Health News | Festive season hospital discharge may not be a gift for some

No one wants to spend the festive season in a hospital bed, but heading home might not be a good idea, new research suggests.

The risk of hospital re-admission or death was higher among patients who were discharged over the two-week December holiday period than at other times of the year, Canadian researchers found.

For the new study, a team from the Institute for Clinical Evaluative Sciences in Toronto analysed 2002-2016 data on more than 217 000 adults and children who were discharged from hospitals in the province of Ontario during the Christmas break. These patients were compared with nearly 454 000 people discharged in late November and January.

At higher risk

People discharged during the holiday period had a higher risk of death or readmission within one week, two weeks and one month after leaving the hospital, the findings showed. The highest risk — 16% — was within the first seven days.

In addition, patients discharged during the holidays were 39% less likely to have a follow-up appointment within seven days, possibly due to wanting to put if off until the new year, study author Lauren Lapointe-Shaw, of Toronto General Hospital, and her colleagues said.

According to the report, per 100 000 patients, there were 26 more deaths, 188 more re-admissions, 483 more emergency department visits and 2 999 fewer follow-ups among those discharged during the holidays.

The report was published December 10 in the British Medical Journal (BMJ).

Several factors considered

Several factors may explain the findings, the study authors said, including reduced access to care, difficulty in booking appointments and lower staffing levels during the holidays.

However, the study cannot prove cause and effect.

In addition, excessive eating and drinking, higher levels of stress, and lack of sleep are common during the holidays and could affect the health of recently discharged patients, the researchers noted in a journal news release.

The study findings show the need for doctors to focus on discharge planning and co-ordination of care during the holiday season, the researchers concluded.

Previous studies have found an increased risk of death or re-admission for patients admitted to the hospital on Fridays or weekends, compared with those admitted on weekdays.

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NEXT ON HEALTH24X | How biting your nails can cause infections

Every now and then you may find yourself nibbling at your nails. You might be doing it subconsciously while working or watching television or you might be a conscious nail-biter struggling to kick the habit.

According to studies, approximately 20 to 30% of people are regular nail-biters. Medically referred to as onychophagia, biting one’s nails is seen as a coping mechanism for things like stress, nervousness or boredom.

The American Academy of Dermatology notes that onychophagia can also be triggered by physical factors like hangnails, chipped nails or chipped nail polish.

However, biting you nails is not just an innocent coping mechanism – it can unfortunately also transport nasty bacteria from your nails to your mouth or create an opening for bacteria and fungi to infect your nail bed.

Nail-biting situation 

In an interview with Time magazine, nail disorder expert Dr Richard Scher notes that the area underneath your nails is a perfect breeding ground for bacteria such as salmonella and E. coli. In fact, a study by researchers at the Atatürk University in Turkey found that 76% of people who bit their nails had E. coli in their saliva, compared to 26% of non-nail-biters.

Ingesting bacteria like E. coli, salmonella and the like can make you really sick. Common symptoms include diarrhoea, vomiting, abdominal cramps and fever. 

Chomping away at your nails and the surrounding skin opens the area to infections like paronychia. Paronychia is a skin infection that causes the infected area to swell, followed by some redness and mild pain. Anyone is susceptible to this infection, which can be caused by both fungi and bacteria. Symptoms can worsen rapidly when caused by bacteria.


Paronychia comes in two forms, acute paronychia and chronic paronychia. Acute paronychia does not last long, but can cause abscesses to form around the nail. Chronic paronychia can last for several weeks at a time and can return. Chronic paronychia can leave the nail feeling hard and slightly deformed. In worse case scenarios the nail can separate from the finger.

If you suffer from diabetes, paronychia can be particularly dangerous. The infection can spread from your fingernails to body tissues and bones. In the worst case scenarios the infection can result in the loss of fingers and toes.

You can prevent infection by refraining from nail-biting, making use of clean nail clippers and keeping your nail area clean. Make sure that your nails are always neatly trimmed to avoid hangnails. You can also purchase over-the-counter products that discourage you from biting your nails.

You can treat infected nails by regularly soaking the infected areas in warm water. Should the situation not improve, it is advisable to see a doctor.

