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Heavy Screen Time Changes Children’s Brains

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Most people today live in a sea of radiofrequencies emitted from wireless technologies of all kinds, from routers to smartphones, tablets, baby monitors, TVs, appliances, smart meters and many more.

According to many experts, chronic, heavy exposure could have severe repercussions for our health, especially that of children, who are now exposed even before birth. Research also suggests interaction with social media, games and apps online produces a number of effects, both physical and psychological.

Heavy Use of Wireless Devices Changes Brain Structure in Children 

In the largest long-term study1,2,3 of brain development and youth health in the U.S., the Adolescent Brain Cognitive Development (ABCD) Study,4 reveals the brains of the most prolific users of electronic devices look different compared to those who use smartphones, tablets and video games less frequently.

In all, more than 11,000 children will be followed for a decade to assess how various childhood experiences and environments affect brain development and psychological health. As noted by the researchers,5 “The data will provide a resource of unprecedented scale and depth for studying typical and atypical development.”

These preliminary findings, based on the brain scans of 4,500 9- to 10-year-olds, reveal children who use electronic devices for seven hours or more each day have premature thinning of the brain cortex, the outer brain layer that processes information from the five physical senses (taste, touch, sight, smell and sound).

The exact ramifications of this anomaly are still unknown. According to Dr. Gaya Dowling, a researcher with the National Institutes of Health, which is sponsoring the $300 million study, thinning of the cortex is thought to be part of the brain maturation process, so what these scans are showing is that this process is being sped up in children who get a lot of screen time6 (7-plus hours a day).

They cannot prove that the changes are definitively caused by the screen time, and the full effects won’t be known until years from now, as the emotional and mental health outcomes of these children are evaluated. Still, preliminary results suggest as little as two hours of screen time per day may impact cognition, resulting in lower scores on thinking and language tests.

American Academy of Pediatrics’ Guidelines for Screen Time

According to the “Growing Up Digital” report by the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), published in October 2015:7

“The 2013 Zero to Eight study … showed that 38 percent of infants younger than age 2 use mobile devices like smartphones. A 2015 Pew Research study reports that 73 percent of 13- to 17-year-olds have smartphones and 24 percent admit using their phones almost constantly.”

The report cites data from research showing infants under the age of 1 do not effectively learn language from videos, whereas they do learn language from live interactions. Up to age 2, live presentations are far superior for language processing and learning compared to video presentations.

According to the report, “It is clear that very young children need ‘contingent interaction — two-way social interchange — to promote learning.” This is also noted in the 60 Minutes report8 (see featured video).

Research shows that babies do not transfer what they learn from the iPad to the real world, or from two-dimensional interaction to three-dimensional reality. For example, the ability to play with virtual Legos does not transfer over into the skill of manipulating real Lego blocks.

Despite such concerns, the 2015 AAP guidelines for screen time for children relaxed its recommendations, noting that “Parents should model responsible media use,” and that media content and diversity are important considerations, but that video games can be “powerful tools for learning because they help youth work toward reward,” and “engage in experimentation.”

Previous guidelines — developed before the popularity of iPads and smartphone apps designed for young children — discouraged all screen time for children under the age of 2, and recommended a limit of two hours of screen time for kids older than 2.

The updated guidelines removed specific time limits, stressing the need for parental control instead. Recommendations include setting limits for screen time at every age, avoiding displacement (i.e., not letting screen time dominate and take the place of face-to-face interactions and creative play), addressing digital etiquette, engaging in digital media use together, and establishing definitive media-free zones and periods, such as during meals and at bedtime.

Digital Media Is Designed To Be Addictive

While the AAP’s guidelines may be based in what seems to be common sense of good parenting, the reality is that many parents have just as much trouble moderating their usage as their children. What’s worse, young children, especially those under the age of 2, are far more susceptible to addictive behavior than older children and adults.

The fact that apps and social media are designed to be addictive adds to the challenge. Last year, Tristan Harris, a former Google product manager, revealed how smartphone apps and social media feedback are designed to get you hooked.9

Behavior patterns are often etched into neural pathways,10 and when those behaviors are also linked to hormone secretion and physiological responses, they become even more powerful. In fact, Harris describes the reward process of using a smartphone as “playing the slot machine.”11

Google has discovered a way to embed that reward system into the apps on your phone. In the video below, Harris describes the process, known in programming circles as “brain hacking,” as they incorporate knowledge of neuropsychology into the development of digital interfaces that boost interaction.

