Brush Away Your Sniffles With New Allergy-Fighting Toothpaste

iStock
iStock

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]

Why You Shouldn't Skip the Flu Shot This Year

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iStock.com/vladans

Americans aren’t too vigilant about getting flu shots. During the 2016-17 influenza season, the vaccination rate for adults was just 48.6 percent, far below the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s goal of 70 percent coverage. Parents tend to be a little better with kids—in 2016, the rate for children aged 6 to 23 months was 76.3 percent—but overall, we tend to meet each flu season with apathy.

That might be an especially bad idea this year. Here’s why.

In 2017-18, the flu hospitalized 900,000 people, the highest number in modern history. About 80,000 people died of flu, the most in decades. A particularly virulent strain, H3N2, was partly to blame. Vaccines were effective in roughly one out of four people infected with that specific virus and 40 percent effective overall. We also have more people aging into a higher-risk category. Public health experts agree the flu will continue to be a worthy adversary, with another cascade of potentially preventable serious illness or death this year.

To minimize your chances of getting sick, the advice is unanimous: Get a flu shot. Because it takes your body up to two weeks to create an immune response, getting a shot before Halloween is ideal. While they’re not perfect and can’t guarantee immunity, the shot's benefits are still considerable. The chances that you’ll avoid becoming ill are significantly higher. You’re also far less likely to spread the virus to others. And if you do develop symptoms, you’re less likely to develop complications from pneumonia. If you’re pregnant, the shot will assist your already overtaxed immune system as well as provide protection for your child after birth.

Above all, don't try to talk yourself out of it. In a 2015 poll conducted by National Public Radio (NPR) and Truven Health Analytics, roughly half of respondents believed they were healthy enough to fight the virus on their own. Some were concerned about side effects (such as mild soreness at the injection site, which usually lasts only a day or two) or that the shot itself could be infectious. (It isn't.)

The vaccine isn’t the only preventative step. It’s vital to get enough sleep to keep your immune system strong. The CDC also recommends washing your hands frequently and avoiding touching your eyes, nose, and mouth after coming into contact with potentially contaminated surfaces.

[h/t healthline]

The Most Googled Health Symptoms in Each State

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iStock.com/PeopleImages

It’s no secret that the internet has radically changed our approach to health care. Symptoms that once had us going to the doctor can now be assessed online with varying degrees of accuracy, reassuring us that it’s either benign or that death is imminent.

According to Medicare review site MedicareHealthPlans.com, the medical conditions we worry about can vary widely by region. The site recently examined Google Trends for the most widely-searched symptoms and then looked to see which states had the highest volume of searches for each.

The takeaway: People are worried about some very strange conditions.

A map of the most-Googled health symptoms in each state
MedicareHealthPlans

The West Coast seems preoccupied with more conventional maladies—stomach issues, including food poisoning and morning sickness. Creeping closer to the East Coast, things get very specific.

Wisconsin and South Carolina residents seem to be curious about the color of their poop and whether light or green-colored stool is indicative of anything. (Maybe: clay-colored stool could indicate problems with your bile duct, while green stool might mean food is moving through the large intestine too quickly. That, or you’re eating a lot of vegetables.)

Utah’s investigation of morning sickness checks out: It holds the second-place position among states for the number of babies born annually. Nebraskans might be getting a surplus of Viagra commercials; Ohio is doing its due diligence on the problems of being uncircumcised.

The most searched condition in a fifth of states? Stress. Googling “sweaty palms” probably isn’t helping.

[h/t MedicareHealthPlans.com]

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