It’s Norovirus Season

A 3D graphical representation of a single Norovirus particle. The different colors represent different regions of the organism’s outer protein shell. Credit: CDC
My longtime readers know that I love to inform you about ways that Mother Nature tries to hurt us. Since it’s winter, norovirus deserves our attention as it wreaks its seasonal havoc and occasionally closes down schools. Norovirus causes inflammation of the stomach and intestines. It’s commonly referred to as a “stomach virus” or “stomach flu”. (But it’s not related to the influenza virus. So let’s stop calling it the stomach flu. It just confuses people and makes them think that the flu ...

Surgeon General Vivek Murthy Releases Report on Addiction Epidemic

US Surgeon General Vivek Murthy
Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons, public domain
In 1964 the Surgeon General issued a report on smoking, summarizing the scientific evidence demonstrating the health risks of tobacco use. Scientifically, nothing in that report was new. It was a review of what was already known. But it had a profound societal effect by publicizing a health risk that had been until then largely ignored. Education, health policy, and the advice of many individual doctors were transformed. This week the Surgeon General released More

Top Ten Reasons to Have a Flu Shot

Photo credit: Cpl. Jackeline Perez Rivera / Wikimedia
Every year I write a post in the late summer letting you know that flu season is approaching and to get a flu shot. I try to keep my posts informative and evidence-based, but I don’t have anything new to tell you about that. Actually, I do have one bit of news. Some of you may have heard of FluMist, the flu vaccine given by nasal spray. It’s especially popular with children and with patients with needle phobias because it’s not injected. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC...

Why You Might Want More Blood Pressure Medicine

A patient's blood pressure being taken
We’ve known for over a generation that using medications to lower high blood pressure can decrease the risk of strokes, heart attacks, and kidney failure. National guidelines have recommended using medications to get the systolic blood pressure (the higher blood pressure number) below 140. So for my whole career a systolic in the 130s would lead to me pat the patient on the back and declare victory, while a systolic in the 140s would lead me to increase a dose of a medication or stress to th...

Consuming Peanuts in Infancy Can Help Prevent Peanut Allergies

Food allergies are commonly misunderstood, so please bear with me while I first explain what food allergies are and are not. Various foods can cause all sorts of unpleasant effects. Most of these are not allergies. Allergies are only reactions caused by a specific antibody (called IgE) that results in hives, trouble breathing, or a life-threatening condition called anaphylaxis. So, if yogurt gives you diarrhea, that’s not an allergy. It might be lactose intolerance. If coffee gives you palpi...

Measles Makes a Comeback

I haven't written about measles in over two years, but unfortunately it's in the news again. Measles is a very contagious viral illness that causes a high fever, rash, cough, and a runny nose. Complications include pneumonia, brain inflammation and death. Prior to 1963 there were hundreds of thousands of measles cases in the US annually, causing hundreds of deaths. In 1963 the measles vaccine was introduced, leading to an immediate decrease of measles cases in this country. In 2000 mea...