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Am Fam Physician. 2000;61(2):295

Warm toes will help you get your Zs. The best physiologic predictor of rapid sleep onset is heat loss at the extremities. Nature reports that the degree of dilation of blood vessels in the skin of the hands and feet helps to determine the amount of time needed for an individual to fall asleep. The studies, which involved manipulations of variables such as melatonin levels, light levels and food intake, determined that the thermoregulatory system can be easily manipulated to induce sleep faster by methods such as classic hypnosis, sleep-inducing aids and even a simple hot water bottle at the feet.

Could diagnosing appendicitis be as simple as a hop, a skip and a jump? A recent study cited in Physician's Weekly showed that most children who have appendicitis cannot hop on one leg because of intense abdominal pain. The study, conducted by a Baylor team, included 322 children five years of age and older who were seen in an emergency department for abdominal discomfort. Thirty-five percent of the children could not hop on one leg because of pain. Of those 114 children who couldn't hop, 61 (54 percent) were later diagnosed with appendicitis. Only 14 percent of the patients who were able to hop were found to have appendicitis, for a negative predictive value of 88 percent.

This little piggy had head trauma. This little piggy had none? A recent study showed that head injuries in pigs may cause lesions in the brain that are similar to those found in patients with Alzheimer's disease, reports Time. The study, published in the Journal of Neuropathology and Experimental Neurology, evaluated pigs with head trauma similar to that of human head trauma victims. After the head trauma, the pigs began to develop plaque-like proteins in various sections of the brain. The proteins, such as amyloid B, have previously been named as precursors to cognitive decline similar to that in patients with Alzheimer's disease.

Children who have high cholesterol levels may not benefit from low-fat diets as much as expected. According to a recent report in Family Practice News, higher fat consumption in early years may actually help people metabolize fats more efficiently as adults. Research suggests that the adverse psychologic effects of teaching a child that they have a “life-threatening disease” such as high cholesterol levels may outweigh the benefits gained from severely restricting fat consumption in children from the age of two onward. Better ideas for lowering cholesterol in children include increasing the intake of vegetables, fruits and grains, and implementing lifestyle changes such as adapting an exercise routine or limiting television hours.

Hand hygiene has led to sudsy success at elementary schools. Twenty elementary schools in Wood County, W.Va., began a hand-washing campaign over a year ago, with absenteeism decreasing 1 percent as a result, reports Physician's Financial News. Children in the program are encouraged to wash hands at least four times a day and are motivated by making the process part of a scientific experiment. Children are taught the proper hand-washing technique, emphasizing that the friction of rubbing the hands together, coupled with an appropriate amount of time spent scrubbing, are key to eliminating bacteria. The children in the project are encouraged to sing a verse of “Yankee Doodle” to ensure that they have spent enough time at the sink.

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