Sackville Street in Dublin during the rebuilding of 1918. Funeral corteges were a common sight in the city during the Spanish flu epidemic. Photograph:  R. Humphrey/Topical Press Agency/Getty Images

On the centenary of the Spanish flu epidemic, a worldwide authority on infectious diseases issues a timely warning

Research, published during the summer in The Lancet, concluded there is no safe level of alcohol intake and the healthiest approach is to drink as little as possible

So what does the new information really mean for moderate drinkers?

Akira Horiuchi, winner of this year’s Ig Nobel for Medical Education, demonstrates his self-colonoscopy technique during the award ceremony at Harvard University. Photograph: AP

The ‘Ig Nobel’ awards honour achievements that make people laugh – then think

It has been argued that the continued use of Latin in healthcare encourages medical paternalism and challenges equality in the doctor-patient relationship. Photograph: iStock

Doctors are being asked to ditch Latin terms and use language patients understand

Lorraine Walsh, who received an incorrect smear test result, and Stephen Teap, who lost his wife Irene Teap, to cervical cancer at the launch of the Scally Report into the CervicalCheck screening programme. Photograph: Gareth Chaney/Collins

Communication and disclosure are key flaws among CervicalCheck’s systemic deficits

Compared to those with normal sleep duration (seven-eight hours), men who slept five or fewer hours per night had a two-fold higher risk of having a major cardiovascular event by age 71

Don’t think having an otherwise healthy lifestyle compensates for working too hard

With the number of CPE cases in Ireland almost doubling in 2016, it is the most serious superbug challenge we face. Photograph: Getty Images.

Dr Muiris Houston: CPE is the latest bug that is hard to kill with antibiotics

“I am concerned that we are witnessing a resurgence in measles infection, with potentially hundreds of children put at risk of brain damage, including by SSPE.” File photograph: Getty Images

In the cot was an eight-year-old boy: he could not swallow and was almost completely blind

The researchers collected information on all factors a doctor might consider in deciding to order tests, including a patient’s age, disease type and severity.

New study highlights the important role human intuition plays in medical decisions

After a hearty laugh, it has been estimated our muscles stay relaxed for up to 45 minutes. Photograph: iStock

A belly laugh is good for the heart, clears up rashes and lowers blood sugar in diabetics

E-cigarettes has been given an emphatic thumbs up by health experts after the first long-term study of its effects in ex-smokers. Photograph: Yui Mok/PA Wire

Small study in ‘Thorax’ medical journal adds to growing body of research on e-cigarettes

Inside Ryanair flight FR7213 after the oxygen masks dropped. Some 33 passengers were treated in hospital afterwards, with some bleeding from their ears. Photograph: Conor Brennan

After a dramatic change in cabin pressure passengers can experience bleeding and intense pain

Would you trust this man to treat you? Photograph: iStock

There was a huge response to a column on presentation and professionalism

Researchers   have found a link between being cared for by the same doctor and reduced mortality. Photograph: iStock

Research shows if you see the same doctor you are likely to reduce your risk of death

A US study of 1,000 emergency care patients concluded that visible body art on doctors did not undermine perceived professionalism or patient satisfaction with care.

Research into doctors’ appearance finds body art doesn’t affect patient trust. But piercings ...

Anabolic steroids are now primarily known for their performance-enhancing use in sport.

Dr Muiris Houston: Risks associated with sex, dosage and duration of administration

It is regrettable that in an affluent society such as ours, some children are condemned to historic levels of poor oral health. Photograph: iStock

37% of HSE dentists see children with neglected dentition at least daily, study finds

A Doctor Writes: Health effects of hot weather linked to the body’s ability to adapt

Diarrhoea is usually accompanied by abdominal pain, nausea and cramps and, sometimes, by fever

It’s common and it’s unpleasant but it’s usually transient and rarely life-threatening

‘Short (weekday) sleep is not a risk factor for mortality if it is combined with a medium or long weekend sleep’

 A child has  her hands washed as a preventive measure against ebola  in Mbandaka, Democratic Republic of Congo. Photograph:  Reuters/Kenny Katombe

Dozens of cases of ebola reported in the Democratic Republic of Congo in recent weeks

The abortion drug Mifepristone. Photograph: Phil Walter/Getty Images

Method shown to be highly effective and safe when used up to 22 weeks of pregnancy

About one in 10 pregnant women have a chronic medical condition that requires medication. Photograph: iStock

The exclusion of pregnant women from drug trials means there is little drug-safety information for them to rely on

Dr Muiris Houston: Emotional resilience, the ability to deal with difficulty, can be learned

Vicky Phelan: While we rely on courageous women like Vicky Phelan to stand up to confidentiality clauses in order to reveal the truth in the most tragic circumstances, thousands of Irish people silently suffer HSE ineptitude on a daily basis.  Photograph: Collins Courts

