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Tag Archives: Medical

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A look at how TSA has suffered during the coronavirus pandemic and its response

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As airport security remains a priority for travel, alarming numbers of agents of the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) have been exposed to COVID-19, with some losing their life, exacerbated by a lack of protective equipment.

Airports across the United States have recently seen a return to growth across many areas despite spikes, so what is being done to prevent these key workers from infection?

The leading official of the TSA in Kansas, Jay Brainard, came forward last month to claim there had been “gross mismanagement” from the administration in response to the coronavirus outbreak, with a lack of training for staff, and personal protective equipment (PPE) not being issued to agents to mitigate the risk to themselves and passengers.

As a result, he says, “We did not take adequate steps to make sure that we were not becoming carriers and spreaders of the virus ourselves.”

Early in the outbreak TSA agents were reportedly told that they were not allowed to wear masks, and those that did were not able to change them as often as needed. All this happened during the busy spring break traveling period in March.

To date, over 1,100 TSA agents have tested positive for coronavirus. The TSA keeps the public informed about the statistics on its own website, where the grim news confirms also that, to date, six agents have died as a result of being infected.

Early outbreaks saw some of the main hub airports experiencing the highest case numbers. So far John F. Kennedy in New York is listed with 116 confirmed cases, Miami with 75 and Newark Liberty 69. These are largely among TSA screening officers, who come into close contact with the public throughout their work.

Following Brainard’s official complaint to the Office of Special Counsel, the TSA has stepped up its response to the threat. Agents are now required to wear protective masks and plastic barriers have been installed.

Those screening passengers must wear gloves, which are changed after each pat down. Eye wear remains optional.

Now, new legislation introduced in the House of Representatives has been passed to further protect TSA agents and the passengers they screen from the virus.

This would see a trial of temperature screening at a minimum of 10 airports “to establish and test procedures to screen all passengers for their temperatures before such passengers proceed through security into the sterile area.” It adds “If the temperature of a passenger exceeds the guidance for what constitutes a fever issued by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention at the time such temperature screening is carried out, the Administrator shall, notwithstanding any other provision of law, not permit such passenger to enter the sterile area.”

The TSA this month published the Runway to Recovery report, which sets out a strategy for recovery of the US air transportation system through the challenges it currently faces.

The report focuses on measures to protect passengers and airport employees from coronavirus, but also aims to educate travelers and promote public health within the air transportation system. It is hoped that the introduction of temperature screening may discourage passengers with any symptoms from travel, thus reducing the risks further.

The threat to the TSA from coronavirus was unprecedented and the administration was arguably not prepared. New measures should see agents protected as much as possible, but this is just one piece in the jigsaw in tackling this virus which spreads so readily through air travel. Airports continue to face many challenges from curbside to gate in protecting passengers and workers.

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Infographic: How do clinical vaccine trials work?

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The development of the H1N1 vaccine, which built upon existing influenza knowledge, took five to six months, and the fastest vaccine to be created from scratch, for mumps, took upwards of four years.

This infographic outlines the process of developing and testing vaccines, including the 19 trial vaccines being tested for COVID-19.

Infographic courtesy Medidata.com

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‘Travel, as we knew it, is over,’ but hopes remain for a different future

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Airbnb co-founder Brian Chesky talked about the future of travel in a recent CNBC interview. He stated:

“Travel, as we knew it, is over. It doesn’t mean travel is over, just the travel we knew is over, and it’s never coming back. It’s just not.”

His statement made headlines, but he also suggested in the same interview:

“… travel is going to come back. It’s just going to take a lot longer than, you know, we would have thought, and it’s going to be different.”

What do you think? Will people travel again?

The glass is half-empty

Some places saw a spark of confirmed infected cases of COVID-19 just a few weeks after local governments lifted coronavirus restrictions. Florida, for example, reported that its daily case count had increased fivefold in just two weeks. Moreover, the median age of the new patients dropped to 36, indicating the coronavirus is now spreading among younger age groups.

