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What are puberty blockers? What to know about the medication Pierre Poilievere wants to limit access to, plus more health questions Canadians searched this week

This week's headlines sent Canadians searching for answers online. Here's what Canadians wanted to know this week.

This article is for informational purposes only and is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Contact a qualified medical professional before engaging in any physical activity, or making any changes to your diet, medication or lifestyle.

What health questions were Canadians asking this week? Puberty blockers, listeria and more. (Image via Getty Images)
What health questions were Canadians asking this week? Searches spiked for "puberty blockers" and more. (Image via Getty Images)

When they're not looking up information about their favourite sports team or checking out the latest gossip on Taylor and Travis, Canadians love turning to the internet to answer their health-related questions.

This week, Canadians went online in search of answers to three burning questions, two of which were directly tied to headline-making news. We pulled the data and are bringing you answers to some of this week's most searched for health-related questions.

This week, Conservative leader Pierre Poilivere told reporters that he's against minors under 18 having access to puberty blockers. This led to a 1,100 per cent increase in web searches to learn more about the hormone therapy, its uses and side effects.


What are puberty blockers?

Puberty blockers are medications that postpone the onset of puberty-related changes by suppressing gonadotropin-releasing hormones (GnRH), which help gonads mature and function.

In people born male, GnRH helps stimulate the production of Luteinizing hormone, which affects how much testosterone and androgen the body produces, and the follicle-stimulating hormone, which affects sperm production. When put on puberty blockers, physical changes in appearance, such as developing facial hair, voice deepening and growth of the reproductive organs, are slowed.

In people born female, GnRH triggers a series of hormone productions that cause ovulation. According to the Mayo Clinic, puberty blockers "limit or prevent" menstruation and breast development.

What are puberty blockers and what do they do? (Image via Getty Images)
What are puberty blockers and what do they do? (Image via Getty Images)

These delays are temporary and are only limited so long as the person continues taking puberty blockers.

There are criteria that must be met for teens to have access to puberty blockers, including guardian consent. In terms of puberty blockers for gender dysphoric teens, the earlier someone can begin taking medications, the more effective they are in preventing bodily changes. From a mental health standpoint, this helps limit the extreme anguish a person can feel when their body does not match their identity.

Puberty blockers are not just used for non-binary, trans or gender non-conforming people. Sometimes puberty blockers are given to young children who experience "precocious puberty," meaning they develop or begin maturing at a very young age. For girls, that means they begin developing breasts or menstruating at 8 years old; for boys they begin developing facial hair, penis and testicle growth at 9 years old.

Some parents may choose to "delay" puberty as a way to ease the anxiety, depression and mental stress associated with early development.


What are the symptoms of a listeria infection?

On Wednesday, the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) issued a recall of Taylor Farms and President's Choice Mexican-Style Street Corn salad kits and Rojo's 6 Layer Dip following an outbreak of listeria in the U.S. All three products were manufactured using cheese from Rizo-López Foods Inc., which the U.S. Food and Drug Administration has found was the cause of a "multi-year" and "multi-state" investigation into a listeria outbreak that led to 23 hospitalizations and two deaths. The news prompted searches for listeria infection symptoms to increase by 1,450 per cent.

Taylor Farms and President's Choice Mexican-Style Street Corn Salad Kits and Rojo's 6 Layer Dip have been recalled. (Image via Government of Canada).
Taylor Farms and President's Choice Mexican-Style Street Corn Salad Kits and Rojo's 6 Layer Dip have been recalled. (Image via Government of Canada).

Listeria is a bacteria that can infect people when they consume contaminated food. Listeria infections can cause fever, nausea, diarrhea, headaches, muscle cramps, vomiting, constipation and cramps. Most people won't know that they've got a listeria infection, and will just experience gastrointestinal symptoms.


What are the symptoms of the new COVID variant?

As of Jan. 28, Health Canada reported that 63.8 per cent of all COVID cases were JN.1, making it the dominant variant of the virus in Canada. This prompted a 1,650 per cent increase in searches for JN.1 symptoms.

In Canada, JN.1 is categorized under BA.2.89, an Omicron sub-variant of the SARS-CoV-2. There is no way to distinguish symptoms of JN.1 from symptoms of other variants. Symptoms vary from person to person, but may include nasal congestion, runny nose, sore throat, headache, fever or chills, nausea or vomiting, diarrhea, shortness of breath , cough, muscle aches, fatigue and loss of sense of taste and smell.

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