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Monthly Archives: September, 2021

  1. Long Covid is a bigger problem than we thought

    The long Covid problem might be bigger than we thought.

    A large study has revealed that one in three Covid-19 survivors have suffered symptoms three to six months after getting infected, with breathing problems, abdominal symptoms such as abdominal pain, change of bowel habit and diarrhoea, fatigue, pain, anxiety and depression among the most common issues reported.

    Researchers at the University of Oxford, the National Institute for Health Research and the Oxford Health Biomedical Research Centre studied symptoms in more than 270,000 people recovering from Covid-19 and found that the nine features of long Covid were detected by clinicians more frequently in those who had been hospitalized, and slightly more often in women.

    But Dr. Max Taquet, National Institute for Health Research academic clinical fellow and one of the authors of the study, said the results show long Covid affects a significant proportion of people of all ages. “We need appropriately configured services to deal with the current and future clinical need,” he said.

    The study did not explain what causes long Covid symptoms, how severe they are or how long they will last, but it did show that people recovering from Covid were more likely to suffer long-term symptoms than those who had the flu.

    Dr. Amitava Banerjee, a professor of clinical data science at University College London who was not involved in the study, said this finding is “yet another arrow in the quiver against bogus ‘this is just like flu’ claims.”

    The symptoms people experienced varied, and many patients experienced more than one. Older people and men were more likely to have breathing difficulties and cognitive problems, whereas young people and women reported more headaches, abdominal symptoms, anxiety and depression.

    The authors stressed that although the number of such incidents was higher among the elderly and those with more severe initial illness, people who had suffered a mild disease, children and young adults also experienced long Covid.
    The accompanying data showed that as many as 46% of children and young adults between the ages of 10 and 22 had experienced at least one symptom in the six months after recovering.
    A Health Care Worker seals a coronavirus test swab.

    This risk of long Covid highlights why is it so important to protect children and young people from the coronavirus, even though the study said most don’t suffer from severe illness.

    Cases among children have been soaring in the US since the more contagious Delta coronavirus variant became the country’s dominant strain in July. The American Academy of Pediatrics reported 206,864 weekly cases among children on Monday. That was a slight decline compared to the previous week, but a 188% increase since the week of July 22.

    The data comes as Pfizer/BioNTech said Tuesday that they had begun submitting vaccine data on children aged 5 to 11 to the US Food and Drug Administration for review, and expect to submit a request for emergency use authorization in the coming weeks.
    The next key question is whether parents will want to get their kids vaccinated. Parents of 5-to-11-year-olds are split on the issue, with 44% saying they are likely to do so and 42% saying they are unlikely to, according to poll results from Axios-Ipsos published Tuesday.

  2. Here’s why planning a trip can help your mental health

    With the pandemic far from over, now may not be the right time for leisure travel. But that doesn’t mean trip planning is canceled too. There’s some good news for globe-trotters: According to researchers, looking ahead to your next adventure could benefit your mental health. Even if you’re not sure when that adventure will be.

    Some psychologists tout the mental benefits of vacationing somewhere new. One 2013 survey of 485 adults in the U.S. linked travel to enhanced empathy, attention, energy, and focus. Other research suggests that the act of adapting to foreign cultures may also facilitate creativity. But what about the act of planning a trip? Can we get a mental health boost from travel before we even leave home?

    Scientists talk travel

    Planning and anticipating a trip can be almost as enjoyable as going on the trip itself, and there’s research to back it up. A 2014 Cornell University study delved into how the anticipation of an experience (like a trip) can increase a person’s happiness substantially—much more so than the anticipation of buying material goods. An earlier study, published by the University of Surrey in 2002, found that people are at their happiest when they have a vacation planned.

    Amit Kumar, one of the co-authors of the Cornell study, explains that the benefits are less about obsessing over the finer points of an itinerary than they are about connecting with other people. One reason? Travelers “end up talking to people more about their experiences than they talk about material purchases,” he says. “Compared to possessions, experiences make for better story material.”

