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The French doctor helping COVID-19 patients smell once more

03/08/2021

Before the COVID-19 pandemic, ear, nose and throat (ENT) specialist Dr Clair Vandersteen might have treated around 10 patients a year for anosmia, the inability to smell. But fast-forward to today and Dr Vandersteen has seen demand for his services increase significantly. Now, the majority of his patients are those recovering from COVID-19, up to 15 a week, in fact, at the doctor’s clinic in the Centre Hospitalier Universitaire de Nice. Loss of smell is a symptom in eight out of 10 COVID-19 cases and can the effects can sometimes linger for months after the patient has recovered from the disease. “We have seen a very large increase in patients since this time a year ago,” Dr Vandersteen said. The ENT specialist says studies show that 20% of people who lost their sense of smell still had not regained it and it’s younger individuals that appear to be worst affected. “The patients we see suffering from a loss of smell are relatively young. It is predominantly a problem that affects people in their 30s and 40s.” While for some people it might seem little more than an inconvenience, Dr Vandersteen warns the condition can make patients anxious and depressed. “The loss of smell can lead to psychological problems – 30% of people who have lost their sense of smell due to Covid are suffering from some kind of psychological damage. We love eating, especially here in France, so when chocolate tastes like cigarettes, for example, it can lead to people feeling unhappy or anxious. “If you can’t enjoy the smell of your newborn baby, or the smell of your home, it can be unsettling. It can also be dangerous – if you can’t smell gas or smoke, for example.” Dr Vandersteen’s team has come up with a three-pronged approach to help. First, patients see Dr Vandersteen, who determines their level of smell loss. Then, they are seen by Auriane Gros, a doctor of neuroscience and a speech pathologist, who helps re-educate the brain to recover the perception of smells. The final step is therapy with child psychiatrist Louise-Emilie Dumas, who runs group workshops around odours. “The team has had positive results,” Dr Vandersteen says. *Image courtesy of Dr Clair Vandersteen

Third-hand smoke can be as dangerous as second-hand smoke

12/03/2020

We often hear about the health risks of second-hand smoke, or passive smoking, but now a new study reveals that third-hand smoke can be dangerous too. Third-hand smoke is the term used to describe tobacco contaminants that stick to walls, carpet, bedding and other surfaces, leading to a room smelling like an ashtray. However, research by Yale University has revealed that third-hand smoke actually clings to a smoker’s body and clothes as well, allowing it to be released into environments where smoking has never occurred. While this might not sound like too big a deal, the worrying revelation from the study is that non-smokers in such environments can be impacted. In fact, the study says chemical exposure in a movie theatre could be the equivalent of being exposed to between one and 10 cigarettes of second-hand smoke by the end of the movie. Speaking about the findings of the research, Drew Gentner, study authord and an associate professor of chemical and environmental engineering at Yale University, said: “People are substantial carriers of third-hand smoke contaminants to other environments. So, the idea that someone is protected from the potential health effects of cigarette smoke because they're not directly exposed to second-hand smoke is not the case.”

Smokers told not to go cold turkey when wanting to quit

27/09/2018

A new report from Public Health England (PHE) shows that smokers who take advantage of local support services and stop smoking aids, like e-cigarettes, inhalers and nicotine patches, stand a much greater chance of successfully kicking the habit. Quitting smoking using willpower alone, often referred to as ‘going cold turkey,’ only works for a small number of people who try it, with just 4% remaining smoke-free after 12 months. Nevertheless, of the six in 10 smokers in England who want to quit, the majority try to do so using the cold turkey method. But by turning to a combination of local support services and nicotine replacement therapies, smokers could witness much better success, according to PHE. In fact, PHE says that 51% of smokers who utilised local support services successfully quit and this figure rose to 63% for those who incorporated an e-cigarette or similar into their efforts. To further boost the stop smoking drive in England, PHE has created the Stoptober campaign. In addition to increasing awareness about the most effective ways to quit smoking, the campaign also has its own free online personal quit plan. This plan provides personalised stop smoking advice based on a smoker’s answers to three quick questions. There’s even an official Stoptober app to help smokers stay on track and get stop smoking advice while on the go. The Stoptober campaign centres on three really good reasons to kick the smoking habit: feel healthier, save money and protect your family – can’t really argue with that!

