The newsy health bits have entered the chat.

Hey, what’s kraken, everyone? A kraken is a mythical sea monster. And in this installment of The Download, I do have some mythical creature info at the very end, just for fun. But before we get there, we need to talk about what people are dangerously doing with garlic (yes, for reals), men’s health, some COVID stuff (obvi), a smoking study to wow you, and even a poo PSA.

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Garlic cloves are great in this calamari recipe and in this (OMG-good) spicy Spanish egg dish. What they are not good in is any orifice of your body. I bring this up because, in what medical experts are calling a dangerous practice, people are putting garlic cloves in their ears and nostrils to clear infections or congestion.

Do not do this! This trend is yet another example of why we should never listen to “medical” advice from TikTok or Insta influencers. Let’s all stick to gleaning green-thumb tips from Garden Marcus, please.

Yes, the allicin in garlic has some antibacterial and antifungal properties, experts confirm. But putting a garlic clove or garlic oil in a bodily orifice can irritate and damage mucus membranes or delicate tissue. An inserted clove can also worsen an infection by trapping pathogens in a moist environment. And a clove can get lost or trapped all up in there, sending you on an awkward trip to the ER.

If you want to gain garlic’s benefits, may we recommend this celery root soup? Do not put garlic in any hole aside from your mouth.

And by golly, awareness is important! I try to avoid discussing health info in gender binary terms unless absolutely necessary. And I’m doing so here just to illustrate some stats.

For example, men are three times less likely than women to have seen a health care professional in the past year, according to results from a Commonwealth Fund survey from 2000. Yet men have a greater risk of death from several diseases and from suicide and violence. A 2019 Cleveland Clinic survey asked men how they approached their health, and here’s what they said:

Men and going to the doc

  • 65 percent said they avoid going to the doctor as long as possible
  • 20 percent said they aren’t always honest with their doc
  • 37 percent said they had withheld info from their physician
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Skipping out on routine doc visits means you miss out on preventive care. As the month progresses, I will provide health resources for peeps with a penis in The Download. But obvi, we’ll continue including health resources for all.

Our biggest COVID-19 news right now is that a Food and Drug Administration panel voted to recommend emergency use authorization for the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine for children ages 5 to 11. The Pfizer vax is currently available for everyone 12 and up. A few more steps need to happen before rollout can begin for the youngins, but we’re getting closer.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recently added mental health conditions, including depression and other mood disorders, to the list of conditions that put people at high risk of severe COVID-19.

This is important because it increases eligibility for a booster shot. Booster shot eligibility has been a bit confusing, so I am including that info here again. And you will see what I mean about mood disorders now making people eligible when they perhaps weren’t eligible before.

Booster eligibility

Those who initially received their Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna vaccines at least 6 months ago and are:

Those who initially received the Johnson & Johnson vaccine at least 2 months ago and are:

  • age 18+ (Yes, you are all eligible.)

If you’re eligible for a booster according to any of these criteria, you may receive any available booster shot. In other words, you can mix and match. If you originally got a J&J, for example, you can now get a Pfizer boost. You do you!

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Yippee! We’re still riding that coaster down on COVID-19 cases. At the start of September and the height of the Delta variant peak, the 7-day average of daily case counts was about 160,000. Now, as we usher in November, we’re seeing about a 60,000 daily average.

That’s good news. However, some areas of the nation are seeing increases in cases, hospitalizations, and deaths. So don’t let your guard down.

Did I get your attention with that line? I sure hope so. Here’s the deal: The earlier you quit, the better for avoiding the excess cancer death risk associated with smoking, according to an American Cancer Society study.

If you’ve been telling yourself “the damage is already done” as you continue to puff, these stats stub that out. Here’s how the age you quit impacts your risk. It’s actually huge!

Quitting ageEstimated smoking-associated cancer death risk avoided

Colorectal cancer is one of the fastest-growing cancers among the under-50 set. And researchers are noticing a trend in people under 35 being diagnosed. Also, young people have the same risk of dying from colon cancer as older folks.

Colorectal cancer screening — such as a fecal occult blood test, colonoscopy, or other method — should now start at age 45, according to the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force. However, if you have a family history of colon or other cancers, make sure your doc knows. They may wish to start screening you even earlier.

Always get in touch with a healthcare pro if you have unexplained and unresolved changes in your bowel habits, such as diarrhea, constipation, gas, or abdominal pain. Also consult a doctor if you notice rectal bleeding or blood in your stool or if you have unexplained weight loss.

Look, I’m a science girl, OK? But I do like mythical creatures as much as the next person. So when this “research” came across my desk, I thought you should know about it.

Apparently dug into which mythical creatures are the most popular (according to the internet). Looks like dragons are the clear winner here. But zombies are a close second, followed by unicorns and then vampires. (FYI, krakens were number 10 on the list.)

For anyone who doesn’t like vampires and wishes to keep them away, this bears repeating: It is not safe to put garlic in your orifices.