Mother-to-Child HIV Transmission

Last week the World Health Organization (WHO) announced that Cuba is the first country in the world to eliminate mother-to-child HIV transmission. Dr. Margaret Chan, WHO director-general, stated, “This is a major victory in our long fight against HIB and sexually transmitted infections, and an important step towards having an AIDS-free generation.” Without medical intervention, HIV positive mothers have a 15-45% chance of transmitting the virus to their child during pregnancy, labor, delivery, or breastfeeding, but when antiretroviral medication is administered, the risk of transmission to the baby drops to just over 1%.

Worldwide, roughly 1.4 million women with HIV become pregnant each year, and the number of children, worldwide, born with HIV is 240,000.  The WHO and the Pan American Health Organization has been working with Cuba and other countries for several years with the goal of eliminating mother-to-child transmission of HIV. Cuba has integrated prenatal care, HIV testing and treatment for pregnant women, monitored cesarean deliveries, and breastfeeding substitutions to eliminate mother-to-child HIV transmission. While preventative treatment for this transmission is not 100% effective, only two babies were born with HIV in Cuba in 2013, a significant accomplishment!

Here are Northwestern, the Perinatal HIV Program is targeting similar goals to prevent mother-to-child HIV transmission. Indeed, the Women’s HIV Program at Northwestern is the largest provider of obstetrics care for HIV-positive mothers in Illinois! This program provides integrated care that includes maternal-fetal medicine, infectious disease, health psychology, nursing, pharmacy, and social work.

Source:

CNN

STD Spotlight: Gonorrhea

Most people have heard of gonorrhea, also known as 'the clap', as it is one of the most common sexually transmitted diseases (STDs). The Centers for Disease Control estimate that between 700,000 and 800,000 people in the United States get gonorrheal infections annually. However, less than half of these infections are detected and reported.

But what actually is gonorrhea? It is a STD that is caused by infection with the Neisseria gonorrhoeae bacterium, which grows and multiplies easily in the mucus membranes of the body. The bacterium grows in the reproductive tract, including the cervix, uterus, and fallopian tubes in women, and the urethra in both women and men. Gonorrhea can also grow in the mouth, throat, and anus. The disease is transmitted through sexual contact with an infected partner. Ejaculation does not have to occur for the disease to be transmitted.

Most women who have gonorrhea do not have symptoms and if they do have symptoms, they are most often mild and nonspecific and can be mistaken for bladder or vaginal infections. Some of the symptoms include greenish yellow discharge from the vagina, vaginal bleeding between periods, burning sensation when urinating, and swelling of the vulva. Due to the fact that the symptoms are so mild that they go unnoticed, it is very important to get tested for STDs if you are having unprotected sex and/or if your partner shows any signs or symptoms of an STD.

If left untreated, gonorrhea can cause serious health problems in both men and women. For women, the disease can spread up into the uterus or fallopian tubes and cause pelvic inflammatory disease (PID). PID can lead to many different complications, including infertility, and chronic pelvic pain, and it can also increase the chances of an ectopic pregnancy. Pregnant women who have gonorrhea can give the infection to their baby as the baby passes through the birth canal during delivery. This can lead to blindness, joint infection, or blood infection in the baby. The good news is that gonorrhea can be cured!

There are a few ways to prevent gonorrhea:

  • Use condoms correctly every time you have sex
  • Limit the number of sexual partners or limit sexual contact to one partner
  • Practice abstinence

 

Sources:

CDC

Mayo Clinic 

WebMD

STDs Affect Women Differently Than Men

Most of us have heard of sexually transmitted diseases (STDs). It is very easy to read about STDs and think to ourselves, “well that will never happen to me.” However, STDs are a major public health issue in the United States, especially among women. Women are disproportionately affected by these diseases, which include chlamydia, gonorrhea, and syphilis. Below is the CDCs list of 7 ways that STDs impact women differently than men. 

1. The vagina places women at risk for infection because it has a thin, delicate lining and a moist environment, two factors that make it easier for bacteria to enter and grow.

2. Women are less likely to experience symptoms of sexually transmitted diseases, which makes the diseases hard to notice

3. Women typically have normal discharge and burning/itching of the vagina is commonly related to yeast infections, which makes women more likely to confuse the symptoms of STDs with other vaginal infections

4. Due to the fact that the vagina is an internal organ, it can be harder for women to notice symptoms in their vagina. Men are more likely to notice sores and rashes on their penis because it is external.

