Year in Review: The Top Health News Stories of 2018

2018 has seen its fair share of news stories. We revelled in a joyous Royal Wedding. We mourned the tragic loss of innocent lives to mass shootings. We saw political triumphs and defeats. But some of the hottest topics discussed this year were about your health. We’ve chosen what we think were the top health news stories of 2018:

Tide Pods

One of the more bizarre trends in 2018? Teens consuming laundry pods for the sake of social media. While some may have gotten a laugh out of these online videos, the results of the #TidePodChallenge can be extremely harmful, even lethal.

Due to the highly concentrated level of chemicals inside of a laundry pod (and we’re talking toxic chemicals you can’t even pronounce), eating just one can cause severe chemical burns to the lining of your mouth. In our February coverage , Teriggi Ciccone, MD an Emergency Medicine physician at Winchester Hospital, warned, “If someone does inhale the pod’s detergent, he or she may be susceptible to permanent burning of the mouth, throat, digestive tract and lung tissue. In extreme circumstances, it can lead to death.”

The craze received so much attention, even New England Patriot Rob Gronkowski partnered up with laundry giant Tide to warn young people about the real hazards of ingesting these mini detergents.

Video Game Addiction

Just recently, the World Health Organization designated “gaming disorder” as the new and official term for video game addiction. According to Statista, the number of active gamers worldwide has risen to 2.3 billion users, up from 1.8 billion in 2014. Kids and adults alike are finding themselves logging onto video games for hours on end. But for some, it can become an obsession, and can unravel a person’s standing at work, in school, or in their personal relationships.

The most recent game to blame: Fortnite, which according to numerous reports has become so addicting, parents have forced their children into “video game rehab.”

In past years, video games were used as scapegoats for violent behavior and links to mass shootings. Now, the World Health Organization is likening it to other addictive activities that, with this new designation, could hopefully receive adequate research, treatment, and understanding.

An even simpler way to prevent gaming disorder? Setting boundaries — for everyone. In our latest coverage, Lahey Hospital & Medical Center APRN Patricia Student says, “there needs to be rules with video games and smartphones, and they need to be level across the family otherwise kids see this as an inequality. If you have rules about no phones after dinnertime, this applies to the parents, too.”

Growing Popularity in Mary Jane

Across the United States, the legalization and decriminalization of medical and recreational marijuana is advancing a new generation influenced by weed. Currently, 10 states, as well as Washington D.C., have legalized recreational marijuana. 22 have legalized medicinal marijuana, and 13 have decriminalized minor possession. Massachusetts (where pot is fully legal) recently opened its third recreational marijuana dispensary, with plans for more to lay roots around the Commonwealth.

Advocates have long touted the medical benefits of marijuana use, as well as the use of CBD oil (which does not include THC and therefore doesn’t produce a high sensation). Veterans negatively impacted by opioid addiction are calling for more research into CBD as a way to treat chronic pain and PTSD. Also, the FDA approved CBD oil to be used to treat rare and severe forms of epilepsy.

Just recently, the US Farm Bill, passed by Congress, includes the legalization of hemp as an agricultural plant. As marijuana becomes more mainstream, its health impacts will be more widely acknowledged and scrutinized.

Vaping and Teens

It’s sweeping across high schools and the country. The U.S. Surgeon General declared it a youth epidemic. Recent reports identified that over 1.3 million young people started vaping in 2018 alone.

They’ve been touted by companies as a healthier tobacco alternative, flaunting fun and flashy flavors to draw in younger consumers. But health experts urge that while there is no tobacco and less nicotine, addictive and dangerous properties are still present in e-cigarettes and their counterparts. In previous coverage, Dr. Fares Mouchantaf, said “vaping technology, which heats liquid nicotine to create vapor which the user then inhales, does not contain tobacco. Because of this, many people think that vaping poses little risk to their health — and they couldn’t be more wrong.”

Scrutiny by the FDA, concerned parents, and medical professionals seemed to have made some impact, with one popular company, Juul, halting the sale of popular flavor pods like mango and ceasing social media marketing efforts.

We’re sure 2019 will give us many more health news stories and we can’t wait to share them with you. We hope you have a wonderful 2019!

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*The content on this website is for informational purposes only and is not medical advice. Please consult a physician regarding your specific medical condition, diagnosis and/or treatment.

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