A million French smokers quit in a year, study finds

29/05/2018

It seems the slew of anti-smoking measures introduced in France have had a dramatic impact on the number of smokers in the country. According to a study conducted by Public Health France, one million people in France quit smoking in the space of a year, with initiatives such as neutral packaging, higher prices and anti-smoking campaigns being praised for attributing to the decline. In 2017, 26.9% of 18- to 75-year-olds smoked every day, compared to 29.4% a year earlier. This equates to a drop of a million smokers, from 13.2 million to 12.2 million over the period. Such a drop has not been seen in a decade and Public Health France says the results are “historic”. The study also revealed a notable decline in daily smoking habits “among the most disadvantaged”, including low-income earners and the unemployed for the first time since the year 2000. French Health Minister Agnes Buzyn welcomed the decline in smoking among those on low incomes, saying that "tobacco is a trajectory of inequality, it weighs particularly on the most disadvantaged and it gets worse". Buzyn plans to raise the price of a pack of cigarettes from around €8 today to €10 by 2020. [Related reading: Cleaning products as bad as 20-a-day cigarette habit for women – study]

Cleaning products as bad as 20-a-day cigarette habit for women – study

20/02/2018

Using cleaning products regularly can be as bad for your lungs as smoking 20 cigarettes a day, a new study has found. Tracking people with an average age of 34 over a 20-year period, scientists at Norway’s University of Bergen found that women who regularly used cleaning products had lung function decline equivalent to those who smoked 20 cigarettes a day. For the study, the researchers measured the lung function of participants by testing the amount of air they were able to forcibly breathe out. They then examined the results alongside surveys answered by the study participants. They found that women who regularly used cleaning products had noticeably decreased lung capacities, as well as increased rates of asthma. Prof Cecile Svanes, who led the team from Bergen, said: "We feared that such chemicals, by steadily causing a little damage to the airways day after day, year after year, might accelerate the rate of lung function decline that occurs with age". So what should you be using instead of cleaning products? According to the scientists, microfiber cloths and water should be “enough for most purposes”, while keeping your home ventilated and using liquid cleaners, not sprays, could also help lessen the impact of cleaning products.

Just one cigarette a day increases heart disease and stroke risk, study finds

30/01/2018

Just one cigarette a day can increase a person’s risk of heart disease and stroke, a study has found, dispelling the myth that cutting back, not quitting altogether, can eliminate health issues. The study found that just one cigarette a day can increase a person’s chances of heart disease by about 50% and chances of a stroke by 30% than people who have never smoked. The bottom line is that there is no safe level of smoking when it comes to heart disease and stroke. Cardiovascular disease, not cancer, remains the greatest mortality risk for smokers, accounting for approximately 48% of smoking-related premature deaths. And while the number of people who smoke in the UK has been falling, the percentage of people smoking one to five cigarettes a day has been steadily rising, researchers said. However, cutting down on cigarettes is always a good start and people who do so are more likely to quit in the long-run. Prof Allan Hackshaw from the UCL Cancer Institute at University College London, who led the study, said: "There's been a trend in quite a few countries for heavy smokers to cut down, thinking that's perfectly fine, which is the case for things like cancer. "But for these two common disorders, which they're probably more likely to get than cancer, it's not the case. They've got to stop completely." For the study, the researchers at UCL analysed data from 141 separate smoking-related studies and published their findings in the BMJ.

