Medical News Today: What to know about acute respiratory failure

When a person has acute respiratory failure, the usual exchange between oxygen and carbon dioxide in the lungs does not occur. As a result, enough oxygen cannot reach the heart, brain, or the rest of the body.

This can cause symptoms such as shortness of breath, a bluish tint in the face and lips, and confusion.

Acute respiratory failure has many possible causes. The cause may be acute, including pneumonia, or chronic, such as amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS).

Acute respiratory failure is a serious illness. If a person thinks they or someone else has it, they should seek immediate medical attention.

A doctor can evaluate the person’s breathing, the amount of oxygen and carbon dioxide in the blood, and the overall symptoms to determine appropriate treatments.


Acute respiratory failure
The respiratory system cannot perform its usual functions when the lungs don’t receive enough oxygen.

Acute respiratory failure usually stems from difficulty getting enough oxygen to the lungs, problems removing carbon dioxide from the lungs, or both.

As a result, the respiratory system cannot perform its usual functions.

Potential causes include:

Determining the cause of acute respiratory failure helps a doctor determine the most appropriate treatments.


Doctors typically classify acute respiratory failure as one of four types:

Type 1

Doctors call this hypoxemic respiratory failure. It means that a person is not exchanging oxygen properly in their lungs. This may be due to swelling or damage to the lungs.

A person with type 1 acute respiratory failure has very low oxygen levels.

Type 2

In a person with type 2 acute respiratory failure, the lungs are not removing enough carbon dioxide, which is a gas and a waste product. The lungs usually exchange carbon dioxide for fresh oxygen.

This type of respiratory failure causes carbon dioxide levels to be high. It may result from a drug overdose that has caused a person to breathe too slowly, or because of lung damage from smoking, which causes COPD.

Type 3

Doctors refer to this as perioperative respiratory failure. It occurs when a person has had surgery, and the small airways in the lungs have closed in greater numbers.

Factors such as pain or stomach surgery, which places higher pressure on the lungs, can also contribute to this type of respiratory failure.

Type 4

Type 4 respiratory failure is a shock state. It means that the body cannot adequately provide oxygen and maintain blood pressure on its own.

This can result from serious illness or injury, such as when a person loses too much blood.

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A doctor will take into account a person’s symptoms, as well as their laboratory and imaging results when diagnosing the cause of acute respiratory failure.

They may use an arterial blood gas, or ABG, test. This involves drawing blood from an artery and testing the levels of oxygen and carbon dioxide.

A doctor can use ABG results to determine if a person has type 1 or type 2 respiratory failure.


Acute respiratory failure tired
Appearing very sleepy is a symptom of acute respiratory failure.

Symptoms may include changes in a person’s appearance, ease of breathing, and how they act.

Examples of symptoms include:

  • appearing very sleepy
  • a blue tinge to a person’s fingernails, lips, or skin
  • confusion
  • irregular heart rhythms
  • passing out
  • rapid breathing
  • shortness of breath

Generally, the symptoms of acute respiratory failure depend on the underlying cause.

Potential complications

Acute respiratory failure can be fatal.

According to a presentation on the website of the American Thoracic Society, about 360,000 people experience acute respiratory failure each year in the United States. Approximately 36 percent of these individuals die during a hospital stay.

This figure may be higher, depending on the underlying cause. For example, authors of a study in the European Respiratory Review estimate that people in the hospital with the most severe form of ARDS have a 42 percent mortality rate.

An episode of acute respiratory failure can cause damage to the lungs that requires a person to carry oxygen with them at all times. Some people require a tracheotomy, which creates a hole in the neck below the vocal cords to assist in breathing in the long term.

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Treatments for acute respiratory failure depend on the underlying cause.

For example, respiratory failure from scoliosis may require surgical correction of the spine to enable the lungs and heart to work more efficiently.

A person with acute respiratory failure will typically require extra oxygen. This may come in the form of mechanical ventilation, which involves a doctor inserting a plastic tube down a person’s windpipe. The tube sits below the vocal cords and can deliver oxygen and pressure to inflate the lungs more effectively.

Doctors typically use this method of delivering oxygen until they can slow, resolve, or reverse the underlying cause of respiratory failure.

Other acute respiratory failure treatment strategies include:

  • medications, such as antibiotics to treat infections and diuretics to reduce the mount of fluid in the lungs and body
  • chest wall oscillation or vibration to loosen mucus in the lungs
  • prone ventilation, which involves placing a person on their stomach and providing oxygen through a ventilator.
  • extracorporeal membrane oxygenation, which involves using a cardiopulmonary bypass machine to take blood from the body and provide oxygen to reduce the workload on the heart and lungs

A doctor may also prescribe medications to sedate a patient, making breathing with the ventilator easier to tolerate.

Because acute respiratory failure is such a serious condition, treatments can take time and may be intensive.


Acute respiratory failure smoking
Refraining from smoking cigarettes can help protect the lungs.

Not all causes of acute respiratory failure, such as trauma, are preventable.

However, in the case of pneumonia and some other airway-related illnesses, a person can take some steps to protect their lungs.

These include:

  • refraining from smoking cigarettes, which can damage the lungs
  • seeing a doctor at early signs of a bacterial infection, such as a fever, cough, and high mucus production
  • taking all medications a doctor prescribes to keep the heart and lungs healthy
  • if necessary, using assistive devices to maintain oxygen levels, such as continuous positive airway pressure masks, which a person can wear at home
  • engaging in appropriate levels of physical activity to enhance lung function

If a person has a history of lung problems and hospitalization, they should talk to their doctor about strategies to enhance their overall health.


Acute respiratory failure is a serious medical condition that has many possible underlying causes.

Symptoms include confusion, rapid breathing, and shortness of breath.

Seek immediate medical attention at the first signs of respiratory failure to prevent the illness from worsening.

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Medical News Today: 17 reasons for always feeling hungry

Hunger is the body’s way of telling a person that it needs food. After eating enough food, hunger usually temporarily goes away.

Sometimes, however, a person may feel as though they are hungry all the time. They may find that they do not feel full after eating, or that the desire to eat continues throughout the day.

A person may be able to reduce their hunger by making dietary or lifestyle changes. However, constant hunger can also be a sign of certain medical conditions that may need treatment.

In this article, we describe 17 possible causes of being hungry all the time.

1. Dieting

Man working from home looking into fridge
Hunger is a common challenge for people who are dieting.

People who follow a calorie-restricted diet may feel hunger all or much of the time. Consuming fewer calories than the body burns can cause the body to produce a hormone called ghrelin.

Some refer to ghrelin as the “hunger hormone” because the stomach releases it when the body needs more food.