Image credit: iStock | Breast implants may increase your risk of a rare type of cancer

Most people are aware that there are some risks when it comes to getting breast implants – like scarring and infection, to name a few.

But now, a new NBC News report points out that there’s one more thing people should consider: Breast implants may be linked to a certain type of cancer.

Breast implant-associated anaplastic large cell lymphoma (BIA-ALCL), is a rare type of non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma (a.k.a., cancer of the immune system), according to the American Food and Drug Administration (FDA). In most situations, BIA-ALCL is found in the scar tissue and fluid near the implant, but in some cases, it can spread throughout a person’s body.

The good news? BIA-ALCL is rare and easily curable, says Dr Richard J Bleicher, a professor at the department of surgical oncology at Fox Chase Cancer Center.

Hold on, tell me more about this cancer.

The FDA actually identified a possible link between breast implants and cancer in 2011 – though at the time, the risk was considered to be extremely low. “Years ago… it was thought that the incidence was one in a million,” says Dr Bleicher. “However, as awareness has grown, and a registry developed, the data noting this has been updated and the incidence is now felt to be higher.”

Years later, in 2016, the World Health Organization (WHO) designated BIA-ALCL as a “T-cell lymphoma that can develop following breast implants,” per the FDA.

As of September 2017, the FDA says it has received 414 reports of BIA-ALCL, including among nine patients who died. This indicates that while the cancer is still very rare, it may be slightly more common than experts once thought.

The FDA also notes that BIA-ALCL occurs more frequently in breast implants with textured surfaces rather than smooth (it’s thought that a textured surface cuts down on breast implant movement, per NBC). Though, per the FDA, there’s no greater risk for silicone versus saline breast implants.

Also of note: Nearly half of the reported cases of cancer were diagnosed within seven to eight years of someone receiving implants. Still, “the risk of this remains low,” Dr Bleicher says. “A woman having breast implants should be aware of the symptoms, but not be overly concerned.” He also points out that plastic surgeons at his organisation “who place at least 160 implants a year have also never seen a case.”

Read more: 8 breast cancer myths you need to stop believing

Well, what are the symptoms of BIA-ALCL?

They’re pretty easy to spot: The main symptoms are persistent swelling or pain in the vicinity of the breast implant, per the FDA.

During an exam, doctors will usually see fluid collected around the implant (called a seroma). Some patients also say that they feel a lump under their skin or see a thick and noticeable scar capsule around the implant.

“If women notice enlargement or swelling of the breast, or ulceration of the breast, especially more than one year after the implant placement, it becomes important to bring this to your surgeon’s attention,” Bleicher says.

Read more: Exactly what to do if you notice a lump in your breast

So, should I have my implants removed, just to be safe?

Not according to the FDA, which recommends doctors continue to give patients routine care and support (like check-ups and monitoring when something seems off).

“Because it has generally only been identified in patients with symptoms such as pain, lumps, swelling, or asymmetry that occur after the surgical incision has fully healed, breast implant removal in patients without symptoms or other abnormality is not recommended,” the FDA says.

“Although we don’t like the idea of development of cancer no matter how rare, fortunately, the likelihood of developing these is very low,” Dr Bleicher says. “There have been rare cases of women who have developed ALCL and died from it, but most cases of ALCL, as uncommon as it is, are treatable and many localised just to the area around the implant which is typically curable simply by removing the capsule around the implant with the implant itself. Women should definitely not panic.”

The bottom line: If you have breast implants and notice swelling, pain or a lump around your breast, see a doctor ASAP. Otherwise, you probably don’t need to worry.

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Image credit: iStock | Should you break up with your partner? Here are 5 ways to tell

Have you ever told a friend they should break up their relationship because they were so clearly miserable, but now they’re married to their partner and neither of them speak to you? The truth is, you can’t be told when it’s time to end your relationship; it’s a personal decision you have to make on your own.

So when it’s your turn to consider whether or not it’s time to end your current situation, that choice has to come from you. But how do you know if it’s time?

Read more: These 5 adventurous activities will improve your relationship

“The decision to end the relationship or not depends on what we are expecting,” says Lawrence Siegel, clinical psychologist. “What have we been getting from this relationship in terms of what we want, what we can tolerate, and what is a deal breaker? The simplest level is, are we getting what we want? If the answer is no or not really, it’s all downhill from there.”

