ALLERGY, RESPIRATORY
Childhood Food Allergies on the Rise
Folic Acid Might Offer Allergy Relief
Traffic, Dust Linked to Asthma in Kids
ALTERNATIVE MEDICINE
Many Cancer Patients Turn to Complementary Medicine
Quit Smoking the Holistic Way
No Verdict Yet on Grape Seed Extract vs. Breast Cancer
ANIMAL CARE
Beware of Dog Bites
Safe Toys for Dogs
Rest Easy. When It Comes to Swine Flu, Your Pet Is Safe
BONES & JOINTS
Bone Density Predicts Chances of Breast Cancer
Most Women With Osteoporosis Unaware of Raised Fracture Risk
Body Fat, Muscle Distribution Linked to RA Disability
CANCER
Multiple Screening Strategy Boosts Cervical Cancer Detection
Vitamin C Shows Promise as Cancer Treatment
Wristbands May Lessen Nausea After Radiation
CAREGIVING
For Dialysis Patients, More Pills = Lower Quality of Life
Acute Respiratory Distress Syndrome as Deadly as Ever
UV Lights, Fans May Curb TB Spread in Hospitals
CIRCULATORY SYSTEM
Tai Chi and Qigong Offer Many Health Benefits: Review
Bye, Bye Back Fat?
Common Antioxidant Might Slow Parkinson's
COSMETIC
The Acne Drug Accutane More Than Doubles Depression Risk
With Psoriasis, the Internet May Offer Hope
Science May Banish Bad Hair Days
DENTAL, ORAL
Amino Acid May Be Key to Strong Teeth
Acupuncture May Ease Anxiety Over Dental Work
Gum Disease Treatment Doesn't Cut Preterm Birth Risk
DIABETES
24 Million Americans Had Diabetes in 2007
Brown Rice Bests White for Diabetes Prevention
Coffee, Tea Might Stave Off Diabetes
DIET, NUTRITION
Mediterranean Diet May Help Prevent Depression
Eating More Soy May Be Good For Your Lung Function
Weight Loss Might Not Curb Knee Arthritis
DISABILITIES
Could Your Cell Phone Help Shield You From Alzheimer's?
Review Finds Marijuana May Help MS Patients
ENVIRONMENTAL HEALTH
Improved Fungicides May Be Easier on Environment
City Kids Find the Breathin' Is Easier Elsewhere
Smog Tougher on the Obese
EYE CARE, VISION
Kids' Eye Injuries From Golf Clubs Rare But Severe
Brain Pressure More Likely to Cause Vision Loss in Men
Drinking Green Tea May Protect Eyes
FITNESS
The 3LS Wellness Program for Reversing Chronic Symptoms and Creating Lasting Health
Go To Work But Skip The Car
MRSA Infections Can Bug Fitness Buffs
GASTROINTESTINAL PROBLEMS
Peppermint Oil, Fiber Can Fight Irritable Bowel
New Yogurt May Ease Stomach Ulcers
Soothing Imagery May Help Rid Some Kids of Stomach Pain
GENERAL HEALTH
Sleep and Do Better
Living Alone Increases Odds of Developing Dementia
Swine Flu Now Reported in All 50 States
HEAD & NECK
Ski Helmets Encouraged for All
Zen May Thicken Brain, Thwart Pain
Many Children Will Outgrow Headaches
HEALTH & TECHNOLOGY
Imaging Sheds Light on How Acupuncture Works
Magnet Therapy May Ease Hard-to-Treat Depression
Using Light Therapy to Silence Harmful Brain Activity
HEARING
Summer Sounds Can Lead to Hearing Loss
Noise Hurts Men's Hearing More, Study Shows
HEART & CARDIOVASCULAR
After a Stroke, Light Exercise Gets Hands, Arms Working Again
Using Light Therapy to Silence Harmful Brain Activity
Cherry-Enriched Diet Cut Heart Risks in Rats
INFECTIOUS DISEASE
Older Adults May Have Some Immunity to Swine Flu
Swine Flu Loves a Crowd
Hand Washing 10 Times a Day May Help Keep Flu Away
INFERTILITY
Obesity May Affect Fertility in Young Womene
KID'S HEALTH
Most Depressed Teens Don't Get Treatment
Plastics Chemical Tied to Aggression in Young Girls
Help Your Kids Stay Active
MEN'S HEALTH
Strenuous Daily Workout May Keep Cancer at Bay
More Vitamin C May Mean Less Chance of Gout
Noise Hurts Men's Hearing More, Study Shows
MENTAL HEALTH
Vitamin C Protects Some Elderly Men From Bone Loss
Massage Fosters Healing in Bereaved Relatives
The 3LS Wellness Program for Reversing Chronic Symptoms and Creating Lasting Health
PAIN
'Cell Phone Elbow' -- A New Ill for the Wired Age
Are We Exercising Pain Away? Not So Much.
Acupuncture, Real or Fake, Eases Back Pain
PHYSICAL THERAPY
PREGNANCY
Placebo Acupuncture Tied to Higher IVF Pregnancies
Breast-Feeding Benefits Moms and Babies
Pregnant Women Exposed To Certain Pollutants Could Lower Childs IQ
SENIORS
Rapid Weight Loss in Seniors Signals Higher Dementia Risk
Common Antioxidant Might Slow Parkinson's
Seniors Cope With Sleep Loss Better Than Young Adults
SEXUAL HEALTH
SLEEP DISORDERS
Meditation May Help Put Primary Insomnia to Bed
Exercising Throat Muscles May Relieve Sleep Apnea
Better Sleep, Grades Seem to Go Up
WOMEN'S HEALTH
Natural Relief for Painful Menstrual Cramps
Calcium Helps Ward Off Colon Cancer
Smoking Ups Risk of Second Breast Cancer
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Showerheads Harbor a Bounty of Germs