A low-calorie diet can increase ghrelin production and cause hunger, even after a person has just eaten.

2. High-sugar diet

Many food products and beverages have added sugar, and it may increase a person’s appetite.

A 2015 review suggests that eating too much sugar, particularly fructose, can lead to increased appetite. A high-fructose diet may cause the body to produce more ghrelin and affect activity in specific regions of the brain to make a person feel less full.

Research from 2017 also found that consuming a fructose supplement increased the rate of stomach emptying in study participants.

3. Low-protein diet

Some research has suggested that eating more protein can help a person feel less hungry. For instance, a 2015 study from China explored the effect of a high-protein diet in 156 adolescents with obesity.

The researchers randomized the participants to eat either a high-protein or low-protein breakfast each day for 3 months. Both breakfasts had the same number of calories.

The study found that compared with the low-protein breakfast, a high-protein breakfast reduced lunchtime food intake and increased weight loss and fullness in the participants.

In the United States, the Food and Nutrition Board recommend that adult males consume 56 grams (g) of protein per day and adult females consume 46 g.

Eating some protein with each meal or snack, rather than all at once, may help keep appetite steady throughout the day.

4. Dehydration

Proper hydration is essential for good health. Some evidence also suggests that drinking water can help a person feel full.

For example, one 2014 study investigated the effect of excessive water intake in women who were overweight.

The researchers asked the participants to drink 0.5 liters of water 30 minutes before eating breakfast, lunch, and dinner each day. After 8 weeks, the women had lost weight and reported having decreased appetite.

5. Low-fiber diet

As well as being important for healthy digestion and preventing constipation, dietary fiber may also play a role in controlling hunger.

A 2016 study found that people who took a psyllium fiber supplement experienced less hunger between meals than those who took a placebo.

Another study from 2015 reported similar findings in people who took a maltodextrin fiber supplement.

The Food and Nutrition Board recommend that:

  • males aged 19–50 years eat 38 g of fiber daily
  • females aged 19–50 years eat 25 g of fiber daily

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6. Sleep disruption

Woman sleeping in bed
Getting enough sleep can help support healthy hormone levels.

Not getting enough sleep can disrupt the body’s natural hormonal balance, which may increase feelings of hunger in some people.

Research has linked sleep disruption to a range of health conditions, including obesity and diabetes.

A small study from 2016 found that men who restricted their sleep had higher ghrelin levels and ate more than those who slept normally.

7. Boredom

Some people may confuse boredom with hunger, causing them to eat more.

A 2015 study found that feeling bored can prompt a person to seek rewarding behavior, such as eating.

8. High-salt diet

According to the American Heart Association (AHA), the average person in the U.S. eats more than 3,400 milligrams (mg) of sodium daily, most of which comes from processed foods.

The AHA recommend that people should consume no more than 2,300 mg of sodium per day, but ideally, most adults should aim to consume under 1,500 mg daily.

However, salty foods may affect more than just heart health. Some research suggests that high salt consumption may cause a person to eat more.

For example, a 2016 study involving 48 healthy adults found that participants who had a high-salt meal ate more food than those who had a low-salt meal.

9. Menopause

Some research suggests that females are at increased risk of weight gain when going through menopause. This may be due to a number of factors, including hormonal changes.

According to a 2017 review, the decline in estrogen hormones during menopause may lead to an increase in appetite.

10. Medications

Some medications can affect the body’s metabolism and hunger signals. Certain antidepressants, antipsychotics, and corticosteroids may cause a person to feel hungrier than normal.

People experiencing significant weight gain after taking a new medication may wish to speak with their doctor. They can advise on coping strategies or may recommend changing the dosage or switching to an alternative medication.

Sudden withdrawal can cause unwanted side effects, so it is important to discuss stopping a medication with a doctor first.

11. Leptin resistance

Leptin is a hormone that tells the brain when the stomach is full. Leptin levels usually rise after a person eats a meal.

Leptin resistance is a condition in which the body does not respond properly to leptin. This may result in a person not feeling full after eating a meal. Many individuals who are overweight or obese develop leptin resistance, which can make them feel hungry more often.

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12. Stress

Research has also linked emotional stress to problems with appetite control. One 2015 study found that people experiencing stress due to marital issues had higher levels of ghrelin and a poorer-quality diet than those in more stable marriages.

13. Artificial sweeteners

Manufacturers add artificial sweeteners to a range of products, including diet sodas and sugar-free or low-sugar foods. The use of these sugar substitutes can help reduce a person’s overall sugar intake.

However, some animal studies suggest that artificial sweeteners may increase appetite. For instance, a 2016 study found that a diet sweetened with sucralose, a popular artificial sweetener, promoted hunger in fruit flies.

14. Alcohol consumption

Drinking alcohol may cause hunger.
Drinking alcohol may cause hunger.

Drinking alcoholic beverages can make a person feel hungry.

Research from 2017 suggests that the link between alcohol and overeating may be due to the effect that alcohol has on hunger signals in the brain.

In a 2015 study involving 35 women, researchers reported that consuming alcohol prior to a meal made participants more sensitive to food aromas and caused them to eat more.

15. Breastfeeding

Women who breastfeed require extra calories to produce milk, which might cause their appetite to increase.

The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists recommend that women who are breastfeeding consume an extra 450–500 calories per day.

16. Overactive thyroid

The thyroid is a small gland located in the front of the neck. It produces hormones that control metabolism and how the body uses energy.

An overactive thyroid, or hyperthyroidism, can cause a wide range of symptoms, including increased hunger.

Other symptoms of hyperthyroidism may include:

  • a swollen neck
  • weight loss
  • feeling hot
  • diarrhea
  • irritability, nervousness, and mood swings
  • fatigue
  • hyperactivity
  • more frequent urination

A doctor can usually diagnose hyperthyroidism with a physical exam and blood test. Treatment options include medications, radioiodine therapy, and thyroid surgery.

17. Type 2 diabetes

Persistent hunger can be a symptom of type 2 diabetes. Without treatment, diabetes causes glucose to stay in the blood instead of going into cells, which use glucose as a source of energy. This can make a person feel tired and hungry.

Other symptoms of type 2 diabetes can include:

  • increased thirst
  • more frequent urination
  • vision problems
  • slower healing of cuts and wounds
  • unexplained weight loss

People with symptoms of type 2 diabetes should see a doctor for an evaluation. A doctor can often diagnose diabetes with a simple blood test. Treatment options include medications and dietary and lifestyle changes.