For instance, getting likes on Facebook and Instagram, the “streaks” on Snapchat or cute emojis on texts are all designed to boost your engagement and keep you coming back.

Harris describes it as a race to the bottom of the brainstem where fear and anxiety live, two of the most powerful motivators known to advertisers. Both advertisers and computer software developers use these techniques to write code that will engage your attention.12


Research discussed in the featured 60 Minute segment reveals that addiction to smartphones and social media is indeed a reality, triggering the release of dopamine — a neurochemical involved in cravings and desire that promotes impulsive and compulsive behavior.

Indeed, many, both children and adults, exhibit signs of addiction to their electronic devices. Many even sleep with their smartphones right next to them in bed, or directly under their pillow — a trend that is bound to cause severe harm to both their mental and physical health.

Screen Time Linked to Sleep Deprivation

The radiation alone is a significant hazard and is known to disrupt sleep, but the blue light from the screen, plus the beeping and pinging when messages and other notifications come in are bound to interrupt sleep as well. This does not even factor in the influence of microwave radiation from cellphones influencing melatonin, which regulates your sleep-wake cycle.

When your melatonin production is disrupted, it can have long-term health effects, as shown in a 2013 animal study13 which assessed the effects of cellphone radiation on the central nervous system. Exposure to cellphone radiation for just one hour a day for one month caused rats to experience a period of delay before entering rapid eye movement deep sleep — a phase necessary for restorative sleep.

Another study14 published in 2015 found that 1.8 GHz frequencies affected rats’ circadian rhythm and decreased their daily production of melatonin. Superoxide dismutase and glutathione peroxidase (which help prevent cellular damage) were also decreased.

Low melatonin is used as a marker for disturbed sleep.15 It comes as no great surprise then that sleep deprivation among teenagers rose by 57 percent between 1991 and 2015. Many do not even get seven hours of sleep on a regular basis, while science reveals they need a minimum of eight and as much as 10 hours to maintain their health.

The research clearly shows that heavy computer and cellphone users are more prone to insomnia.16 For example, one 2008 study17 revealed that people exposed to radiation from their mobile phones for three hours before bedtime had more trouble falling asleep and staying in a deep sleep.

Universal Smartphone Use Has Dramatically Altered Social Interactions

Smartphones and tablets have also had a tremendous impact on youths’ social interactions, which has significant ramifications for their psychological health. For example, teens today are far less likely to want to get a driver’s license than previous generations, and a majority of their social life is carried out in the solitude of their bedroom, via their smartphones.

As of 2015, 12th-graders spent less time “hanging out” and socializing with friends than eighth-graders did in 2009. While this makes them physically safer than any previous generation, this kind of isolation does not bode well for mental health and the building of social skills required for work and personal relationships.

In fact, today’s teens are also far less prone to date than previous generations. In 2015, 56 percent of high school seniors dated, nearly 30 percent less than boomers and Gen Xers. Not surprisingly, sexual activity has also declined — down by about 40 percent since 1991, resulting in a 67 percent drop in teen pregnancy rates.

Depression and Suicide Risk Rises in Tandem With Increased Screen Time

Avoiding the drama of those early love experiences has not had a positive effect on emotional health, however. Data from the annual Monitoring the Future survey reveals the more time teens spend online, the unhappier they are, and those who spend more time than average on in-person relations and activities that do not involve their smartphone are far more likely to report being “happy.”18

Results such as these really should come as no surprise. Spending time outdoors has been scientifically shown to dramatically improve people’s mood and significantly reduce symptoms of depression.19

Interestingly, it doesn’t matter what type of screen activity is involved. They’re all equally likely to cause psychological distress. Between 2012 and 2015, depressive symptoms among boys rose by 21 percent. Among girls, the rise during that same time was a whopping 50 percent20 — a truly remarkable increase in just three years’ time.

