In the future, public health experts may recommend getting an annual COVID-19 vaccine the same way a flu vaccine is recommended every fall, according to a new viewpoint article published in JAMA, which is authored by three Food and Drug Administration (FDA) officials.“Administering additional COVID-19 vaccine doses to appropriate individuals this fall around the time of the usual influenza campaign has the potential to protect susceptible individuals against hospitalization and death, and therefore will be a topic for FDA consideration,” the article says. “Those at greatest risk who might benefit most from vaccination include immunocompromised individuals and people older than 50 years.”In the early stages of the COVID-19 pandemic, experts warned against comparing influenza to COVID-19, in part because the first wave of coronavirus cases led to many more deaths than the average flu season. However, because the dominant coronavirus variants now circulating, including the omicron subvariant BA.2, are less likely to cause severe illness and death, researchers are beginning to associate the two respiratory viruses. During the height of the omicron wave in the U.S. in December 2021 Dr. Fauci told CBS Mornings that it was “entirely conceivable and likely” that we will eventually live with COVID-19 the way we do influenza and the common cold. “We are not going to be in a situation of this degree of intensity indefinitely…we hope we get there soon,” he said. It’s plausible that our “new normal” will include regular COVID-19 vaccines to prevent potentially devastating outbreaks in the future, Kristin Englund, MD, an infectious disease expert at Cleveland Clinic, who was not an author of the new viewpoint article, told SELF. “I think it’s too early to say that we’re absolutely going to get a fall shot,” Dr. Endlund says, but she believes that the country may see a recommendation for one. Amesh Adalja, MD, a senior scholar at the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security, echoes this. “I think, in general, the goal has been to make COVID-19 more like the flu in terms of its ability to cause severe disease,” Dr. Adalja, who was not an author of the new viewpoint article, tells SELF.Fall could be the optimal time to get a COVID-19 vaccine for various reasons, Dr. Englund says. First, most respiratory viruses kick up during the fall and winter months—which is why you’re advised to get your flu shot around October. If similar viruses are any example, COVID-19 will spike around then too, Dr. Englund adds. Fall is also when many children and young people go back to school, where outbreaks are more likely to occur as people start to gather in classrooms and common areas. But researchers are still unclear on which vaccine will be recommended next and who will be eligible. Dr. Adalja says it’s still too early to determine the “optimal vaccine policy.” “Booster or new vaccine? We’re going to have to see what variants are out in the fall,” Dr. Englund agrees. Right now, all COVID-19 vaccines being administered are first-generation vaccines, meaning the original formulation offered to health care providers in late 2020 is still in use for each one, Dr. Adalja says. In the future, though, researchers might create and administer a new vaccine that’s more effective against the circulating strains of the time. For instance, Dr. Adalja says, the Omicron variant infected many vaccinated individuals, highlighting the fact that updating our vaccines may be necessary to fight future variants and prevent more surges. (Moderna is one vaccine maker that is already ahead of the game: The biotech company is working on developing a combination influenza and COVID-19 vaccine that could be available as soon as fall 2023, The Guardian reported.)