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A person may feel hungry all the time for a number of reasons. They may be able to reduce this hunger by making dietary changes such as:

  • including more protein and fiber
  • eating less sugar and salt
  • drinking more water
  • limiting processed or fried foods
  • consuming less alcohol

Increased hunger can be a side effect of some medications. However, it can also indicate a health condition, such as hyperthyroidism, stress, or type 2 diabetes.

People experiencing constant feelings of hunger or unexplained weight loss may wish to consider seeing a doctor.

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Medical News Today: Masturbation and depression: Is there a link?

Masturbation is a healthful and enjoyable activity that has many possible health benefits. Is there any connection between masturbation and depression?

Some people believe that masturbation can cause mental health issues, but this is an outdated idea that researchers have long since disproven. On the other hand, having depression can affect how a person feels about masturbation and sex.

Read on to learn all you need to know about masturbation and depression.

Are masturbation and depression linked?

Woman facing away lying in bed
Depression may affect a person’s sex drive, but masturbation does not cause depression.

Masturbation does not cause depression. It is a natural, pleasurable activity that may boost self-esteem and help a person explore their sexuality.

That said, some people who masturbate do feel guilty or anxious about it. Historically, masturbation has been a social taboo.

The outmoded view that linked masturbation and mental health problems came about in the early 1800s.

By the 1900s, medical professionals had abandoned this view because research into psychology and sex had made it clear that the practice of masturbation was nearly universal.

Masturbation is a common, safe activity that can offer many sexual health benefits, but some religions and cultures continue to prohibit it.

Although masturbation does not cause depression, a person’s religious, cultural, or social views may cause them to feel bad about it.

A 2018 study found that 62.5 percent of male study participants with depression experience some sexual dysfunction. Myths about masturbation were also more prevalent among those with depression.

Masturbation will not have any effect on whether a person develops depression, but having depression can reduce a person’s sex drive, or libido, and may cause them to lose interest in masturbation.

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How depression affects libido

Depression may make a person lose interest in activities that they usually enjoy, including sex. It is common for a person with depression to feel less interested in sex than they previously did.

Communicating this to a partner is helpful. If one or both partners are experiencing a low libido due to depression, they can find other ways to maintain intimacy, such as cuddling and giving massages.

Masturbation may also help. A person experiencing depression may find that masturbating helps them feel sexual again, but this is highly personal. Many people go through phases of masturbating more or less frequently, which may not have any effect on their mental health.

Certain medications for depression may also reduce a person’s libido. Not all treatments have this effect, so if a specific medication decreases a person’s sex drive and becomes bothersome, they should speak to a doctor about other options.

A person whose partner has depression may find that masturbating meets their own sexual needs until their partner feels like reconnecting.

Managing depression

man jogging or running through park in winter
Regular exercise can help manage depression.

As well as reducing sex drive, depression may make a person feel:

  • sad
  • guilty
  • hopeless
  • worthless
  • tired

Depression may also cause physical symptoms, such as unexplained aches and pains.

Anyone experiencing the symptoms of depression should speak to their doctor, who will be able to help them access treatment.

People can use a combination of talk therapy and medication to manage depression. The lifestyle changes and stress-relieving activities below may also help:

  • exercising regularly
  • getting enough sleep
  • eating a healthful, balanced diet
  • reducing alcohol intake
  • practicing yoga, mindfulness, or meditation
  • journaling
  • spending time with friends

The most effective mix of treatment and self-management strategies will vary from person to person.

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Benefits of masturbation

A growing number of studies show a correlation between masturbation and good health. Even though masturbation is not harmful, some people never masturbate or only do so rarely — this is also healthy and normal.

The possible health benefits of masturbation include:

Improving sleep

Masturbating to reach orgasm may help a person get a good night’s sleep. During and after orgasm, feel-good hormones flood the brain. These hormones include:

  • oxytocin
  • dopamine
  • endorphins
  • prolactin

These help a person relax, which may improve their sleep.

Making it easier to orgasm

When a person learns what feels good through masturbation, they may find it easier to orgasm during sex with a partner.

A 2015 study looked at the link between female masturbation and sexual satisfaction. Researchers compared the experiences of two groups of married women. The women in one group had experienced orgasms from masturbation, while the women in the other group had not.

The study found that the women who had orgasmed when masturbating had more orgasms and greater sexual satisfaction.

Increasing sex drive

There may also be an association between masturbating and a person’s sex drive. Research suggests that married women who masturbate may have a higher sex drive than those who do not.

An older study from 2009 recruited 3,800 women and found that 52.5 percent of them masturbated with vibrators. The results showed that vibrator use significantly improved sexual function, including arousal, desire, lubrication, and having an orgasm.

Boosts self-esteem

Masturbation may also improve a person’s body confidence and self-esteem.

A 2015 study suggested that partnered women who masturbate have higher self-esteem than those who do not.

May lower risk of prostate cancer

Although additional studies are necessary, initial research suggests that frequent ejaculation may lower a man’s risk of prostate cancer.

A 2016 study found that men who reported more frequent ejaculation were less likely to receive a prostate cancer diagnosis later in life.

When to seek help

If a person feels guilty or anxious about masturbating, they should speak to their doctor. The doctor can recommend a therapist who specializes in sexual health and can help a person improve their relationship with masturbation.

Anyone experiencing the symptoms of depression should also speak to a healthcare professional, who can recommend treatments to help them manage the condition.

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Medical News Today: Are eggs good for people with diabetes?

Eggs are a low-carbohydrate food and have a very low glycemic index score. This makes them a good source of protein for people with diabetes.

The American Diabetes Association (ADA) state that eggs are a suitable food for people with diabetes. Having a low glycemic index score means that they have less of an effect on a person’s blood sugar levels.

People may be concerned about the cholesterol content in eggs. However, experts do not believe that eating eggs in moderation negatively affects cholesterol levels.

In this article, we look at the health effects that people with diabetes can gain from eating eggs. We also cover any possible risks and the best ways to eat eggs if you have diabetes.

What is the link between diabetes and eggs?

Pan of scrambled eggs and herbs on a table next to bread and tomatoes.
Experts recommend that people with diabetes include eggs as part of a healthful diet.

Diabetes can affect the balance of LDL (bad), and HDL (good) cholesterol in the body.

Having diabetes can put a person at an increased risk of heart disease. Some people are concerned that eating eggs may raise cholesterol levels, and that this could increase the risk of heart disease.

The ADA recommend that people eat less than 300 milligrams (mg) of cholesterol per day.

Eggs are high in cholesterol with a large egg containing about 200 mg of cholesterol. However, research now shows that cholesterol that is in foods has little effect on raising overall cholesterol levels in the body.

Instead, the danger is consuming foods with high saturated-fat content, which can lead to elevated cholesterol levels. These foods include cakes and cookies, bacon, candies, and processed snacks, for example.