Rates of teen depression, self-harm and suicide have also dramatically risen. Emergency room visits for self-harming behavior such as cutting has tripled among girls aged 10 to 14, and data suggest spending three hours or more each day on electronic devices raises a teen’s suicide risk by 35 percent.21

Between 2007 and 2015, the suicide rate for 12- to 14-year-old girls rose threefold — a gender trend that can in part be blamed on a rise in cyberbullying, which is more common among girls. The suicide rate among boys doubled in that same time frame.22

The issue is not entirely black-and-white, however. Recent polling23 by the Pew Research Center reveals 81 percent of teens say social media helps them feel more connected to their friends, and 69 percent say it helps them interact with a more diverse group of people. Sixty-eight percent also said they feel they have people online to whom they can turn for support during rough times.

On the other hand, 45 percent admit they feel overwhelmed by the drama on social media, and 43 percent feel pressured to only post content that presents them in a good light.

Still, recent research shows that limiting social media usage has a definitive, and beneficial, impact on mental health. The study24 in question recruited 143 undergraduate students at the University of Pennsylvania who were randomly assigned to either use social media (Facebook, Instagram and/or Snapchat) as usual for three weeks, or limit their usage to 30 minutes per day.

According to the researchers, “The limited use group showed significant reductions in loneliness and depression over three weeks compared to the control group. Both groups showed significant decreases in anxiety and fear of missing out over baseline, suggesting a benefit of increased self-monitoring.”

How Electronic Devices Trigger Anxiety, Depression and Memory Problems

Aside from purely psychological factors, one of the reasons for why social media use tends to raise a child’s risk for anxiety and depression25 has to do with the fact that smartphones emit electromagnetic fields (EMFs).26

Research27,28 by professor Martin Pall, Ph.D., reveals EMFs activate voltage gated calcium channels (VGCCs) embedded in your cell membranes. This releases a flood of calcium ions which, through a cascade of effects, result in the creation of hydroxyl free radicals — some of the most destructive free radicals known to man. In turn, this decimates mitochondrial and nuclear DNA, their membranes and proteins, ultimately resulting in mitochondrial dysfunction.

Your brain has the highest density of VGCCs in your body, which is why excessive EMF exposure is associated with depression and neurological dysfunction, including dementia.

According to Nicholas Carr, author of the book, “The Shallows: What the Internet Is Doing to Our Brains,” millennials are experiencing greater problems with forgetfulness than seniors.29 This is the “dark side” of neurological plasticity that allows your brain to adapt to changes in your environment. This type of plasticity is one way your brain recovers after a stroke has permanently damaged one area.

Aside from reduced cortical thickness (found in other studies30,31 beside the ABCD study), long-term internet use has also been linked to a loss of white matter32,33 and impaired cognitive functioning.34

It is impossible to ignore that these devices are changing your child’s brain structure, and the experience is also increasing exposure to microwave radiation and large amounts of blue light at night, thereby impacting his or her body’s ability to produce melatonin.

So, if your child or teen is showing signs of anxiety, depression or cognitive problems, please, do what you must to limit their exposure to wireless technology. Teach them more responsible usage. At bare minimum, insist on their turning off phones and tablets at night, and to not sleep with their phone beneath their pillow or directly near their head.

Really try to minimize the presence of electronic devices in their bedroom and, to protect everyone in your household and instill the concept of “off times,” shut down your Wi-Fi at night.

As noted in 60 Minutes, what we’re dealing with is a completely uncontrolled experiment on our children, and while it’s still too early to determine all of the ramifications, preliminary findings strongly suggest precautions are necessary to protect our children’s physical health and mental well-being.

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Sweet! Here are 7 reasons to eat sweet potatoes

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(Natural News) Sweet potatoes may not be as popular as regular potatoes, which is too bad — since they’re packed with vitamins and minerals. One cup of sweet potatoes can provide more than 100 percent of the daily value of vitamin A. It’s also rich in vitamin C, dietary fiber, and manganese. Both purple and orange varieties contain antioxidants that can protect the body from damage caused by free radicals.

Eating sweet potatoes is beneficial for your health

Sweet potatoes are brimming with micronutrients and antioxidants —  making them useful to your health. Below is a list of reasons why you should incorporate sweet potatoes into your diet.

