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ALTERNATIVE MEDICINE
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When Healing Becomes a Commodity
Bitter Melon Extract May Slow, Stop Breast Cancer
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Rest Easy. When It Comes to Swine Flu, Your Pet Is Safe
Safe Toys for Dogs
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High Birth Weight Doubles Risk of Rheumatoid Arthritis
B Cells Can Act Alone in Autoimmune Diseases
Exercise Key Player in Knee Replacement Recovery
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Researchers ID Genetic Markers for Esophageal Cancer
Yoga Eases Sleep Problems Among Cancer Survivors
Vitamin D May Lower Colon Cancer Risk
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Mom's Smoking May Lead to SIDS
Birthmark or Blood Vessel Problem?
Simpler Sleep Apnea Treatment Seems Effective, Affordable
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An Apple a Day May Help Keep Heart Disease Away
Mercury in Fish Linked to High Blood Pressure
Support Network May Play Role in Benefits of Drinking
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Health Tip: After Liposuction
Wrinkle Fillers Need Better Label Warnings: FDA Panel
What to Do If You Have Unsightly Veins
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Study Links Osteoporosis Drugs to Jaw Trouble
Sports Drinks May Be Tough on Teeth
Laser Technology Spots Cavities Before They Start
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Out-of-Control Blood Sugar May Affect Memory
Red-Grape Compound May Improve Diabetes
Study Shows Turmeric May Prevent Type 2 Diabetes
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The 3LS Wellness Program for Reversing Chronic Symptoms and Creating Lasting Health
Eat Light - Live Longer
Vitamin D Vital for the Heart
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Review Finds Marijuana May Help MS Patients
Could Your Cell Phone Help Shield You From Alzheimer's?
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Accumulated Lead May Affect Older Women's Brains
Climate Change Linked to Longer Pollen Seasons
Scorpion Anti-Venom Speeds Children's Recovery
EYE CARE, VISION
Brain Adapts to Age-Related Eye Disease
Protein Might One Day Prevent Blindness
Statin Drugs Cause Eye Disorders
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Meditation May Help Put Primary Insomnia to Bed
Fliers Can Keep Blood Clots at Bay
'Safe' Ozone Levels May Not Be for Some
GASTROINTESTINAL PROBLEMS
Soothing Imagery May Help Rid Some Kids of Stomach Pain
Peppermint Oil, Fiber Can Fight Irritable Bowel
New Guidelines Issued for Management of IBS
GENERAL HEALTH
Go To Work But Skip The Car
Eating Lots Of Vegetables, Olive Oil May Extend Life
Varicose Veins May Mask Larger Problem
HEAD & NECK
Zen May Thicken Brain, Thwart Pain
Ski Helmets Encouraged for All
Many Children Will Outgrow Headaches
HEALTH & TECHNOLOGY
Subway Defibrillators Save Lives
E-Mailing Your Way to Healthier Habits
Save Your Aging Brain, Try Surfing The Web
HEARING
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Summer Sounds Can Lead to Hearing Loss
HEART & CARDIOVASCULAR
Review Confirms Links Between Diet, Heart Health
Dark Chocolate May Lower Stroke Risk
Obese People Seem to Do Better With Heart Disease
INFECTIOUS DISEASE
Swine Flu Is Now a Pandemic Says W.H.O.
Poor Restroom Cleaning Causes Cruise-Ship Sickness
Viral Infection Might Trigger High Blood Pressure
INFERTILITY
Obesity May Affect Fertility in Young Womene
KID'S HEALTH
Quick Orthopedic Repair Can Save Young Shoulders
Time to Remind Teens About Sun Protection
Too Many Infants Short on Vitamin D
MEN'S HEALTH
Low Vitamin D Levels May Boost Men's Heart Attack Risk
Low Iron Levels Cut Cancer Risk in Men With PAD
The Dark Side of Vegetarianism
MENTAL HEALTH
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Worries About Weight Are Tied to Teen Suicide Tries
How to Attack Holiday Stress Head-On
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.
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PREGNANCY
Alternative Treatments May Boost IVF Success
Calcium Supplements Cut Blood Lead Levels During Pregnancy
Woman in America Are Delaying Motherhood, Study Says
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Daily dose of beet juice promotes brain health in older adults
Tai Chi and Qigong Offer Many Health Benefits: Review
Any Old Cane Won't Do
SEXUAL HEALTH
SLEEP DISORDERS
Meditation May Help Put Primary Insomnia to Bed
Exercising Throat Muscles May Relieve Sleep Apnea
Daylight Savings: Not a Bright Time for All
WOMEN'S HEALTH
Exercise During Pregnancy Keeps Newborn Size Normal
Soy May Not Lead to Denser Breasts
Lifting Weights Can Ease Arm Swelling in Breast Cancer Survivors
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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