More exercise could be the key to quitting smoking

02/01/2018

It’s January 2 and for many people that means it’s time to start thinking about those New Year’s resolutions. The inevitable over-indulgence during the festive period will have triggered many of us to consider eating more healthily and exercising more this year, while others will be looking to give up smoking. The problem is that nicotine is a very addictive drug and many people struggle to give up cigarettes easily. But new research shows how exercising may reduce tobacco withdrawal symptoms. So, if you’re planning to try and quit, exercise could be the answer. Irritability, trouble sleeping and even depression are all withdrawal symptoms associated with giving up smoking. However, it’s been shown that exercise can reduce nicotine withdrawal symptoms. In fact, some older studies have discovered that even 10 minutes of exercise can immediately reduce the effects of tobacco cravings. A team from St George's, University of London, led by Dr. Alexis Bailey, a senior lecturer in neuropharmacology, found that mice addicted to nicotine who undertook two or 24 hours a day wheel running displayed a significant reduction of withdrawal symptom severity compared with the sedentary group. Furthermore, in the group of mice that exercised, researchers were able to see an increase in the activity of alpha7 nicotinic acetylcholine, a type of nicotine brain receptor. Most startling of all was the fact just two hours of exercise daily had as much effect on relieving the symptoms of nicotine withdrawal as exercising continuously for 24 hours. SO, if you really want to crack your smoking habit and give up this year, maybe more exercise could be the key to your success.

Scientists find that smoking when pregnant harms the livers of unborn babies

30/05/2017

Smoking when pregnant has long been frowned upon, but now a new study has revealed how cigarettes can damage the developing liver cells of unborn babies. The team of scientists, led by the University of Edinburgh, found that the deadly cocktail of chemicals found in cigarettes is particularly harmful to developing liver cells. Furthermore, they discovered that cigarette chemicals affect male and female foetuses differently, with male tissue showing liver scarring and female tissue showing more damage to cell metabolism. Using embryonic stem cells, the team developed a way of testing how maternal smoking affects liver tissue. They used pluripotent stem cells - cells that have the ability to transform into other cell types - to build foetal liver tissue. They then exposed said tissue to the harmful chemicals found in cigarettes – in particular, the specific substances known to circulate in foetuses when mothers smoke. Dr David Hay from the University of Edinburgh's centre for regenerative medicine, said: "Cigarette smoke is known to have damaging effects on the foetus, yet we lack appropriate tools to study this in a very detailed way. "This new approach means that we now have sources of renewable tissue that will enable us to understand the cellular effect of cigarettes on the unborn foetus."

New drug could help one in five breast cancers

16/03/2017

A new type of breast cancer treatment could help up to 10,000 women in the UK, according to scientists. Historically, biological therapies have been used to help fight rare, inherited genetic errors which can lead to cancer, such as the BRCA one actress Angelina Jolie carries. However, a new study has found that such therapies could also help women diagnosed with breast cancer who do not have these genetic errors. The Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute study suggests that such therapies could be effective in one in five breast cancers (20%). For comparison, the number of women who develop cancer and have faulty BRCA genes is 1 to 5%. For the study, the researchers analysed the genetic make-up of breast cancer in 560 different patients. They found that a significant proportion had "mutational signatures" that were very similar to faulty BRCA. Therefore, given the close similarities, these cancers could also potentially be treated with biological therapies. Clinical trials are now being called for to confirm the researchers' theory. Baroness Delyth Morgan, from Breast Cancer Now, said the initial results were "a revelation". "We hope it could now lead to a watershed moment for the use of mutational signatures in treating the disease," she said. Regular exercise, a healthy diet, avoiding cigarettes, limiting alcohol intake and maintaining a healthy weight can all help to reduce a woman's lifetime risk of developing breast cancer.