They improve brain function

The purple variety of sweet potato contains anthocyanins. Anthocyanins are known for their anti-inflammatory properties. Studies have revealed that anthocyanins are effective at improving cognitive function. Moreover, the results suggest that purple yams can help protect against memory loss. Antioxidants from the purple variety safeguard the brain against damage from free radicals and inflammation.

They aid digestion

Sweet potatoes are rich in dietary fiber. This macronutrient prevents constipation, diarrhea, and bloating by adding bulk and drawing water to the stool. In addition, fiber keeps a healthy balance in the gut by promoting the growth of good bacteria.

They slow down aging

The beta-carotene in orange sweet potatoes can help reduce damage caused by prolonged sun exposure. This is especially true for people diagnosed with erythropoietic protoporphyria and other photosensitive diseases. Sweet potatoes also contain antioxidants that protect against free radical damage. Free radicals are not only linked to diseases but also premature aging.

They boost the immune system

Orange and purple sweet potatoes are loaded with a good number of antioxidants that help protect the body from harmful molecules that cause inflammation and damage DNA. This, in turn, protects the body from chronic diseases like cancer and heart disease.

They can prevent cancer

Eating sweet potatoes can help protect against various types of cancers. The compounds in sweet potatoes restrict the development of cancer cells. Test tube studies have shown that anthocyanins can prevent cancers in the bladder, breast, colon, and stomach.

They lower blood sugar

Despite its relatively high glycemic index, studies have shown that the regular intake of sweet potatoes can help lower blood sugar, thanks to the presence of dietary fiber. While fiber falls under carbohydrates, it is digested differently, compared to starchy and sugary forms of carbohydrates. Interestingly, insulin doesn’t process fiber (unlike other types which get turned into glucose), and it only passes through the digestive tract.

They promote healthy vision

Orange sweet potatoes are rich in a compound called beta-carotene, an antioxidant which transforms into vitamin A in the body. Adequate intake of vitamin A promotes eye health. Conversely, deficiencies in vitamin A have been linked to a particular type of blindness called xerophthalmia.

Sweet potatoes are easy to incorporate into your everyday meals. They are best prepared boiled but can also be baked, roasted, or steamed — they can even replace other carbohydrates such as rice, potatoes, and toast. (Related: Understanding the phytochemical and nutrient content of sweet potato flours from Vietnam.)

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Frostbite: What it is and how to identify, treat it

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Manitoba’s temperature has plummeted to its coldest level this season, triggering warnings about the extreme risk of frostbite.

Oh, we know it’s cold. We can feel Jack Frost nipping at our noses. But what about when he gnaws a little harder — what exactly does “frostbite” mean?

People tend to underestimate the potential for severe injuries in the cold, says the Winnipeg Regional Health Authority. We laugh off the sting of the deep freeze, rub our hands back from the brink of numbness and wear our survival proudly like a badge.

That’s because, in most cases, frostbite can be treated fairly easily, with no long-term effects.

But it can also lead to serious injury, including permanent numbness or tingling, joint stiffness, or muscle weakness. In extreme cases, it can lead to amputation.

Bitter cold can cause frostbite in just minutes. Here’s how to recognize the warning signs and treat them. 0:59

Here’s a guide to identifying the first signs, how to treat them, and when to seek medical help.

What is frostbite and frostnip?

Frostbite is defined as bodily injury caused by freezing that results in loss of feeling and colour in affected areas. It most often affects the nose, ears, cheeks, chin, fingers or toes — those areas most often exposed to the air.

Cooling of the body causes a narrowing of the blood vessels, slowing blood flow. In temperatures below –4 C, ice crystals can form in the skin and the tissue just below it.

Frostnip most commonly affects the hands and feet. It initially causes cold, burning pain, with the area affected becoming blanched. It is easy to treat and with rewarming, the area becomes reddened.

Frostbite is the acute version of frostnip, when the soft tissue actually freezes. The risk is particularly dangerous on days with a high wind chill factor. If not quickly and properly treated, it can lead to the loss of tissues or even limbs. 