(HealthDay News) -- If your immune system is weakened, you may want to rethink that daily shower.

New research suggests that ordinary showerheads are awash in germs, particularly a type that can cause lung disease in people whose immunity to illness is compromised.

The germs could be "blasted out of the showerhead and inhaled by the person showering," said study co-author Leah M. Feazel, a researcher at the University of Colorado's department of molecular, cellular and developmental biology.

But Feazel said showerheads shouldn't pose a threat to most people. And while the new findings do raise questions, it's not clear if showerheads are any more germ-friendly than other places around the house, such as faucets, counters and toilets, she said.

Feazel and her colleagues decided to look at showerheads because they seem like an ideal place for germs to grow.

The inside of a showerhead provides ideal conditions for microbial growth, Feazel said. "It is moist, warm, protected from disturbance, and frequently fed with nutrient resources in the tap water. Also, most people have noticed discoloration on their showerheads. This 'soap-scum' is actually microbial growth."

The researchers analyzed germs found in the film formed in 45 showerheads from nine U.S. cities. They found a variety of bacteria in showerheads, most of which don't cause illness in people. But they also found germs called mycobacteria, which are common and can cause lung disease in people with compromised immune systems, Feazel said.

The levels of certain germs that could spell trouble were 100 times above what they were in water before it made its way to the showerhead, the researchers said.

The unique thing about showerheads is that the germs could be inhaled. People are unlikely to inhale other kinds of household germs that fit into the category known as biofilms, with the exception of those produced by humidifiers, according to the study.

The findings were published in this week's online issue of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Feazel stressed that most people shouldn't be concerned about showerheads.

"If a person is worried about the risk of lung infection from showering, they have several options," she said. "Bathing, rather than showering, is probably best for those who are at risk. The size of the water droplets produced in bathing is too large to go deep into the lungs, whereas showering creates tiny particles that can go very deep and cause disease."

An all-metal showerhead -- not a plastic one with a metal coating -- is another alternative, as is replacing a showerhead several times a year, Feazel said.

"Cleaning the inside of a showerhead is very difficult and may be only partially effective," she explained.

George A. O'Toole, an associate professor in the department of microbiology and immunology at Dartmouth Medical School, noted that germs lurk everywhere.

"I imagine that if you looked at the kitchen sink, faucet and drain, the insinkerator, your dishwasher, the toilet, your washing machine and the hose in the yard, you might find similar pathogens," he said.

In the case of showerheads, he said, "people with good immune systems really don't need to worry about this. People with bad immune systems probably do, but they also need to worry about every encounter with microbes."

People with weakened immune systems include those infected with HIV, cancer patients undergoing chemotherapy, and recent transplant recipients.

SOURCES: Leah M. Feazel, researcher, department of molecular, cellular and developmental biology, University of Colorado, Boulder; George A. O'Toole, Ph.D., associate professor, department of microbiology and immunology, Dartmouth Medical School, Hanover, N.H.; Sept. 14-18, 2009, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, online Published on: September 14, 2009