A study from 2018 suggests that regularly eating eggs could improve fasting blood glucose in people with prediabetes or type 2 diabetes. The researchers here suggest that eating one egg per day could reduce a person’s risk of diabetes.

Research from 2015 suggests that people with prediabetes or type 2 diabetes do not experience a negative change in lipid profile after eating a high-egg diet. The authors suggest that eating a diet high in eggs is healthful for people with diabetes.

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Eggs and nutrition

Two older female friends laughing together in a park.
Eggs contain choline, which can boost mood and memory.

Eggs are a nutritionally “dense” food, which means that they are rich in nutrients but low in calories. High-protein foods, including eggs, can make a person feel fuller. This may help people with diabetes to maintain a healthy weight.

Eggs are a complete protein, meaning they contain all nine amino acids that the body cannot produce itself, and that people must obtain from their diet.

One large poached egg offers the following nutritional value:

  • 6.25 grams (g) of protein
  • 4.74 g of fat
  • 0.35 g of carbohydrate
  • 72 calories
  • no dietary fiber

While most of the protein in an egg comes from the white, the yolk is packed with healthful fats, vitamins A, D, E, and K, and antioxidants, such as lutein. Eggs are also rich sources of vitamin B-12, and minerals, such as iron, copper, and zinc.

Yet another constituent of eggs is choline, which is involved in body processes, such as memory and mood, and plays a crucial role during pregnancy in fetal brain development.

Learn more about the health benefits of eggs here.

Healthful ways to prepare eggs for diabetes

The most healthful way to cook eggs is to boil, poach, or scramble them with low-fat milk.

They recommend pairing eggs with chopped vegetables or a salad instead of having them alongside high saturated-fat foods, for example, bacon or cheese.

If making fried eggs, people can switch the frying oil to one that is more heart-healthful, such as corn, canola, or olive oil.

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People with diabetes can include eggs as part of a healthful diet. Research shows that eating eggs in moderation should not negatively affect a person’s risk of heart disease, and may improve fasting blood glucose levels.

Researchers have linked blood pressure and blood sugar to cholesterol, so it is important to pay attention to how the diet may affect these factors. Boiled, poached, or scrambled eggs are healthful options.

Regular doctor visits are a must to know your risk of each condition and to make changes to diet and lifestyle if necessary.

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Medical News Today: What to know about enlarged adenoids

Enlarged adenoids are common in children. The adenoids can become enlarged due to an infection or may be enlarged from birth.

The adenoids are glands that sit behind the nose above the roof of the mouth. When they grow large, they can cause snoring and breathing problems.

This article will describe the function of the adenoids, what causes them to become enlarged, and how to identify enlarged adenoids. We also look at various treatment options.

What are the adenoids?

unwell little boy being comforted by mother
An infection can cause adenoids to become enlarged.

The adenoids are glands that sit above the roof of the mouth and the tonsils. They are part of the immune system.

These glands help trap germs that enter the nose or the mouth, in an effort to prevent infections.

The size of the adenoids increases until a child is 6 years old, then they slowly shrink. The adenoids usually disappear by the time a person is 16. Enlarged adenoids are rare in adults.


Most of the time, the adenoids become enlarged when the body is trying to fight off infection. They can remain enlarged, even after the infection is gone.

Some children have enlarged adenoids from birth. Allergies can also cause this enlargement.

Although it is rare, adults’ adenoids can become enlarged, due to a chronic infection or allergy, pollution, or smoking. Even less common is enlarged adenoids resulting from a cancerous tumor.

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People cannot see the adenoids by looking into the mouth, so it is not possible to tell if they are enlarged by sight.

A doctor can look at the adenoids using a special mirror or lighted camera on the end of a flexible tube.

The signs and symptoms of enlarged adenoids include:

  • snoring
  • pauses in breathing during sleep
  • strained or noisy breathing
  • restless sleep
  • breathing more through the mouth than the nose
  • bad breath or dry, cracked lips resulting from mouth breathing
  • difficulty swallowinga nasal-sounding speaking voice
  • a persistent runny nose
  • frequent ear infections
  • frequent colds
  • swollen glands in the neck
  • sleeping in an unusual position, with the head back and the knees to the chest while the person is lying on their front


doctor examining young girls throat
A doctor will need to examine the back of the throat.

A doctor may refer the child to a doctor who specializes in ear, nose, and throat disorders. This type of doctor can be called an ENT specialist.

The doctor will take a history of the child’s symptoms and perform a physical exam that includes the back of the throat.

The doctor may use a tool that consists of a camera on the end of a lighted scope to look at the adenoids. They insert the scope through the nose.

Also, they may recommend a blood test to look for infection.

If the child has symptoms of a sleep disturbance, the doctor might recommend a sleep study. This can help indicate whether the symptoms relate to difficulties breathing during sleep or sleep apnea, which sometimes occurs with enlarged adenoids.

Risk factors

Risk factors for enlarged adenoids include:

  • frequent infections in the head, throat, or ears
  • tonsil infections
  • having enlarged tonsils

Because the adenoids usually shrink by adulthood, children are the most susceptible to this enlargement.

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Treatment and remedies

In some people, enlarged adenoids do not require treatment, and the doctor will recommend a watchful waiting approach.

Otherwise, the best treatment depends on the child’s age and how large their adenoids are.

The doctor may prescribe antibiotics when a bacterial infection is responsible for the enlargement.

A prescription steroid nasal spray may be able to decrease the size of the adenoids.

Eating healthful foods, getting enough sleep, and drinking plenty of water can keep the immune system functioning well and help reduce the risk of enlarged adenoids. Also, good hygiene can help prevent infections.

In some cases, children need their adenoids removed.


smiling little girl in hospital bed
A child may require an adenoidectomy if they have frequent infections.

An adenoidectomy is a simple surgery that is generally low-risk. The doctor may decide that surgery to remove the adenoids is appropriate if the child experiences:

  • recurrent infections of the adenoids, resulting in frequent sinus or ear infections
  • infections that do not go away with antibiotics
  • breathing problems, especially those that interfere with sleep

If the child has been experiencing problems with their tonsils, the doctor may decide to remove the tonsils at the same time. This is called an adenotonsillectomy.

The procedure for an adenoidectomy involves a doctor putting the child under general anesthesia and removing the adenoids through the mouth. In most cases, the child returns home the same day.

After the surgery, the child will likely experience mild pain and discomfort, including minor bleeding, a sore throat, a runny nose, or noisy breathing.

During recovery, which usually lasts about 1 week, the child should rest and avoid strenuous activities. They should also eat soft, low-acid foods.