Signs of frostbite

Health officials call them the four P’s:

  • Pink: Skin appears reddish in colour, and this is usually the first sign.
  • Pain: The cold becomes painful on skin.
  • Patches: White, waxy-feeling patches show when skin is dying.
  • Prickles: Affected areas feel numb or have reduced sensation.

Symptoms can also include:

  • Reduced body temperature.
  • Swelling.
  • Blisters.
  • Areas that are initially cold, hard to the touch.

Take quick action

If you do get frostbite, it is important to take quick action.

  • Most cases of frostbite can be treated by heating the exposed area in warm (not hot) water.
  • Immersion in warm water should continue for 20-30 minutes until the exposed area starts to turn pink, indicating the return of blood circulation.
  • Use a warm, wet washcloth on frostbitten nose or earlobes.
  • If you don’t have access to warm water, underarms are a good place to warm frostbitten fingers. For feet, put them against a warm person’s skin.
  • Drink hot fluids such as hot chocolate, coffee or tea when warming.
  • Rest affected limbs and avoid irritation to the skin.
  • E​levate the affected limb once it is rewarmed.

Rewarming can take up to an hour and can be painful, especially near the end of the process as circulation returns. Acetaminophen or ibuprofen may help with the discomfort.

Do not …

There are a number of things you should avoid:

  • Do not warm the area with dry heat, such as a heating pad, heat lamp or electric heater, because frostbitten skin is easily burned.
  • Do not rub or massage affected areas. This can cause more damage.
  • Do not drink alcohol.
  • Do not walk on your feet or toes if they are frozen.
  • Do not break blisters.

Seek immediate medical attention

While you can treat frostbite yourself if the symptoms are minor — the skin is red, there is tingling — you should seek immediate medical attention at an emergency department if:

  • The exposed skin is blackened.
  • You see white-coloured or grey-coloured patches.
  • There is severe pain or the area is completely numb.
  • The skin feels unusually firm and is not sensitive to touch after one hour of rewarming.
  • There are large areas of blistering.
  • There is a bluish discolouration that does not resolve with rewarming.

Be prepared

The best way to avoid frostbite is to be prepared for the weather in the first place.

Wear several loose layers of clothing rather than a single, thick layer to provide good insulation and keep moisture away from your skin.

The outer garment should breathe but be waterproof and windproof, with an inner thermal layer. Retain body heat with a hat and scarf. Mittens are warmer than gloves because they keep the fingers together.

Be sure your clothing protects your head, ears, nose, hands and feet, especially for children.

Wind chill and frostbite rates

Wind chill: 0 to –9.
Frostbite risk: Low.

Wind chill: –28 to –39.
Frostbite risk: Moderate.

Exposed skin can freeze in 10-30 minutes

Wind chill: –40 to –47.
Frostbite risk: High.

Exposed skin can freeze in five to 10 minutes.

Wind chill: –48 to –54.
Frostbite risk: Very High.

Exposed skin can freeze in two to five minutes.

Wind chill: –55 and lower.
Frostbite risk: Extremely High.

Exposed skin can freeze in less than two minutes.
 

NOTE: In sustained winds over 50 km/h, frostbite can occur faster than indicated.

Source: Environment Canada

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Awkward Flu Jabs Attempted at Golden Globes

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In what can only be described as a new level of propaganda, hosts Andy Samberg and Sandra Oh featured a flu shot stunt during the 76th Golden Globe Awards ceremony. They told the audience to roll up their sleeves, as they would all be getting flu shots, while people in white coats stormed down the aisles, syringes in hand.

Most of the audience looked thoroughly uneasy at the prospect of having a stranger stick them with a needle in the middle of an awards show. But perhaps the worst part of the scene was when Samberg added that anti-vaxxers could put a napkin over their head if they wanted to be skipped, basically suggesting that anyone opposed to a flu shot deserved to be branded with a proverbial scarlet letter.

The flu shots, for the record, were reportedly fake,1 nothing more than a bizarre gag that left many people stunned by the Globe’s poor taste in turning a serious medical choice into a publicity gimmick.

