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No-Needle Migraine Treatment Relieves Kids’ Pain Fast, Study Finds

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Experts say a common, needle-free treatment for adults with migraines may be a good option for kids, too. They presented their findings on March 5 at the annual meeting of the Society of Interventional Radiology in Washington, D.C.

Your sphenopalatine ganglion (SPG) is a cluster of nerves pressed against the back wall of your nasal cavity. These nerves help inform the brain of all kinds of sensations, including pain, and have been a target for migraine treatments since the early 1900s. Today, adults with migraines and other head pain may be given an SPG block, in which a small catheter of local anesthetic is pushed into their nostril to numb the cluster of nerves. Doing so can bring fast relief and disrupt the debilitating migraine cycle.

The SPG block has been proven to be safe and effective—at least in adults. To find out if it could help kids, too, researchers at Phoenix Children’s Hospital recruited 85 migraine patients between the ages of 7 and 18. Each kid was asked to rate their pain on a scale of one to 10 before the treatment and again 10 minutes afterward.

Like their grownup counterparts, juvenile patients saw fast, significant pain relief with the SPG block. Post-treatment pain levels went down an average of more than two points on the 10-point scale. A two-point decrease may not sound like much, but it could help a kid with a migraine avoid missing school or—in the most severe cases—hospitalization.

Paper co-author Robin Kaye is section chief of interventional radiology at the hospital. She says the block has a lot of advantages, including eliminating the need for additional treatments. “By reducing the need for medications that come with serious side effects or intravenous therapies that may require hospital stays, children don’t have to miss as much school and can get back to being a kid sooner,” she said in a statement.

The treatment is currently only available at Phoenix Children’s, but Kaye says that will likely change soon, as she’s received a lot of interest from other pediatric radiologists.

She told mental_floss: “Until then, parents should either talk to their child’s pediatrician about the best plan of action to treat their child’s migraines, or seek out a pediatric neurologist that specializes in headaches and ask him/her about the possibility of their child receiving this treatment.”

Editor's note: This post has been slightly updated for clarity.

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Animals
Owning a Dog May Add Years to Your Life, Study Shows
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We've said that having a furry friend can reduce depression, promote better sleep, and encourage more exercise. Now, research has indicated that caring for a canine might actually extend your lifespan.

Previous studies have shown that dog owners have an innate sense of comfort and increased well-being. A new paper published in Scientific Reports and conducted by Uppsala University in Sweden looked at the health records of 3.4 million of the country's residents. These records typically include personal data like marital status and whether the individual owns a pet. Researchers got additional insight from a national dog registry providing ownership information. According to the study, those with a dog for a housemate were less likely to die from cardiovascular disease or any other cause during the study's 12-year duration.

The study included adults 40 to 80 years old, with a mean age of 57. Researchers found that dogs were a positive predictor in health, particularly among singles. Those who had one were 33 percent less likely to die early than those who did not. Authors didn't conclude the exact reason behind the correlation: It could be active people are more likely to own dogs, that dogs promoted more activity, or that psychological factors like lowered incidences of depression might bolster overall well-being. Either way, having a pooch in your life could mean living a longer one.

[h/t Bloomberg]

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Live Smarter
Not Sure About Your Tap Water? Here's How to Test for Contaminants
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In the wake of Flint, Michigan's water crisis, you may have begun to wonder: Is my tap water safe? How would I know? To put your mind at ease—or just to satisfy your scientific curiosity—you can find out exactly what's in your municipal water pretty easily, as Popular Science reports. Depending on where you live, it might even be free.

A new water quality test called Tap Score, launched on Kickstarter in June 2017, helps you test for the most common household water contaminants for $120 per kit. You just need to take a few samples, mail them to the lab, and you'll get the results back in 10 days, telling you about lead levels, copper and cadmium content, arsenic, and other common hazardous materials that can make their way into water via pipes or wells. If you're mostly worried about lead, you can get a $40 test that only tells you about the lead and copper content of your water.

In New York State, a free lead-testing program will send you a test kit on request that allows you to send off samples of your water to a state-certified lab for processing, no purchase required. A few weeks later, you'll get a letter with the results, telling you what kind of lead levels were found in your water. This option is great if you live in New York, but if your state doesn't offer free testing (or only offers it to specific locations, like schools), there are other budget-friendly ways to test, too.

While mailing samples of your water off to a certified lab is the most accurate way to test your water, you can do it entirely at home with inexpensive strip tests that will only set you back $10 to $15. These tests aren't as sensitive as lab versions, and they don't test for as many contaminants, but they can tell you roughly whether you should be concerned about high levels of toxic metals like lead. The strip tests will only give you positive or negative readings, though, whereas the EPA and other official agencies test for the concentration of contaminants (the parts-per-billion) to determine the safety of a water source. If you're truly concerned with what's in your water, you should probably stick to sending your samples off to a professional, since you'll get a more detailed report of the results from a lab than from a colored strip.

In the future, there will likely be an even quicker way to test for lead and other metals—one that hooks up to your smartphone. Gitanjali Rao, an 11-year-old from Colorado, won the 2017 Young Scientist Challenge by inventing Tethys, a faster lead-testing device than what's currently on the market. With Tethys, instead of waiting for a lab, you can get results instantly. It's not commercially available yet, though, so for now, we'll have to stick with mail-away options.

[h/t Popular Science]

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