Neti Pot Deaths Spark Tap Water Warnings

Sinus irrigation — the use of a saltwater solution to “wash” the sinuses — is recommended by allergists and other physicians as a mechanism for reducing symptoms of seasonal cold, allergies, and nasal or sinus irritation [1]. Research also suggests that sinus irrigation, generally performed at home using a special sinus irrigation bottle or a device called a neti pot, is safe and isn’t associated with any serious adverse effects [2].

Woman using a neti pot

Chewing Gum Reduces Risk of Ear Infection in Children

Xylitol, or birch sugar, is a sugar naturally found in plums, strawberries, raspberries, and rowan berries. It is often used to sweeten toothpaste and chewing gum since it is as sweet as sucrose but does not cause tooth decay; this is because it cannot be fermented by bacteria that live in our mouths, and instead inhibits their growth. As the key step causing acute ear infections is the colonization of the middle ear by bacteria that move there from the mouth, researchers have hypothesized that xylitol might help prevent acute ear infections as well as tooth decay.

Researchers at the University of Toronto recently performed a meta-analysis of three Finnish studies and found that children who chewed gum — or took other products laden with xylitol, including lozenges or syrup — had about a 25% lower risk of developing an ear infection compared to controls. The study is published in the Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews [1].

Child ear examination

The Flu and Your Health

It’s the gift-giving season. However, there’s one gift this time of year you don’t want to give or get: the flu virus. Flu season runs from November to April, with most cases occurring between late December and early March. About 10-20% of people get the flu every winter [1]. In children, the number is even higher with up to 40% of children becoming clinically ill due to the influenza virus.

Lack of Sleep Increases Susceptibility to the Common Cold

A study published earlier this month in the journal Archives of Internal Medicine made headlines recently. Researchers report that people experiencing poor sleep and shorter nights sleeping following exposure to the common cold are more likely to get sick than those that get better rest [1]. Scientists suggest that lack of sleep may influence the regulation of symptom mediators such as proinflammatory cytokines (signaling molecules) and histamines that are released in response to infection.

New Common Cold Virus Variant Deadly

Last week, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported that a new virulent strain of the common cold virus, adenovirus, has caused 10 deaths over the last 18 months [1]. The virus, identified as adenovirus serotype 14 (Ad14), is a rarely reported strain of adenovirus that can cause severe and even fatal respiratory illness. It’s unusual since adenoviruses typically cause non-lethal infections. According the the CDC report:

The cases described in this report are unusual because they suggest the emergence of a new and virulent Ad14 variant that has spread within the United States.

sneezing

Indeed, between the months of March-June 2007, Ad14 caused at least 140 respiratory illnesses in three states; Oregon, Texas and Washington [1]. More than 50 of those patients were hospitalized, including 24 who were admitted to intensive care units. Nine of those patients died, most from severe pneumonia. People of all ages have been affected, including healthy young adults, typically the group least susceptible.