The HSE keeps getting the basics wrong. It’s time for organisational change, writes Muiris Houston

Photograph: iStock

CervicalCheck tragedy shows risks in communication failures not widely appreciated

Dr Tony Holohan during a press conference in Dubolin to address public concerns surrounding the  national cervical screening programme. Photograph: Gareth Chaney/Collins

Public trust in Ireland’s health service continues to be eroded, writes Dr Muiris Houston

‘Physicians and patients tend to have exaggerated confidence in the benefits of drugs’

Dr Muiris Houston on the big decision faced by many terminally ill cancer patients

Vicky and Jim Phelan: Ms Phelan settled a High Court action for €2.5 million against a US laboratory over a 2011 smear test, which wrongly gave a negative result for cancer. Photograph:    CourtPix

Can women have confidence in the national cervical screening programme?

Vicky and Jim Phelan from Co Limerick: Ms Phelan wasn’t told of the false negative in her 2011 smear test until September 2017. Photograph: Collins Courts

Analysis: CervicalCheck review should extend to all screening programmes

Cancer screening: cervical smear specimens are stained and then examined under a microscope. Photograph: Mauro Fermariello/Science Photo Library/Getty

Do its labs follow best practice, and why wasn’t a flag raised for three years?

Some medical language is insensitive and it can be dangerously confusing. And yet it retains a magical hold over us practitioners.

Medical argot, beloved by the profession, can stray into unacceptable territory when carelessly applied to patients

A demonstration in 1918 at a  Red Cross emergency ambulance station in Washington DC, US, during the flu pandemic.  Photograph: Universal History Archive/UIG via Getty Images

Flu pandemic of 1918 killed only slightly fewer Irish people than four years of the Great War

In some rural areas, the practice of watching over the recently deceased from the time of death to burial is still followed. Photograph: iStock

Thanks to the kindness of fantastic friends and neighbours, we gave ‘Nan’ a great send-off

Yulia Skripal, along with her father Sergei, was found slumped over a park bench in Salisbury, southwest England, on March 4th, after being poisoned. Photograph: Yulia Skripal/Facebook via AP

Sergei and Yulia Skripal’s poisoner delivered neurotoxin via air conditioning in victim’s car

The research findings suggest  vaccines have a role in preventing heart attack and stroke, as well as preventing infection in the first place

Respiratory infections cause inflammation, while the flu virus and pneumonia can damage heart muscle

So is there any truth in popular medical axioms?

Sometimes the recommendation contained in the aphorism is worse than the disease

Meningitis bacteria: The classical rash of meningitis is actually caused by the infection spreading to the bloodstream.

There are three subgroups of meningococci: A, B and C. Vaccines are available against B and C

In 2007 the World Health Organisation classified night shift work as a probable carcinogen due to circadian disruption

Dr Muiris Houston: A body of evidence links shift work with diabetes, heart disease and cancer

Feeding a severely depressed body neurotransmitters seems to work

Dr Muiris Houston: Major new research contains valuable information on antidepressant medicines

Initially, shingles has the appearance of fluid filled vesicles before becoming a red crusty rash

Shingles risk risk rises sharply when you hit 50. The pain has been likened to childbirth

Disgraced gastroenterologist Andrew Wakefield who was found guilty of research fraud and struck off the British medical register. But the false news about MMR safety caused immunisation rates to plummet; they have yet to fully recover. Photograph: Peter Macdiarmid/Getty Images

New approach needed to combat false information about vaccines

We must future proof the next generation by upping their education in risk and critical thinking

About one-fifth of patients experienced post-traumatic stress disorder several months after diagnosis.

Cancer survivors can face post-traumatic stress and a higher risk of heart failure

The new 3 Before GP campaign, which has been advocated by a working group made up of GPs and patients, urges people to ask themselves three questions before booking a GP appointment. Photograph: Getty Images

Questions to ask yourself, and tips to remember, before visiting your GP

 Investigations such as CT scans should take place immediately at the first hospital. For injuries requiring specialist care, the patient should be moved to a major trauma centre. Photograph: BSIP/UIG via Getty

Muiris Houston: Degree of patient’s trauma must be identified as early as possible

 Evidence-based practice suggests that primary care is where  medication-induced abortions should be provided

A number of medical issues will arise if there is a policy of termination of pregnancy on request

British researchers have shown that  diabetes remission could be sustained for up to 10 years through weight loss

The incidence of Type 2 has more than doubled between 1998 and 2015, so eradicating the disease has enormous appeal

The mainstay of ongoing asthma treatment remains inhalers

In the UK, children and young people have the highest death rate from asthma in Europe

There is certainly no evidence that we are in for a season equivalent to the 1968 Hong Kong influenza pandemic experience

