By Michael Roizen, M.D.
and Mehmet Oz, M.D.
King Features Syndicate
Q: I love to listen to music while I'm working at home, but my wife says I'm distracting myself and I shouldn't do it. Is she right? -- Henry G., Bronx, New York
A: That's a question we can answer, but there are a lot of "it depends" attached. A recent study in the Journal of Experimental Psychology: Applied found that music generally interferes with doing complex tasks, but complex music makes simple tasks easier, and if you are a person who is easily bored, then external stimulation such as music can help you stay involved. In short, music's benefits and debits while working depend on the music, the person and the task.
Why does listening to music make complex tasks harder? It takes more brain power to do analysis, problem solving and writing, and music can stimulate brain areas needed for thinking about such specifics. The result is your brain is overtaxed and underfocused.
On the other hand, if you are doing routine activities like data entry, then you aren't using your brain's full bandwidth, and it's very common to drift off or daydream -- making it easier to make mistakes. Adding a soundtrack to the background can help keep you paying attention to the less-than-interesting job at hand.
Some other interesting discoveries about what music does to the brain: A study in PlosOne says classical music that a listener finds arousing and "happy" spurs spontaneous, free-flowing, "nonlinear" thought processes that trigger exploration of potential solutions. Another study in Frontiers in Human Neuroscience says music that's chaotic and loud, often with lyrics about anxiety, depression, social isolation and loneliness, may actually calm anger by venting emotions that need expression. So, Henry, see what applies to the kind of work you are doing and your personality and then put on some tunes and work on!
Bonus: Listening to music when you're not working also has big benefits: Attending a series of classical music concerts for a month can make your RealAge about two years younger!
Q: My allergies have been horrible this spring. I take my medications, but they wear off and I'm suffering again and again. What else can I do? -- Lou G., Lansing, Michigan
A: Allergies are affecting more people, and allergy season has gotten 11 to 25 days longer and more severe, according to the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America. These days in the U.S., allergic rhinitis affects 6.1 million kids and 20 million adults.
But seasonal allergies have always plagued humans. Somehow it's not surprising that a film of a sneeze would be the oldest surviving motion picture with a copyright! That's the 1894, five-second long, silent film called "Fred Ott's Sneeze." Ott, an assistant of Thomas Edison, took a pinch of snuff that tickled his nose and "a-a-a-choo"!
If you're contending with the eye-itching, nose-blowing, throat-scratching symptoms of allergies to grasses, trees and weeds, here are four ways -- in addition to taking your allergy medicine and going for allergy shots or sublingual immunotherapy/SLIT -- to get some relief.
1. Dr. Mike's Cleveland Clinic says BYOP -- that's "be your own plumber." They suggest using a nasal irrigation system with warm, sterile saltwater (NEVER tap water) to clear irritants out of your nasal passages. Tip: You must clean the device -- a neti pot, nasal syringe or bulb, or battery-operated system -- after every use to make sure you do not introduce a bacterial infection into your sinuses.
2. Wash your skin, hair and clothes after exercising or walking outdoors. Pollen settles on those surfaces and can contribute mightily to your symptoms.
3. Practice destress techniques, including meditation and yoga, to lower your epinephrine level. Chronic stress keeps that stress hormone elevated, which in turn damages your body's ability to respond to allergens as it should. Dr. Mike says, it's as if your body has cried wolf too often!
4. Wear a pollen mask when outside -- you've probably got some hanging around for virus protection!
Mehmet Oz, M.D. is host of "The Dr. Oz Show," and Mike Roizen, M.D. is Chief Wellness Officer and Chair of Wellness Institute at Cleveland Clinic. Email your health and wellness questions to Dr. Oz and Dr. Roizen at youdocsdaily(at sign)sharecare.com.
(c)2020 Michael Roizen, M.D. and Mehmet Oz, M.D.