As winter rolls into town, so does the flu and all its miserable symptoms. Yet, doctors and women alike have long noticed that men tend to bemoan those symptoms more than women. The phenomenon even has a name: the “man flu.” So, are men just whiny wimps? No, a new analysis out of Canada suggests, because respiratory illnesses may indeed hit men harder than women. According to study author Dr. Kyle Sue, “there are already many physiologic differences between men and women, so it makes sense that we could differ in our responses to cold and flu viruses as well.” Sue is a clinical assistant professor in family medicine with the Health Sciences Centre at Memorial University of Newfoundland. “The evidence in current studies points towards men having weaker immune systems than women, especially when it comes to common viral respiratory infections,” Sue explained. “Men are more susceptible to them, symptoms are worse, they last longer, and men are more likely to be hospitalized and die from the flu.” To compare how flu symptoms manifest among both women and men, Sue reviewed a number of studies involving both animals and humans. One investigation out of Hong Kong suggested that when the flu strikes, adult men face a greater risk for being admitted to the hospital than their female peers. Another American study also found that,…  read on >

Some thiings never change: Scientists say the bacteria circulating in the International Space Station are similar to those in homes on Earth. That’s the conclusion of researchers at the University of California, Davis, who analyzed bacteria collected by astronauts. “So ‘is it gross?’ and ‘will you see microbes from space?’ are probably the two most common questions we get about this work,” study co-author and microbiologist David Coil said. “As to the first, we are completely surrounded by mostly harmless microbes on Earth, and we see a broadly similar microbial community on the International Space Station (ISS). So it is probably no more or less gross than your living room,” he said in a university news release. Because the space station is completely enclosed, the microbes inside the station come from the people on the station and the supplies sent to them, Coil and his colleagues explained. According to study lead author Jenna Lang, “The microbiome on the surfaces on the ISS looks very much like the surfaces of its inhabitants, which is not surprising, given that they are the primary source.” Lang is a former postdoctoral scholar at UC Davis. “We were also pleased to see that the diversity was fairly high, indicating that it did not look like a ‘sick’ microbial community,” Lang added. For the study, the researchers highlighted some of the…  read on >

Hospital operating rooms produce thousands of tons of greenhouse gases each year, but changing the type of anesthesia used in surgery can help lower those emissions, researchers report. For the study, investigators assessed the carbon footprint of operating rooms at three hospitals: Vancouver General Hospital in Canada; University of Minnesota Medical Center in the United States; and John Radcliffe Hospital in Oxford, England. The annual carbon footprint of operating rooms in each hospital in this study ranged from about 3,200 metric tons of CO2 equivalents (CO2e) to over 5,000 metric tons of CO2e. A metric ton is 204 pounds heavier than a ton. Anesthetic gases accounted for 63 percent and 51 percent of all surgery-related emissions at Vancouver and Minnesota, respectively, but only for 4 percent of such emissions at Oxford. Other sources included energy use such as heating, air conditioning and ventilation. Anesthetic gases accounted for about 2,000 metric tons of CO2e at each North American site, 10 times higher than from the U.K. hospital. The difference is largely due to greater use of the anesthetic gas desflurane in the two North American hospitals, the researchers said. Changing from desflurane to cheaper, low-carbon alternatives could make a significant difference, according to the study published Dec. 7 in The Lancet Planetary Health. “Not only is desflurane a primary contributor to global anesthetic gas emissions, it…  read on >

What makes a poem touch your heart? New research suggests that poetry that triggers vivid mental images and positive emotions tends to be the most enjoyed. For the study, researchers had more than 400 people read and rate two types of poems — haikus and sonnets. “People disagree on what they like, of course,” said study author Amy Belfi, a postdoctoral fellow in New York University’s department of psychology. But, “while it may seem obvious that individual taste matters in judgments of poetry, we found that despite individual disagreement, it seems that certain factors consistently influence how much a poem will be enjoyed,” she said in an NYU news release. Study co-author G. Gabrielle Starr added that “the vividness of a poem consistently predicted its aesthetic appeal. Therefore, it seems that vividness of mental imagery may be a key component influencing what we like more broadly.” Starr, who was dean of NYU’s College of Arts and Science at the time of the research, is now president of Pomona College in Claremont, Calif. “While limited to poetry, our work sheds light into which components most influence our aesthetic judgments and paves the way for future research investigating how we make such judgments in other domains,” Starr said. The findings were published Nov. 30 in the journal Psychology of Aesthetics, Creativity, and the Arts. More information To…  read on >

With the traditional flood of holiday parties and festivities approaching, chances to drink excessively increase. So, what to do? Start by taking a closer look, now, at your drinking habits, one mental health expert suggests. “The holidays generate both positive and negative emotions, and drinking is one of the methods that people often use to cope,” said Dr. Karen Miotto, a clinical professor of psychiatry at the University of California, Los Angeles. “Overwhelmed from the time-pressured schedules, people may see alcohol as a shortcut to relax,” she said in a UCLA news release. “While there is nothing wrong with enjoying yourself or unwinding, listen to your body and keep yourself safe. A hangover the next day is a large price to pay for a night of letting go with alcohol.” Besides using alcohol to unwind, another common reason people give for drinking is that it helps them get to sleep. “Alcohol can help people fall asleep faster and sleep more deeply for a while,” Miotto said. “But the sedative effects of alcohol can be deceiving because it is associated with decreased quality of sleep and rebound insomnia, a problem that occurs when you discontinue the substance that’s been helping you fall asleep.” Some people claim they’re not affected by alcohol. Some mistakenly feel they’re OK to drive after drinking. “With habitual, heavy drinking, people tend…  read on >

