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All The News That’s Fit: E-cigs and youth, nostril ‘expertise’ and stethoscope history

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May 10, 2022

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Down in smoke

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Overall tobacco use among U.S. adults is in decline, reports the CDC. Though almost 1 in 5 people still use cigarettes, cigars, pipes or smokeless tobacco, that’s a far cry from 1965, when the rate of use was 42 percent.

Electronic cigarette use, however, is rising, especially among youth. In 2018, more than 3.6 million U.S. youth, including 1 in 5 high school students and 1 in 20 middle school students, said they used e-cigarettes.

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A popular reason is the perception that e-cigarettes are less harmful than traditional tobacco cigarettes, but recent research has found that e-cigarettes alter the inflammatory state of multiple organ systems, including the brain, heart, lungs and colon.

Interestingly, the flavor of the e-cigarette appears to be a factor, with mint proving more harmful than mango in mouse studies.

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Body of knowledge

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A rose by any other name may smell as sweet, but your nostrils might not agree. Each nostril is tuned to detect some odors better than others, with the specialization moving back and forth. The differences are subtle. One nostril cannot pick up, for example, the odor of apples while the other is sniffing out oranges. It’s more like one nostril detects specific chemicals and molecules more efficiently, often due to increased airflow in that nostril at that moment.

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Get me that. Stat!

The COVID-19 pandemic dramatically altered visits to hospitals and outpatient clinics, as the SARS-CoV-2 virus forced a change in priorities and less-urgent care was postponed.

According to a new STAT analysis, with the exception of occasional surges, hospitals are reporting a return to pre-pandemic times. Hospitals registered more admissions, surgeries, emergency room visits, and outpatient visits in 2021 than 2020, but last year’s volumes were still slightly behind 2019.

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However, people admitted in 2021 stayed in the hospital longer and were sicker, boosting health care revenues.

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Stories for the waiting room

Cases of gastrointestinal infections in England dropped by more than half in the first seven months of the COVID-19 pandemic compared to the same months before 20202. The likely reasons: Social distancing reduced person-to-person transmission and people washed their hands more.

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Doc talk

Claudication

limping caused by impaired blood supply to the legs

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Mania of the week

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Habromania

a morbid impulse toward gaiety and cheerful delusions

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Perishable publications

Many, if not most, published research papers have titles that defy comprehension. They use specialized jargon, complex words and opaque phrases like “nonlinear dynamics.” Sometimes they don’t, and yet they’re still hard to figure out. Here’s an actual title of actual published research study: “Will any crap we put into graphene increase its electrocatalytic effect?”

Published in the journal ACS Nano, the short answer is yes since the researchers used actual bird droppings for their experiments.

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Best medicine

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A little boy developed a crush on his teacher, but she was dating a doctor, so he brought her an apple every day.

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Observation

“As for me, except for the occasional heart attack, I feel as young as I ever did.”

American humorist Robert Benchley (1889-1945)

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Medical history

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This week in 1882, a stethoscope of the now classic and recognizable design was patented by inventor William F. Ford. The first stethoscope, with a single hearing piece, was invented in 1816 by Ren Laennec at the Necker-Enfants Malades Hospital in Paris.

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Self-exam

Q: What do your tongue, an octopus’ tentacle and an elephant’s trunk have in common?

A: They’re all examples of a muscular hydrostat, a bundle of muscles that function without the assistance of bones.

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Fit to be tried

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There are thousands of exercises and you’ve only got one body, but that doesn’t mean you can’t try them all: Dips can help build up size and strength in the upper body and arms. Sit in a sturdy chair, hands holding the front edge of the seat. Push your butt forward until it is suspended in front of the seat and your weight is being supported by your arms. Bend elbows and drop your hips toward the floor. Straighten arms. Do two sets of 10 dips.

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Medical myths

The average used toothbrush may be home to as many as 1.2 million bacteria, viruses and fungi. Though it’s possible for a germy brush to cause illness, it’s not likely if your immune system is working well. Still, these hygiene tips can reduce the risk of infection:

  • Wash your hands before and after brushing.
  • Change your toothbrush every three months or whenever you have a cold or the flu.
  • Alternate between two brushes to ensure they dry out completely between uses.
  • Don’t share brushes.
  • Rinse your brush thoroughly with hot water after use.
  • Don’t store your brush near the toilet, and close the lid before flushing. Airborne pathogens churned up and out by a flushed toilet can travel more than 5 feet from the toilet.
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Curtain calls

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Roy Sullivan served as a park ranger in Shenandoah National Park in Virginia. Between 1942 and 1977, he reported being struck by lightning on seven different occasions, surviving them all. He holds the Guinness World Record and two of his hats are on display in Guinness museums in New York City and South Carolina. He died in 1983 at age 72 from a self-inflicted gunshot wound, reportedly over a failed romance.

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LaFee is a health science writer at UC San Diego.

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