Flu Shot Stunt Reeks of Desperation

Whoever came up with the idea to turn the Golden Globes into a platform for a public health message probably thought it was ingenious, but the stunt only serves as a seemingly desperate attempt to make flu shots relevant and in vogue. During the 2017 to 2018 flu season, only 37 percent of U.S. adults received a flu shot, a 6 percent drop from the prior season.2

“To improve flu vaccination coverage for the 2018-19 flu season, health care providers are encouraged to strongly recommend and offer flu vaccination to all of their patients,” the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) wrote. “People not visiting a provider during the flu season have many convenient places they can go for a flu vaccination.”3

Yet, perhaps the decline in people choosing to get vaccinated has nothing to do with convenience and everything to do with their dismal rates of efficacy. In the decade between 2005 and 2015, the influenza vaccine was less than 50 percent effective more than half of the time.4

The 2017/2018 flu vaccine was a perfect example of this trend. The overall adjusted vaccine effectiveness against influenza A and B virus infection was just 36 percent.5

Health officials blamed the flu season’s severity on the dip in vaccination rates, but as Dr. Paul Auwaerter, clinical director of the division of infectious diseases at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, told USA Today, “[I]t is also true that the vaccine was not as well matched against the strains that circulated.”6

But bringing flu shots to the Golden Globes, and calling out “anti-vaxxers,” is nothing more than “medical care, by shame,” noted Dr. Don Harte, a chiropractic activist in California. “But it was entertaining, in a very weird way, including the shock and disgust of some of the intended victims, notably [Willem Dafoe],” he said, adding:7

“This Hollywood publicity stunt for the flu vaccine is one of the stupidest things I’ve ever seen from celebrities. But it does go with the flu shot itself, which is, perhaps, the stupidest of all the vaccines available.”

Did 80,000 People Really Die From the Flu Last Year?

The CDC reported that 79,400 people died from influenza during the 2017/2018 season, which they said “serves as a reminder of how severe seasonal influenza can be.”8 It’s important to remember, however, that the 80,000 deaths figure being widely reported in the media is not actually all “flu deaths.”

According to the CDC, “We look at death certificates that have pneumonia or influenza causes (P&I), other respiratory and circulatory causes (R&C), or other nonrespiratory, noncirculatory causes of death, because deaths related to flu may not have influenza listed as a cause of death.”9

As for why the CDC doesn’t base flu mortality estimates only on death certificates that list influenza, they noted, “Seasonal influenza may lead to death from other causes, such as pneumonia, congestive heart failure or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease … Additionally, some deaths — particularly among the elderly — are associated with secondary complications of seasonal influenza (including bacterial pneumonias).”10

In other words, “flu deaths” are not just deaths directly caused by the influenza virus, but also secondary infections such as pneumonia and other respiratory diseases, as well as sepsis.11

According to the CDC, most of the deaths occurred among those aged 65 years and over, a population that may already have preexisting conditions that makes them more susceptible to infectious diseases. As Harte said of annual flu deaths, “[M]ost if not all, I would assume, are of people who are already in very bad shape.12

CDC Claims Flu Vaccine Reduces Flu Deaths in the Elderly — But Does It?

Since people aged 65 and over are those most at risk from flu complications and death, the CDC has been vocal in their claims that the flu shot significantly reduces flu-related deaths among this population. The research, however, says otherwise.

Research published in 2005 found no correlation between increased vaccination rates among the elderly and reduced mortality. According to the authors, “Because fewer than 10 percent of all winter deaths were attributable to influenza in any season, we conclude that observational studies substantially overestimate vaccination benefit.”13

A 2006 study also showed that even though seniors vaccinated against influenza had a 44 percent reduced risk of dying during flu season than unvaccinated seniors, those who were vaccinated were also 61 percent less like to die before the flu season ever started.14

This finding has since been attributed to a “healthy user effect,” which suggests that older people who get vaccinated against influenza are already healthier and, therefore, less likely to die anyway, whereas those who do not get the shot have suffered a decline in health in recent months.

Journalist Jeremy Hammond summed up the CDC’s continued spreading of misinformation regarding the flu vaccine’s effectiveness in the elderly, as they continue to claim it’s the best way to prevent the flu:15

[T]here is no good scientific evidence to support the CDC’s claim that the influenza vaccine reduces hospitalizations or deaths among the elderly.