Possible complications

A child with enlarged adenoids can experience the following complications:

  • otitis media with effusion, or glue ear, a middle-ear infection with chronic fluid buildup that can lead to hearing problems
  • sleep apnea, which causes pauses in breathing while sleeping, as well as snoring
  • problems breathing through the nose, which leads to excessive mouth-breathing


Enlarged adenoids are common in children. If a person suspects that the adenoids are enlarged, they should visit a doctor.

If the issue does not resolve on its own, doctors can often provide effective treatments. If enlarged adenoids become problematic, surgery to remove the glands may be necessary.

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Medical News Today: How to reduce your risk of asthma

Asthma makes people’s airways hyperreactive, causing them to get smaller and often resulting in difficulty breathing. While it is not always possible to prevent asthma, people can try to avoid risk factors such as smoking, being overweight, and having prolonged exposure to air pollution.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), asthma is responsible for around 10 deaths per day in the United States.

Although asthma affects both children and adults, adults are four times as likely to die from asthma-related complications than young people.

So, preventing asthma symptoms whenever possible is vital. The following are some avoidable asthma risk factors.

1. Smoking

Man smoking cigarette at outdoor cafe in busy street
Smoking and exposure to secondhand smoke can trigger asthma symptoms.

Exposure to firsthand cigarette smoke can irritate the airways and make it more likely that a person with asthma will have more frequent and severe symptoms.

This is also true for secondhand smoke. Even when people smoke outside the home or in a car, the lingering smoke and chemicals can expose others to secondhand smoke.

Children whose mothers smoke cigarettes during pregnancy are also at greater risk of asthma than children whose mothers do not, according to the American Lung Association.

2. Obesity

Doctors are not yet sure of the underlying cause, but obesity seems to be linked with asthma. Scientists have a theory that obesity can cause inflammation in the body, including in the airways, leading to asthma.

Obesity increases the amount of specific inflammatory factors that can increase the number of white blood cells in the body. This may cause inflammation and airway irritation.

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3. Air pollution

People who live in urban areas, where there is more smoke and smog, are more likely to have asthma. Smog is darker air pollution that tends to be present in bigger cities with more vehicles and factories.

Ozone, which is a major component of smog, can trigger asthma symptoms such as wheezing and shortness of breath.

As well as ozone, smog contains sulfur dioxide, which can irritate the airways and trigger asthma attacks.

4. Occupational exposures

Scientists have linked exposure to irritants such as pesticides to a higher risk of asthma. This risk extends beyond those who work with pesticides, such as farmers.

In fact, other at-risk groups include:

  • children of pesticide workers who store equipment near the home or wear clothes that carry pesticide residue
  • people who live near pesticide-treated areas or factories
  • people who live in agricultural areas where it is likely that pesticide spraying occurs indoors or outdoors

Exposure to harsh chemicals such as cleaning products may also be a risk factor for asthma. This is especially true for spray cleaning products distributed into the air.

5. Allergies

Dog being groomed
Pet dander may trigger allergic asthma.

Allergens such as pet dander and pollen can trigger asthma attacks. People who have allergy-related conditions such as eczema and allergic rhinitis are more likely to have asthma.

As a result, avoiding allergic triggers can help prevent asthma reactions.

Examples of allergens that may trigger asthma include:

  • pet dander
  • dust mites
  • mold
  • pollens

If certain allergens trigger asthma symptoms, avoiding these triggers whenever possible is vital.

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6. Respiratory infections

Children with asthma who have upper respiratory infections are more likely to experience wheezing. During an upper respiratory infection, such as a cold, the airways may be more prone to the wheezing that can lead to asthma symptoms.

While it is not always possible to prevent upper respiratory infections, it is vital to take steps to prevent illness in children. A caregiver can achieve this by encouraging frequent handwashing and avoiding exposure to people with colds or other respiratory infections.

Family history

Scientists have found more than 100 genes potentially responsible for asthma, according to a study paper in the Italian Journal of Pediatrics. However, no single gene by itself causes asthma.

Some research suggests that 35–95 percent of people with a family history of asthma will get the condition, according to a study paper in the journal Pediatrics & Neonatology.

Although it is not possible to change family history, people can be aware that others in their family have asthma and seek treatment if they start to have asthma-like symptoms.

Such people can also avoid common asthma triggers if they know they have a genetic predisposition to the condition.

Treatment and prevention

Child being vaccinated
Childhood vaccinations can help prevent respiratory infections.

Some strategies to help prevent asthma symptoms include:

  • stopping smoking and refraining from smoking around others, especially children
  • avoiding public places where cigarette smoking occurs
  • limiting outdoor exposure on days with heavy smog or smoke
  • encouraging a diet high in fruit, vegetables, whole grains, and lean protein
  • encouraging childhood vaccinations that can prevent common respiratory infections that could lead to worsening asthma symptoms
  • avoiding allergens that trigger asthma attacks, such as pet dander, dust mites, mold, and pollen

A person should consider talking with their doctor if they think that allergens are triggering their asthma.

Recognizing asthma symptoms, such as wheezing, coughing that is worse at night, and shortness of breath, is vital because it can help people seek suitable treatments for the condition.

An estimated 75 percent of severe asthma attacks are preventable, according to the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma, & Immunology.

Doctors can prescribe many different treatment types and combinations to help a person treat their asthma. This includes inhalers to open up the airways, steroid medications to reduce inflammation, and other oral medications that help reduce airway reactivity.

If a person takes them consistently, medications alongside preventive efforts can help prevent asthma attacks from occurring.


Asthma can affect a person’s quality of life and cause serious respiratory distress that can sometimes be life-threatening. Knowing risk factors and triggers for the condition can help a person engage in preventive efforts.

If a person has asthma or concerns about risk factors, it is important that they talk with their doctor about how to consistently and effectively manage their symptoms.

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Medical News Today: What are the early signs of dementia?

Dementia is a term that describes a variety of symptoms affecting a person’s cognitive functioning, including their ability to think, remember, and reason. It tends to get worse over time, so there are a few key early warning signs.

Dementia occurs when nerve cells in a person’s brain stop working. Although it typically happens in older people, it is not an inevitable part of aging. The brain’s natural deterioration happens to everyone as they grow older, but it occurs more quickly in people with dementia.

There are many different types of dementia. According to the National Institute on Aging, the most common is Alzheimer’s disease. Other types include:

  • Lewy body dementia
  • frontotemporal dementia
  • vascular disorders
  • mixed dementia, or a combination of types

There are 10 typical early signs of dementia. For a person to receive a diagnosis, they would usually experience two or more of these symptoms, and the symptoms would be severe enough to interfere with their daily life.