Along with Florida, Texas and Arizona also reported record numbers of confirmed infected cases and emerged as the new epicenters. Arizona and Georgia recorded the highest number of new cases on Sunday, June 28. Texas reimposed some COVID-19 restrictions by closing bars and limiting restaurants to 50% occupancy.

California was the first state that paused nonessential businesses and urged residents to stay at home in March. Gov. Gavin Newsom made plans for reopening restaurants, malls, and offices in California on May 12. In the last few weeks, however, the state reported its highest number of new cases and had more infected patients who needed to stay in hospitals. Counties with a high positivity rate of COVID-19 are urged to shut down again.

Other states, such as New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut, are imposing a 14-day self-quarantine for travelers coming from states with a “high-infection rate.” That means 10 infections per 100,000 people or a 10% or higher positively rate over a seven-day rolling average. Currently, Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, Florida, North Carolina, South Carolina, Texas, Utah, and Washington met such criteria.

Internationally, the European Union will soon decide if the U.S. can be included in the “safe list” of countries where residents can travel to the bloc without self-quarantine. The outlook is not looking positive when many states still report a high infection rate for COVID-19.

The glass is half-full

On the flip side, there are hopes. First and foremost, people want to travel. Key indicators are showing some signs of recovery.

More people are flying now than they were in April, according to the Transportation Security Administration (TSA), although the number of travelers only accounts for one-fourth of the 2019 level. Airlines are also adding more domestic and international flights.

The hotel industry saw improvement as well, particularly in drive-to destinations and economy-class hotels. Likewise, Airbnb observed a dramatic turnaround in June. Over the weekend of June 5-7, Airbnb reported a first-time year-to-year growth since February.

The restaurant industry also bounced back from the bottom, with better performance data in May. Sales for food service and drinking places increased by 29% to $38.6 billion.

Will the vaccine be the solution?

Countries are racing for a remedy of COVID-19. Many are hoping the vaccine will become available by the end of this year.

Until then, some places are doing just fine without the vaccine. Taiwan, for example, relies on case tracing to bring down the infection rate. This year, Taiwan was one of the few places on this planet that could celebrate LGBTQ+ Pride with a public parade. Over 200 people gathered in the Liberty Square in Taipei for the event.

Will travel be forever changed after the COVID-19 pandemic?

Without a doubt, travel will not be the same in the next few years. Travel companies are adapting to the new changes with enhanced cleaning standards and likely with linear operations.

Nevertheless, when the pandemic is over and becomes history (let’s hope that will be the case very soon), will people still restrict themselves from going out? Will they want to wear masks in public? Will they practice social distancing?

What are your thoughts?

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Airlines are issuing refunds for failed TSA health screenings

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While airports are busy creating new methods for screening passengers for cases of COVID-19 before they board their planes, some airlines are essentially thanking those passengers for not getting on by refunding their tickets. To that end, new thermal screens are being tested at airports to help stem spread of the virus by grounding passengers over any signs of fever.

Last month, thermal cameras were installed at Los Angeles International Airport’s Tom Bradley International Terminal, commonly called “Tbit,” as a beta testing location at the world’s third busiest airport. Supporting these efforts, Airlines for America (A4A), an industry trade organization for several U.S. airlines, announced it is supporting the Transportation Security Administration’s (TSA) temperature screening programs for the traveling public and will do so for as long as necessary during the COVID-19 public health crisis.

At LAX, the new thermal system is a voluntary program with signage alerting passengers where this trial will take place. If a voluntary participant is identified as having an elevated body temperature, a medical professional near the camera operator will approach the identified person and request a secondary screening using a handheld, non-contact thermometer. Departing guests who are identified as having an elevated body temperature will be advised that they should not travel. Passengers on arriving international flights identified as being potentially ill may be referred to CDC staff on-site.

These thermal camera temperature checks are not expected to replace other safety measures in place. To protect guest privacy, the cameras do not store, transmit, or share any data or images taken. Guests who decline to participate will have the opportunity to use a different pathway.