Despite the doomsday predictions of some, infection rates are not yet at epidemic levels

Regular cancellations of elective surgeries and other treatments mean a greater number of people present to emergency departments as their untreated illness worsens. Photograph: The Irish Times

More people will die as a consequence of not being treated in a fully functioning ward

Research shows that experiencing shame in medical settings can be harmful

Making health resolutions is a double-edged sword for some of us

The suspended doctor has been on the Medical Council’s specialist register for a number of years, with five years’ specialist training in radiology from the faculty of radiology in the Royal College of Surgeons or elsewhere abroad

Provisional diagnostic error rate attributable to specialist within international norms

I would encourage all of you to cut loose to some degree and enjoy the festive season!

A glass of red wine, perhaps? Some dark chocolate, almonds and cocoa? Yes you can

Izzy Dezu from his Facebook page. The teenager collapsed and died while playing for Shelbourne FC in a Dublin and District Schoolboys League football match this week

Death of Shelbourne FC player likely due to sudden arrhythmic death syndrome

Man flu: Dr Kyle Sue has uncovered evidence men suffer more from viral respiratory illness than women because they have a less robust immune system.

Research reveals men suffer more from viral respiratory illness than women

It is important to acknowledge the high levels of overall satisfaction expressed by patients for healthcare professionals in the survey.

Study shows there are very real threats to patient safety in State’s hospitals

It seems that cancer patients who ‘hope for the best and plan for the worst’, enjoy the best quality of remaining life

Dr Muiris Houston: Patients who overestimate their survival do not live longer

It’s particularly unfortunate that the first drug to be digitally enhanced is the antipsychotic aripiprazole, marketed under the trade name Abilify

Drugs that report when you’ve taken them break trust between doctor and patient

In cases of scarlet fever, the child  will have a distinctive sandpapery, red rash, which usually first appears on the chest and stomach

Scientists have yet to discover a reason for the fever’s return, but its virulence has diminished

Illustration: Frank Ramspott/iStock

If the flu vaccine is less effective than hoped, there's an alternative, low-tech solution

Hospital consultants consider the reallocation of funds from hospital to general practice as a key development in addressing the problems in the health system. Photograph: Andrew Matthews/PA Wire

Report calls for substantial investment to move away from ‘hospital centric’ system

A Future Together: Building a Better GP and Primary Care Service cites good evidence that seeing the same primary care doctor regularly results in significantly fewer admissions for patients with multiple long-term conditions. Photograph: Anthony Devlin/PA Wire

Drawing on US evidence, TCD authors urge philosophical, political and financial journey

Human Papilloma Virus (HPV) represents a family of very common viruses that are passed on during sex.

Unprotected oral sex can result in HPV-associated cancers, a growing health problem

Any blockages can be squashed back into the wall of the artery, and a metal scaffold known as a stent placed in the diseased area to prevent further blockage.

Dr Muiris Houston: Latest ‘Lancet’ research suggests procedure may have placebo effect

Family history (genetics) is one  risk factor for cardiovascular disease

Inflammation is re-emerging as a likely reason for blockages in the coronary arteries of some patients with ischaemic heart diseas(...)

A severe influenza season will create a huge consequent strain on the health service. Emergency departments will choke up and some will be forced to close. Photograph: Alan Betson

The ineffectiveness of this year’s flu vaccines means hospitals will not be able to cope

While usually short-lived, bouts of lower back pain frequently re-occur – with sedentary lifestyles a contributing factor. Photograph: AJ Watt/iStock

Chronic back pain sufferer Muiris Houston welcomes a dynamic new approach to the problem

Ig Noble awards: ‘first make people laugh, and then make them think’

Annual awards celebrate scientific studies that ‘cannot, or should not, be repeated’

Burnout is where we experience the physical and psychological consequences of persistent, chronic Toxic Stress

Burnout series: Toxic stress is at the root of burnout. Tackling it may require serious change

A study found of those who had a heart attack, married patients were 14% more likely than single patients to survive after the event

Follow a low-salt high-olive-oil diet and enjoy some dark chocolate

The oral contraceptive pill  is associated with many non-contraceptive benefits

A long-term study suggests a protective effect for women taking oral contraceptives

The demonstrable reduction in tumour size following treatment with nitrogen mustard was a landmark in the history of medicine

A wartime mustard gas explosion led to the development of a life-saving treatment

My personal view is that there is a need for greater regulation of telemedicine

Or do they have a role in modern healthcare, asks Muiris Houston

People sun themselves  in Belgrade, Serbia: southern Europe and the Balkans are experiencing a heatwave with temperatures reaching more than 40 degrees. Photograph:  Pedja Milosavljevic/AFP/Getty Images

The threat to human health from weather is rising, as heatwaves increase across Europe