These early signs of dementia are:

1. Memory loss

Calendar with pins in it
A person developing dementia may have trouble remembering dates or events.

Memory loss is a common symptom of dementia.

A person with dementia may find it difficult to recall information they have recently learned, such as dates or events, or new information.

They may find they rely on friends and family or other memory aids for keeping track of things.

Most people occasionally forget things more frequently as they age. They can usually can recall them later if their memory loss is age-related and not due to dementia.

2. Difficulty planning or solving problems

A person with dementia may find it difficult to follow a plan, such as a recipe when cooking, or directions when driving.

Problem-solving may also get more challenging, such as when adding up numbers to paying bills.

3. Difficulty doing familiar tasks

A person with dementia may find it difficult to complete tasks they regularly do, such as changing settings on a television, operating a computer, making a cup of tea, or getting to a familiar location. This difficulty with familiar tasks could happen at home or work.

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4. Being confused about time or place

Dementia can make it hard to judge the passing of time. People may also forget where they are at any time.

They may find it hard to understand events in the future or the past and may struggle with dates.

5. Challenges understanding visual information

Visual information can be challenging for a person with dementia. It can be hard to read, to judge distances, or work out the differences between colors.

Someone who usually drives or cycles may start to find these activities challenging.

6. Problems speaking or writing

Person writing in notepad
Handwriting may become less legible as dementia progresses.

A person with dementia may find it hard to engage in conversations.

They may forget what they are saying or what somebody else has said. It can be difficult to enter a conversation.

People may also find their spelling, punctuation, and grammar get worse.

Some people’s handwriting becomes more difficult to read.

7. Misplacing things

A person with dementia may not be able to remember where they leave everyday objects, such as a remote control, important documents, cash, or their keys.

Misplacing possessions can be frustrating and may mean they accuse other people of stealing.

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8. Poor judgment or decision-making

It can be hard for someone with dementia to understand what is fair and reasonable. This may mean they pay too much for things, or become easily sure about buying things they do not need.

Some people with dementia also pay less attention to keeping themselves clean and presentable.

9. Withdrawal from socializing

A person with dementia may become uninterested in socializing with other people, whether in their home life or at work.

They may become withdrawn and not talk to others, or not pay attention when others are speaking to them. They may stop doing hobbies or sports that involve other people.

10. Changes in personality or mood

A person with dementia may experience mood swings or personality changes. For example, they may become irritable, depressed, fearful, or anxious.

They may also become more disinhibited or act inappropriately.

When to see a doctor

A person who experiences any of these symptoms or notices them in a loved one should speak to a medical professional.

According to the Alzheimer’s Association, it is a myth that cognitive functioning always gets worse as a person gets older. Signs of cognitive decline may be dementia or another illness for which doctors can provide support.

Although there is no cure for dementia yet, a doctor can help slow the progression of the disease and ease the symptoms, and so improve a person’s quality of life.

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Medical News Today: How to stop yourself or someone else from cutting

Cutting is a form of self-harm that can become a habit. With the right support, many people who cut learn how to stop.

Self-harm, including cutting, is not uncommon. Anyone of any age may be affected by self-harm, but it is more common among people in their teens.

The sense of relief from cutting can be so reinforcing that it may be difficult to stop doing it, compelling people to cut again the next time they feel overwhelmed.

If cutting becomes a habit, people may find it hard to resist the urge, but there are many ways to learn to stop. Not every strategy works for everyone, but most people will find a way that works for them.

This article explores strategies to stop cutting. It also looks at ways to manage the causes of self-harm and what support is available.

9 ways to stop cutting

Here are nine ways to help anyone who self-harms to resist the urge to cut:

1. Distract yourself

Person walking at night
A person can use distraction tactics, such as going for a walk or listening to music, to help resist the urge to cut.

Research suggests that young people who self-harm often do so impulsively. For this reason, cutting prevention methods focus on finding alternative ways to manage distress.

Distraction tactics may help resist the urge to cut. A person can try to distract themselves by:

  • calling a friend
  • counting to 1,000
  • watching a film or favorite TV series
  • making a cup of tea or a snack
  • doing some housework
  • going for a walk

Distracting themselves may help a person delay cutting until the urge has passed.

2. Practice self-care

Cutting may be a response to deep emotional pain and sadness. A way to manage these emotions without cutting is through self-care.

Self-care is any activity that promotes well-being by making a person feel soothed or comforted.

Self-care activities to try include:

  • having a long bath or shower
  • listening to relaxing music
  • curling up in a soft blanket
  • cooking a healthful meal from scratch
  • drawing, painting, or coloring
  • using essential oils or a scented candle
  • self-massage with coconut or almond oil
  • reading in bed

3. Relieve stress

Some people cut themselves in response to feeling stress. One study found that 45 percent of adolescents who self-harm do so to relieve tension or stress.

To manage the body’s response to stress without cutting, the following activities may help:

  • practicing yoga at home
  • doing deep breathing exercises
  • practicing mindfulness

There are many free yoga videos online, including some for beginners.

Deep breathing exercises can be as simple as taking long, deep breaths in and feeling the belly expand each time before exhaling.

A simple way to practice mindfulness is to go for a slow walk and notice everything you see, smell, hear, and touch.

4. Release anger

Some people cut to relieve unprocessed anger. For people who experience this, releasing anger in a different way may help.

If a person feels angry and gets the urge to cut, alternative ways to release anger include:

  • dancing to aggressive music
  • popping balloons or bubble wrap
  • going for a run
  • going to the gym for a workout
  • hitting a cushion
  • ripping up paper
  • scribbling on paper

5. Express feelings

Sometimes the urge to cut can arise when a person needs emotional release. They may feel numb or overwhelmed by many different emotions that they have trouble expressing.

Instead of cutting, a person seeking emotional release could try:

  • writing about how they feel in a journal
  • speaking to a trusted friend, family member, or therapist
  • watching a sad film and allowing themselves to cry
  • listening to music that they can identify with

6. Connect with others

Woman playing with her cat to distract from other issues
Connecting with others and pets can help a person feel less isolated.

Some people who cut do so because they feel isolated, misunderstood, or socially rejected.

Instead of cutting, a person could try:

  • messaging or calling a friend or family member
  • playing with a pet or offering to pet-sit for a neighbor
  • making social plans to look forward to throughout the week
  • joining local community meet-up groups
  • finding support groups for people who self-harm

7. Replace the sensation

When trying to avoid cutting, a person may fixate on how it would feel to cut themselves. This can make it hard to resist the urge to cut.

