Tag Archives: respiratory viruses

Heat is more lethal than cold for people with respiratory diseases in Spain

Around 30 years ago, cold weather was associated with increased mortality from respiratory diseases. Winter was essentially a period of risk and summer could be a relief. But now the circumstances have changed and that’s not necessarily true, according to a new study.

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A group of researchers looked at the deaths linked to respiratory diseases in Spain from 1980 to 2016 and found that the seasonality of temperature-attributable mortality from respiratory diseases has shifted from the coldest to the hottest months of the year.

The proportion of deaths from respiratory diseases in the colder months has decreased on average by 16.5% per decade, while that of hot weather has remained stable, the findings showed. In the 1980s, deaths from respiratory diseases were more frequent in January and December, but now the peak is in July and August.

According to the findings, the decrease in temperature-attributable mortality during the winter months is not due to the growing temperatures because of climate change. Instead, this can be explained due to the adaptation of the population to the lower temperatures in Spain.

“This is a complete reversal of the seasonality of mortality,” said Hicham Achebak, researcher at Barcelona’s Global Health Institute and lead author. “The use of heating is more widespread than that of air conditioning, in addition to clothing you can fight the cold and it is difficult to do the opposite in summer.”

In the study, the authors linked adaptation to the cold to the social transformations experienced in Spain since 1980. GDP per capita has grown from 8,789 euros in 1991 to 22,813 and spending on the health system has increased from 605 euros per capita to 2,182.

This economic growth has also been reflected in the percentage of homes with air conditioning, which has gone from 4.16% in 1991 to 35.5% in 2008, and for central heating, from 15.83% in 1991 to 56.86%.

The study’s results, based on data from more than 1.3 million deaths, show that “the main problem is no longer winter and measures to adapt to hot temperatures will have to be promoted,” said Achebak. In addition, data suggest that high-temperature respiratory problems affect women more.

Although the authors of the work have not investigated the mechanisms that can explain this difference, Achebak highlighted “physiological studies that point to differences such as that women sweat less than men and sweat is a way to evacuate heat.” He also mentioned that there’s an older female population in Spain that could explain the higher female mortality.

The study is also important in the context of the coronavirus in the coming months, with Achebak pointing out that “if next winter there is higher mortality, it will be due to the specific effect of coronavirus infection, not because of the cold, which will not be an additional risk factor”.

“Deaths attributable to hot or cold temperatures are caused by a combination of exposure to extreme temperatures and the vulnerability of the population,” explained Joan Ballester, co-author of the study. “Reducing this vulnerability may require policies associated with socioeconomic development, such as those aimed at improving health services.”

The study was published in the journal Nature Communications.

Neither vitamin D3 or calcium were found to aid respiratory illnesses. Photo credit: my.opera.com

Vitamin D and calcium supplements don’t ease winter coughs, study finds

To improve health and ease drowsy coughs during winter time, you’ll find that some sources, including physicians, advise that you add supplements to your diet in order to boost your immune system. A team of researchers report, however, after performing a randomized study that taking vitamin D, calcium or both altogether doesn’t offer any significant respiratory improvement.

Neither vitamin D3 or calcium were found to aid respiratory illnesses. Photo credit: my.opera.com

Neither vitamin D3 or calcium were found to aid respiratory illnesses. Photo credit: my.opera.com

The scientists sought to see if there was any connection between taking vitamin D   and upper respiratory tract infection (URTI). In order to become relevant, the researchers chose to survey 2259 trial participants, of general health,  aged 45–75 who were administered  vitamin D3 (1000 IU/day), calcium (1200 mg/day), both, or placebo. Of these, 759 participants completed daily symptom diaries throughout the duration of the four-year long study.

[RELATED] Four causes of winter blues and what can you do about them

During winters, those who took vitamin D experienced on average 1.8 days of respiratory-related illness, versus  1.6 days among the placebo group, an insignificant difference by the authors’ account. Regarding the calcium supplements, there was no observable difference  either. It was not associated with the incidence, duration or severity of symptoms, and was equally ineffective when taken with vitamin D.

“Of course there are observational studies that show that vitamin D has various benefits,” said the lead author, Judy R. Rees, an assistant professor of community and family medicine at Dartmouth. “But those studies can’t eliminate the effects of lifestyle from causing bias. A randomized trial is designed to avoid those problems, and that’s what I think we did.”

These results were reported in a paper published in the journal Clinical Infectious Diseases,

Alright, so it’s not the best news for those already having to deal with mid-winter coughs. Here are some tips you may want to consider though: stay well hydrated (8 glasses of water per day), be sure to get plenty of sunlight exposure (I know it’s cold outside, but at least be sure to keep your window shutters open), avoid eating sugary foods as much as possible, add honey and lemon to a glass of water and sip throughout the day and, of course, be sure to consult with your local physician.


Respiratory Viruses


soap water

Every once in a while, a disease grows and grows so much that it turns into an epidemic – in other words, an epidemic occurs when new cases of a certain disease, in a given human populationsubstantially exceed what is expected. The epidemic is hard to control and treat. But it is better to prevent than to treat so scientists are trying to educate people and show them that it is not hard to prevent such things.

Simple measures could have a huge effect; washing your hands with soap and water and isolating people known to be infected have such an effect. The infected man should not go to work or school – he should stay at home; you have no idea how many epidemics are spread when this isn’t happening. Not doing so increases the chance of the people which he works with.

Cochrane Researchers joined forces and made a study. “There is a strong indication that introducing hygienic measures around younger children can be a very powerful way of blocking spread, protecting them and the community they live in,” says lead researcher Professor Tom Jefferson from Rome, Italy. They said that simple surgical masks are good.

“Many simple and probably low-cost interventions could help reduce transmission of epidemic respiratory viruses,” says Jefferson. So you could be a part of the cure.