No Fan of Heat

By Scott LaFee

September 25, 2019 6 min read

When temperatures rise, it seems like a no-brainer to reach over and flick on an electric fan. But it might not be such a hot idea.

In a small study, researchers asked men to sit for two hours in either very hot and dry heat or very hot and humid conditions — some with fans and some without. The men who used fans in hot and dry conditions had worse measures of body heat, including a higher strain on their cardiovascular systems, while those in humid conditions showed improvements in most measures, except sweating.

Caveat: The study involved young men, and so the findings can't be generalized to women, children or the elderly.

Antacids and Allergies

A new study finds that ingesting prescription antacids is associated with an increased risk of allergies. Scientists looked at the health records of more than 8 million Austrians and found that those who took prescription antacids were almost twice as likely to develop allergies as those who didn't take the medications. Women and people over the age of 60 were particularly impacted.

The authors hypothesize that the relationship may be due to antacids raising pH in the stomach to alleviate acidity (as opposed to some drug-specific action) but cautioned there are many unknown factors still to be investigated.

Get Me That, Stat!

Infant mortality rates in the U.S. appears to have leveled off, having remained roughly the same since 2013. More than 22,300 infants died in the U.S. in 2017, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, a rate of roughly six deaths per 1,000 births.

The infant mortality rate was highest for those born to women under the age of 20, a rate almost 90% higher than for babies born to women ages 30 to 34.

The leading cause of death among infants in 2017 was congenital malformations, followed by disorders due to low birth weight, maternal complications, sudden infant death syndrome and accidental injuries.

Counts

11: Estimated millions of years of healthy life lost around the world in 2017 due to childhood cancer

Source: Global Burden of Disease Study 2017 Childhood Cancer Collaborators

Stories for the Waiting Room

When it comes to treating high blood pressure, low income hurts. A study of 28,000 persons in a heart study looked at hypertension treatment outcomes in low-income versus high-income settings. Researchers found that those treated in low-income settings — typically women, black or Hispanic or with less education — were less likely to control their blood pressure and had a 25% higher rate of death from any cause, compared to those treated in high-income settings.

Doc Talk

Vasovagal syncope: The act of fainting due to physiological trigger, such as the sight of blood or extreme emotional distress

Never Say 'Diet'

The Major League Eating record for buffalo chicken wings is 281 in 12 minutes, held by Geoff Esper. While the crowd at the National Buffalo Wing Festival celebrated, there were at least 140 chickens who did not applaud — or couldn't.

Best Medicine

A man rushed into a hospital emergency room, declaring: "I've been stung by a wasp! Have you got anything for it?"

A nurse asked, "Where is it?"

The man said: "I don't know! It could be miles away by now."

Hypochondriac's Guide

Medical leeches have made a comeback, but don't expect to see your local doctor whip out a Haementeria ghilianii, or giant Amazon leech, anytime soon. This species can grow up to 18 inches and live up to 20 years. It's a blood-feeder, sticking its proboscis (up to 6 inches long) into passing animals, from snakes and caimans to capybaras and domestic cattle.

Observation

"Don't eat anything your great-grandmother wouldn't recognize as food." — Author and food activist Michael Pollan

Ig Nobel Apprised

The Ig Nobel Prizes celebrate achievements that make people laugh and then think — a look at real science that's hard to take seriously and even harder to ignore.

In 2009, the Ig Nobel Prize in medicine went to Dr. Donald Unger for diligently cracking the knuckles. Unger was curious whether knuckle cracking was a possible cause of finger arthritis, so every day for more than 60 years, he cracked the knuckles of his left hand but never those of his right. He estimates he cracked his left hand at least 36,500 times.

In the end, he found no arthritis in either hand. In a letter to the journal Arthritis & Rheumatism, Unger concluded ruefully: "This result calls into question whether other parental beliefs, e.g., the importance of eating spinach, are also flawed."

Self-Exam

Q: What are the fastest muscles in the human body?

A: The extraocular muscles in the eye allow both eyes to flick in the same direction in a single 50-millisecond movement.

Curtain Calls

Lottie Michelle Belk was celebrating her birthday and wedding anniversary in 2016 on the Virginia coast when the wind picked up. A strong gust uprooted a nearby beach umbrella from the sand and hurled it toward Belk, the point penetrating her chest. She suffered cardiac arrest and died at the age of 55.

To find out more about Scott LaFee and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at www.creators.com.

Photo credit: Bru-nO at Pixabay

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