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Mr. Yuk

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I have fond memories of Mr. Yuk from my childhood. My parents placed the green-yucky-face stickers on various items under the kitchen sink, and sure enough, I never drank drain cleaner. But where did Mr. Yuk come from?

According to Wikipedia, Mr. Yuk is from Pittsburgh, and was introduced in 1971. Prior to 1971, poison symbols were commonly of the skull-and-crossbones variety, but there was concern that children might associate that "jolly roger" symbol with pirates. This article further explains that in the early 70's, the skull-and-crossbones was also the logo for the Pittsburgh Pirates, so I can see how kids might not associate it with something they should NOT touch. The poison center at the Children's Hospital of Pittsburgh designed the Mr. Yuk logo and distributed the stickers (which also typically contain a phone number to reach a local or national poison control hotline -- for the record, the national number is 1-800-222-1222), and at least in my experience, these stickers were widespread as late as the mid-1980's.

Much more -- including freaky 70's videos -- after the jump.

Several studies have attempted to measure the effectiveness of Mr. Yuk. Unfortunately, the studies indicate that Mr. Yuk is not very effective at preventing children from handling Yuk-labeled bottles -- one indicated that children actually handled the Yuk-labeled bottles more, possibly because of the cartoonish appearance of the sticker. The other showed no significant difference between Yuk-labeled and non-labeled bottles. Well, that's a bummer. It's unclear from the study summaries whether education for the kids (explaining not to touch things labeled with Mr. Yuk) would have affected the outcome.

One thing I missed as a kid was this Mr. Yuk Public Service Announcement (slash spooky drug trip) from 1971. Prepare to be freaked out:

For Mr. Yuk superfans, here's the extended version of the song from the PSA above (you can also download an MP3):

You can get a free sheet of Mr. Yuk stickers from the Mr. Yuk page (warning: plays a brief theme song!) at the Children's Hospital of Pittsburgh. You can also order Lance Armstrong-style green "poison help" wristbands. Um. "Yuk."

A question for current parents of young kids: is Mr. Yuk on any items in your house?

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Health
New Test Can Differentiate Between Tick-borne Illnesses
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Time is of the essence in diagnosing and treating Lyme disease and other tick-borne illnesses. Fortunately, one new test may be able to help. A report on the test was published in the journal Science Translational Medicine.

Ticks and the diseases they carry are on the rise. One 2016 study found deer ticks—the species that carries Lyme disease—in more than half of the counties in the United States.

The two most common tick-borne illnesses in the U.S. are Lyme disease and southern tick-associated rash illness (STARI). Although their initial symptoms can be the same, they’re caused by different pathogens; Lyme disease comes from infection with the bacterium Borrelia burgdorferi. We don’t know what causes STARI.

"It is extremely important to be able to tell a patient they have Lyme disease as early as possible so they can be treated as quickly as possible," microbiologist and first author Claudia Molins of the CDC said in a statement. "Most Lyme disease infections are successfully treated with a two- to three-week course of oral antibiotics." Infections that aren't treated can lead to fevers, facial paralysis, heart palpitations, nerve pain, arthritis, short-term memory loss, and inflammation of the brain and spinal cord.

But to date, scientists have yet to create an accurate, consistent early test for Lyme disease, which means people must often wait until they’re very ill. And it’s hard to test for the STARI pathogen when we don’t know what it is.

One team of researchers led by experts at Colorado State University was determined to find a better way. They realized that, rather than looking for pathogens, they could look at the way a person’s body responded to the pathogens.

They analyzed blood samples from patients with both early-stage Lyme disease and STARI. Their results showed that while all patients’ immune systems had mounted a response, the nature of that response was different.

"We have found that all of these infections and diseases are associated with an inflammatory response, but the alteration of the immune response, and the metabolic profiles aren't all the same," senior author John Belisle of CSU said.

Two distinct profiles emerged. The team had found physical evidence, or biomarkers, for each illness: a way to tell one disease from another.

Belisle notes that there’s still plenty of work to do.

"The focus of our efforts is to develop a test that has a much greater sensitivity, and maintains that same level of specificity," Belisle said. "We don't want people to receive unnecessary treatment if they don't have Lyme disease, but we want to identify those who have the disease as quickly as possible."

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Google Can Warn You When Your Allergies Are About to Go Haywire
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How much allergy medication are you going to need today? Google can tell you. Well, it can give you a forecast, at least, as The Verge reports.

Google announced on August 16 that the search engine will now auto-populate search results for pollen and allergy information with allergy forecasts from The Weather Channel. The integration will include the most recent pollen index and allergy forecast data, showing a 5-day forecast detailing whether you’re likely to feel seasonal allergy symptoms throughout the week.

An animation shows a scroll of Google’s search results for pollen with allergy forecasts.
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If you have the Google app, you can set it to send push notifications when the pollen count is notably high that day, so you know to sequester yourself safely indoors. Hopefully you don't live in a city like Jackson, Mississippi, which in 2016 was named the worst city in the U.S. for allergy sufferers. There, your phone may be pinging every day.

While you can already find this information on sites like Pollen.com, having it show up immediately in search results saves you a few extra clicks, and frankly, it’s far more readable than most allergy and weather forecast sites.

Too bad a search engine can't cure our sneezes and watery eyes, though. Time to stock up on Kleenex, get a jumbo bottle of allergy meds, and maybe buy yourself a robot vacuum.

[h/t The Verge]

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