How to Not Get Sick

Have you been sick recently? Have that little sore throat that shows up when you’re just about to get sick? Avoid the #uncplague this Cold and Flu season by using these annual reminders about what to do to not get sick.

Photo (Wash Hands Frequently) by (Fairfax County), Flickr Creative Commons
Photo (Wash Hands Frequently) by (Fairfax County), Flickr Creative Commons

Wash your hands (and stop touching your face).

Illness is often spread by people getting the a virus on their hands from touching someone or something that a sick person has coughed on, sneezed on, or touched, and then touching their face. You may remember from the movie Contagion that people touch their face 2,000 to 3,000 times a day. This might be a bit of an overestimate, but in a recent study, random people touched their face 3.6 times an hour and with the same hand also touched common objects that others had touched. So wash your hands and stop touching your face so much.

When should you wash ’em?

  • Before, during, and after preparing food
  • Before and after caring for someone who is sick
  • Before and after treating a cut or wound
  • After riding on public transportation
  • After using the toilet
  • After using shared gym equipment
  • After handling money
  • After changing diapers or cleaning up a child
  • After blowing your nose, coughing, or sneezing
  • After touching an animal, animal feed, or animal waste
  • After touching or taking out garbage
  • After any other potentially gross things you do that I couldn’t think of

Sleep

We get that it’s difficult – but sleep is critical to keep your body functioning. Getting good sleep is about developing good habits, or “Sleep Hygiene.” Harvard Medical School has a Division of Sleep Medicine website which we highly recommend if you are interested in learning more about sleep. They have listed 12 tips for improving sleep which are amazingRead them nowSeriously.

Hydrate.

Stop and take a sip anytime you pass a water fountain. Carry a water bottle with you to hydrate throughout the day. Drink a glass of water as the first thing you do when you wake up (on second thought: first pee, then drink the water). Drink at least a glass of water with each meal. There are loads of tricks like these to ensure you stay hydrated. Incorporate at least one into your life.

Drinkmore

When you are really sick, stay home.

Email your professors, let group partners know that you are sick, and tell your coaches that you cannot come to practice. I am as guilty as anyone I know of breaking this rule regularly; there is still part of me that thinks I just need to “tough it out” and work through it. Unfortunately, our society often still rewards or finds it admirable when individuals fight through a sickness, but we need to change this norm. I am not saying take advantage of a sickness. If you have a sniffle or a tickle in your throat I might not advise that you lay in bed all day, but if you truly are sick, you are protecting others by staying home. You also most likely will not get much out of being in class or at a meeting if you are not feeling well.

Get a flu shot

According to the CDC the number of deaths due to the flu has ranged from as low as 3,000 to as high as 49,000 per year in the United States in recent years.

Photo (Flu vaccinations make their way to U.S. Army in Europe) by (U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Europe District), Flickr Creative Commons
Photo (Flu vaccinations make their way to U.S. Army in Europe) by (U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Europe District), Flickr Creative Commons

Get a flu shot. You do NOT get the Flu from a Flu shot. Let me say that again: you do NOT get the Flu from a Flu shot. Some people do get a low-grade fever and headache from the vaccine, but this is just the body reacting to the foreign substance, not the Flu. According to the CDC, vaccines given to children have saved more than 732,000 lives and trillions of dollars over the last 2 decade. There is also absolutely no evidence that the Flu vaccine –or any other vaccines– present significant harm, and the idea that vaccines cause autism is a complete myth. The worst that could happen is that the Flu shot does not provide protection for the strain of the Flu that is being passed around but, even in that case, there is nothing lost by getting the shot. Most people who work in public health will agree that vaccinations are one of the most important innovations of modern medicine and protect not only the individual getting the shot, but others around them.

So each flu season, get yourself that flu shot. The vaccine is available on campus without appointment at either Campus Health Pharmacy or Student Stores Pharmacy, and will remain available through at least January.

Do what you can to stay well, friends. And when you get sick, check out Campus Health’s cold-care guide or make an appointment.

This post was originally published on October 14, 2014 by Jedadiah Wood. It was updated and reposted November 4, 2016.

