Health Updates 16 April 2012

  • Physical comfort takes sting out of infant shots: Swaddling and physical distraction can ease the pain of infant vaccinations, a randomized trial found.  A strategy known as the 5 S’s — swaddling, side or stomach positioning, shushing, swinging, and sucking on a pacifier — significantly reduced both pain scores and crying, reported John W. Harrington, MD, of the Children’s Hospital of The King’s Daughters in Norfolk, Va., and colleagues.  Giving babies sugar didn’t add to the intervention, but the intervention worked better than sucrose alone, the group reported in the May issue of Pediatrics.  ‘The 5 S’s appear to be a viable nonpharmacologic option for clinics to implement when providing analgesia during vaccinations,” they wrote.  It’s a critical issue because the pain and discomfort associated with immunization is the top reason parents don’t get their infants vaccinated in a timely manner, the researchers noted.  Most pediatricians give an analgesic before or after vaccination, but they may not be the best option as a recent study found that acetaminophen cut the levels of antibodies generated by several vaccines.” (Crystal Phend, MedPage Today)
  • Even young teens show signs of sun damage: “In a new study that used a special type of photograph to unveil hidden signs of sun damage, middle schoolers showed evidence of levels of UV exposure that could raise their risk of melanoma later in life.  Not only can the technology spot who is most vulnerable to the ravages of too much time spent tanning, the researchers noted, but it could also be used as a powerful deterrent to teenagers who think basking in UV rays is a healthy habit.  ‘There’s two issues here,’ explained study co-author Dr. Robert Dellavalle, from the University of Colorado Cancer Center in Denver. ‘One is that there’s nothing better for keeping teenagers out of the tanning booth than showing these pics.  What we didn’t know before was if these ugly pics were just ugly pics that scare people, or if they actually correlated with skin cancer.  Now we’ve found that they do.  When you have lots of moles, have blue eyes or are a readhead — all things we know as associated with greater melanoma risk — you have uglier UV photos,’ he said.  ‘And another surprising thing,’ Dellavalle added, ‘is that at age 12 and 13 we’re already seeing a lot of sun damage.  And because seeing this damage in UV photo form is sort of like meeting your inner zombie, this could be a great tool in getting kids to think about sun safety in a more personal way.’ (HealthDay)
  • Baldness drug may cause sexual side effects: FDA:  “Two Merck & Co. drugs – one to treat hair loss in men, the other to treat an enlarged prostate gland – will get revised labels warning of potential sexual side effects than can last even after patients stop taking the drugs, the US Food and Drug Administration said Thursday.  The two drugs – Propecia to combat male pattern baldness, and Proscar, to treat enlarged prostates – share the same chemical compound, called finasteride.  One dose of Propecia contains 1 milligram of finasteride; one dose of Proscar contains 5 milligrams.  The new Propecia label will include a warning of ‘libido disorders, ejaculation disorders, and orgasm disorders that continued after discontinuation of the drug,’ the FDA said in a news release.  The Proscar label will include a warning about ‘decreased libido that continued after discontinuation of the drug,’ the agency said.  The labels of both drugs will also carry a description of reports of male infertility and/or poor semen quality that clears up or improves after the drugs are stopped.  Although a cause-and-effect relationship between the drugs and these side effects hasn’t been established, case reports suggest there’s a potential problem, the FDA said….The FDA said it believes the drugs are safe to take for their approved uses.  It recommends that patients and their doctors consider the new information on the revised labels when weighing a best treatment option.” (MedlinePlus)
  • Obese workers’ health care costs top those of smokers: Obese workers have even higher health costs than smokers, a new study finds.  Researchers examined data from more than 30,000 Mayo Clinic employees and retirees who had continuous health insurance from 2001 to 2007.  The analysis revealed that both obesity and smoking were associated with higher health care costs.  Average yearly health costs were $1,275 more for smokers than nonsmokers and $1,850 more for obese people than those of normal weight.  Health care costs for morbidly obese people were up to $5,500 more a year than for normal weight people.  The additional health care costs associated with obesity appeared to be lower after the researchers adjusted for other accompanying health problems, but ‘this may lead to underestimation of the true incremental costs, since obesity is a risk factor for developing chronic conditions,’ wrote James Moriarty and colleagues at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn.  Employers are looking at ways to reduce health care costs — such as quit-smoking and fitness programs — and this study showed that both obesity and smoking led to persistently higher health care costs during the seven years examined by the researchers…”. (

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