# Tuesday, 26 January 2010
                 
Many Canadians experience what is known as 'the winter blues'. Shorter daylight hours, combined with the anticlimactic feeling once the holiday season is over, can make people feel somewhat dejected. While feeling blue is a normal human reaction to life, some people experience clinical depression throughout the winter months. This is known as Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) and can be quite problematic. While it is normal and healthy for all people to experience some forms of feeling mildly depressed during the winter months, SAD is a form of clinical depression that is triggered by the winter season.

People who are suffering from SAD experience such symptoms as:

•    Feeling down constantly;
•    Low energy;
•    Sleep difficulties (either not being able to sleep or oversleeping);
•    Appetite difficulties, including sudden cravings for foods that are high in carbohydrates;
•    Lack of interest in what is happening in life and activities that were normally enjoyed;
•    Concentration difficulties and difficulties in processing information;
•    Feelings of depression, hopelessness, and/or anxiety;
•    Social withdrawal;
•    Weight gain.

Researchers believe that SAD is the result of the days becoming shorter in the winter months. Studies have suggested that SAD is more prevalent in northern countries; this is a result of winter days being shorter in the more northern countries. It is estimated that two to three percent of the population of Ontario suffers from Seasonal Affective Disorder every year. As well, studies have shown that up to 100,000 people who reside in British Columbia experience SAD every year. A much larger percentage of the Canadian population suffers from the 'winter blahs' with symptoms very similar to SAD, but not to the extent of fitting the criteria for clinical depression.

The current typical treatment for SAD is light therapy, also known as phototherapy. This requires the person experiencing the symptoms of SAD to be exposed to bright artificial light. This treatment mimics the person being exposed to the level of sunlight normally experienced during the summer months. These light boxes can be purchased and used in the person's home; the majority of people have a significant positive result from as little as 30 minutes a day of being exposed to a special fluorescent light box. The most common ‘dose’ of light is 10,000 lux. Lux is a measure of light intensity. Typically, indoor light is under 400 lux; a cloudy day is typically 3,000 lux; a sunny bright day is typically more than 50,000.

Portable light boxes are safe and are now commercially available for those who experience the symptoms of SAD and typically cost between $200 and $400. The side effects of using a light box are usually quite mild; some people may experience nausea, headaches, eye strain, and/or feeling 'edgy' when they first start to use light therapy. These negative feelings usually do not last long and will go away as the therapy progresses. Anti-depressant medications may also be effective for those who are experiencing severe reactions to the lack of sunlight.

If you are experiencing these symptoms during the winter months, consult with your health care professional about whether or not light therapy may be beneficial for you. Also check your individual and/or group health plan to see if the cost of a fluorescent light box is covered through your health insurance.

posted on Tuesday, 26 January 2010 14:01:01 (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)  #   
# Thursday, 07 January 2010
                 
Travelers in Canada and the United States are experiencing delays in North American airports due to the recent incident aboard a Northwest Airlines flight. The flight had originated from Amsterdam and was scheduled to land in Detroit. A Nigerian man attempted to ignite an incendiary device on the flight Christmas Day, but succeeded only in starting a small fire. An Al Queda group in Yemen is claiming responsibility for the failed attack.

The Canadian government has announced that it has ordered 44 full-body scanners. Passengers departing from major Canadian airports and flying to the United States will then have a choice of either being scanned or submitting to a physical ‘pat down’ by an airport guard. The first dozen of the full-body scanners are due to be delivered by the end of next week and be operational by March. Airports in Toronto, Ottawa, Vancouver, Edmonton, Regina, Winnipeg, Montreal, Halifax and possibly Gander are the first Canadian cities to receive the scanners. Other unspecified locations will receive scanners in the later months of 2010. Until the scanners are operational the Minister of State for Transport is recommending that all passengers traveling to the United States through Canada be automatically subjected to the secondary screening program. This would entail passengers being asked to submit to a physical pat-down or a full-body scan in addition to the already existing security measures.

The Canadian Air Transport Security Authority has indicated that it will follow the recommendations of the federal privacy commissioner:
  • That the body scanners will be used only when a passenger fails a metal detector and then refuses a physical pat-down;
  • That the screening officers must be in a different room than the passenger and must not wear/have any identifying information.
The scan requires the passenger to pass through a stand-up probe that looks similar to a phone booth and takes approximately one minute. It works by projecting low level millimeter wave radio frequency energy over and around the passenger’s body. It is capable of peering beneath clothing to project a graphic three dimensional image of the person onto a computer screen in a remote room. There the security officer can detect weapons or explosive devices hidden beneath the clothing. The scan has already been approved for use in the United Kingdom as well as the Netherlands. In Canada the scan will not be used on anyone under the age of 18, due to the fears that the resulting images could possibly amount to child pornography.

For Canadians traveling to the United States, be advised that the new security measures will make wait times longer; allow for plenty of time to pass through Customs as well as the security checks. It is also advisable to call ahead and ask what exactly will the rules are regarding carry-on luggage and other items, i.e. laptop computers, cell phones.

posted on Thursday, 07 January 2010 16:39:31 (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)  #   
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