Cooking rice the wrong way could be endangering your health

15/02/2017

By simply cooking rice the wrong way, millions of people worldwide could be endangering their lives, scientists believe. That's because rice contains traces of the poison arsenic, which stems from industrial toxins and pesticides that can remain in the soil it grows in for decades. In fact, rice contains about 10-20 times more arsenic than other cereal crops because of the way it is grown in flooded paddies. Fortunately, the way people cook rice can have a dramatic effect on the amount of arsenic that finds its way into their bodies. Chronic arsenic exposure has been linked with cancer, diabetes, heart disease and developmental problems, which is why the new research is so alarming. For the BBC TV programme “Trust Me, I’m a Doctor,” Prof Andy Meharg, from Queens University Belfast, tested how three different ways of cooking rice affected the levels of arsenic in it afterwards. In the first method, he used a ratio of two parts water to one part rice. This is the method many people use and sees the water “steamed out” during cooking. It's also the method that resulted in the most arsenic remaining in the rice. In the second method, he used five parts water to one part rice and washed off the excess water. The levels of arsenic almost halved with this method. In the third and final method, he soaked the rice overnight before cooking it. This resulted in the levels of arsenic being reduced by a whopping 80%. "The only thing I can really equate it to is smoking," said Professor Meharg. "If you take one or two cigarettes per day, your risks are going to be a lot less than if you're smoking 30 or 40 cigarettes a day. It's dose-dependent - the more you eat, the higher your risk is."

Study: Cold turkey best way to quit smoking

17/03/2016

Mention the words 'cold turkey' to anyone who's trying to give up smoking and they'll likely tell you that a gradual approach, which includes nicotine patches, gum and/or mouth spray, is the best way to go. But a new study has now added support to the camp that believes quitting smoking is more successful if you stop altogether (cold turkey) and don't try doing it gradually over a period of time. For the research, which was funded by the British Heart Foundation, 700 long-term heavy smokers in England - who wanted to kick the habit - were split into two groups. Half were told to pick a day when they would give up smoking entirely and the other half were told to quit smoking gradually. The researchers found that after six months, the 15.5% of the gradual-cessation group had managed to abstain from cigarettes, compared to 22% of the cold turkey group. Lead researcher Dr Nicola Lindson-Hawley, from Oxford University, said: "The difference in quit attempts seemed to arise because people struggled to cut down. It provided them with an extra thing to do, which may have put them off quitting altogether." Advice from the NHS says that people who want to give up smoking should pick a convenient date to quit and stick to it. Furthermore, the NHS says that sticking to the "not a drag" rule can also really help.

Smokers in Paris Will Now be Slapped with Bigger Fines for Discarding Cigarette Butts

01/10/2015

From today, smokers in Paris will face heftier fines for discarding cigarette butts on the streets, under new regulations designed to make the city an even cleaner and more beautiful place. Previously, smokers who threw their cigarette butts on the floor faced a fine of €35, but today’s increase has seen that almost double to €68. It’s all part of Paris Town Hall’s cleanliness tsar Mao Peninou’s fight against cigarettes and the mess they cause on the French capital’s streets. And with 350 tonnes of mégots, as they are known in French, collected each year in Paris, it’s a fight that really needs a focussed strategy. "These fines aims to give Parisians and visitors a sense of responsibility so that they also become actors in keeping the city clean," said Peninou. But city officials are taking a two-pronged approach to the problem and also rolling out 30,000 new ashtray bins to encourage smokers to discard their cigarette butts responsibly. In addition, the city’s current “green brigade”, which consists of 100 people at present, will also be expanded going forward. "Solutions exist and must be implemented," said Peninou. "For example, the installation of mobile ashtrays front of the buildings, placing ashtrays on tables in outdoor areas where smoking is allowed." Cafes and bars across the city will also be encouraged by officials to raise awareness of the new fines to ensure further adherence. It’s yet another example of how officials in Paris are committed to keeping the city clean and ensuring that it remains at the top of the tourism charts in the future.

France is King of Europe When it Comes to Cardiovascular Health

23/02/2015

According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), 30% of total premature deaths around the world are the result of cardiovascular diseases – making them the leading cause of death today. However, a recent report by the French Directorate for Research, Studies and the Evaluation of Statistics (DREES) shows that France is ahead of its EU neighbours in terms of cardiovascular health. Deaths from strokes – one of the most common types of cardiovascular disease – fell by an incredible 30% in France between the year 2000 and 2010. With statistics like these in mind, is it not hard to think of anywhere else to go for surgery? But should it come as any surprise that French citizens are enjoying better cardiovascular health than the rest of Europe? After all, we’ve already told you about some revolutionary health-improving initiatives, such as the public smoking bans in Paris playgrounds and the more recent plans to ban older and more polluting vehicles from the nation’s capital. France is often considered as a country where individuals drink alcohol and smoke cigarettes almost out of habit. However, by 2009, France had fallen in the ‘who drinks the most alcohol stakes’ to fifth place. A similar trend has been witnessed when it comes to tobacco, with a sharp downturn being reported by French researchers between 2012 and 2013. So, if you’re considering a medical procedure abroad, France Surgery could be just the people you’ve been looking for.