Now, in further support of screening efforts in place for flyers, anyone who is found to have an elevated temperature — as defined by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) guidelines — during a screening process conducted by federal authorities at U.S. gateways prior to travel, will be eligible for a ticket refund as they will not be allowed to fly.

Temperature checks are one of several public health measures recommended by the CDC amid the COVID-19 pandemic and will add an extra layer of protection for passengers as well as airline and airport employees.

In April, A4A’s member carriers announced the requirement of the wearing face coverings by employees and passengers throughout the journey — during check-in, boarding, in-flight and deplaning. Last month, major U.S. carriers announced they are actively enforcing those face covering policies and deplaning passengers refusing to comply.

Temperature checks and face coverings are part of the multi-layered approach that airlines are implementing to mitigate risk of exposure and infection and to protect the health and well-being of passengers and employees. Airlines are also implementing intensive cleaning protocols, in some cases to include electrostatic cleaning and fogging procedures to sanitize cockpits, cabins and key touchpoints with CDC-approved disinfectants.

Airlines for America (A4A) members include Alaska Airlines, American Airlines, Atlas Air, Delta Air Lines, FedEx, Hawaiian Airlines, JetBlue Airways, Southwest Airlines, United Airlines and UPS. Air Canada is an associate member.

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Flying the friendly skies with a little help from HEPA filters

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Some might say that flying has never been cleaner. And they would be right. Airlines, airports and aircraft manufacturers are going to extraordinary lengths to get passengers flying again and that means upping the confidence factor in taking to the skies while the coronavirus continues to rage on the ground.

Research this month from the International Air Transport Association (IATA) shows that just 45% of travelers are willing to return to airports at this time. Some 58% of those surveyed said that they have avoided air travel, with 33% suggesting that they will avoid travel in future as a continued measure to reduce the risk of catching COVID-19.

“If anything, consumers have actually got rather more cautious and we have a majority saying now that they would wait more than six months before traveling,” IATA chief economist Brian Pearce told Bloomberg News. “The survey is telling us that passengers are rather cautious.”

The air on a plane remains one of the top concerns for flyers. Breathing is now a contact sport with all sorts of consequences built in. Are airlines safe to sit in for five or six hours at a clip, often packed like fruit heading for market? Are masks still necessary to wear onboard? What if the person behind you has a fever a smidge lower than the allowable degree? What if the person in the middle seat starts coughing? Should you touch the seatback button or use the tray table?

Airlines are claiming that flying has never been cleaner or safer and, in many ways, they are right. But then we have never had a virus like the novel coronavirus.

In an effort to quell fears and answer those questions that can be answered, Boeing Product Marketing Director Jim Haas recently spoke to the fact that the air circulation inside a typical aircraft is, indeed, clean and has been that way since the mid-1990s when HEPA filters were introduced. The filters are medical grade, often used in hospital isolation chambers and operating rooms to scrub the tiniest particles — including viruses — from the air with 99.9%+ effectiveness.

The HEPA filters have not been tested with the COVID-19 virus per se but have been tested with particles the size of the virus and deemed extremely effective at removal of particulate matter. A new measure that is being recommend to airlines at this time, according to Boeing, is to maximize cabin airflow/HEPA filtration not only during flight, but also on the ground to filter cabin air during passenger boarding and deplaning.

But it is not just the air moving through the filter, it is also the air in its flow path that makes flying into a reasonable risk to take.

“A key point that many passengers do not understand is the direction the air flows,” said Haas. “Many think the air flows from front to back. It does not. It comes in from the top, comes down onto the seat and exits out, and there is continuous ventilation in the cabin. Cabin air is exchanged every two to three minutes, which is much faster than office buildings and other interior spaces where people go. We designed it specifically to do this. And it is one of key points we want people to understand.”

Aircraft makers, including Boeing, Airbus and Embraer are working together and sharing notes on what is working and what is not to optimize the air quality inflight. Haas notes that this part of the business is not a competition. There is too much at stake. But he also notes that the systems have been in place for some 25 years, so it is not the technology that is new when it comes to air filtration. What is new is the disinfecting practices ahead of boarding coupled with the temperature monitoring of passengers at the gate.

