COVID Booster: Blood thinner, baby sleep and imaginary dinner parties

Blood thinner helps the moderately ill

A clinical trial led by Monash University has found that heparin, a blood-thinning medication, improves chances of survival and reduces the likelihood of ventilation (among other things) in moderately ill COVID-19 patients.

The trial included 1074 critically ill patients and 2219 moderately ill patients. While the drug worked for the moderately ill, preventing them from getting sicker, it made things worse for the critically ill.

“Our conclusions have set a new, accessible and affordable standard of care for moderately ill, hospitalised COVID-19 patients around the world using a familiar drug,” says Professor Steven Webb, director of the trial. “As such, the results of the trial can be immediately applied.”

The results of the trial are published in the New England Journal of Medicine.

Text message reminders increase vaccine uptake

Bothering people with text messages is a good way to get them to book a COVID vaccine, according to a study in Nature.

The researchers ran two randomised controlled trials with 93,354 and 67,092 participants, respectively, in the US. At random, some participants received text messages notifying them of their vaccine eligibility on either the first or the eighth day after they became eligible.

Those who received texts were more likely to book an appointment, but information addressing vaccine hesitancy that was included in some texts didn’t appear to have an effect.

Babies sleeping more during the pandemic

Flinders University–led research has found that babies are sleeping more, and parents are less drowsy during the day, following COVID-19 lockdowns.

But it’s not all good news: the study of 1518 US infants also found that they were spending more time on screens, and their parents had more depressive symptoms.

“Applying harm-reduction strategies, such as encouraging parents to choose adequate digital-media content, incorporate movement while using screens, and prioritise screen-free times may be an appropriate pragmatic approach,” says Dr Michal Kahn, lead author on a paper describing the research, published in Sleep Medicine.

Imagining yourself hosting dinner helps you better understand COVID risk

Thought experiments are useful, theoretical ways to explore scientific concepts, and a paper in Nature Aging has found that asking older people to imagine themselves in a transmission scenario increases their perception of the risks of COVID-19.

The researchers, based in the US, asked 545 adults to rate the riskiness of different activities in terms of COVID transmission. They then took the participants through one of three different guided imagination scenarios:

  1. Hosting a dinner party for four of their close friends, one of whom had COVID symptoms, passed the infection to everyone else, and later became hospitalised
  2. A fictional dinner party with fictional characters, also with COVID transmission
  3. An unrelated story about rabbits.

Adults over the age of 60 reported greater perceived risk after imagining the first scenario.

“Throughout the course of the COVID-19 pandemic, Americans have underestimated the risk of engaging in many different everyday activities,” write the authors.

“On average, our personalised intervention encouraged older adults to be more risk-averse.”

Long COVID is rare in children

A team of UK researchers has found that 98% of children recover within eight weeks of symptomatic COVID infection.

The study, which is published in The Lancet Child & Adolescent Health, tracked 1734 children who had tested positive to COVID-19. They typically recovered within a week.

“It is reassuring that the number of children experiencing long-lasting symptoms of COVID-19 is low,” says Professor Emma Duncan, lead author on the study.

“Nevertheless, a small number of children do experience long illness with COVID-19, and our study validates the experiences of these children and their families.”

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