate them at home to extend the shelf life.

Room temperature eggs are recommended for hard boiling, experts say the shell is easier to remove because the outer membrane (just inside the shell) is weaker.

Many chefs suggest that refrigerated eggs should be at room temperature before they are mixed for baking, salad dressings and mayonnaise. The yolk in a cold egg is more firm, so they mix better at room temperature. Therefore, cold eggs are ideal for poaching or frying, reducing the chance that the yolk will break open during preparation.

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Sources: USDA, Chow, Banderas, Ochef, Wikipedia (Salmonella)

Photo: chizang (cc)

September 20, 2010 at 5:00 am 2 comments

Some Palm Trees Can Survive Freezing Winters

Palm trees usually symbolize warm and tropical climates. From Hollywood, we know the streets of Los Angeles and Miami are lined with beautiful palm trees. Hollywood portrays New York and Chicago as cold and windy, which they are for part of the year. But, there are real palm trees in both New York and Chicago.

New York has had palm trees in the Brooklyn Botanic Garden since the 1980s. Chicago has palms at the beach on Lake Michigan.

Although we closely associate palms trees with warm climates, there are a some palm species that can survive freezing winters.

Any variety of palm that can survive colder geographies that are not usually considered palm regions, are called “hardy palms.” Many of them are native to higher elevations in Asia and survive freezing weather with little or no damage. (more…)

May 5, 2010 at 12:13 am 6 comments

How to Prevent a GPS From Falling Off the Windshield

You’re driving along, minding your own business, when your GPS unit suddenly annuls its marriage to the windshield. It crashes into the dashboard, slides into the door, high-fives your passenger and bounces on the floor. Your GPS is not broken; but, it will be the next time it startles, then attacks your passenger again.

In the winter, it’s especially tempting for the suction cups on your GPS or radar detector to take your electronics skydiving. The suction cup relies on a vacuum tight seal to maintain its grip on the windshield. Cold weather, or direct flow of air conditioning, can degrade that seal enough that it can’t support the weight of the device.

The secret to getting a good seal: warm the windshield and suction cup(s) before getting them back together. You can warm the suction cup(s) with your hand or treat them like takeout food and warm them with your seat heaters. Using the defogger, blow hot air on the windshield for at least 10 minutes, then pull over in a safe place and apply the warm suction cup(s).

The idea is to create as much suction as possible inside the suction cups. Before you push it against the window, be sure the suction lever is all the way back, then push the suction mount HARD against the windshield, then push the suction lever forward. Because the windshield and suction cups are warm, you’ll get a better seal that should maintain enough suction to support your GPS unit or radar detector.

If you still don’t have any luck, try cleaning your windscreen and suction cups with glass cleaner wipes and repeat the steps above.

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Photo: redjar (cc)

January 4, 2010 at 2:07 am 9 comments

You Shouldn’t Drink Hot Water From Your Tap

Household tap water is usually heated in a hot water tank or by an inline water heater. Water tanks particularly, collect sediments overtime and are breeding grounds for bacteria. You might be thinking that bacteria cannot survive in hot water, but you need water above 165 degrees Fahrenheit to kill most bacteria. That’s why your meat thermometer recommends you cook chicken until that internal temperature is reached.

Hot water also dissolves contaminants such as lead that may be found in the solder of your hot water pipe. Newer copper tubing and fittings or PEX (plastic) pipes would be safer in this respect.

If you’ve ever read the manual for your coffee maker, it clearly states that you should make coffee using cold water.  This is not because the temperature of the water makes better coffee, it’s because you should only consume tap water from the cold side of the tap.

If you need water that is always hot, there are food grade water heaters that you can use. For example, you may have a water cooler/heater or an installation under your kitchen sink for dispensing water that is always hot. Otherwise, always use cold water and then heat it in a kettle, microwave, pot…etc.

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Sources: MIT, Everything2.com, CooksRecipes.com

Photo: Malla Mi (Creative Commons)

December 10, 2009 at 1:34 am 9 comments

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