No Diesel Cars in Paris by 2020 says Paris Mayor

08/12/2014

In October, we told you about the introduction of a trial smoking ban in several Paris parks as part of France’s much larger campaign to combat smoking-related deaths. Now it seems that smoke from cigarettes isn’t the only type on the radar of the Parisian authorities. The Mayor of Paris, Anne Hidalgo, has just announced plans to reduce pollution in the French capital, which includes a total ban on diesel cars by 2020. Speaking to France's Journal du Dimanche newspaper, Hidalgo outlined her vision of only ultra-low emission vehicles on the French capital’s major thoroughfares in the future. Even though Hidalgo’s plans may seem a little unrealistic, statistics show that the amount of people who own cars in Paris has been steadily declining for some time. She said, "Today 60% of Parisians already do not have cars, compared with 40% in 2001. Things are changing quickly”. In addition to the ban on diesel cars, Hidalgo wants to prevent trucks from using Paris as a shortcut and introducing electric vans into the city’s car-sharing scheme. The proposed anti-pollution plans are not only good news for Parisians but also for anyone else visiting the city and further underlines the country’s overall commitment to promoting healthier lifestyles. Photo Credit: Flickr

France Looking to Ban Online Cigarette Sales

10/11/2014

We reported last month that as part of the French government’s smoking crackdown, trial smoking bans have been introduced into several Paris parks. Now, as part of the same wave of reforms, the French government is looking to make it illegal for smokers in France to buy cheap cigarettes online. Selling cigarettes online in France has been illegal for some time, but that hasn’t stopped French smokers buying their cigarettes on the internet historically. There are numerous online retailers, which are based in Ireland where taxes are often significantly lower than the rest of Europe. These online retailers have allowed French smokers to purchase cigarettes at reduced prices and the French government want it to stop. Not only do cheap, readily available online cigarettes damage the health of the people who smoke them but they also cost the French government a huge amount in lost taxes. In fact, Philip Morris International estimates that France loses around €400 million per year due to online foreign purchases. Other initiatives by the French government to curb its country’s smoking habits have included banning smoking in cars that are also carrying children; removing all cigarette branding and raising prices. All measures which regular smokers dislike. The French government’s firm standpoint on smoking is testament to its commitment to reducing smoking related deaths in the country; something which will ensure its top-quality healthcare services remain fully accessible going forward.

First Outdoor Public Smoking Ban Starts in Paris

27/10/2014

France has long been known as a country that boasts world-class healthcare and the recent decision by its government to commence a trial smoking ban in three Paris playgrounds is testament to the importance of health in the country. The initial smoking ban has been introduced in three Parisian playgrounds in the Parc de Montsouris and will initially last for one year. Part of a much larger campaign to reduce the country’s death toll from smoking, the outdoor ban will be reviewed after a year and a decision made as to whether it should be made permanent. Depending on the outcome, other parks could become subject to similar bans in the near future. Of course, smoking bans in outdoor public spaces are nothing new in some other parts of the world. However, the decision to introduce them in France shows the definitive stance which French officials are taking. The move follows a widespread indoor smoking ban that occurred in France back in 2008. French health minister, Marisol Touraine, has even said that electronic cigarettes will soon be banned in some public places. The decision to ban smoking in these playgrounds shows the intent of the French government to tackle tobacco-related deaths and alleviate the burden to the healthcare system in the process; maintaining its world-class standing. To find out more about the excellent healthcare services in France or for more information about a specific procedure, contact us today.

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