To that end, airlines are looking at disinfecting practices and devices that could be instrumental in killing bacteria and viruses from all surfaces passengers touch giving each passengers a completely sanitized environment on takeoff.

Among those approaches are the use of sanitizing chemicals, including Purell-like liquids proven to be safe for humans, nontoxic or and not harmful to furnishings and equipment and completely deadly to viruses, bacteria and fungi. Periodic spraying of anti-microbial coating is also necessary to create a hostile environment for lingering germs that may not die so quickly.

In addition, new ways of dispatching ultraviolet rays have been deployed to destroy lingering unseen enemies on textiles and other surfaces. Boeing has been beta-testing a portable wand that evenly radiates the deadly UV rays on a front to back sweep of the empty aircraft before passengers board. A built-in UV solution for disinfecting bathroom areas is now in the prototype stage as well, but because that involves a structural change for inflight use, regulatory approvals are necessary and, likely, years away.

“We are working with a variety of industries, such as IATA, and other airline manufacturers, the ICCAIA (International Coordinating Council of Aerospace Industries Associations) and we are working with airports — what happens at the airport is one of the first layers of travel. It is important for travelers to have a consistent experience country to country. We are also working with researchers and academia to check our modeling and make sure the way we understand the virus lines up with what everyone else understands,” said Haas.

“We see the necessity of having a multilayered approach to protect the passenger during the entire journey: from home to airport to departure to in the cleaning and disinfecting and all the tech in place — and then there is the cabin experience inflight. Air cleaning and filtration, arrangements of seats and role of face masks — all put together — makes flying safe.”

Haas notes that HEPA filters can only clean the air that circulates through them, so if a passenger sneezes and there is no filter between them, the filter cannot clean that air. That is why in the current health emergency it’s important to work across the industry on additional protections — such as face masks — that further help mitigate risks, he says.

While each airline must adopt its own policies, airline manufacturers like Boeing and Airbus do much of the heavy lifting to make sure the craft interior has all the structural advantages required for flying safely during COVID-19 times and that airline customers have the research and tested recommendations by which to model their policies.

For instance, Singapore Airlines is assuring that all lavatories feature contactless faucets and have anti-bacterial hand wash. SIA is also looking at a trial of an ultraviolet light cleaning procedure on the ground for its lavatories before every flight. To give passengers added reassurance, the airline now provides all passengers with a Care Kit that includes a surgical mask, anti-bacterial hand wipes and hand sanitizer.

As for seat distancing as a prophylactic against exposure, some airlines are pledging to uphold middle seat vacancies while others are not, suggesting such a financially crippling move for an airline is more of a PR stunt than a proven protection against contracting the virus.

United and American Airlines have eschewed the practice while other airlines, such as Southwest, Delta and JetBlue have committed to block all or some seats for social distancing assurances, at least for a time. Sen. Bernie Sanders and federal health officials recently criticized American Airlines recently for altering policy toward booking flights to capacity.

Currently, there are no federal requirements to distance travelers on commercial aircraft. Nor is there a federal mandate guiding the wearing of masks inflight. Last week, the Departments of Homeland Security, Transportation, and Health and Human Services jointly issued guideline recommendations for the air travel industry in a document called the “Runway to Recovery,” policies and the enforcement of those policies remain entirely in the hands of each airline. So far, beyond the original entrance of the virus to the U.S., no COVID-19 breakout clusters have been traced back to sick passengers aboard certain flights.

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Restarting school: Unfinished teaching and learning for emergent bilinguals, multilingual students

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At this point in the year, teachers have finished with their teaching duties for the academic year. Some are embarking on teaching summer school, and most of those doing so are likely engaging in distance or virtual learning due to the global pandemic.

In either case, questions about returning to school loom: will classes be in-person with face-to-face instruction? Will students only be allowed to be physically in school part time, with distance or virtual learning playing a significant role? Will students be allowed to physically return to school at all?