Here are some tell-tale signs that it might be time to break up with your partner.

1. Does your partner annoy you?

Of course. When you spend a significant amount of time with someone, he or she is bound to become annoying. But we’re talking much more than loud chewing or leaving socks on the floor. If the things that your partner does in their day-to-day life – in their fundamental existence – annoy you to the point where you can’t look past it endearingly, that’s something to pay attention to.

“I think we get to a point where we have to ask whether or not we are willing to tolerate the little things,” says Siegel. “If every little thing becomes annoying, we have to go back to the basic question: What are we in this for?”

2. How much of your relationship is affected by resentment?

Every couple fights. Or, at least, the healthy ones do. It’s important to fight. But if you’re finding your arguments are fuelled by resentment – for example, if past problems creep up into every discussion and the issues are impossible to move past – that is a signal to a larger problem.

Read more: 3 toxic behaviours that could ruin your relationships

“If you start thinking about things you aren’t doing in your own life, or wish you could be doing if not for this relationship, that’s when resentment starts to creep in,” Siegel adds. If feelings of security and trust start to feel threatened, that is a big red flag.”

3. Would you rather do things by yourself?

Alone time is one thing. That’s something we all need, and are entitled to. But if you start wishing that you were having all of your adventures without your partner, that’s not the best sign. At the end of the day, a relationship is a choice. You choose to be with the person you’re in a relationship with. And if you’d rather not choose them anymore, you have to start thinking about why.

4. What is your outlook on the future?

When you take a step back and evaluate the bigger picture, do you think of your future with that person? And if so, does it fill you with dread or delight?

“All of these bring us back to the question of, ‘Is this really what I want? Do I feel better? Am I a more positive person with this person?’” Siegel says.

Read more: 9 signs you’re in a toxic relationship and need to get out ASAP

5. Do you still want to try?

Just because you answered “yes” to any or all of these, it doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s time to call it quits. The question then becomes: Do you want to still keep trying? Every relationship ebbs and flows. There are going to be rough patches; that’s part of sharing a life with another human. But if, at the end of the day, you being without this person makes you even sadder than being with them at the moment, that is worth noting. There are still ways to sort it out.

“Is this an endpoint or a crossroad?” Siegel asks. “At that point, somebody has to be the adult. Someone has to call a timeout, and both agree that there is something going on.” From there, you need to have a discussion about how much effort and energy each partner is willing to put into repairing the relationship.

“The crisis of ‘do we move forward or do we end it’ can be the best opportunity to really talk about all of the issues we haven’t talked about before,” says Siegel.

The takeaway

If you can see your relationship thriving down the road, then you have a direction to move in. But if not, sometimes the best thing for a relationship is an ending.

“Sometimes things cannot be worked out,” Siegel explains.

The hardest thing to accept is that sometimes it just can’t be fixed – but staying and holding on will ultimately be worse for you both. Letting go and allowing each other to find what truly makes you happy will set you free.

This article was originally published

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NEXT ON HEALTH24X | 6 simple strategies that will help reduce the effects of jet lag

Travelling to an exotic overseas destination? Awesome! Lying awake in the middle of the night with a major case of jet lag? Kill. Me. Now.

If this conundrum sounds all too familiar, the good news is, there’s hope. Research out of Australia (no surprises there – it’s a brutal time difference for anyone travelling from Europe, the UK or, you know, here) suggests that tweaking a few habits can noticeably diminish the effects of jet lag.

What is jet lag?

Your body works on a 24-hour cycle, known as a circadian rhythms or, more simply, body clock. These rhythms are influenced by exposure to light – sunlight triggers wakefulness; darkness triggers sleepy time – and control your body’s timeline of daily functions, including the production of the hormones that send you off to dreamland or keep you alert. When you travel across time zones, your body clock takes a while to adjust because it’s working off an internal clock acclimatised to your home country.

Depending on the time difference, that internal clock might have counted 12 hours and think it’s 9pm and ready to wind down, when the time is actually 12pm and you’re about to head out for lunch.

Read more: What happens to your body when you get motion sickness?