It’s the way you tell them: Positive psychological and physiological responses to laughter have been shown in a variety of settings

Research suggests that humour has a positive effect on patients, so here goes

Crispr technology: critics say gene editing could lead to eugenics and to so-called designer babies. Illustration: iStock/Getty

Scientists have used Crispr-Cas9 to repair disease-causing mutations. Here’s a guide

Urban life expectancies are increasing at a faster rate than rural life spans. Photograph: Frank Miller

When you you look at trends, urban life expectancies are increasing at a faster rate than rural lifespans

From a patient’s perspective, the fact that over half of the trainee doctors said fatigue had impaired their ability to do their job is frightening

Sleep-deprived junior doctors are unable to look after patients safely

People with a history of suspected penicillin allergy spend more time in hospital and have poorer clinical outcomes than those without such a history

The most commonly reported drug allergy may be misdiagnosed in 90% of cases

“Of all the categories of fake news, health news is the worst” ran a recent headline in the Atlantic. Photograph: Mandel NGAN/AFP/Getty Images

Statements of ‘absolute certainty’ from self-styled health experts are dangerous

Prof John Kennedy, chair of the cancer strategy steering group, at the launch of the 2017-2026 strategy in Iveagh House. Photograph: Dara Mac Donaill / The Irish Times

Analysis: Ring-fencing of cancer drug funding may be necessary in future health budgets

The nocebo effect has been shown to reduce quality of life in cancer patients

Telling a patient that a drug has side-effects can bring on that very problem

Dr Mary Wingfield’s book is an essential read for couples facing infertility

Practical help for the sometimes lonely infertility journey

“The BMJ is seeking to stimulate debate on what is acceptable or unacceptable terminology in today’s world.” Photograph: iStock

The medical lexicon is littered with phrases that can feel top-down and demeaning

“Anecdotal evidence tends to suggest that documents prepared by patients with the aim of refusing future treatment are not infrequently ignored by doctors.”

Why has CPR become a reflex response in hospitals rather than allowing nature to take its course?

‘New England Journal of Medicine’ found that altitude-related discomfort was worse in younger age groups

Why flying can be an unpleasant experience for young children

Studies have shown that when people are told that a food item is ‘healthy’, they feel less full after eating it

Techniques like framing and using the placebo effect can make us more effective healthcare professionals

An analysis of 171 child-vehicle heatstroke fatalities in the US found that in 75 per cent of cases the child was unattended in a car.

High ratio of surface area to body mass makes children vulnerable to heatstroke

In the study when everyone was told they were taking statins, the incidence of muscle aches jumped by 40%

It’s placebo vs nocebo as new study casts doubt on muscle pain effect of statins

For most of us, the lack of  high blood pressure symptoms  is probably why the condition is often underdiagnosed.

Medication can control nearly all cases, but too few people are diagnosed

While fatty livers in geese might be desirable for foie gras, they pose serious problems for humans

There’s an epidemic of fatty liver disease in this country, and teetotallers aren’t immune

For babies whose mothers take anti-seizure medication, the risk of major birth defects is 4 to 6 per cent (compared with a rate of 2 to 3 per cent for all babies). Photograph: iStockphoto

Seizures can be more harmful to your baby than the medication

Protests in Paris two days after a  chemical attack in the northwestern province of Idlib in Syria. At least 86 people, including 27 children,  were killed, with  postmortems  pointing to possible exposure to the nerve gas sarin. Photograph:  AFP Photo/Lionel Bonaventure

Modern chemotherapy can be traced back to military chemical agents

Chocolate contains flavonoids, substances known to have anti-inflammatory effects and whose anti-oxidant properties help mop up disease-causing agents in the body. Photograph: iStock

As you bask in the good feelings induced by eating an Easter egg, what is the evidence for the health benefits of chocolate?

The 16,000 Tsimane people who hunt, fish and farm on the Maniqui River in the Amazon rainforest in the Bolivian lowlandshave the healthiest hearts

The Amazon’s Tsimane tribe's diet is made up mostly of fruit and nuts and they walk up to 17,000 steps a day

Why are we continuing what I and many other doctors consider a barbaric practice?

Many elderly patients are being inappropriately resuscitated. Let them die ‘ordinary deaths’

One of the best things doctors could do for patients is to listen to them

Setting our clocks forward in spring is a real challenge to our bodies. Photograph: iStock

For some, the October and March clock changes trigger profound sleep disturbance

Secondary school students   at the launch of the Aviva Schools Cervical Cancer Vaccination Catch Up Programme. The programme is offering what Aviva says are accessible and affordable cervical cancer vaccinations to girls in third to sixth year. Photograph: Bryan O’Brien

Emotional distress and fear of pain are cited as reasons for reduced adherence to cervical screening, US review finds

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