Bird flu has been making headlines for months. Since February, it has killed 36.6 million birds in the U.S., some of whom were put to death to keep the infection from spreading, according to the USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS). The good news is that bird flu rarely infects humans, and so far, only two human cases have been reported.The first human infection occurred in late 2021 in the United Kingdom, and it did not spread to anyone else. The most recent case popped up at the end of April in Colorado, and it also seems to be an isolated infection. Both people who contracted this strain of bird flu were working closely with birds, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).The CDC stresses that health risk to the public remains low. But you probably still have questions, like what is bird flu, exactly? And how would I know if I have it? Here, infectious disease experts explain everything you need to know.What is bird flu, exactly?Bird flu, also known as avian flu, is a disease caused by a family of viruses known as avian influenza Type A viruses, according to the CDC. The virus originates in wild birds, but it can spread to domestic poultry and other animals, causing large outbreaks. Bird flu spreads when infected birds shed the virus in their saliva, mucus, and poop, the CDC explains. Just like the human flu, the virus can mutate—the strain that’s currently circulating is called H5N1, and it’s extremely contagious among birds.How can bird flu infect humans?“Bird flu mainly infects and spreads within bird populations, but occasionally it can spread to other species, as well—including humans,” Thomas Russo, MD, professor and chief of infectious disease at the University at Buffalo in New York, tells SELF.Indeed, the CDC notes that it’s rare for bird flu to infect humans. But when it does happen, it’s because someone has been in close quarters with birds on a farm, or they work with animals. “Sometimes, if you live or work closely with birds, the virus manages to get into you and cause illness—but it rarely spreads to others,” William Schaffner, MD, an infectious disease specialist and professor at the Vanderbilt University School of Medicine, tells SELF.Why doesn’t bird flu spread easily from person to person? It could be because bird viruses have a hard time latching on to cells in our nose and throat in the first place, according to an older study published in the journal Nature. The regular flu latches on easily, but the bird flu (thankfully) does not. 1 This means that the virus can’t get into our cells efficiently enough to cause an infection. Since bird flu doesn’t spread easily from bird to human, it doesn’t readily transmit from person to person either.What are the symptoms of bird flu?The symptoms of bird flu in humans are similar to those of the human flu (think: Fever, cough, sore throat, runny nose, muscle aches, fatigue, and shortness of breath), and they can range from mild to severe, according to the CDC. In some cases, “You can get very sick,” Dr. Schaffner notes. Other less common symptoms may include nausea, diarrhea, vomiting, or seizures, per the CDC.How can I avoid bird flu?Again, the chances of you contracting bird flu are super low, unless you work with birds. If you do, the CDC has a list of tips for minimizing your risk. The most important thing to do is wear protective gear, such as gloves, a medical-grade face mask, and eye protection when working with birds. Afterward, it’s important to wash your hands with soap and water, change your clothes, and then throw away your gloves and face mask to avoid contamination.
Disney-branded hand sanitizers featuring Mickey Mouse and The Mandalorian’s Baby Yoda are being voluntarily recalled due to concerns over the products containing potentially hazardous chemicals. After running tests on the hand sanitizers, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) “found the presence of benzene” in The Mandalorian Hand Sanitizer (a known human carcinogen that has been associated with an increased risk for certain types of cancer following substantial exposure) and methanol in the Mickey Mouse Hand Sanitizer (toxic alcohol that, when ingested in substantial amounts, can lead to moderate-to-severe neurological, gastrointestinal, and ophthalmologic issues).As of April 5, 2022, there have been no reports of adverse reactions to either product. The sanitizers were produced by a third-party manufacturer and imported by Best Brands Consumer Products, Inc., a New York-based business that primarily deals with textiles. “Upon being notified of the testing results by FDA in late February, 2022, Best Brands promptly investigated and determined that both of the affected lots were produced during the months of April and May, 2020 and confirmed that the affected lots had already been removed from sale in April 2021 for unrelated commercial reasons,” the FDA said in a statement.There are currently only two types of hand sanitizer included in the voluntary recall. Here are the details you need to know:Mickey Mouse Hand SanitizerEthyl Alcohol: 68%Color: BlueLabel image: Mickey MouseSize: 2.11 fl. oz bottleMFG lot: #20D21Expiration date: 6/30/2022NDC: #74530-013-02The Mandalorian Hand SanitizerEthyl Alcohol: 68%Color: Blue or greenLabel image: Baby YodaSize: 2.11 fl. oz bottleMFG lot: #20E21Expiration date: 9/30/2022NDC: #74530-012-02According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), washing your hands with soap and water (ideally for at least 20 seconds) is the most effective way to eradicate potentially harmful germs, however, alcohol-based hand sanitizers can inactivate many types of microbes effectively when used correctly. Since early 2020, when COVID-19 began sweeping across the globe, hand sanitizers have surged in popularity. Globally, the hand sanitizer market is set to grow from $1.2 billion in 2019 to $2.14 billion by 2027, according to some market predictions.In recent years, the FDA has issued various recalls on