ALLERGY, RESPIRATORY
Folic Acid Might Offer Allergy Relief
Climate Change Could Sting Allergy, Asthma Sufferers
Overweight Moms More Likely to Have Asthmatic Kids
ALTERNATIVE MEDICINE
Needling Away Your Headaches With Acupuncture
Ginkgo No Shield Against Alzheimer's
Memory Loss Help from Brain Supplement Prevagen
ANIMAL CARE
Safe Toys for Dogs
Rest Easy. When It Comes to Swine Flu, Your Pet Is Safe
Animals Respond to Acupuncture's Healing Touch
BONES & JOINTS
More Faces Being Spared in Motor Vehicle Accidents
Rheumatoid Arthritis May Harm Gums
Returning to the Road Tricky After Injury
CANCER
No Verdict Yet on Grape Seed Extract vs. Breast Cancer
Green Tea May Help Prevent Oral Cancer
HPV Vaccine Has Higher Allergic Reaction Rate
CAREGIVING
Moms Who Breast-Feed Less Likely to Neglect Child
Preventing Shaken Baby Syndrome
Obese Children More Likely to Suffer Lower Body Injuries
CIRCULATORY SYSTEM
Anemia Rates Down for U.S. Women and Children
Drink a Little Wine, Live a Little Longer
Potassium-Rich Foods May Cut Stroke, Heart Disease Risk
COSMETIC
Contact Lenses Boost Kids' Self-Image
Mouse Study Finds Molecule That Tells Hair to Grow
Health Tip: After Liposuction
DENTAL, ORAL
Gum Disease Treatment Doesn't Cut Preterm Birth Risk
Sports Drinks May Be Tough on Teeth
Gummy Bears Join Cavity Fight
DIABETES
Strict Blood Sugar Lowering Won't Ease Diabetes Heart Risk
Patients' Photos Help Boost Radiologists' Accuracy
Fructose-Sweetened Drinks Up Metabolic Syndrome Risk
DIET, NUTRITION
The Best Diet? That Depends on You
Fasting on Alternate Days May Make Dieting Easier
B Vitamins Might Lower Stroke Risk
DISABILITIES
Could Your Cell Phone Help Shield You From Alzheimer's?
Review Finds Marijuana May Help MS Patients
ENVIRONMENTAL HEALTH
Hurricane Threats: Time to Batten Down the Hatches
Gene Explains How High-Fructose Diets Lead to Insulin Resistance
Prenatal Exposure to Traffic Pollution May Lead to Asthma
EYE CARE, VISION
Certain Diabetes Drugs May Pose Eye Risk
Time Teaches Brain to Recognize Objects
Nearly 18 Million Will Have Macular Degeneration by 2050
FITNESS
Eating Well And Keeping Active As You Grow Old Will Help You Stay Sharp
Women Who Run May Benefit From Extra Folic Acid
Good Warm-Ups Could Halve Sports Injuries
GASTROINTESTINAL PROBLEMS
Olive Oil May Protect Against Bowel Disease
Bowel Prep Harder on Women Than Men
Gum Chewing May Speed Colon Surgery Recovery
GENERAL HEALTH
To Quit Smoking, Try Logging On
When It Comes to Lifting, the Pros Have Your Back
Fructose Boosts Blood Pressure, Studies Find
HEAD & NECK
Zen May Thicken Brain, Thwart Pain
Ski Helmets Encouraged for All
Many Children Will Outgrow Headaches
HEALTH & TECHNOLOGY
Combating Myths About Seasonal Allergies
'Cell Phone Elbow' -- A New Ill for the Wired Age
Airport Full Body Scanners Pose No Health Threat: Experts
HEARING
Summer Sounds Can Lead to Hearing Loss
Noise Hurts Men's Hearing More, Study Shows
HEART & CARDIOVASCULAR
Whole Grains Lower Risk of Heart Failure
Years of Heavy Smoking Raises Heart Risks
Rheumatoid Arthritis a Threat to the Heart
INFECTIOUS DISEASE
More Medicinal Uses for Pomegranate
Surgical Masks Could Prevent Flu, Maybe
The HPV Vaccine: Preventative Medicine or Human Sacrifice?
INFERTILITY
Obesity May Affect Fertility in Young Womene
KID'S HEALTH
Help Your Kids Stay Active
More Calcium And Dairy Products in Childhood Could Mean Longer Life
Safety Should Be Priority for Those Involved in Kids' Sports
MEN'S HEALTH
More Vitamin C May Mean Less Chance of Gout
Whole Grains, Bran May Fight Hypertension in Men
The Dark Side of Vegetarianism
MENTAL HEALTH
Most Depressed Teens Don't Get Treatment
Consciousness Helps the Mind and Body Work Together
Meditation, Yoga Might Switch Off Stress Genes
PAIN
Tai Chi May Help Ease Fibromyalgia
'Cell Phone Elbow' -- A New Ill for the Wired Age
Are We Exercising Pain Away? Not So Much.
PHYSICAL THERAPY
PREGNANCY
Calcium Supplements Cut Blood Lead Levels During Pregnancy
Exercise As Well As Acupuncture, May Ease Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome
Breast-Feeding May Protect a Woman's Heart
SENIORS
The Juice From Beetroots May Boost Stamina
Martial Arts Training May Save Seniors' Hips
Protein Deposits May Show Up Before Memory Problems Occur, Study Says
SEXUAL HEALTH
SLEEP DISORDERS
Sleeping Could Help Women Lose The Baby Fat
Better Sleep, Grades Seem to Go Up
Lose Weight, Sleep Apnea May Improve
WOMEN'S HEALTH
Calcium Helps Ward Off Colon Cancer
Rheumatoid Arthritis Rising Among U.S. Women
Most Women With Osteoporosis Unaware of Raised Fracture Risk
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Dry Weather Boosts Odds of Flu Outbreaks

Rain and snow may seem like perfect incubators for the flu, but new research suggests that low humidity and unusually dry skies might be responsible for increases in influenza, such as those that occur during winter months.

Previous research has suggested that humidity is connected to seasonal epidemics of flu, but studies have usually focused on relative humidity, as opposed to absolute humidity. Relative humidity, which varies with temperature, is the ratio of water vapor content in the air to the saturating level. Absolute humidity, which is the actual level of water in the air, does not depend on temperature, but often reaches lower levels in the winter than in the summer.

"In some areas of the country, a typical summer day can have four times as much water vapor as a typical winter day -- a difference that exists both indoors and outdoors," Jeffrey Shaman, an Oregon State University atmospheric scientist and lead author of the new study, said in a news release from the Public Library of Science.

Shaman and his colleagues created a mathematical model of influenza and plugged 31 years of absolute humidity data into it. They found that influenza outbreaks in the winter often happened right after a period of unusually dry weather, according to their report published online Feb. 22 in PLoS Biology.

"This dry period is not a requirement for triggering an influenza outbreak, but it was present in 55 to 60 percent of the outbreaks we analyzed so it appears to increase the likelihood of an outbreak," Shaman said. "The virus response is almost immediate; transmission and survival rates increase and about 10 days later, the observed influenza mortality rates follow."

Irene Eckstrand, of the U.S. National Institute of General Medical Sciences program, explained in the news release: "The discovery of a link between influenza outbreaks and absolute humidity could have a major impact on the development of strategies for limiting the spread of infection. Understanding why outbreaks arise is an important first step toward containing or even preventing them, so it is essential for scientists to follow-up on this intriguing connection."

SOURCES: Public Library of Science, news release, Feb. 22, 2010 Published on: February 23, 2010