The types of studies the CDC has relied on to support this claim have been thoroughly discredited due to their systemic ‘healthy user’ selection bias, and the mortality rate has observably increased along with the increase in vaccine uptake — which the CDC has encouraged with its unevidenced claims about the vaccine’s benefits, downplaying of its risks, and a marketing strategy of trying to frighten people into getting the flu shot for themselves and their family.”

Death of Vaccinated Child Blamed on Not Getting Second Dose

In January 2019, the state of Colorado reported the first child flu death of the 2018/2019 flu season — a child who had received influenza vaccination. But instead of highlighting the vaccine’s failure and clear limitations, the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment blamed the death on the child being only “partially vaccinated.”

“It’s an unfortunate but important reminder of the importance of two doses of influenza vaccine for young children who are receiving influenza vaccine for the first time,” Dr. Rachel Herlihy, who is the state communicable disease epidemiologist, said in a news release.16 For those who aren’t aware, the CDC notes that one dose of flu shot may not be enough to protect against the flu. Instead, they state:17

“Children 6 months through 8 years getting vaccinated for the first time, and those who have only previously gotten one dose of vaccine, should get two doses of vaccine this season …

The first dose ‘primes’ the immune system; the second dose provides immune protection. Children who only get one dose but need two doses can have reduced or no protection from a single dose of flu vaccine.”

Not only may the flu vaccine fail to provide protection against the flu, but many people are not aware that other types of viruses are responsible for about 80 percent of all respiratory infections during any given flu season.18 The flu vaccine does not protect against or prevent any of these other types of respiratory infections causing influenza-like illness (ILI) symptoms.

The chance of contracting actual type A or B influenza, caused by one of the three or four influenza virus strains included in the vaccine, is much lower compared to getting sick with another type of viral or bacterial infection during the flu season.

Does Flu Vaccine Increase the Risk of Influenza Infection, Contribute to Vaccine Shedding?

There are serious adverse effects that can come along with annual flu vaccination, including potentially lifelong side effects such as Guillain Barré syndrome and chronic shoulder injury related to vaccine administration (SIRVA). They may also increase your risk of contracting more serious flu infections, as research suggests those who have been vaccinated annually may be less protected than those with no prior flu vaccination history.19

Research presented at the 105th International Conference of the American Thoracic Society in San Diego also revealed that children who get seasonal flu shots are more at risk of hospitalization than children who do not. Children who had received the flu vaccine had three times the risk of hospitalization as children who had not. Among children with asthma, the risk was even higher.20

There’s also the potential for vaccine shedding, which has taken on renewed importance with the reintroduction of the live virus vaccine FluMist during the 2018/2019 season. While the CDC states that the live flu virus in FluMist is too weak to actually give recipients the flu, research has raised some serious doubts that this is the case.

One recent study revealed not only that influenza virus may be spread via simple breathing (i.e., no sneezing or coughing required) but also that repeated vaccination increases the amount of virus released into the air.21

MedImmune, the company that developed FluMist, is aware that the vaccine sheds vaccine-strain virus. In its prescribing information, they describe a study on the transmission of vaccine-strain viruses from vaccinated children to nonvaccinated children in a day care setting.

In 80 percent of the FluMist recipients, at least one vaccine-strain virus was isolated anywhere from one to 21 days following vaccination. They further noted, “One placebo subject had mild symptomatic Type B virus infection confirmed as a transmitted vaccine virus by a FluMist recipient in the same playgroup.”22

Are There Other Ways to Stay Healthy During Flu Season?

Contrary to the CDC’s and Golden Globe’s claims that flu vaccinations are a great way to prevent flu, other methods exist to help you stay healthy during the flu season and all year, and they’re far safer than annual flu vaccination. Vitamin D testing and optimization have been shown to cut your risk of respiratory infections, including colds and flu, in half if you are vitamin D deficient, for instance.23,24

In my view, optimizing your vitamin D levels is one of the absolute best respiratory illness prevention and optimal health strategies available. Influenza has also been treated with high-dose vitamin C,25 and taking zinc lozenges at the first sign of respiratory illness can also be helpful.

Following other basic tenets of health, like eating right, getting sound sleep, exercising and addressing stress are also important, as is regularly washing your hands.

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