specific hand sanitizers. The most common concerns were that the products were contaminated with toxic forms of alcohol, labels featured false or unsubstantiated claims, and products did not have a sufficient amount of active ingredients (typically ethyl alcohol or isopropyl alcohol) to live up to their germ-killing expectations. If you are concerned about whether your hand sanitizer is safe and effective, the CDC and FDA recommend using a product that contains at least 60% alcohol. Before purchasing a new hand sanitizer or using your existing one, the FDA recommends checking their “do-not-use list”, which is regularly updated in accordance with testing.If you have purchased either of the recalled Disney-branded hand sanitizers, the FDA advises you to immediately discontinue use and discard the item. The best way to apply for a refund is to get in touch with Best Brands over email at Quality@BestBrandsintl.com. If you have unfortunately experienced an adverse reaction to the hand sanitizer, please seek immediate medical attention. You can also report your case to the FDA’s MedWatch Adverse Event Reporting program online.Related:
There are few things more annoying than when an ear feels clogged. If you’re sick with something like a cold, you likely already feel pretty crummy, so adding unpleasant ear congestion into the mix is the last thing you need.Unfortunately, dealing with ear congestion is often the name of the game with any illness or infection that impacts the general vicinity of your head, Bradford A. Woodworth, MD, a professor in the department of otolaryngology at the University of Alabama at Birmingham School of Medicine, tells SELF. “Because our ears, nose, and throat are all closely connected, a problem in one area often leads to another,” Dr. Woodworth says.But there are lots of reasons that clogged feeling may set up shop in your ears, and some are a bit more complicated than others. Desperately searching for ear pressure relief? Read on to figure out what you can do about it.Why do your ears feel blocked when you’re sick with something like a cold or flu?Your ears, nose, and throat link up via tiny canals called eustachian tubes1. These tubes, located on each side of your head, start in the middle of your ear and end at the back of your nose and upper throat, according to the U.S. National Library of Medicine (NLM).These tubes open and close regularly to adjust the air pressure in your middle ear, remove natural fluids from your middle ear, and circulate new air inside your ear, according to the Mayo Clinic. When you’re dealing with something like a respiratory infection, which includes things like the common cold,2 flu, or COVID-19, your eustachian tube openings can become partially blocked due to tissue inflammation and mucus secretions, Dr. Woodworth says.This blockage can interfere with the normal functioning of the tubes, leading to a pressure imbalance, Anthony Del Signore, MD, director of rhinology and endoscopic skull base surgery at Mount Sinai Union Square in New York City, tells SELF. When the eustachian tubes are partially blocked, it’s harder for those middle ear secretions to flow down the back of your throat (yum), which can make your ear feel clogged.If you feel like you always wind up with ear congestion when you’re sick, know that some people’s eustachian tubes are naturally shaped in a way that makes them more prone to ear discomfort while ill, Dr. Del Signore says. Eustachian tubes that are narrower or more horizontal than average make it easier for fluid to collect in the middle ear. (Children’s eustachian tubes are shaped this way, which is part of the reason why ear issues are more common in kids, according to the Mayo Clinic.) Other people might have more abundant mucous linings at the opening of their eustachian tubes, which can make swelling more likely when they’re sick, Dr. Del Signore adds.Back to topWhat are other possible reasons your ear feels clogged?You can have ear congestion even if you don’t have a respiratory infection. Here are some other common reasons your ear feels clogged:You’re dealing with allergies.It’s easy to confuse allergies with an upper respiratory infection because the two share similar symptoms. However, allergic reactions are caused by an immune system attack on generally non-threatening substances like food, pollen, or mold, so those associated symptoms should be treated a little differently than, say, those from a cold caused by a virus. In addition to sneezing, sinus pressure, and a runny nose, you may also experience itchy, watery eyes, which can help distinguish allergies from a cold or flu. Allergies also cause nasal inflammation and tissue swelling at the very back of your nasal passage, so you may have ear pressure for the same reason as many respiratory infections.You have a sinus infection.If you’re feeling oddly intense pressure in your face, you may be dealing with the telltale sign of a sinus infection, which can occur after a cold or when allergies flare up because all that fluid buildup in your nasal passages can cause germs to flourish, setting up the perfect environment for an infection to take hold, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Sinus infection symptoms can include ear congestion or pressure in addition to pressure around your eyes and nose, postnasal drip, cough, fatigue, and sometimes a fever, according to the Cleveland Clinic.You have an ear infection.It’s probably no surprise that an ear infection makes your ears feel, well, awful. Otitis media, which is an infection in the middle ear, is commonly just called an ear infection, according to the Cleveland Clinic, but there are other infections involving the ear, and they are known by different names. Otitis media happens when a virus or bacteria infects the fluid behind the eardrum and causes symptoms such as eardrum pain, swelling, and ear congestion. Kids are more likely than adults to get this type of ear infection due to the shape of their eustachian tubes.