What about the learning time that students missed during school closures? What impact will that have on student learning and achievement when students do return? All of these questions are important and valid. There are many unknowns at the moment. As we anxiously await to learn the format, we can begin to consider how we will address learning loss and achievement when students return in the Fall, no matter what the format may be.

The Covid Slowdown and The Covid Slide

There has been some discussion lately regarding what some are dubbing the Covid Slowdown and the Covid Slide. These terms are distinct and reflect two potential scenarios. The Covid Slowdown refers to students retaining the same level of learning when schools closed. In other words, learning may have stopped or slowed very significantly, but students will retain the level of learning that they left school with when schools closed due to the pandemic.

The Covid Slide refers to the slowing of learning that likely occurred during the pandemic due to the switch to online learning. Because of the inconsistencies in instruction, lack of access to technology and internet, and environments that do not always allow for study, students may experience learning loss, or a slide, similar to what has been dubbed “the summer slide,” but even worse as the time spent away from school is adjacent to the summer break.

Emergent bilinguals and multilingual learners have the added challenge of learning a new language as they are learning content. The Covid Slide or the Covid Slowdown will apply to this group of students, of course, as it does to all students. Some educators have stated that students will be missing opportunities to learn English as they speak their native language at home.

While some see this as an added challenge, the fact that students are speaking their native language(s) at home during school closures as well as during the summer should be seen as an asset. Students are gaining valuable knowledge about their native language and culture and maintaining language skills that are a key part of their lives.

Unfinished Teaching and Learning

One perspective on the work that will need to be done when students return to school is to consider unfinished teaching and learning. This perspective focuses on accelerating instruction when students return after the summer break to bring students up to speed in terms of what they need to reach the grade level standards, concepts, and skills that will be taught in the upcoming grade level.

Teachers will need to begin by assessing students’ levels of knowledge and skills from the previous grade or course in order to more clearly understand the teaching and learning that will need to occur in order to ensure success. For emergent bilinguals and multilingual students, language skills will also need to be assessed, so that language instruction and learning can be included as you plan to help students engage in unfinished teaching and learning.

After assessing students, instruction should concentrate on accelerating student learning by focusing on the most critical skills and concepts that students will need in order to be successful in the coming year. This will require careful analysis of both the assessment data as well as the standards, concepts and skills that need to be taught. Utilizing this data, a careful plan will need to be developed to accelerate learning. Utilizing best instructional practices will be critical as you work to get students up to speed.

Just Right Instruction

Planning “best instructional practices” involves considering instruction that will not only address unfinished teaching and learning, and will accelerate learning, but that will also be “just right” for the students you are working with. Each student will require scaffolding and engaging instruction to help them learn, and emergent bilinguals will especially benefit from these practices as well as interaction opportunities to practice and learn the concepts and skills being taught. In addition, consider how you will link to students’ background experiences and cultural backgrounds and perspectives.

The task ahead is daunting; many schools do not yet have a firm idea of what school will look like next year, even though the start of the school year is rapidly approaching. Planning for instruction in this scenario is exceptionally difficult. In addition, considering what students will have missed in terms of instruction and learning, and planning for instruction that will meet their needs is intimidating.

When school resumes, we will need to get to know our students, build positive relationships with them, address their social-emotional needs, and address their instructional needs. By starting with assessments and determining the most critical skills that students will need to be successful in the coming year, we can begin to address the needs of our students, especially the emergent bilingual and multilingual students.

References

Kuhfiled, M, Tarasaw, B. 2020, April. The Covid-19 Slide: What summer learning loss can tell us about the potential impact on school closures on student academic achievement. NWEA. Retrieved from: https://www.nwea.org/research/publication/the-covid-19-slide-what-summer-learning-loss-can-tell-us-about-the-potential-impact-of-school-closures-on-student-academic-achievement/

Clash, C. 2020, Jan. 14. Unfinished learning, or unfinished teaching? A mindset shift. Achievement Network. Retrieved from: https://www.achievementnetwork.org/anetblog/unfinished-learning-or-unfinished-teaching

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Study reveals surprising connection between asthma, oral health

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What in the world could asthma have to do with gum disease? Apparently, a lot. A recent study published in the Journal of Periodontology reveals that people with asthma are one-fifth more likely to experience gum disease than people who do not have asthma.

