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Brush Away Your Sniffles With New Allergy-Fighting Toothpaste

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For people with severe allergies, relief can cost a lot of time. Doctors can administer allergy shots, but you need them regularly, as often as multiple times a week. If you don’t complete the proper regimen, which can last for years, the treatment won’t be effective. Popular Science reports that there’s a new method for administering long-term allergy medicine that could prove a whole lot more convenient for patients, and it doesn’t involve any needles. It’s toothpaste.

Allerdent is a specially formulated toothpaste that can be customized to treat particular allergies. Typical allergy shots contain very small amounts of the allergen you’re trying to desensitize your body to—much like a vaccine contains the microbe of the disease it’s designed to inoculate you against. With Allerdent, instead of putting that allergen extract in a shot, the doctor mixes it into a toothpaste base. Patients can take that toothpaste home and use it daily, rather than coming in for a weekly allergy shot.

It’s not the first mouth-based allergy medicine. There are also under-the-tongue allergy drops that are widely used in Europe, but they can irritate the stomach and throat if you accidentally swallow them. But since the mucus membrane of the mouth has a high immune response (to protect against all the weird stuff you put in your mouth every day), it’s a great place to administer allergy medicine. Allergy toothpaste similarly allows you to put the medicine where it’s most effective, but it doesn't involve holding a squirt of oil in your mouth, and it doesn't have any gastrointestinal side effects.

The toothpaste comes with a pre-measured pump so that you get exactly the amount of medicine you need (no need to eyeball what the size of a pea is) and it can remain effective with up to 10 allergen extracts, so you could treat multiple allergies at one time. It could be especially effective to treat kids, since they're more likely to have trouble with shots or under-the-tongue drops. And, because it's something you can do at home, patients are more likely to stick to the regimen.

Allerdent isn’t easy to obtain at the moment. Your doctor has to order it, and because the FDA hasn’t approved allergen extracts in toothpaste (they’re only approved in shot form), your insurance company might not pay for it. As research into Allerdent and other oral allergy medicines progresses, though, the product might become easier to access.

[h/t Popular Science]

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Medicine
Charles Dickens Museum Highlights the Author's Contributions to Science and Medicine

Charles Dickens is celebrated for his verbose prose and memorable opening lines, but lesser known are his contributions to science—particularly the field of medicine.

A new exhibition at London’s Charles Dickens Museum—titled "Charles Dickens: Man of Science"—is showcasing the English author’s scientific side. In several instances, the writer's detailed descriptions of medical conditions predated and sometimes even inspired the discovery of several diseases, The Guardian reports.

In his novel Dombey and Son, the character of Mrs. Skewton was paralyzed on her right side and unable to speak. Dickens was the first person to document this inexplicable condition, and a scientist later discovered that one side of the brain was largely responsible for speech production. "Fat boy" Joe, a character in The Pickwick Papers who snored loudly while sleeping, later lent his namesake to Pickwickian Syndrome, otherwise known as obesity hypoventilation syndrome.

A figurine of Fat Boy Joe
Courtesy of the Charles Dickens Museum

Dickens also wrote eloquently about the symptoms of tuberculosis and dyslexia, and some of his passages were used to teach diagnosis to students of medicine.

“Dickens is an unbelievably acute observer of human behaviors,” museum curator Frankie Kubicki told The Guardian. “He captures these behaviors so perfectly that his descriptions can be used to build relationships between symptoms and disease.”

Dickens was also chummy with some of the leading scientists of his day, including Michael Faraday, Charles Darwin, and chemist Jane Marcet, and the exhibition showcases some of the writer's correspondence with these notable figures. Beyond medicine, Dickens also contributed to the fields of chemistry, geology, and environmental science.

Less scientifically sound was the author’s affinity for mesmerism, a form of hypnotism introduced in the 1770s as a method of controlling “animal magnetism,” a magnetic fluid which proponents of the practice believed flowed through all people. Dickens studied the methods of mesmerism and was so convinced by his powers that he later wrote, “I have the perfect conviction that I could magnetize a frying-pan.” A playbill of Animal Magnetism, an 1857 production that Dickens starred in, is also part of the exhibit.

A play script from Animal Magnetism
Courtesy of the Charles Dickens Museum

Located at 48-49 Doughty Street in London, the exhibition will be on display until November 11, 2018.

[h/t The Guardian]

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Health
Feeling Down? Lifting Weights Can Lift Your Mood, Too
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There’s plenty of research that suggests that exercise can be an effective treatment for depression. In some cases of depression, in fact—particularly less-severe ones—scientists have found that exercise can be as effective as antidepressants, which don’t work for everyone and can come with some annoying side effects. Previous studies have largely concentrated on aerobic exercise, like running, but new research shows that weight lifting can be a useful depression treatment, too.

The study in JAMA Psychiatry, led by sports scientists at the University of Limerick in Ireland, examined the results of 33 previous clinical trials that analyzed a total of 1877 participants. It found that resistance training—lifting weights, using resistance bands, doing push ups, and any other exercises targeted at strengthening muscles rather than increasing heart rate—significantly reduced symptoms of depression.

This held true regardless of how healthy people were overall, how much of the exercises they were assigned to do, or how much stronger they got as a result. While the effect wasn’t as strong in blinded trials—where the assessors don’t know who is in the control group and who isn’t, as is the case in higher-quality studies—it was still notable. According to first author Brett Gordon, these trials showed a medium effect, while others showed a large effect, but both were statistically significant.

The studies in the paper all looked at the effects of these training regimes on people with mild to moderate depression, and the results might not translate to people with severe depression. Unfortunately, many of the studies analyzed didn’t include information on whether or not the patients were taking antidepressants, so the researchers weren’t able to determine what role medications might play in this. However, Gordon tells Mental Floss in an email that “the available evidence supports that [resistance training] may be an effective alternative and/or adjuvant therapy for depressive symptoms that could be prescribed on its own and/or in conjunction with other depression treatments,” like therapy or medication.

There haven’t been a lot of studies yet comparing whether aerobic exercise or resistance training might be better at alleviating depressive symptoms, and future research might tackle that question. Even if one does turn out to be better than the other, though, it seems that just getting to the gym can make a big difference.

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