Study: Warm Weather Exacerbates Multiple Sclerosis
Sunny with a chance of a multiple sclerosis flare-up? Changes in temperature may influence the severity of MS symptoms, according to a study published Monday in Neurology. Researchers compared brain scans of 44 people with untreated MS to weather patterns and found that patients were at two to three times greater risk for disease activity during spring and summer months. MRIs are used to monitor the disease; they show the scarring—or lesions—that MS causes. "Not only were more lesions found during the spring and summer seasons, our study also found that warmer temperatures and solar radiation were linked to disease activity," study author Dominik Meier of Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston told BBC News. It's unclear why warmer weather would have such an effect. MS, a chronic autoimmune disease, is typically thought to worsen slowly over time, but the findings suggest that its severity changes on a monthly, even weekly, basis. The information may impact the way new medicines are tested, since different results could register depending on the time of year, researchers say.
Hungry for Healthy School Lunch Ideas?
Students are carrying more than just their backpacks as they head back to school. Almost 20 percent of kids from kindergarten on up are packing extra pounds, according to the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. America's children are increasingly afflicted with adult diseases, including obesity, type 2 diabetes, heart disease, and hypertension. The culprit? In part, the pizza, French fries, and other greasy fare that fills your kid's cafeteria. According to the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine, a nonprofit group that promotes preventive medicine, children who buy lunch at school are more likely than kids who bring their lunch from home to be overweight and obese and less likely to eat fruits and vegetables. While the Healthy School Meals Act passed earlier this year will attempt to improve adolescent eating patterns by setting new nutrition standards for all food served in schools—from lunchrooms to vending machines—the only way to guarantee that your child's lunch is nutritious and well balanced is to pack it yourself.
Thankfully, creating a healthy midday meal doesn't have to be time-consuming. The key is creativity, says Sherrie Le Masurier, a lifestyle columnist who runs School Lunch Ideas, a trove of healthy recipes that can be quickly prepared. "A lot of kids get bored with sandwiches," she says. "But take the same ingredients and package them in a different way, and it becomes a lunch your child gets excited to eat." Your kid might stick her tongue out at a ham and cheese sandwich, in other words, but gobble up ham and cheese shish kebabs—chunks of skewered whole-grain bread, ham, cheddar cheese, and a few cherry tomatoes. [Read more: Hungry for Healthy School Lunch Ideas?]
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Beyond College Immunizations: How Students Can Avoid Getting Sick
Any college student knows close contact isn't really optional. When you're sleeping inches away from a roommate (or two or three), and sharing restrooms, showers, desks, and dining space—and sometimes even swapping spit—germs are bound to spread. Indeed, bugs like upper-respiratory infections, colds, and, on the more serious side, mononucleosis and meningitis, tend to flourish on college campuses. "Fortunately, most of these illnesses aren't life-threatening," says Alan Glass, director of student health at Washington University in St. Louis and president of the American College Health Association. "But they do cause students to miss school, and if it's a critical time in the semester, just a few days can make the difference between an A or a B."
You can, of course, protect yourself by getting the immunizations required by your school. But beyond that, there are steps you can take to stay healthy. Consider these strategies to avoid catching what everyone else has:
Don't wash your dishes where you brush your teeth. You wouldn't bring food into the restroom, so don't bring dishes, either—find a utility sink in your dorm building. Otherwise you're at risk for diarrhea-causing norovirus. "Bathroom surfaces get contaminated quickly and easily," says Craig Roberts, a physician assistant with University Health Services at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. "Any gastrointestinal infection, such as E. coli or salmonella, is a risk in that situation, but norovirus is the big one. It's highly infectious and easy to spread." [Read more: Beyond College Immunizations: How Students Can Avoid Getting Sick.]
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