That’s because most people in the U.S.—even those who don’t eat meat—tend to get enough protein in their diets. According to a 2013 study funded by the National Institutes of Health and published in the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, the median protein intake of vegetarians and vegans is still above the recommended dietary allowance (RDA).1 And how can you tell if you have low protein levels? Per Dr. Lacqua, clinicians will order a “simple blood test” to check your albumin and globulin levels (two types of proteins found in your blood) to determine if they are, in fact, too low. The state of decreased protein levels in the blood is medically known as hypoproteinemia.2 How much protein do you need?So, how much protein do you need? The answer isn’t so simple, because it varies from person to person. Protein needs are based on your age, sex assigned at birth and gender identity, health history, and how much exercise you typically get in a day, according to the U.S. National Library of Medicine. But for a general idea, the RDA for a healthy adult with minimal physical activity is 0.8 grams of protein per kilogram of bodyweight every day, per guidance published in the Annals of Nutrition and Metabolism.3 That equates to 0.36 grams of protein per pound of bodyweight. For example: The recommended daily protein intake for a 200-pound person is 72 grams. That said, people who frequently exercise may require more protein. In a 2016 position statement from the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, Dietitians of Canada, and the American College of Sports Medicine, experts advised active adults and athletes to aim for 1.2 to 2 grams per kilogram of bodyweight (or 0.5 to 0.9 grams of protein per pound).4 If you’re looking for more personalized protein recommendations based on your lifestyle, consider chatting with a registered dietitian or your health care provider to ensure you’re meeting your needs. They can help assess your diet to see if your protein intake is falling short.What is the main cause of protein deficiency?The main cause of protein deficiency is, of course, not eating enough protein-rich food sources. However, Dr. Gonzalez explains that certain groups of people need to pay closer attention to their protein intakes, like vegans, vegetarians, and the elderly. Severe deficiencies can also occur in individuals with gastrointestinal health problems like celiac disease, ulcerative colitis, or Crohn’s disease, says Dr. Brill, as these disorders can make it difficult to properly absorb proteins in the gut. Again, clinical protein deficiency, even among vegans, is pretty rare, since hitting 0.8 grams of protein per pound of bodyweight isn’t super challenging for most Americans who have access to plentiful food (even if that food is all plant-based).What are the signs of protein deficiency?Protein deficiency symptoms vary based on how severe the condition is. However, there are some red flags worth considering for a true deficiency, even though it is rare:1. Protein cravingsIf you’re not eating enough protein, in the short term, your body may tell you by literally craving it, Dana Hunnes, Ph.D., R.D., senior dietician at UCLA Medical Center and adjunct assistant professor at the Fielding School of Public Health, tells SELF. You should give in to these cravings. If you’re really jonesing for a chicken sandwich or a bowl of lentil soup, listen to your body and eat up.2. Sugar cravings“Protein (along with fat) digests slower than carbohydrates. If you eat a meal that is mostly carbohydrates with not enough protein, it will digest more quickly and will cause your blood sugar to rise,” Alissa Rumsey, M.S., R.D., spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, tells SELF. This rise is followed by a drop—and when blood sugar is constantly spiking and dropping, we crave more sugar. The key is to eat protein with carbs so that everything digests more slowly, and the blood sugar changes are more gradual over time.3. HungerYou’ve probably noticed that you tend to be hungrier throughout the day when you have a lack of protein in your meals. That’s because protein decreases your level of the “hunger” hormone ghrelin and stimulates the production of other hormones that make you feel satiated.5 As a result, not getting enough protein can increase your appetite and actually cause you to eat more.64. Weakness and fatigue“For most people, eating too little protein over the course of one day will not make you feel less energy or strength, particularly if you are getting a sufficient number of calories in that day,” Hunnes says. But long term, your body may break down your muscles to try and supply your body with sufficient protein, leading to loss of energy and strength, she explains.
