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Consumer Reports Health News
Date:12/17/2010

YONKERS, N.Y., Dec. 17, 2010 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Welcome to Consumer Reports Health News for health and medical journalists.  Consumer Reports, Consumer Reports on Health, and ConsumerReportsHealth.org cover issues pertaining to the efficacy and safety of prescription and non-prescription drugs (including dietary supplements), mental health, diet and nutrition, food safety, and fitness.  Consumer Reports tests health and fitness products, rates the effectiveness and affordability of prescription drugs, and evaluates the claims made by drug companies and the health care industry—all without commercial agendas or advertiser influence.

HIDDEN DANGERS AT THE GYM

A new report from Consumer Reports Health looks at the hidden dangers in health clubs ranging from poorly maintained pools to germy gym equipment.  The report notes that staph infections, including those that are antibiotic resistant, can spread through shared gym equipment, mats, and towels.  To minimize risk, wipe down gym equipment before and after use with the alcohol spray or wipes most gyms provide.  Place a clean towel over mats used for doing sit-ups, stretching, or yoga. Don't share towels with others. Wash your hands frequently with soap and water, or use an alcohol-based sanitizer.  Shower after working out. And if you have a cut or scrape, keep it well covered with a clean adhesive bandage and don't use hot tubs or whirlpools.  

The report, available online, also details how to avoid dirty pools, strained muscles, heart attacks, and eye injuries. A copy of the report is available on request.

GETTING THE MOST FROM YOUR HUMIDIFIER  

During the cold season, when we're more reliant on our heating systems to keep us warm, a humidifier can come in handy to ease dry air and help ease itchy skin, respiratory irritation, and other problems associated with dry air.  No wonder humidifier sales triple in the winter as indoor air dries out.

Consumer Reports recently tested humidifiers at its labs and identified several recommendations and one Best Buy, the Safety 1st Ultrasonic 360 ($30), which is designed for a 330-square foot area.  Getting the right size humidifier is critical since too much humidity can promote dust mites, mold, and other allergens.  The report, available online, notes that the pricier Air-O-Swiss AOS7135 ($170) and the Vicks V4500 ($65) models tested can cover more space and include a humidistat that automatically shuts them off when they reach a set level.  

No matter which brand you buy, it's important to monitor humidity and keep your humidifier clean:

  • Ideally indoor relative humidity should be 30 to 50 percent. Overhumidification can lead to mold and bacteria growth. It can also damage furniture and wallpaper.  Mold can grow within 48 hours on wet surfaces, and mold in the tank or in the water can get transferred into the air, causing itchy eyes and worsening any breathing troubles, especially for babies.
  • Consumers who purchase models that don't come with a humidistat can monitor humidity with a hygrometer that costs about $20.  
  • Consumer Reports' tests revealed that some models slowed bacteria growth, but consumers will need to clean any humidifier tank regularly. That usually includes a daily change of water plus disinfecting weekly. Be sure to clean the tank and dry all the surfaces before refilling.
  • Also, for the purpose of efficiency, consider your water.  If you have hard water, your humidifier may have lower output.  That can be easily remedied by using distilled water, which has lower mineral content than most tap water.
  • While some humidifiers such as the Vicks V745A use a heating element to create steam, the hot water and steam can create scalding hazards.  Consumer Reports recommends keeping steam models away from small children.  

MEDICATIONS AND DRIVING DON'T ALWAYS MIX

A recent study in France found that about 3 in 100 car wrecks may be caused by people taking prescription drugs.  Details about the study were written up in a recent blog post at www.ConsumerReportsHealth.org where the types of drugs most likely to increase car accidents are summarized, leading off with treatments for diabetes that lower an individual's blood sugar. Other drugs include treatments for epilepsy or Parkinson disease, as well as other medications notably antidepressants, antipsychotics, strong painkillers, and tranquilizers.

The key takeaway is that, while not all medications affect one's driving, quite a few do. Some medications can also interact with alcohol, making drinking and driving more dangerous, even if you've had less to drink than the legal alcohol limit.  Medications also affect people differently.  People who find that a particular drug—such as an antihistamine—makes them drowsy, shouldn't drive.  Consumers who are not sure whether it's safe to drive after taking a particular medication should ask their doctor or pharmacist for advice.

EXPIRED MEDICATIONS: THE DOS AND DON'TS

If you've ever wondered why so many drugs wind up in our drinking water, consider this piece of the pharmaceutical puzzle: about one third of the 4 billion prescriptions written each year go unused and many of those products are not properly disposed of, according to the National Community Pharmacists Association (NCPA).   A new report published in Consumer Reports on Health explains how consumers can properly dispose of their expired meds:  

DON'T flush them in the toilet or toss them down the drain unless the label or product information tells you to.

DO ask your local pharmacist if he or she participates in the drug takeback program developed by the NCPA, which sends leftover drugs to medical waste disposal facilities.  To find a participating pharmacy near your home, go to www.disposemymeds.org or check with your local or state waste management authority about other options.

DON'T throw drugs directly in the trash. If a medication collections program isn't available, mix the drugs with cat litter, coffee grounds, or other undesirable substances.  That should deter people from rifling through your trash to find them. Put the mixture in a container with a lid or bag that can be sealed.  And remember to remove all personal information to protect your identity.

DECEMBER 2010

The material above is intended for legitimate news entities only; it may not be used for advertising or promotional purposes. Consumer Reports® is published by Consumers Union, an expert, independent nonprofit organization whose mission is to work for a fair, just, and safe marketplace for all consumers and to empower consumers to protect themselves.  We accept no advertising and pay for all the products we test. We are not beholden to any commercial interest. Our income is derived from the sale of Consumer Reports,® ConsumerReports.org® and our other publications and information products, services, fees, and noncommercial contributions and grants. Our Ratings and reports are intended solely for the use of our readers. Neither the Ratings nor the reports may be used in advertising or for any other commercial purpose without our permission. Consumers Union will take all steps open to it to prevent commercial use of its materials, its name, or the name of Consumer Reports.®


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SOURCE Consumer Reports on Health
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