December 18th, 2013

Breathing easier with vapourizers and humidifiers


Did you know that keeping the nasal passages moist will help reduce the risk of contracting a cold or flu virus? By preventing drying and cracking of the mucous membranes, a humidifier or vapourizer can help prevent germs from finding an easy route into the body. In the colder months, the air in your home becomes very dry. This is primarily due to home heating and the fact that fresh outdoor air, laden with moisture, no longer enters from open windows. This dry indoor air draws whatever moisture it can from household objects and occupants. This is one of the reasons people experience drier skin in winter. Dry indoor air also dries out the mucous membranes of the throat and nose, causing discomfort and congestion, and reducing their ability to act as barriers against infection.  Dried out mucous membranes develop tiny cracks that are open invitations for opportunistic germs, including the viruses that cause colds and flu.


November 13th, 2013

Strep throat versus a viral sore throat


The real problem with sore throats, especially during the winter, is that it’s very, very hard to tell the difference between a strep throat, which is a bacterial infection and hence can be treated with antibiotics, and a sore throat caused by a virus, which should never be treated with an antibiotic because, well, because antibiotics don’t kill viruses.

And when we use antibiotics inappropriately, such as in the treatment of viral sore throats, we increase the risk of several very significant health problems: rising resistance to antibiotics, development of hardier and hardier bacteria, and complications from antibiotics, such as significantly higher risks of developing a Chlostridium difficile infection, a potential nightmare.

December 19th, 2012

Winter heart attacks

Everyone knows that I’m sure the death rate from heart attacks and strokes rises dramatically in the winter time in Canada.

And in a climate like ours, the obvious reason is that cold can have untoward effects on our health and also that when it snows, so many of us out-of-shape people do our own driveway and walkway shovelling. That hard, sudden effort in the cold heavily taxes our cardiovascular system (which, by the way, is why I always ask my wife to shovel any snow that hits our house).

But there has to be way more to it than simple cold air mal-adjustments because a recent study that compared winter heart attack rates in Pennsylvania, California, and Arizona found a similar rise in all areas, that is, heart attack rates went up pretty similarly in winter in both warm and cold weather areas of the continent.


Well, it could have to do with hormonal changes from the shorter daylight hours, it could be depressive symptoms from the same change in daylight, it could just be that we eat more poorly and exercise less in the winter, even if we live in a warmer climate.

Bottom line is simple, though: you have to be particularly vigilant during the winter to minimize your other risks for heart attacks and strokes, in other words, do your exercise. Today.

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