A once-monthly injection of the opioid addiction drug buprenorphine has been approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. “Millions of Americans are suffering from addiction to opioid drugs, and millions more are worried that the overdose epidemic could claim the lives of a friend or loved one,” FDA Commissioner Dr. Scott Gottlieb said Thursday in an agency news release. “We need immediate actions to help those suffering from an opioid use disorder transition to lives of sobriety,” he added. The new dosage provides patients with “access to a new and longer-acting option for the treatment of opioid addiction,” Gottlieb noted. The United States is in the grip of an opioid epidemic, with the number of overdose deaths quadrupling between 2000 and 2015, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. And Johns Hopkins researchers recently reported that deaths from drug overdoses rose from about 52,000 in 2015 to more than 64,000 in 2016. Most of those deaths involved opioids, including prescription pain medications such as fentanyl and oxycodone (Oxycontin), as well as the illegal drug heroin. Hence, the need for more and better treatments. “Medication-assisted treatment for opioid addiction uses drugs to stabilize brain chemistry, reduce or block the euphoric effects of opioids, relieve physiological cravings and normalize body functions,” Gottlieb explained. There are three FDA-approved drugs for treatment of opioid addiction:…  read on >

Think cigars are safer than cigarettes? Think again, new research warns. Nicotine levels in so-called “small” or “filtered” cigars were found to be equal to or greater than that found in cigarettes, according to the study by researchers at Penn State’s College of Medicine. “There seems to be a perception in the public that cigars are not as harmful as cigarettes,” study author Reema Goel said in a university news release. “But our study shows that nicotine is pretty high in this class of cigars, and future regulation that affects cigarettes should also affect these cigars.” Goel is a research associate with the Tobacco Center of Regulatory Science at Penn State. Small cigars are nearly identical to cigarettes in appearance, although they are wrapped in leafy tobacco rather than paper. The study involved eight common brands of small cigars. It used machine-puffing simulators to compare their nicotine delivery levels with that of two types of cigarettes. Using two different methods for measuring nicotine, the research team found that, with both, the average amount of nicotine delivery was notably higher among small cigars than with cigarettes. “These products are basically cigarettes,” co-author John Richie, a professor of public health sciences and pharmacology at Penn State, noted in the news release. “They’re as harmful to you as cigarettes, if not more so. “It’s very important for the…  read on >

Everyone has a bad day at work every now and then. But if you often wake up dreading heading to your job, it’s time to consider why you’re unhappy and if a job switch is the best solution. Researchers have found that job happiness is a balance between responsibilities and resources. You might have a heavy workload or demanding deadlines. But if you have tools and support along with the authority to make decisions, you’ll have greater job satisfaction, according to a study published in the journal Industrial Health. Here are some keys to job satisfaction: Workplace resources. Support from upper management. Decision-making ability. On the other hand, three things in particular lead to job unhappiness. Lack of support from your boss/supervisor. Conflicts with co-workers. Inability to use skills you’ve acquired. If these issues are ongoing and causing you stress, asking for workplace accommodations may help. If you feel like you’re being micro-managed, talk to your supervisor about being able to work at your own pace and organize tasks yourself. Also, changing your work schedule, mentoring an associate and continuing your education are three steps that might re-invigorate you. Finally, find ways to unwind when you get home. Having better balance in your personal life can give you an energy boost to take to work. If these options aren’t possible or don’t give you greater…  read on >

Texting, talking on cellphones, eating, drinking — distractions such as these are a driving hazard, and are more likely to occur among young men, new research shows. People most prone to distracted driving also often tend to think it’s “no big deal” — socially acceptable, the Norwegian study found. These drivers often also felt that they had little control over being distracted. On the other hand, older women, and people who felt they could control their distracted behaviors, were most able to keep their focus where it belongs — on the road ahead. “I found that young men were among the most likely to report distraction,” said study lead author Ole Johansson of Norway’s Institute of Transport Economics. “Others more prone to distraction include those who drive often, and those with neurotic and extroverted personalities.” According to the study authors, the World Health Organization estimates that more than a million lives are lost on roadways each year due to distracted driving. And it only takes two seconds of looking away from the road for risks of an accident to rise significantly, the researchers noted. There was good news, however, from the survey of Norwegian high school students and adults: Overall rates of distracted driving were low, and “fiddling with the radio” was the most common source of distraction. The study was published Nov. 17 in…  read on >

Doctors, don’t be afraid to deliver bad news. Telling cancer patients the truth about their chances of survival does not harm a physician’s relationship with those people. It could even make it better, according to a new study. “We hope this information will reassure clinicians about any negative impacts of these discussions on their relationships with patients,” said study lead author Joshua Fenton. “Discussing prognosis doesn’t undermine trust — and informing patients may have large benefits in terms of future quality of life,” added Fenton. He is a professor of family and community medicine at the University of California, Davis. The study included 238 adults with advanced cancer. The patients received bad news about their disease progression from oncologists in New York state and California. Interviews with the patients showed that hearing the poor prognosis did not harm their relationship with their oncologist one week after receiving the news. And it actually improved the relationship three months later, the researchers said. The findings contradict two previous studies that concluded that such discussions can increase patients’ depression and disrupt their relationship with their doctor. Fenton noted that many oncologists spend little time talking with patients about prognosis or end-of-life options such as palliative care and hospice. That can lead to more hospital care, lower quality of life and even shorter survival, plus more difficulties for caregivers.…  read on >