V I T A L S I G N S

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Babies' breath:

Parents can best resuscitate a baby who stops breathing by breathing through the infant's nose, say cot-death specialists in New Zealand. Their study of 25 mothers, published in the Lancet, found only two had mouths large enough to cover both the noses and mouths of their infants, as is usually recommended. The nasal route is best, say the doctors, because in very young babies the tongue usually fills the oral cavity.

Aspirin and cancer:

Aspirin is already thought to protect against colon cancer and stroke, but researchers from New Orleans say it may also have a beneficial effect on breast cancer. Their study of 341 newly diagnosed patients, reported in Doctor, found that tumours were smaller in women who had taken anti- inflammatory pain-killers such as aspirin over the previous five years.

Down's season:

Down's syndrome babies are twice as likely to be born in summer than winter, new research shows. A British study of 67 Down's syndrome patients found 30 per cent were born between June and August, compared with 15 per cent between December and February. The researchers say in the British Journal of Clinical Practice they do not know why the pattern should be seasonal. The researchers also found that winter-born Down's babies were less likely to develop epilepsy, probably because at the time of their conception there were fewer infectious agents around to cause brain damage.

Therapy preferred:

Many menopausal women with hot flushes would opt for psychological support, if it was available, rather than hormone replacement therapy (HRT), according to researchers writing in the Journal of Psychosomatic Obstetrics and Gynaecology. In a study of 61 women with hot flushes, they found three- quarters wanted some treatment and that 60 per cent opted for cognitive relaxation therapy rather than HRT.

Vaccine reactions:

The measles/mumps/ rubella vaccine can be safely given to children who are allergic to eggs, even those who are severely affected, according to a study from Arkansas. Because the virus used in the MMR vaccine is grown in cultured chicken embryos, current advice is that children who have suffered a reaction to eggs should not have it. But the study, published in the New England Journal of Medicine, showed that 54 children with egg allergies had no adverse reaction to the vaccine.

Breathing easier:

A new, easy-to-use asthma inhaler has been developed especially for children, teenagers and others who find conventional metered dose inhalers difficult to use. The Accuhaler provides 60 doses of drug, has a counter to measure each dose and to check how many remain. It also contains lactose, which has a slight taste, to help patients to know when they have taken a dose.

Hypnotic effects:

Hypnotherapy could help in the treatment of dermatitis, according to a study published in the British Journal of Dermatology. It found that in 18 patients given hypnotherapy involving relaxation techniques, stress management, direct suggestion and self-hypnosis, scratching behaviour, sleep disturbance and tension were reduced.

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