What the research found

The 2017 study, conducted by Qantas Airlines and the University of Sydney’s Charles Perkins Centre saw researchers from a variety of fields – including nutrition, physical activity, sleep and complex systems modelling – joining forces to find ways to limit the impact of long-haul flying on your body clock.

While they didn’t find a cure for jet lag, they did find tweaks that will help lessen its effects by helping travellers acclimatise to the destination timezone. Quantas implemented the findings into their long-haul flights and so far, feedback from passengers has been positive. Dr Steve Simpson, director of the Charles Perkins Centre in Australia gave us the low-down on how to use these hacks in your own travel…

1. Change your bedtime.

The aim is to shift your internal clock up to 90 minutes a day for several days before you fly. Flying East? Go to bed progressively earlier – aim for 15 minutes earlier each night in the week leading up to your trip. Heading West? Aim to hit the sack progressively later.

2. Skip the dinky-drinks.

Drinking alcohol on your flight can make you drowsy, inhibiting your natural sleep-wake cycle that you’ve been training so carefully. It also has a dehydrating effect, which has been shown to worsen jet lag.

3. Just water, please.

While you’re at it, pass on coffee and spicy food, too, both of which can have a stimulating effect, causing you to stay awake when you should be snoozing. But make sure you drink plenty of water.

4. Have the chicken.

Especially if it’s served with pasta or rice. One of findings from the study was that airline meals in carbs and tryptophan, an essential amino acid found in poultry, prompt the body to produce the sleep hormone melatonin and relaxing brain chemical, serotonin, sending you to sleep at appropriate times.

5. Go for a walk.

Moving around the cabin will help with blood circulation, so you feel fresher when you reach your destination.

6. Control your environment.

Exposure to sunlight triggers your body to wake up, while darkness prompts it to sleep. When you reach your destination, make a point of opening your curtains to flood your hotel room with light as soon as you wake up. At night time, avoid screens at least an hour before bed and make sure curtains are drawn tightly so the room is dark.

Cold temps also promote sleep. If your room as an air-con, keep it on at night and have a hot shower or bath just before bed – the drop in body temperature mimics your body’s natural lowering body temperature as you fall asleep and will help send you into that slumber state.

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Image credit: iStock | 2 unhealthy eating habits that are sabotaging your weight-loss efforts

Sure, unhealthy eating habits can cause everything from weight gain to sluggishness. The good news: With minimal effort, you can make up for most not-so-good food decisions…

Bad food habit: You’re never not eating

For you, chewing is like breathing. And since you probably lose track of how much and what you’ve eaten, all that endless crunching and munching adds up.

Read more: 7 ways to shift those last few stubborn kilos, according to a dietitian

Your problem is more about fidgeting than eating. So try drinking tea or sparkling water as a kilojoule-free way to keep your hands and pie-hole occupied between meals.

When liquid won’t do, go for healthy snacks that require some work to get at – pistachio nuts, pumpkin seeds and sunflower seeds still in their shells all take time to open. You’ll spend more minutes cracking and cleaning up than actually eating, says dietitian Cynthia Sass.

And stockpile other no-pudge goodies that you can eat in tiny, individual pieces. We like low-fat popcorn or fat-free, wasabi-flavoured Japanese rice crackers.

Bad food habit: You pack it in till it hurts

That whole “enjoy just one bite” advice makes you roll your eyes as you dig into your third piece of a colleague’s birthday cake. Occasional gluttony has its place, but an all-you-can-eat-all-the-time attitude can cause indigestion, acid reflux and bloating, says dietitian Amy Campbell.

Read more: These are the 20 best fat-burning foods of all time

Stuff yourself with foods that contain fewer kilojoules per bite. These tend to have a higher water and fibre content, so they fill you up quicker, says Campbell.

Go ahead: Tuck into soups (stock-based, not cream-based), garden salads (carrots, cucumbers, celery, lettuce, tomatoes and green beans), gazpacho, fat-free or low-fat yoghurt or cottage cheese, apples and pears, whole-grain cereals with fat-free or low-fat milk and grilled lean meats (chicken and ostrich) or seafood (white fish, like hake and kingklip, preferably steamed).

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