A way around this is to find sensations that are similar to cutting, but less harmful. Some ways to replace the sensation of cutting include:

  • rubbing an ice cube across the skin
  • taking a cold shower
  • drawing on the skin with a red felt-tipped pen
  • gently snapping a rubber band against the skin
  • clapping the hands hard
  • stomping the feet loudly

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How to help someone else stop cutting

Research suggests that developing important relationships is a key factor in recovering from self-harm.

To help someone stop cutting, try to provide a safe, nonjudgmental space for them to discuss their feelings.

They may not feel comfortable sharing that they self-harm, so do not push them to disclose this. But do offer them a chance to connect.

Asking open-ended questions can give them the opportunity to discuss their feelings.

Do not worry about having the right answers — just listening to how a person feels and taking their concerns seriously can help.

If someone does share that they self-harm, the Samaritans charity, based in the United Kingdom, suggests some useful questions to ask, such as:

  • “Have you talked to anyone else about this?”
  • “Would you like to get some help?”
  • “Would you like me to come with you?”

If the person is reluctant to get help, a person could say:

  • “Do you have someone you trust [who] you can go to?”
  • “If it helps, you can talk to me any time.”

Preventing the next episode

Girl writing a journal
A person can make a note of the situation that leads to cutting to help identify triggers.

Understanding what triggers the desire to self-harm can help a person avoid those situations or manage them when they occur.

A trigger is a situation, event, or way of thinking that brings on the urge to cut. Cutting triggers may include:

  • work or study stress
  • arguments with family members
  • feeling rejected by a partner

Every person who cuts has a different set of triggers.

To help identify triggers, make a note of the situation that leads to cutting in a journal. Review this regularly and identify recurring triggers.

A person can then work to reduce those triggers and feel more prepared to manage the urge to cut using some of the strategies above.

Once a person has identified their triggers, they can plan how to resist the urge when it happens. Writing this plan down can help.

Keep this plan handy for when the urge to cut arises. Without a written plan, it is easy to feel overwhelmed or forget tactics that may help.

Cutting and other forms of self-harm are linked with anxiety, depression, and other mental health conditions.

If a person who cuts has an underlying mental health condition, receiving treatment will help prevent self-harm in the long term.

Doctors and healthcare professionals can often treat anxiety and depression with a combination of medication and talk therapy.

Certain lifestyle changes and stress-reducing practices may also help, including:

  • exercising regularly
  • eating a healthful, balanced diet
  • getting plenty of sleep
  • reducing alcohol consumption
  • not smoking
  • practicing yoga, mindfulness, and meditation
  • journaling

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When to see a doctor

If a person self-harms or feels compelled to start self-harming, they should speak to a doctor.

A recent study found that between 6.4 percent and 14.8 percent of high school-aged boys in the United States have purposefully hurt themselves. The figure was higher for girls of the same age, with between 17.7 percent and 30.8 percent reporting self-harm.

Despite causing injury, cutting offers some people temporary relief from emotional pain or numbness. Other people who cut say that they do so because they feel the need to punish themselves.

The doctor can help a person find other ways to manage their emotional health. Talk therapy may help with learning how to manage emotions in a safe, sustainable way.

If a person needs immediate help to stop cutting, they can call a self-injury hotline at 1-800-DONT CUT (1-800-366-8388). In the event of an emergency, call emergency services.


Cutting is a type of self-harm that some people use to manage negative feelings. The temporary sense of relief it may provide can make it difficult to give up the behavior.

With the right support and coping mechanisms, many people who cut are able to stop.

The methods explored in this article may help a person avoid cutting. Seeking support from a doctor is also important.

Every person who cuts will find a different combination of coping strategies effective. Identifying cutting triggers is essential and can help a person develop a self-management plan and eventually stop cutting.

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Medical News Today: How to tell if your baby has asthma

Wheezing, coughing, and breathing fast are some of the signs that a baby with asthma may display. Asthma is a chronic condition that causes airway inflammation and sensitivity to irritants that most people can inhale without any issues.

Doctors can treat asthma in babies with medications that help open up the airways, which are already small. While it is not always possible to prevent asthma in babies, avoiding asthma triggers, such as smoke, pet dander, pollen, and dust mite exposure, may help reduce the symptoms.

According to the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America (AAFA), about half of all children with asthma show some signs of the condition before they reach the age of 5 years. Recognizing asthma in babies and seeking medical help can allow parents and caregivers to provide treatments that keep infants breathing well.

People should also note that babies with asthma-like symptoms may not go on to have asthma later in life.

Specific symptoms in babies

mother soothing small baby
Asthma can be difficult to diagnose in infants.

Asthma can be difficult to recognize in babies because it can resemble other respiratory illnesses.

Also, a baby cannot always convey how they are feeling or that they are having difficulty trying to breathe.

Symptoms of asthma in babies include:

  • blue tint to the face, fingernails, or lips, which can indicate poor oxygenation
  • breathing very fast
  • exaggerated stomach movements, as though the infant is using their stomach muscles to breathe
  • flared nostrils
  • fussiness
  • lethargy
  • coughing at night or even when performing routine activities
  • problems eating or tiring out
  • a whistling sound called wheezing that is sometimes audible from far away

Asthma can closely resemble other medical conditions in babies, such as:

Another condition that may cause some symptoms similar to asthma in infants is laryngotracheomalacia. Babies who are born with this condition have a weakness in the cartilage just under the vocal cords.

As a result, they may breathe noisily in the upper airways and trachea, which might sound like asthma. As a baby gets older, these tissues usually become firmer and less likely to collapse.

The primary difference between asthma and some of the above illnesses is that an infant may continue to experience asthma symptoms. Asthma is a chronic condition that can affect a person throughout their life.

Even after an acute illness, they may have persistent symptoms of hyperreactive airways, meaning that the airways in their lungs become smaller and inflamed more easily than those of others. This pattern can aid doctors in making an asthma diagnosis.

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Risk factors

woman smoking a cigarette outside
Smoking while pregnant can be a risk factor for an infant developing asthma.

Risk factors that can increase the likelihood of an infant developing asthma include:

  • a family history of allergies, asthma, or atopic dermatitis, the most common form of eczema
  • a history of more severe symptoms with respiratory infections, such as respiratory syncytial virus
  • the mother smoking during pregnancy
  • premature birth

When children who are aged 6 months and younger experience acute episodes of asthma, a viral infection is usually the cause, according to the AAFA.

Diagnosis and when to see a doctor

Diagnosing asthma in babies can be challenging because the lung function tests that doctors typically perform are not as useful when babies cannot exhale or inhale on command.

As a result, a doctor may use other diagnostic methods, including:

  • Administering medications to open up the airways and then seeing if a baby’s symptoms improve.
  • Conducting allergy testing to determine whether an older baby or toddler is sensitive to any common allergic triggers, such as dust mites, mold, pet dander, or pollen.
  • Ordering imaging studies, such as X-rays, to examine an infant’s lungs.