We said it above, but it’s really worth emphasizing: These side effects tend to be mild and last a few days at most, according to Jan Carney, M.D., M.P.H., associate dean for public health & health policy and professor of medicine at the Larner College of Medicine at the University of Vermont. But if you’re experiencing any worrisome symptoms that don’t resolve on their own within a few days, it’s a good idea to speak with a physician.Can the flu vaccine make you sick?Let’s just clear this up now: “You can’t get the flu from the flu vaccine,” Dr. Adalja says. Seriously, this is not a thing that is even remotely possible.However, in very rare cases, a flu vaccine can cause issues in people with pre-existing medical circumstances. The flu vaccine is safe for most people, but if you have any allergies, like to egg proteins or any other ingredients that could be in the vaccine, such as gelatin, it’s important to speak with your doctor or pharmacist before getting inoculated. “Those with an egg allergy can get the flu vaccine, but need to discuss with their doctor which specific vaccine is right for them,” Dr. Agarwal says.Overall, the CDC recommends speaking to a health care professional prior to getting a flu vaccine if you meet any of the following criteria:How do I know if I’m having an allergic reaction to the flu vaccine?Severe or life-threatening allergic reactions to the flu vaccine are very rare. (One CDC report suggests there are 10 anaphylaxis reactions per 7.4 million doses of the inactivated version of the flu vaccine2.) When allergic reactions to the flu vaccine do occur, they happen within minutes to hours after getting the vaccine and are generally mild.Symptoms of an allergic reaction to the flu vaccine include:Skin that looks paler than normalSuddenly having reddened, swollen bumps or itchy hives on your skinFeeling your heartbeat get faster for no other apparent reasonsFeeling dizzy or lightheadedHaving trouble breathing, feeling hoarse, or wheezingFeeling super weakThese serious allergic reactions are rare, but again, it’s important to tell your primary care doctor and/or your pharmacist about any allergy you have just to be safe. “If you have a history of allergies, let your physician, nurse practitioner, or pharmacist know in advance,” Dr. Carney says. Typically, these more serious reactions occur in people who are allergic to an ingredient in the vaccine, such as egg protein.In a very, very small number of cases (just one or two cases for every million people who have been vaccinated), the vaccine can be associated with a rare illness called Guillain-Barré syndrome, in which your immune system attacks nerves within the body. The disease causes muscle weakness and tingling (usually in the legs and feet first) so you could feel a pinprick sensation or notice that you feel unsteady when walking, according to the Mayo Clinic. But try not to let the fear of Guillain-Barré deter you from getting your flu vaccine—the CDC notes that the risk of Guillain-Barré syndrome is far lower than the risk of having severe complications from the flu.Can you get the flu vaccine and COVID-19 vaccine or booster at the same time?“You can get a COVID-19 vaccine and a flu vaccine during the same visit, according to the CDC and based on extensive research with vaccines,” Dr. Carney says. “This gives people the opportunity to get vaccinated for both flu and COVID-19 at the same time, increasing their protection against both of these infections.”
