Health Watch: Health shorts: Flu, thick phlegm and the benefits of back sleeping

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Back sleepers have fewer infections

To reduce the risk of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome doctors have for several years advised parents to put their babies to sleep on their backs. A National Institute of Health study recently found back sleeping babies also have fewer doctor visits for ear infections and a reduced incidence of fever, stuffy nose and upper respiratory infection.

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Wait-and-see

approach works

Two thirds of children treated for middle ear infections with a "wait-and-see" approach plus pain medication got better without eventually needing antibiotics, according to a recent study.

Children who received antibiotics immediately had faster relief of symptoms and required fewer pain medications, but also developed more antibiotic-resistant bacterial strains in their nasal passages, putting them at future risk. Parents of the subjects in both groups were equally satisfied, given that they were educated about the reason for the wait-and-see approach.

Isolation no cure

for the flu

The flu is transmitted by social contact, but the best protection is not isolating yourself, but instead getting a flu shot.

In a study of 83 students who had just received flu shots, subjects who considered themselves "lonely" produced fewer antibodies than those who ranked themselves "socially connected."

Carnegie Mellon researchers theorized that loneliness and isolation produced stress had a negative effect on the immune system.

Pre-schoolers key

to spread of flu

Pre-school children, age three to four, were first to be infected and treated for influenza each year, according to data collected from emergency departments in Massachusetts from 2000 to 2004.

"These and other data suggest that targeting yearly influenza vaccination to younger children may benefit the entire community," the study authors wrote.

Thick phlegm?

Drink more water

When you suffer from thick phlegm, chest congestion and heavy coughing, you can get some relief with several over-the-counter remedies such as Mucinex RM, Robitussin and Tobitussin DM.

But, one simple way to break up the phlegm and make expectorants more effective is to drink more water.

Supplements to

avoid before surgery

Some dietary supplements can increase the risk of complications during surgery. Surgical patients should report to their doctor all supplements they are taking and discuss which ones should be discontinued and when.

Garlic, gingko, ginseng and St. John's wort, for example, increase the risk of bleeding and should be discontinued at least a week before surgery. Prolonged use of echinacca can suppress immunity and result in poor wound healing.

Kava and valerian intensify the sedative effect of anesthesia. Ma huang creates an elevated risk of heart attack.

Compression key to successful CPR

"Push hard, push fast" is the key advice in the new American Heart Association guidelines for delivering CPR to a person having cardiac arrest.

Compression on the patient's chest is more important than mouth-to-mouth resuscitation, according to the AHA. Guidelines call for 30 chest compressions -- instead of 15 as previously recommended -- for every two rescue breaths.

There's no need to stop and check to see how the patient is responding; just keep pushing. According to research, circulation increases with each compression, but slows with even a momentary interruption.

Cardiac arrests -- when the heart ceases to beat -- can occur as a result of a heart attack, an abnormal heart rhythm, electrocution or near drowning.

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