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Health Highlights: Dec. 4, 2002

FDA Wants Labels for Products With Alpha Hydroxy Acids More Children Diagnosed With Multiple Sclerosis Holiday Shopping a Pain in the Knees Have a Heart: Don't Have an Affair Security Measures Flag Irradiated Patients Zamboni Fumes Could Pose Health Risk

Here are some of the latest health and medical news developments, compiled by editors of The HealthDay Service:

FDA Wants Labels for Products With Alpha Hydroxy Acids

Consumers who use cosmetic products containing alpha hydroxy acids should know that they leave skin susceptible to "sensitivity" -- including sunburn -- from ultraviolet radiation, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration says.

The agency has issued a "draft guidance," published in the Federal Register, that recommends that all cosmetic products containing alpha hydroxy acids (AHAs) carry labels warning of the health risk.

The draft guidance recommends that the following statement appear on the label of products with AHAs: "Sunburn Alert: This product contains an alpha hydroxy acid (AHA) that may increase your skin's sensitivity to sunburn. Use a sunscreen and limit sun exposure while using this product and for a week afterwards."

The FDA says there will be a 60-day "comment period" for people to submit their views on the proposed labeling. Comments should be sent by Jan. 31, 2003, to: Dockets Management Branch (HFA-305), Food and Drug Administration, 5630 Fishers Lane, Room 1061, Rockville, Md., 20852. All comments should include docket identifier number OOP-1378.


More Children Diagnosed With Multiple Sclerosis

Multiple sclerosis, the neurological disease thought to be a predominantly adult illness, is showing up in a growing number of children, many younger than age 10.

It may be because more doctors are diagnosing the disease when they see children suffering from a telling MS symptom, such as unexplained tremors. However, despite greater awareness, experts believe as many as 20,000 children in the United States have MS but are undiagnosed, USA Today reports.

MS affects about 350,000 adults in the United States and neurologists have traditionally believed the disease was most likely to strike people -- usually women -- between the ages of 20 and 40. But in a recent study of 21 children with MS, researchers at the State University of New York-Stony Brook found that the disease can occur very early in life. One child in the study was diagnosed at age six.

Insufficient awareness about pediatric MS means many children don't get an early diagnosis. In addition, drugs used to treat adults with the illness have not been tested in children, but many doctors say they are using them anyway because there's nothing else.

MS occurs when the body's immune cells attack the protective coating around the nerve fibers of the brain and spinal cord. Without a defensive barrier, the nerves can be damaged, resulting in a range of symptoms that include slurred speech and tremors.


Holiday Shopping a Pain in the Knees

If your knees are aching, holiday shopping might be the culprit.

The most common physical complaint of shoppers is knee pain, according to a survey reported in The Los Angeles Daily News. Hours of walking the malls, lugging heavy packages and standing in endless lines leaves knees feeling sore and stiff.

Suzy Gershman, author of "Frommer's Born to Shop," says people can cut down on their shopping hours by settling on gift ideas at home before heading to the stores. She advises consumers to use catalogues, online services, magazines, and newspaper gift guides to make their choices.

Other suggestions include wearing supportive shoes, buying heavier items last, and having packages sent home whenever possible.


Have a Heart: Don't Have an Affair

Having sex with someone who isn't your significant other could literally break your heart, according to British scientists.

Researchers at St. Thomas's Hospital in London say people having affairs or one-night stands are more prone to heart attacks than people in long-term relationships, reports BBC News Online. Their study found that 75 percent of cases of death during sexual activity involved extra-marital intercourse.

And the risk of death during sex rose even further when there was a significant difference in age between the partners, the researchers found.

The good news is that only 1 percent of all heart attacks are triggered by sexual activity, the BBC report notes.


Security Measures Flag Irradiated Patient

The good news: The New York City subway system is using radiation detection devices to uncover terrorist events before they happen.

The bad news: People run the risk of being held in custody for simply having an overactive thyroid, HealthDay reports.

Police twice stopped and strip-searched a 34-year-old man in New York City subway stations recently after he triggered the radioactivity alarms. The man was taking radioactive iodine to treat a thyroid condition called Graves' disease, and the drug in his system set off the sensors. In addition to being searched, he was detained for questioning, according to a letter written by the man's doctors.

The letter appears in today's issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association.


Zamboni Fumes Could Pose Health Risk

Zamboni-type machines commonly used to resurface the ice at indoor skating rinks could pose a health hazard if the machines malfunction or the rinks aren't properly ventilated, reports Philadelphia television station WVPI.

The station cites the recent case of 18 hockey players and their coach who showed up at the emergency room with breathing problems, after being sickened by odorless fumes that seeped into their locker room. The apparent cause was a malfunctioning cylinder in a propane-powered Zamboni.

Carbon monoxide, nitrogen dioxide and other fumes emitted by the machines usually are odorless. But repeated or prolonged exposure can lead to permanent lung damage, health experts told the station.

Clean-air rules are required at rinks in only three states, Massachusetts, Minnesota, and Rhode Island, the station reports. While ice-resurfacing equipment manufacturers recently have begun making safer electric-powered machines, they are more expensive and aren't yet widely used.

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