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5 things you're doing 'for your health' that aren't so healthy

It seems like there are new health trends popping up all the time – some super food promising to make you live forever or some natural remedy guaranteed to make you look younger.

We may roll our eyes with skepticism, suspecting that the claims are usually too good to be true. But there are actually a lot of normal things we readily do for our health, even though there is no real scientific evidence they help at all.

Some things we simply accept as healthy choices are even potentially detrimental to our well-being. Here's a look at five such "healthy habits" that aren't really as healthy as you think.

>> Read more trending news 

1. Cleaning your ears

Who doesn't enjoy the feeling of using Q-tips to clean their ears after a warm shower? Well, the soft cotton gently removing the wax may feel good, but doctors warn against the routine activity.

In fact, according to the American Academy of Otolaryngology, unless ear wax is actually blocking your ear canal, you should just leave it alone.

Although about 5 percent of Americans may suffer from excessive earwax, the vast majority don't need to be concerned. Ear wax actually benefits us by transferring dead skin cells out of our ears. It's also antifungal and antibacterial, meaning it works to keep our ears healthy.

Doctors also warn that Q-tips simply push the wax deeper into our ears.

"The diameter of the Q-tip is greater than half the diameter of the ear canal," Dr. Mark Vaughan told INSIDER in 2017. "So any way you stick that in there, there's a portion of the wax that you can't get around. All you can do is push it in."

2. Flossing

Proper teeth care is hammered into us from an early age. Ideally, we should brush and floss three times per day, about 30 minutes after every meal. But that's only half true.

While brushing is definitely important, flossing actually isn't.

That's right, even though dentists have been recommending flossing for decades, there's minimal scientific evidence that it's actually beneficial. An investigative report by an AP journalist published in 2016 revealed the lack of science behind the recommendations.

The report cited a 2015 scientific review that said: "The majority of available studies fail to demonstrate that flossing is generally effective in plaque removal." Another cited study said evidence of flossing's benefits is "weak" and "inconsistent."

3. Using hand sanitizer

If you're one who constantly carries hand sanitizer or keeps a bottle on your desk, you may want to reconsider. It's not that hand sanitizer is necessarily bad to use, it's just that soap and water is so much better.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) explains that the old-fashioned method is still the best way to fight off germs. Hand sanitizer may be better than not cleaning your hands at all, but studies suggest it isn't nearly as good at removing certain bacteria that can lead to illness.

4. Detox and cleanse diets

Next time you or a friend consider going on a detox or cleanse diet, don't waste your time. There's simply no scientific evidence that these trendy diets have any real health benefits.

Your liver and your kidneys, if functioning properly, are constantly detoxing your body

"Unless there's a blockage in one of these organs that do it day and night, there's absolutely no need to help the body get rid of toxins," Dr. Ranit Mishori of the Georgetown University School of Medicine told NPR in 2012.

5. Taking daily multi-vitamins or other supplements

If you're one of the 40 percent of Americans who take a daily multi-vitamin, you probably don't need to.

Three studies published in 2013 found no evidence that such supplements could reduce the risk of chronic conditions such as cancer and heart disease among well-nourished individuals. Essentially, if you're eating fine, you don't need to take the daily tablet.

When the studies were published, a group of doctors wrote an editorial specifically saying that there's "no substantial health benefit" to taking multi-vitamins. In fact, they could even cause harm to your health.

"Supplementing the diet of well-nourished adults with (most) mineral or vitamin supplements has no clear benefit and might even be harmful," the doctors warned.

Amazon, Berkshire Hathaway and JPMorgan Chase to partner on U.S. employee health care

Amazon, Berkshire Hathaway and JPMorgan Chase & Co. announced they will create a health care company for their U.S. employees that is "free from profit-making incentives."

The companies say they are partnering on health care to increase employee satisfaction and reduce costs. 

The trio of companies will work with an independent company that is free from the constraints of profit-making incentives. 

>> Read more trending news 

The initial focus of the new company will be on technology that will provide their employees with high-quality, reasonably priced health care.

“The ballooning costs of health care act as a hungry tapeworm on the American economy. Our group does not come to this problem with answers. But we also do not accept it as inevitable. Rather, we share the belief that putting our collective resources behind the country’s best talent can, in time, check the rise in health costs while concurrently enhancing patient satisfaction and outcomes,” said Berkshire Hathaway Chairman and CEO Warren Buffett.

“The health care system is complex, and we enter into this challenge open-eyed about the degree of difficulty,” said Jeff Bezos, Amazon founder and CEO. “Hard as it might be, reducing health care’s burden on the economy while improving outcomes for employees and their families would be worth the effort. Success is going to require talented experts, a beginner’s mind, and a long-term orientation.”

The company is in the initial planning stages.

– The Associated Press contributed to this story.

Panera Bread recalls cream cheese products over listeria fears

Panera Bread has issued a recall of all cream cheese products from its U.S. bakery cafes over fears of listeria contamination.

The chain said the recall was out of "an abundance of caution" after samples of one product from a single production day showed positive for listeria monocytogenes bacteria. Exposure to the bacteria can cause fever and diarrhea, with particularly dangerous symptoms for pregnant women and unborn children. 

>> Read more trending news 

Products recalled have an expiration date on or before April 2, 2018. 

The recall includes all 2 oz. and 8 oz. cream cheese products

The associated facility stopped production, as well. 

According to the CDC, about 1,600 people become infected with listeria each year, killing about 260. 

If you have these products, discard them immediately and contact Panera Bread Customer Service at 1-855-6-PANERA from 5 a.m. to 10 p.m. CST Monday through Sunday or visit panera.custhelp.com for a full refund.

Hand-me-down toys could pose serious health risks for kids, study says

Do you accept second-hand toys? Beware, because they could pose serious health risks for children, according to a new report. 

Researchers from the University of Plymouth recently conducted an experiment, published in Environmental Science and Technology, to determine the dangers of passed-down toys. 

>> Toys 'R' Us to close up to 182 stores nationwide; see the full list

To do so, they used X-ray fluorescence technology to examine 200 plastic toys, such as cars, trains, figures and puzzles, which were found in nurseries, thrift shops and homes across England. They were inspecting the items for nine hazardous elements, including antimony, barium, bromine, cadmium, chromium, lead and selenium.

After analyzing the results, they found that 20 toys had traces of all nine elements, which can be chronically toxic if children are exposed to them at low levels. If the kids put the products in their mouths, they can be introduced to the toxins faster.

>> Consumer safety group W.A.T.C.H. unveils 'most dangerous' toys list

"Consumers should be made more aware of the potential risks associated with small, mouthable and brightly coloured old plastic toys or components,” coauthor Andrew Turner told BBC. "Without that, the attractive cost, convenience and recyclability of previously used toys has the potential to create a legacy of chemical contamination for younger children."

Furthermore, a few of the toys didn’t comply with standards set by the European Council's Toy Safety Directive. In fact, red, yellow or black plastics were the worst, because they had too much too much bromine, cadmium or lead.

>> Read more trending news 

While scientists said second-hand toys “are an attractive option,” parents should use with caution. They also believe risky toys should be taken off the market altogether. 

Apple wants to store your health records on iPhone, Apple Watch

Apple is taking a new step to bring your life into one location. The tech giant has updated its Health app so users can upload their health records onto their phones and have them accessible on both phones and Apple Watches.

The Health Records section of the app is currently in beta, or test, form released this week and is part of the iOS 11.3 beta, CNBC reported.

>> Read more trending news 

Apple worked with hospitals to use Fast Healthcare Interoperability Resources, or FHIR, to transfer electronic records to the devices and to keep them secure.

Apple Health will combine information and update it with the latest medical records. In the past, patients had to download their records and manually upload them into the program, The Washington Post reported.

Many medical systems offer their own web portals, but the new app can combine the information into one source, according to The Washington Post.

The app will show users their allergies, immunizations, lab results and medications in an easy-to-follow, timeline format that is encrypted and must be accessed by a passcode.

A handful of hospitals, including Johns Hopkins Medicine, Cedars-Sinai and Penn Medicine, are allowing their patients to use the app as a portal to their records as part of the program’s introduction.

Hospitals taking part :

  • Johns Hopkins Medicine - Baltimore, Maryland
  • Cedars-Sinai - Los Angeles, California
  • Penn Medicine - Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
  • Geisinger Health System - Danville, Pennsylvania
  • UC San Diego Health - San Diego, California
  • UNC Health Care - Chapel Hill, North Carolina
  • Rush University Medical Center - Chicago, Illinois
  • Dignity Health - Arizona, California and Nevada
  • Ochsner Health System - Jefferson Parish, Louisiana 
  • MedStar Health - Washington, D.C., Maryland and Virginia
  • OhioHealth - Columbus, Ohio
  • Cerner Healthe Clinic - Kansas City, Missouri

For more information, click here.

Veterinarians warn pet owners of dog flu

As humans battle the flu this year, dog owners are also being told that their pets could become ill with their version of influenza, no matter what time of the year.

As a result some veterinarians are taking steps to educate pet owners about how they can protect their furry friends, WHIO reported

At Dayton South Veterinary Clinic, the first thing pet owners see when they enter the facility is a sign that lists the symptoms of dog flu.

>> Read more trending news 

It then asks owners not to go any further if their pets have any of the symptoms to avoid infecting other animals with the virus. 

Canine influenza is a virus that is highly contagious, according to the American Veterinary Medical Foundation.

Like the human version of the flu, there are different strains, according to AVMF.

It can be transmitted via coughing, barking or sneezing and dogs who visit kennels, groomers, animal daycares or shelters are at risk of picking up the virus.

The strain called H3N8 can stay viable for up to 48 hours, with an incubation period of 1 to 5 days, with symptoms usually coming 2 to 3 days after exposure, according to AVMF.

Symptoms include:

  • cough for 10-21 days despite treatment of antibiotics or cough suppressants.
  • Nasal discharge
  • Eye discharge
  • Sneezing
  • Lethargy
  • Fever

In addition, Dr. Daniel Brauer at the clinic insists that his patients make sure their dogs get their annual flu shots.

“There's even been some concerned cases from a doggy daycare center here in Dayton, in the Dayton area,” he said. “People are coming in now that were associated with that daycare center to have their pets vaccinated, because they're worried.” 

Unlike human flu, dog flu is year round, but recently a strand of avian flu spreads to dogs in the U.S., and there’s an uptick in cases nationwide. 

“If the pets are unvaccinated, you definitely don't want to take them to daycare centers, kennels,” Brauer said

“Your pet just needs to sniff it, and they will get it if they’re not vaccinated,” Brauer told WHIO

Michael Phelps reveals he considered suicide after 2012 Olympics

Swimmer Michael Phelps has revealed that after the 2012 Olympics, he considered suicide.

>> Michael Phelps and wife Nicole expecting second child

“Really, after every Olympics I think I fell into a major state of depression,” he told David Axelrod at the fourth annual conference of the Kennedy Forum, an organization for mental health advocacy, according to CNN. Phelps revealed that after winning four gold medals and two silver medals at the 2012 Olympics, the depression got worse, and he couldn’t leave his room for days.

“I didn’t want to be in the sport anymore … I didn’t want to be alive anymore,” he said.

Eventually, Phelps decided he needed to seek help.

>> Read more trending news 

“I remember going to treatment my very first day. I was shaking, shaking because I was nervous about the change that was coming up,” Phelps said. “I needed to figure out what was going on.”

After getting his life back on track, Phelps started the Michael Phelps Foundation, which works with the Boys & Girls Clubs of America. He also has been open about his struggles with mental health and depression.

>> WATCH: Michael Phelps races great white shark ... sort of

“I think people actually finally understand it is real. People are talking about it, and I think this is the only way that it can change,” he said. “That’s the reason why suicide rates are going up; people are afraid to talk and open up.”

Phelps said that now, he is thankful to be alive. He is now married to his longtime love, Nicole Johnson, and has a son, Boomer, with another on the way, due later this year.

“I am extremely thankful that I did not take my life,” he said.

'Tide Pod Challenge': Georgia teen among those sickened in dangerous trend

Don’t do the Tide Pod Challenge. Seriously.

>> Watch the news report here

That’s the message poison control officials are urging people after a bizarre trend spread like wildfire online.

The challenge involves people popping the small laundry detergent packs in their mouths and posting videos online of themselves chewing and gagging on the oozing product.

Dozens of people have been taken to the hospital after doing the challenge. 

>> Doctors warn parents about dangerous 'Tide Pod Challenge'

Dr. Gaylord Lopez, the director of Georgia's Poison Control Center, confirmed to WSB-TV that the center has handled one case involving a teen.

“This year, we had a call about a 13-year-old. In fact, it was the mother who called us because the kid was getting sick and vomiting,” Lopez said.

While there's only been one confirmed “Tide Pod Challenge” case in Georgia, Lopez said this is a good reminder about the dangers of detergent pods in general.

There are still hundreds of children under the age of 5 getting sick from them.

“When you’ve got a young child picking up a packet, like I have in my hand, thinking it might be candy or food, you could see why kids are attracted to them,” Lopez said.

>> Read more trending news 

Lopez also wants parents to be aware of the latest social media craze.

“Parents need to know that if their young teens are getting into them, they can easily have problems ranging from just mild upset of the stomach to this stuff getting into their lungs and causing far more problems,” Lopez said.

Last week, YouTube and Facebook announced they are removing “Tide Pod Challenge” videos from their sites.

Texas boy battles brain infection doctors say was caused by flu

Witten Ramirez is fighting for his life after doctors said he contracted a brain infection caused by the flu.

Witten’s mother, Desiree, said that the whole family had the flu last week, but the 8-year-old had it worse than the others, KXAS reported.

She said he was sleeping too much and stumbled when he walked.

>> Read more trending news 

To be safe, Desiree took him to the emergency room, thinking that he might be having a reaction to medication. 

Instead, testing found that somehow the flu had caused an infection in his brain, which was attacking the part of the brain that controls movement.

Witten now cannot walk, sit, stand or talk, Desiree told KXAS.

Neurologists said the infection is called cerebellitis, an inflammatory process that can be a complication from the flu in rare cases with no risk factors.

“You can have otherwise seemingly healthy individuals whose bodies handle flu in such a way to lead to a neurologic complication, which is why we spend so much time focusing on prevention,” Dr. Benjamin Greenberg told KXAS.

Prevention, Greenberg said, is the flu vaccine.

Witten’s mother said her son didn’t get a flu shot this year as he had in previous years.

Children can recover from cerebellitis, but doing so will involve rehabilitation, which is already planned for Witten, KXAS reported

Flu virus spread by breathing, study finds

Most people believe that the influenza virus is spread through the coughs and sneezes of infected people, but new research published Thursday suggests that the flu virus is spread more easily than previously thought.

>> Read more trending news

Medical professionals believe that the virus is spread most often by “droplets made when people with flu cough, sneeze or talk,” according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. But researchers studying how the virus spreads recently found large amounts of the virus in the breath of people suffering from the flu, according to the University of Maryland’s School of Public Health.

>> Related: Influenza surveillance map: Where is the flu in my state? 

The researchers -- from the University of Maryland, San Jose State University, Missouri Western State University and the University of California, Berkeley -- published their findings Thursday in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

“We found that flu cases contaminated the air around them with infectious virus just by breathing, without coughing or sneezing,” said Donald Milton, professor of environmental health in the University of Maryland School of Public Health and lead researcher for the study.

Milton and his team examined the virus content in the breath of 142 people who were diagnosed with flu as they were breathing normally, speaking, coughing and sneezing. Researchers found that a majority of those who participated in the study had enough of the infectious virus in just their regular, exhaled breath to possibly infect another person.

A review of the data collected from the coughs and sneezes of infected participants showed that neither action appeared to have a large impact on whether or not the virus was spread.

>> Related: 11 things parents need to know about the flu, the vaccine, how long kids need to stay out of school  

“People with flu generate infectious aerosols (tiny droplets that stay suspended in the air for a long time), even when they are not coughing and especially during the first days of illness,” Milton said.

The study’s authors said the results highlighted how necessary it is for people who have the flu to stay at home.

>> Related: What is the H3N2 flu and how bad is flu season this year? 

“The study findings suggest that keeping surfaces clean, washing our hands all the time, and avoiding people who are coughing does not provide complete protection from getting the flu,” said Sheryl Ehrman, the dean of the Charles W. Davidson College of Engineering at San Jose State University. “Staying home and out of public spaces could make a difference in the spread of the influenza virus.”

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