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Asthma treatment has long-range effect

The American Lung Association says the type of anti-asthma medicine that children receive determines whether they'll "outgrow" their asthma when they get older. Recent research in the Netherlands has determined that children who receive a combination drug treatment that includes an anti-inflammatory agent suffer less lung damage than youngsters who use only bronchial dilators. Children who have less lung damage are less likely to suffer adult asthma. The benefits of the combination treatment were so obvious that Dutch researchers discontinued giving children treatments that provided only a bronchial dilating drug, this month's American Review of Respiratory Disease reported.

Time to get those flu shots

Although flu season doesn't officially arrive until December, October is the best time to defend against it, health officials say. The American Lung Association is encouraging those most susceptible to the infectious disease to get an influenza vaccination soon. The best time to get the shot is from Oct. 15 to Nov. 15, association spokeswoman Susan Avery said. "It takes about four weeks for the immunity to settle into the body and be at its peak," Avery said. "December and January are the height of the flu season. So if you get your shot early, you will be 100 percent ready to face it." People at high risk include those ages 65 and older, those with chronic lung disease, heart disease or suppressed immune systems, those susceptible to any respiratory problems, African-Americans of any age and health-care workers.

The "oldest old' is fastest growing group

The old are older than they used to be. In 1900, only 4 percent of elderly Americans (over 65) were older than 85. Today, it's more than 10 percent _ about 3-million in all. What experts call the "oldest old" _ those 85 and over _ are the fastest-growing age group in the American population, according to the 1990 census. In the last decade, the 85-and-older population increased 38 percent, compared with 20 percent for the 65-to-84 group and only 8 percent for those under 65. Since 1960, the number of Americans 85 and older has grown by 232 percent, while the whole population grew 39 percent. More middle-age and older people must care for parents who are frail and very old. In 1950, for every 100 Americans 50 to 64, there were only three people 85 and over. By 1990, that number had tripled to nine. Among the oldest old, women outnumber men by 2-to-1. About 30 percent of Americans can expect to reach their 85th birthday _ 39 percent of women and 21 percent of men.

Having babies lowers risk of brain cancer

Women who have given birth appear to be at "significantly decreased risk of brain cancer" compared to women who have never borne children, according to a provocative new study by scientists at the National Cancer Institute (NCI) and the University of Iowa. The findings suggest that the changes in sex hormone levels during and following full-term pregnancies may play a role in the origin of brain cancer, providing clues for a better understanding of it, said Kenneth P. Cantor, a researcher at the NCI's environmental epidemiology branch. But, he stressed, further research is needed to confirm these preliminary observations and their potential importance. Brain cancer is relatively uncommon, but cases have risen nearly 25 percent in the United States since the early 1970s, according to NCI. The American Cancer Society estimates that there will be 9,100 new cases and 6,500 deaths in men and 7,800 new cases and 5,300 deaths in women in the United States this year from cancers of the brain and nervous system. It has long been recognized that women who have never had children or whose first childbirth was after age 30 are at increased risk of breast cancer, compared to women who have children at a younger age. However, the relationship of pregnancy and childbirth to other cancers has been less studied.

Now it's easier to treat chlamydia

Researchers have developed a single-dose antibiotic treatment for chlamydia, the most common sexually transmitted disease in the United States, that they say is as effective as the standard seven-day course of drugs. Failure to stick with the weeklong treatment, particularly by the many patients who are asymptomatic, has been a barrier to controlling the epidemic. According to the federal Centers for Disease Control, there are an estimated 4-million to 6-million new cases of chlamydia each year and up to 10 percent of sexually active adults may carry the disease. Genital chlamydia causes inflammation of the urethra in men but is more serious in women, where inflammation of the cervix, endometrium and fallopian tubes is a major cause of infertility and life-threatening ectopic pregnancies. The new drug, azithromycin, is manufactured by Pfizer Inc. and was tested against chlamydia by researchers at Louisiana State University in New Orleans, who reported their findings in the Sept. 24 New England Journal of Medicine.

Surviving a house fire is no accident

House fires, according to a new study, are most likely to be fatal in three situations: when they occur in mobile homes, when an intoxicated person is involved and when the residence has no smoke detector. "Our results demonstrate that smoke detectors are beneficial in almost every instance," researchers concluded. But smoke detectors are most likely to save lives when people in the house are able-bodied, sober and under 65, they said. The study is based on investigations of the 151 fatal fires that occurred during a 13-month period in single-family dwellings in North Carolina. For each fatal blaze, fire officials were interviewed about the dwelling, the fire and the people involved. In the 151 fatal fires studied, 322 people were present; 186 of those, or 58 percent, died. They ranged in age from 2 months to 95 years; 62 percent were male. By far the most common cause of death was smoke inhalation, which killed 79 percent of the victims.

AIDS drug recommended to FDA

A drug that helps patients with advanced AIDS suffering from bacterial infections has been recommended for licensing by a Food and Drug Administration medical advisory committee. If the FDA accepts the recommendation, the drug Mycobutin will be approved for wide-scale use before year's end. The drug is designed to help AIDS victims afflicted with severe diarrhea, persistent fever and night sweats, a combination of debilitating illnesses called Mycobacterium Avium Complex (MAC). Mycobutin currently is being given to many AIDS patients under a federal program that allows the accelerated development of AIDS drugs. Tests have shown the therapy retards or prevents infections that attack 50 percent of AIDS patients within 2{ years after the illness is diagnosed. The drug is the first effective treatment for MAC and should prolong the lives of those with AIDS.

Your toothbrush may be the culprit

Many Americans don't realize their toothbrushes may be causing some of their health problems. "When people use their toothbrushes after an illness or in cases of recurrent dental disease, they run the risk of re-infection and cross-infection as they brush," warns Dr. Steven Wegner of the Academy of General Dentistry. Here are some toothbrush rules that can reduce re-infection: 1) Change your toothbrush every two months. 2) When ill or suffering from a dental disease, replace your toothbrush when you first get sick. Replace your brush again when your health is back to normal. 3) Store your toothbrush in a plastic container and keep the container outside your bathroom _ the most germ-infected room in most homes. 4) Buy clear or transparent toothbrushes, which retain fewer bacteria than colored brushes. 5) Choose toothbrushes that have the fewest bristles, softest bristles and rounded tips. 6) Rinse your brush thoroughly after every use and tap it against the sink to reduce bacteria.

_ Compiled from wire reports