Peeing in A Cup: The Troubling Roots and Consequences of Healthcare Providers’ Ignorance about Transgender Patients

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Image courtesy of Randrenfrow on Flickr

My phone vibrated as I sat in the waiting room. My partner was texting me from the bathroom down the hall at the clinic where I had accompanied her to treat a rash. “I’M TAKING A PREGNANCY TEST. I AM PEEING IN A CUP” she wrote, in a panic. We weren’t worried she was pregnant; however, because my partner doesn’t have a uterus. She is a transgender woman, and her fear, instead, was that her doctor would somehow find out. The doctor had told Hila to take the test before prescribing a cream that could cause birth defects, and Hila hadn’t told the doctor she was trans because she was afraid of the reaction. Doctors and therapists often didn’t know what it meant to be transgender, made Hila feel like a medical oddity, or dismissed every problem she was experience as a symptom of being trans. From my itchy partner’s perspective, treating a simple rash wasn’t worth the risk of disclosing.

My partner’s experiences of poor care are common among transgender people. Half of trans people reported having to teach their medical providers, a fifth said they were refused medical care, 11% were denied therapy, and most disturbingly, a quarter of trans people reported harassment in medical settings.

This poor, unethical, and downright dangerous care is concerning because lifetime experiences of stress and discrimination have caused transgender people to have higher rates of many health issues than the general population. These same health issues are exacerbated by the poor treatment trans people receive. For example, transgender people who are refused treatment by a provider experience an increase in the lifetime rate of suicide attempts from 41%–already shockingly high—to 60% of the transgender population. Further, the poor experiences that transgender clients have with providers can deter them from seeking care in the future. In one study, a quarter of trans people reported postponing medical care. In another, 43% of LGBT clients who had unhelpful experiences in therapy reported diminished quality of life and a quarter developed a negative impression of therapy in general. Health professionals are therefore complicit in worsening transgender health disparities.spaceball

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Image courtesy Marlan on Flickr

Yet at the root of providers’ incompetence and hostility toward transgender people is ignorance. More than half of health care organizations do not require employees to take cultural competency training that includes LGBT issues and 41% of social work program stated that their programs trained students “slightly well” to “not at all well”  when it comes to providing services to all LGBT individuals. Data on trans people, specifically, is unavailable, as trans people are often overlooked in research. No wonder trans people like my partner educate their providers—no one else has.

Trans Health Resources On and Off Campus

Check out this page for more information about how Campus Health Services supports trans health needs. The UNC LGBTQ Center is another resource to support students in navigating trans healthcare on campus. Finally, the LGBT Centers of Durham and Raleigh each keep a listing of community resources that are supportive of LGBTQ people. See the Durham LGBT Center’s listings here, the Raleigh LGBT Center’s community listings here, and the Raleigh center’s list of mental health practitioners here.

By: Anole Halper

Anole Halper is an intern with Student Wellness over the summer.  They are getting a dual Masters in social work and public health.  Their research interests include sexual violence prevention and LGBTQ health equity issues.

 

The How’s and What’s of Sun Protection

The best way to defend your skin from damage and long term skin issues is to protect your skin early and often from the sun’s ultraviolet (UV) rays. The most common sun protection method is using a quality sunscreen.t is recommended in a sunscreen?

  • At least SPF 30 (although going above that doesn’t offer much greater protection)
  • Broad spectrum meaning the sunscreen covers both UVA and UVB rays
  • Water resistant is preferable. This is especially important for water exposure or sweating.

How much sunscreen should be applied?

One fluid ounce (enough to fill a shot glass) is the amount generally considered enough to cover exposed body areas, although this varies based on a person’s body size. It is important to apply and rub in to all exposed body areas.

How often to reapply?

Sunscreen should be initially applied 20 minutes before sun exposure and reapplied at least every two hours under “dry conditions” (no contact with water and not sweating).

No sunscreen is truly waterPROOF or sweatPROOF; the sunscreen may be water/sweat RESISTANT. These types of sunscreens work best when applied before getting wet (before being in water or prior to getting sweaty) and should be reapplied every 40-80 minutes if getting wet from water or sweat.

If you are using bug spray, the sunscreen should be applied first, followed by the bug spray; it is best to avoid sunscreen/bug spray combination products because they have different reapplication schedules.

What are the differences between the different sunscreen types – chemical vs. barrier?

Chemical sunscreens (such as oxybenzone) are very popular and work by absorbing and filtering harmful UV radiation from penetrating the skin. This sunscreen type is often colorless and remains as a thin layer on the skin.