The Asthma Epidemic

Around 339 million people around the globe experience asthma, according to the World Health Organization. Asthma is an inflammatory disease and a common lung condition that narrows and inflames the airways, therefore resulting in symptoms like difficulty breathing, wheezing, coughing, and tightening of the chest.

It often starts in childhood, although it can also develop in adults, and affects people of all ages. Some children “outgrow” asthma, and it resolves by adulthood. There is currently no cure, but treatment can help control the symptoms.

The Asthma/Oral Health Connection

Asthma, not surprisingly, can also cause dry mouth, which has been proven to lead to excess plaque buildup and gum disease. So, if you have patients who deal with asthma, it’s important to help them take steps to look after their dental health and keep plaque and gum disease at bay.

The Trouble with Dry Mouth

People who have asthma sometimes experience dry mouth, a relatively benign condition in which the mouth doesn’t produce enough saliva. Dry mouth occurs more often in people with asthma because restricted airflow forces them to breathe through their mouths.

Asthma inhalers can further contribute to this condition by repressing salivary glands and limiting saliva production. And as you know, saliva is essential for washing away bad bacteria. A dry mouth creates ideal conditions for harmful bacteria to hang out and create plaque buildup. This can lead to things like bad breath, tooth decay, and, if left untreated, gum disease.

And a Word About Gum Disease

As a dental professional, you know there are several ways your patients can protect their oral health and keep gum disease at bay in spite of dealing with asthma. Here are a few tips to share with patients.

For patients who use an inhaler to help manage asthma:

  • Always rinse mouth with water after using an inhaler.
  • Consider brushing teeth after inhaler use, as it may be even more effective.
  • Use an inhaler that is easy on the teeth and mouth, as some make you more prone to cavities than others (some inhalers are sweetened with sugar to make use more palatable).
  • Sip water regularly throughout the day to help with dry mouth symptoms.

Ultimately, the best way for your patients to look after their dental health is by keeping on top of dental hygiene with regular brushing and flossing and keeping their twice-a-year dental cleaning regimen. While gum disease can be treated, prevention is, without a doubt, the best approach. By staying mindful and proactive about their oral health, people with asthma can easily maintain a beautiful and healthy smile for a lifetime.

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As close as your own breath: A simple — and free — way to improve your health, memory and mood

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We breathe approximately 25,000 times a day, and 30 to 50% of us are doing it improperly. Almost as many of us have respiratory issues and illnesses that affect our sleep, brain function and overall health.

How could this be? Breathing happens in the body automatically without us having to think about it. That’s exactly the problem. Most of us are not conscious about this essential bodily function.

The idea of roper breathing isn’t new. Yogis have been talking about it for thousands of years as have experts in Chinese medicine.

In the West, science has been slower in recognizing that there is a right way and a wrong way to breathe. There are two main aspects to this: 1) slow and deep “belly” breathing, also known as conscious or mindful breathing; and 2) nose breathing vs. mouth breathing.

Most of us are shallow breathers that inhale and exhale in short bursts that only utilize the upper part of the body. This restricts oxygen intake and shortchanges the bodily systems and organs. Belly or diaphragmatic breathing is deep breathing that not only slows the pacing of the inhale and exhales, it carries it down through the diaphragm and into the belly, bringing in a greater abundance of oxygen. Because this type of breathing is so beneficial for the body, it’s been emphasized in association with yoga, meditation and certain spiritual tradition for centuries.

Western doctors and psychologists have adopted some of these ancient breathing practices because they realized that slowing and deepening the breath reduces stress and anxiety in their patients. This is due to the fact that it calms the nervous system and helps the body move from a fight-or-flight response to a relaxed response.