Parenting isn’t always pretty—even for celebrities. Actor Orlando Bloom, 44, was recently spotted commenting on an Instagram post promoting a popular tool for removing snot from a baby’s nose. The device, a Fridababy NoseFrida, uses a filter and tube to allow parents to suck snot from their baby’s nose using—get this—their mouths.“I’ve sucked out so much snot with this thing,” Bloom commented from his verified Instagram account. “Katy [Perry] and I take turns to see who can get out the biggest booger. So far she’s winning or maybe that means she’s losing? Lol. Parenthood is weird but at least our daughter can breathe at night.” If you’re scratching your head about how this product actually works, here’s the gist: On one end, there’s a mouthpiece for a parent to use, and on the other, there’s a tube that goes against the baby’s nostril (not inside of it). In the middle is a hose. When the parent sucks on the mouthpiece, it draws snot from the baby’s nose into the straw—which has a “disposable booger catcher” before the hose so the parent doesn’t actually get a mouthful of snot. A lot of parents—clearly both famous and not—sing the praises of this thing, as evidenced by the Fridababy NoseFrida’s Amazon reviews.A stuffy baby nose is a common symptom of viruses like the common cold, according to the Mayo Clinic. Obviously, little babies are too young to effectively blow their own noses. So it’s up to parents to do it.It’s not the first time a pediatric nose-clearing technique has taken off. As SELF previously covered, some parents have taken to clearing their children’s noses by shooting saline through their nasal passages using a syringe or neti pot. With saline, you need to make absolutely sure the water is distilled or sterilized to avoid dangerous pathogens like brain-eating amoeba. (And you need an actual saline mix, not just salt, since the wrong mixture could burn your baby’s nose.) That said, it might be easier to use a few drops of saline solution to loosen mucus and then use a suction device, like the one Bloom and Perry have turned to, to actually suck it out.Perry, 37, gave birth to the couple’s daughter, Daisy Dove, in August 2020. Earlier this year, she shared that the first six weeks after having a baby were “wild,” as SELF previously reported. “I was giving birth to the greatest gift of all, for me, and then my album came out the next day. And I was in the hospital and I could not, uh, wipe my own butt,” she explained.Just four or five weeks later, she was filming American Idol. “I didn’t plan that. But it was like, ‘Oh, my God!’ It was so intense, you know?” she said during a February appearance on Live With Kelly and Ryan. “Giving birth, then going back to work and breastfeeding, like—holy crap! This is what women do? Oh, my God!”Related:All products featured on SELF are independently selected by our editors. If you buy something through our retail links, we may earn an affiliate commission.
One of the first responders to microbial invaders is a type of white blood cell called a neutrophil. Neutrophils are full of myeloperoxidase2, an enzyme that contains green-colored heme, or iron. When super concentrated, these green neutrophils can make your mucus appear straight-up verdant. But when less concentrated, the mucus appears pale green—which, depending on how your eyes work, might look yellow to you instead.You may also notice that your mucus is a deeper shade of yellow (or looks like it has gone from yellow to green) after several days of being sick, not blowing your nose for a while, or when you wake up in the morning. When mucus sits around in your nasal passages for prolonged periods, these inflammatory cells can build up and tint your mucus more intensely, Dr. Benninger explains. “The less you clear it out, the more it becomes discolored,” he says. So, when you’ve got yellow mucus, you should blow your nose often to clear out any trapped debris and keep things moving.To get a bit more granular, we rounded up the most common (and specific) questions about yellow mucus so you can find the exact answers you need:Is yellow mucus bacterial or viral?This is a toughie, says Dr. McCormick. “It is difficult to rely on the color of mucus to determine viral versus bacterial infection,” he explains. “While most people think that discolored mucus is always associated with bacterial infections, this is not always the case. Some people with viral infections may have yellow mucus.” Is yellow mucus a symptom of COVID-19?COVID-19 hasn’t been around for too long (even though it feels like it), so this hasn’t been studied extensively yet. Neil Bhattacharyya, M.D., a comprehensive ear, nose, and throat specialist at Massachusetts Eye and Ear in Boston, tells SELF that yellow mucus “could be” a COVID-19 symptom “but it’s relatively rare.” Anecdotally, he points out that he generally hasn’t seen yellow mucus in many patients who have tested positive for the virus. In fact, “their mucus has been pretty clear.” he says. Basically, it’s possible to have yellow mucus with COVID-19 but far from a guarantee. “Patients with COVID-19 might develop excessive or discolored mucus, however, not all patients diagnosed with COVID-19 will have these symptoms.” Is yellow mucus a symptom of a sinus infection?Yellow mucus may be a sign of a sinus infection, but you would likely also have other symptoms, Dr. McCormick says. This includes a signature pain or pressure in your face, a headache, a runny or stuffy nose, postnasal drip (when mucus runs down your throat), a sore throat or cough, and even bad breath that can’t be explained by your fragrant dinner, per the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).Does yellow mucus ever mean you are getting better after being sick?“Generally not,” Dr. Bhattacharyya says. “If you have yellow mucus, it means you still have white blood cells that are fighting whatever is actively causing inflammation or infection.”What do other mucus colors mean?Your mucus can give you a total cornucopia of colors, with shades that go way beyond yellow. Here’s a breakdown of what specific shades of snot might allude to: