Emergency Rooms Prep for Super Bowl Syndrome

It’s called “Super Bowl syndrome.” And, not coincidentally, emergency room physicians expect the next onslaught late Sunday afternoon, about the time the Bengals and 49ers conclude their game.

Fearing that hospital emergency rooms may not have a television--or that it might not be tuned to the all-important game--some rabid football fans delay seeking medical attention for colds, flu and even chest pain, until the post-game wrap-up, doctors say.

As a result, the number of patients at St. John’s Hospital and Health Center in Santa Monica is expected to rise from a handful to 20 or 30 within an hour after the Super Bowl concludes, said Dr. Alexander Lampone, director of the emergency department. “When the game ends, everyone who had a problem shows up,” said Lampone, who has witnessed a number of such post-Super Bowl rushes.

Dr. Chris Fagan, director of Daniel Freeman Marina Hospital’s emergency room, has observed the same phenomenon: “People come in with chest pain and say, ‘I decided to finish watching the game and then come in (to the hospital).”


The stress of a game can aggravate a problem, Lampone warned, and “contribute to chest pain in someone susceptible.” If you have serious symptoms, videotape the game and get to the hospital, the doctors advise. And don’t overdo eating and drinking during the game, they add. Doing so can make symptoms--such as chest pain--worse.

Child Ear Infections

Frequent ear infections during a child’s first 18 months of life can lead to lack of language skills, and exposure to cigarette smoke may increase the risk of such ear problems, two new studies conclude.

In a study of 420 children, ages 6 months to 36 months, University of Texas researchers Terese Finitzo and Sandy Friel-Patti found children with chronic middle-ear infections (otitis media) are more likely to have language problems. About a third of U.S. children have more than three ear infections by the age of 3, according to the American Academy of Otolaryngology--Head and Neck Surgery.

“Mild fluctuating intermittent hearing loss (which can accompany otitis media) does have an effect on language,” said the researchers who presented their findings Monday in San Francisco at a meeting of the American Assn. for the Advancement of Science. “The more otitis media, the lower the language skills,” Finitzo said. “We did not always see a clinical delay in language, but we did see differences between kids with ear infections and those without ear problems.”

In an unrelated survey, Utah researchers found a higher likelihood of middle-ear effusion, an accumulation of fluid behind the eardrum, as exposure to cigarette smoke increased. Middle-ear effusion can lead to otitis media, said Dr. Barbara D. Reed, an assistant professor of family and preventive medicine at the University of Utah School of Medicine, who reported the study recently with co-researcher Dr. Lawrence Lutz in the journal Family Medicine. Previous studies have linked exposure to cigarette smoke with upper-respiratory infections in children, Reed said.

Exactly how cigarette smoke affects the ears isn’t known, but Reed speculates cigarette smoke irritants “may cause an inflammatory or allergic reaction, impairing the functioning of the Eustachian tube, which is responsible for clearing the fluid from behind the eardrum.

“If you must smoke,” she said, “don’t do so indoors or around your child.”

Added Finitzo: “If your child has more than three ear infections in the first year of life, he or she needs close monitoring for hearing and language development.”

Fish Meets Chicken

If you don’t like fish but don’t want to miss out on the potentially healthy effects of its Omega-3 fatty acids, consider the “super chicken,” poultry fed a diet rich in these fatty acids.

A grain mixture containing 8% to 12% fish meal could produce birds with Omega-3 fatty acid levels comparable to those of fish and shellfish, claims Howard Hulan, professor and head of the poultry science department at Oregon State University in Corvallis. The Omega-3 family of fatty acids, components of fish oils that are polyunsaturated, are commonly found in mackerel, herring, salmon and sardines.

Consuming foods rich in key fatty acids may help protect against heart disease, Hulan and others believe. Eating meat with this fatty acids supplies the energy of animal fats without boosting cholesterol to levels that increase risk of heart disease, Hulan said.

In taste tests of the super chicken, not yet available, respondents detected no fishy taste in poultry fed a meal consisting of dried and ground-up by-products--heads, bones and innards, the researcher added.

Joann Hattner, a clinical dietitian at Stanford Medical Center in Palo Alto, said raising the level of Omega-3 fatty acids in chicken feed does not necessarily mean that eating this special variety of chicken will be as beneficial as eating fish. “There may be other components in fish in addition to the Omega-3 that make them so healthy to eat.”

Americans consume more poultry than fish, according to U.S. Department of Agriculture. In 1987, per capita consumption of poultry was nearly 80 pounds, compared with 15 pounds of fish.

Hot News on Colds

If you’re taking cold medications, there are important facts to consider, experts say. Among them:

--Drinking alcohol can increase the sedative effects of the medication, said Edwin Webb, a pharmacist and spokesman for the American Pharmaceutical Assn., the Washington-based national society for pharmacists. “And some liquid cold products contain alcohol to make the medication easier to take.”

--Cold sufferers under treatment for high blood pressure should always consult their physician before taking any cold product containing a decongestant (such as phenylpropanolamine),” said Robert T. Koda, USC associate professor of pharmacy.

--Cold medications stay in the body longer than most people think. “With sustained release cold medicine, the medication’s effects can last 8 to 12 hours from a single dose,” Koda said.

--Consumers who regularly take aspirin or acetaminophen should be aware that some cold medications contain those analgesics as well.