    (Related: This singer traveled halfway around the world to witness one breathtaking performance.)

    Among the pandemic’s many challenges: quarantine measures greatly reduce our ability to create new experiences and connect with other people. And we’re craving those connections and their social benefits more than ever.

    Kumar, now an assistant professor at the University of Texas at Austin, says that the social-distancing experiment the pandemic forced on us has emphasized how much humans—social animals that we are—need to be together. He even suggests replacing the phrase “social distancing” with “physical distancing,” which better describes what we’re now doing; after all, quarantine measures are designed to protect our physical well-being.

    Managing emotional well-being is a different challenge. While we may not be as physically close to others as usual, we’re still able to interact with each other socially through voice and video chats. But you still need something to talk about—and plans for the future can serve as the perfect talking points for enhancing social relationships.

    Kumar’s co-author Matthew Killingsworth, now a senior fellow at the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania, says trip-planning encourages an optimistic outlook.

    “As humans, we spend a lot of our mental lives living in the future,” says Killingsworth, whose work centers on understanding the nature and causes of human happiness. “Our future-mindedness can be a source of joy if we know good things are coming, and travel is an especially good thing to have to look forward to.”

    One reason Killingsworth thinks that planning travel can be such a positive experience? The fact that trips are temporary. “Since we know a trip has a defined start and end, our minds are prone to savor it, even before it’s started,” he says. “Sometimes people even prefer to delay good experiences like a trip so they can extend the period of anticipation.”

    There’s another reason travel planning can produce happiness: We often know enough about a trip to imagine it and look forward to it—but there’s also enough novelty and uncertainty to keep our minds interested.

    “In a sense, we start to ‘consume’ a trip as soon as we start thinking about it,” Killingsworth says. “When we imagine eating gelato in a piazza in Rome or going water skiing with friends we don’t see as much as we’d like, we get to experience a version of those events in our mind.”

    Planning during a pandemic

    The post-pandemic future of travel is still unmapped. But Killingsworth recommends planning a vague itinerary (where to go, what to do)—without getting attached to taking the trip at any specific time. Then, start booking flights and hotels once experts say it’s safe to travel again. “If the experience becomes more stressful or depressing than fun, file it away for another time.”

    Former clinical psychologist turned author Alice Boyes agrees the general approach is best for now, “like learning about a national park you want to visit.”

    While travel can be anxiety-inducing—especially in the era of COVID-19—Boyes suggests that trip-planning can be calming.

    “If you’re anxious by nature, trip-planning can give you a sense of comfort and reduced anxiety,” she says. “For instance, I like to know exactly how I’m going to get from the airport to my hotel upon arrival in a foreign country. I like viewing the walking directions to places and using street view on Google maps, all in advance, so I have a good idea of what to expect and feel confident.”

    “This virus can stop our travel plans, but it cannot stop our travel dreams,” says travel expert Rick Steves in conversation with the New York Times. Planning for travel—thinking about it, talking about it, imagining it—may in fact be the best thing you can do to stay optimistic and, when this is all behind us, be ready to embark on your trip of a lifetime.

    Tips and tricks

    • Get inspired. No matter what kind of trip you’re longing to take, there’s a wide world of travel books to nourish inspiration. Try these great reads that whisk you away to paradise—or get excited to slow down and savor the journey.
    • Brush up on your trip-planning skills. New York Times’ “Frugal Traveler” Seth Kugel visited 50 countries in six years; his book Rediscovering Travel: A Guide for the Globally Curious offers advice on how to channel the whimsy of global vagabonding. National Geographic’s 50 States, 5,000 Ideas: Where to Go, When to Go, What to See, What to Do lays out the best travel experiences in every U.S. state, from the obvious to the unexpected.
    • Ask for help. Yes, people still use travel agents—and with good reason. Now called travel advisors, they can help find the best deals, arrange complicated itineraries, and juggle large groups or family vacations.
    • Gather some maps. Nothing illuminates a place or helps you plan a trip like a good map. National Geographic publishes hundreds of world, continent, country, and city maps and atlases.

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