Beyond breathing more deeply and mindfully, there is a growing body of evidence that points to the importance of nose breathing rather than mouth breathing. Yes, there is a difference, and that difference starts with the anatomy of each opening. Unlike the mouth which is designed to process the food and drinks we need with saliva, the nose — in addition to smelling — is designed to filter the air we breathe. The fine hairs inside the nose prevent billions of particles from entering our bodies. The nose also helps regulate the temperature of the air before it reaches the lungs. The mouth isn’t designed to do either of those things.

In addition, similar to belly breathing, breathing through the nose increases oxygen intake, which improves lung and brain function, and strengthens all the systems of the body. This is especially true during exercise, when our breathing becomes faster.

Mouth breathing, on the other hand, leads to all kinds of problems, some small and some more serious. The most common issue is snoring. Most people aren’t aware that they are mouth breathing while they sleep, which is what causes them to snore. Mouth breathing becomes more problematic when it leads to extreme exhaustion leading to immune disorders. Mouth breathing can also have a negative effect on the gums, throat and ears.

Not sure if you’re a mouth breather? If you have sleep issues, snore, feel extra tired and have lots of respiratory issues, it makes sense to see a health professional to assess your breathing. Since mouth breathing is often caused by specific structural issues with the nose, tonsils, jaw, mouth and teeth, there may be specific strategies you can take to remedy the problem.

In the meantime, here is a breathing technique to get you started on the path to healthier breathing. It is known as four-fold or square breathing. (Make sure to breathe deeply into your belly.)

  • Inhale for 4 counts.
  • Hold for 4 counts.
  • Exhale for 4 counts.
  • Hold for 4 counts.
  • Repeat for 5 to 10 minutes or longer until calm.

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Could cannabis help treat COVID-19?

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There is a massive global effort underway to develop a COVID-19 vaccine as quickly and as thoroughly as possible. But in the meantime, new prevention strategies and therapies are sorely needed.

One promising Canadian study indicates that certain enzymes in cannabis could help treat the disease. It highlights cannabis’ benefits as an aid in blocking the cells that enter the body from the novel coronavirus.

Overview of the study

The study is a partnership between Pathway RX, a pharmaceutical research company; the University of Lethbridge in Lethbridge, Alberta; and cannabinoid-based oral health company Swysh Inc. Inhibition of viral entry could stem the spread of the disease, reduce mortality, and lead to plausible therapeutic avenues. The team has identified 13 high-in-CBD cannabis plants that can affect ACE2 pathways and block the virus’ entry into host cells.

We now know that COVID-19 is transmitted through respiratory droplets like other respiratory pathogens, which can then spread to the oral and nasal mucosa, lung tissue, and kidneys. Researchers used artificial 3D models of the gastrointestinal tract, airway, and oral and intestinal tissues to conduct the study.

With these, they coupled some high ACE2 protein levels and ACE2 gene expression. They found that the proteins that facilitate COVID-19’s entry into the body may be blocked by hemp extracts that are high in CBD.

Hypothesis

The research is in its initial stages, has been submitted for peer review, and is pending further investigation. The partnership is confident that it can contribute to the safe and useful treatment of COVID-19 as an adjunct therapy. It could also prove crucial for future studies on the overall effects of medical cannabis.

The findings require further large-scale validation, but researchers found that cannabis could reduce the virus’ entry points by 70% or more, giving patients a good chance to fight it. It also has the potential to reduce infection by 70 to 80%, a cause for hope. So far, the scientists have found only a small number of Cannabis sativa varieties to have medicinal properties among the thousands they have screened.

The next step

The current findings are based on human tissue models. With support and funding, the organizations hope to continue their efforts, refine their search and come up with therapeutic solutions to combat the rapidly evolving epidemiological situation.

The team is actively pursuing clinical trials as the next step to see the effects of its work. The next step is to develop preventative treatments in the form of easy-to-use products like throat gargle and mouthwash for both clinical and at-home use. At this point, scientists say that they haven’t tested the effects of smoking cannabis.

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Infographic: The power of sleep

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Sleep is crucial to our health and well-being, but 77% of American adults haven’t been sleeping as well since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. This infographic outlines why sleep is so important and provides tips to get better rest.

Infographic courtesy Online Mattress Review

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