Barrier, or physical, sunblocks (such as titanium dioxide or zinc oxide) physically block harmful UV rays from reaching the skin. Barrier sunblock can provide high protection from thsunscreene sun, but a quantitative SPF is difficult to specify. This sunscreen type is more common in formulations for babies because chemical sunscreens can sometimes irritate babies’ skin. Some folks find this sunscreen unfavorable because it does not rub in as well as chemical sunscreens (nor is it supposed to rub in as well in order to function properly!). There are colorful options that can be fun, or you can go for the nose-specific “Dad style” of barrier sunblock application modeled below by The ‘Hoff:

What about parts of my body I can’t apply sunscreen to?

Protect your eyes! Look for sunglasses that promote UV400 protection; these filter out 99.9% of UVA and UVB rays. Lips are not immune to the sun’s rays either; use a lip balm that has SPF protection too.

What about clothing with UV protection?

UPF (Ultraviolet Protection Factor) is similar to SPF in that it is a quantitative system used to describe how much UV protection clothing provides. For reference, most clothing typically has a UPF of ~6, while most sun protective fabrics have a UPF of 30 and others can exceed a UPF of 50! These are great options if you are going to be outside on a boat all day or doing other activities where applying/reapplying sunscreen may be difficult.

What else am I forgetting about sunscreen?

  • Check expiration dates! Yes, sunscreen can expire, and when it does, you will be frustrated and burnt. Expiration date locations on products vary, so be sure to look over bottles before applying! See below for examples of expiration date locations:expiration
  • Apply on cloudy and cold days This is especially important to note for your face when skiing; the white snow can reflect the sun’s rays back up to your face to intensify the damage.
  • Don’t forget the tops of your feet; take off those flip flops when applying sunscreen.
  • Scalps can and do burn. To my fellow short-haired folks: rub in sunscreen to the scalp. If you part your hair, apply sunscreen to the exposed line. Wearing a wide-brimmed hat is a good option or addition for head/scalp sun protection.
  • There are also several makeup brands/products that contain SPF. Give these options a try to protect yourself from your daily excursions into the sun’s harmful rays.

How to treat/manage sunburn if the steps above are not followed?

  • Take cool baths/showers.
  • Apply moisturizer that contains aloe vera or soy to soothe burned areas. You may also apply a thin layer of OTC hydrocortisone to particularly uncomfortable areas to help with redness, itchiness, and inflammation. (Note: do not use hydrocortisone on large areas of the body, not for more than 4 times per day, and not for longer than 2 consecutive weeks.)
  • Drink extra fluids. Water is preferred; alcoholic and caffeinated beverages can actually cause further dehydration.
  • If appropriate, you can also take over-the-counter NSAIDs (ibuprofen or naproxen) to help with pain and reduce inflammation. Be sure to take NSAIDs with food, plenty of fluids, and as directed by the package or your healthcare provider. If you are taking any other medications, ask your pharmacist or healthcare provider to ensure NSAIDs are safe for you to use.
  • Avoid using products that end in “-caine” (such as benzocaine).
  • If your sunburn forms into blisters, do NOT pop the blisters! The blisters are there to aid skin healing and protect against infections.
  • If the sunburn is over a large surface area of your body, or if you are worried an infection has set in, see your healthcare provider to see if prescription medications are warranted.

Can some medications that can enhance sunburn possibility?

Yes! Several medications can enhance sunlight sensitivity of your skin. Check medication labels and/or ask your pharmacist or healthcare provider if medications you take can cause increased risk of sunburn. Examples of common medications that can have this side effect include:  Tetracyclines (e.g., doxycycline, minocycline); Thiazides (e.g., HCTZ); Sulfonamides (e.g., sulfamethoxazole/trimethoprim); Phenothiazines (e.g., promethazine); Quinolones (e.g., ciprofloxacin, levofloxacin). If you are taking any of these medications, be sure to take special care of your skin by wearing sun-protective clothing and reapplying sunscreen with any sun exposure for the entire duration you take the medication and even a few days after your last dose.HHS Sunscreen

Be sure to look for SPF 30+ products available at the Health Heels Shoppe in the basement of UNC Campus Health Services (see photo below) and at the Pit Stop at UNC Student Stores for your sun protection needs.

 

 

John Taylor Schimmelfing is a Pharmacist at Campus Health Services. John graduated from Elon before obtaining his PharmD from the UNC Eshelman School of Pharmacy. He also happens to be a National, World and Junior Olympic jump rope champion, which clearly qualifies him as an expert on all things jump rope related such as whether jump rope is two words or one (it’s two!). 

Sources:  American Academy of Dermatology; American Melanoma Foundation