Asthma is a chronic condition with no cure. However, many babies who have asthma-like symptoms, such as wheezing, do not go on to have asthma later in life. This is another reason why diagnosing asthma in babies can be difficult. As a result, a doctor may not definitively diagnose a baby with asthma until later in life.

Sometimes, a doctor will refer a child to an allergy specialist or to a lung specialist called a pulmonologist for further testing and treatment.

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Treatments and remedies

mother using an asthma inhaler with mask attachment on baby
Babies can receive asthma medication through an inhaler with a mask attachment.

Inhalers and nebulizer treatments are the medication delivery systems for asthma.

Even young infants can sometimes receive asthma medications through an inhaler that uses an extra attachment called a spacer and an infant-sized mask.

A nebulizer, which people sometimes refer to as a breathing machine, delivers liquid medication in combination with compressed air. The result is a medicated mist that a baby breathes into their airways.

Wearing the infant-sized mask can help the baby breathe in the medicine. A doctor will recommend how many times per day a baby should receive their asthma medicine.

Some of the medications that require an inhaler or a nebulizer for delivery may be short-acting drugs, such as albuterol (Ventolin). This medication helps quickly open up the airways to make it easier to breathe. A doctor may also prescribe long-acting medications containing steroids that help reduce inflammation and also open up the airways.

Home remedies

In addition to prescription medications, a doctor may recommend taking steps to reduce allergens that commonly trigger asthma symptoms. Examples include smoking, pet dander, pollen, and dust mites.

Parents and caregivers can protect their child from asthma triggers in the home by:

  • Washing bed linen and cloth toys at least once a week in water that is 130ºF or hotter to kill dust mites.
  • Vacuuming at least once each week to remove excess dust.
  • Preventing cigarette smoke from entering the home or car. If a parent or caregiver does smoke outside the home, they should change their clothes when they come back in.
  • Preventing pets from going into the bedroom.
  • Using air purifiers that have a high-efficiency particulate air (HEPA) filter to reduce the amount of animal dander and dust in the home.
  • Covering an infant’s crib mattress in an allergy-proof casing. These casings have tight weaving that can prevent dust mites from entering the mattress.

A parent or caregiver may also wish to talk to their child’s pediatrician before introducing potentially allergenic foods, such as peanuts, cow’s milk, eggs, and wheat, although it is rare for food allergies to cause asthma in babies.

In cases where there is a family history of food sensitivities, it may be beneficial to introduce these foods slowly and in small amounts to ensure that a child does not have an allergic reaction that causes breathing problems.


Wheezing and breathing problems in babies can be a significant concern. As a baby’s airways are already small, conditions such as asthma can make it especially difficult to breathe.

If a person has concerns about their baby wheezing or showing other potential asthma signs, they should talk to their child’s doctor as soon as possible.

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Medical News Today: Why sleep is good for your arteries

Fresh evidence suggests that sleep regulates a mechanism that can help to protect arteries from hardening. The finding reinforces the notion that good-quality sleep is important for cardiovascular health.
woman sleeping
Sleep is integral to good health, and a new study delves into how it keeps our cardiovascular system healthy.

Scientists from Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH) in Boston, MA, together with colleagues from other research centers, studied the development of atherosclerosis in mice.

Atherosclerosis is the process through which plaques, or fatty deposits, build up inside arteries, causing them to narrow and stiffen. It is a common reason for disease.

The researchers found that sleep-disturbed mice developed larger plaques in their arteries than mice that slept well.

The sleep-disturbed mice also had higher amounts of circulating, inflammatory cells and produced lower amounts of hypocretin, which is a brain hormone that controls wakefulness.

The researchers also saw a reduction in atherosclerosis and inflammatory cells in these mice after they received hypocretin supplementation.

Subject to confirmation in humans, the findings demonstrate that sleep influences cardiovascular health by regulating hypocretin production in the brain.

The journal Nature has recently published a paper about the study.

“We’ve identified a mechanism,” says senior study author Filip K. Swirski, Ph.D., who is an associate professor at MGH and Harvard Medical School, also in Boston, “by which a brain hormone controls production of inflammatory cells in the bone marrow in a way that helps protect the blood vessels from damage.”

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Sleep, health, and atherosclerosis

“Sleep is integral to life,” note the authors, and yet insufficient or disturbed sleep is a significant public health issue that affects millions of people.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimate that 35 percent of adults in the United States were regularly sleeping less than 7 hours per 24-hour period in 2014.

Studies have linked lack of sleep to long-term health conditions, such as obesity, type 2 diabetes, depression, and heart disease. However, they have not shed much light on the underlying biological mechanisms.

So, Dr. Swirski and his colleagues decided to investigate how sleep might help to protect cardiovascular health by focusing on the development of atherosclerosis.

The plaques that arise in atherosclerosis can take years to form and consist of calcium, fat molecules, cholesterol, and other substances. As they accumulate, they lessen the flow of nutrient- and oxygen-rich blood.

Atherosclerosis can lead to various other conditions, including coronary heart disease, which develops when plaques build up in the arteries that supply blood to the heart.

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Disturbed sleep increased atherosclerosis

Using mice that were genetically predisposed to develop atherosclerosis, the researchers allowed half of them to sleep well and disrupted the sleep of the other half.

Comparing them with the mice that slept well, the team found that the disrupted-sleep mice developed arterial plaques that were up to one third larger.

The sleep-disrupted mice also produced twice the amount of a certain type of inflammatory white blood cell in their bone marrow, and “the lateral hypothalamus” of their brains produced less hypocretin.

Atherosclerosis developed more slowly in sleep-disrupted mice that had hypocretin supplementation compared with those that did not.

The authors note that hypocretin controls blood cell production in bone marrow by regulating CSF1, which is a type of signaling protein.

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They conclude that the rise in white blood cells and acceleration of atherosclerosis in the sleep-disturbed mice were due to the reduction of hypocretin and increase in CSF1.

They suggest that undisturbed sleep protects blood vessels from atherosclerotic damage by regulating hypocretin production in the hypothalamus.

The National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI), which is part of the National Institutes of Health (NIH), funded the research.

Michael Twery, Ph.D., who is director of NHLBI’s National Center on Sleep Disorders Research, says that the study “appears to be the most direct demonstration yet of the molecular connections linking blood and cardiovascular risk factors to sleep health.”

This anti-inflammatory mechanism is regulated by sleep, and it breaks down when you frequently disrupt sleep or experience poor sleep quality.”

Filip K. Swirski, Ph.D.

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