5. Untreated STDs can affect women’s reproductive systems and future plans for reproducing. These diseases, if left untreated, can result in ectopic pregnancy and even infertility.

6. Women who are pregnant can pass STDs to their babies and can result in brain damage, blindness, low birth weight, and even stillbirth.

7. The most common STD in women, Human papillomavirus, is the main cause of cervical cancer. HPV is also common in men, but they do not develop any serious health problems from the disease.

While this list may seem scary and daunting, know that there is good news! According to the CDC, women see their doctor more often than men, which means they should use this time to get Pap smears and get tested for STDs. There are also medications and treatments available for STDs that can prevent serious health consequences.

The CDC has a great list of resources available to learn more about STDs, how to protect yourself, and where to get testing and treatment: www.cdc.gov/std and findstdtesting.org.

Be sure to check out our upcoming blog series on STDs to learn more about specific diseases!

 

Source:

CDC

 

Having Trouble Getting Some Zzz's?

Do you consistently find it difficult to fall asleep or stay asleep? When you do finally sleep, are you dissatisfied with the sleep that you get? If you answered yes to these questions, then you may be experiencing chronic insomnia. In contrast to acute insomnia, which is characterized as brief and triggered by life circumstances, such as being stressed, chronic insomnia is disrupted sleep that happens at least three nights a week for a duration of at least three months.

Women are more likely to suffer from insomnia than men for a few reasons. Hormonal changes that occur during the menstrual cycle, pregnancy, and menopause can have an affect on sleep. Also, some medical conditions that cause insomnia, such as depression, anxiety, and fibromyalgia, are more common in women than men. Insomnia also becomes more common with age due to changes in activity levels, sleep patterns, and health conditions. Other common causes include caffeine, tobacco, alcohol, gastrointestinal problems, and a poor sleep environment.

No matter the cause of the insomnia, the symptoms are fairly universal. They include difficulty falling asleep, awakening in the middle of the night, awakening too early, not feeling well-rested, daytime tiredness, difficulty paying attention, and tension headaches. If insomnia is making it difficult for you to function normally during the day, see your doctor. Your doctor may treat your insomnia with cognitive behavior therapy (CBT), which helps you change your thoughts and actions that get in the way of your sleep. There are also medications that help treat insomnia if CBT does not prove helpful for you.

Good sleep habits can help you get a great night’s sleep and beat insomnia. Here are some tips:

  • Try to go to sleep at the same time and get up at the same time everyday
  • Avoid caffeine, nicotine, and alcohol late in the day
  • Get regular exercise
  • Keep your bedroom dark, quiet, and cool. Use a sleeping mask, earplugs, or a white noise machine if necessary
  • Follow a routine to help you relax before bed, such as taking a bath or reading a book
  • Use your bed only for sleep and sex
  • If you lay awake worrying about things, try making a to-do list before bed

 

Sources: 

Office on Women's Health

Mayo Clinic

National Sleep Foundation

 

7 Ways that STDs Impact Women Differently Than Men

Most of us have heard of sexually transmitted diseases (STDs). It is very easy to read about STDs and think to ourselves, “well that will never happen to me.” However, STDs are a major public health issue in the United States, especially among women, and the number of people affected has been on the rise for the past decade. Women are disproportionately affected by these diseases, which include chlamydia, gonorrhea, and syphilis. Below is the CDCs list of 7 ways that STDs impact women differently than men.

1. The vagina places women at risk for infection because it has a thin, delicate lining and a moist environment, two factors that make it easier for bacteria to enter and grow.

2. Women are less likely to experience symptoms of sexually transmitted diseases, which makes the diseases hard to notice

3. Women typically have normal discharge and burning/itching of the vagina is commonly related to yeast infections, which makes women more likely to confuse the symptoms of STDs with other vaginal infections

4. Due to the fact that the vagina is an internal organ, it can be harder for women to notice symptoms in their vagina. Men are more likely to notice sores and rashes on their penis because it is external.

5. Untreated STDs can affect women’s reproductive systems and future plans for reproducing. These diseases, if left untreated, can result in ectopic pregnancy and even infertility.

6. Women who are pregnant can pass STDs to their babies and can result in brain damage, blindness, low birth weight, and even stillbirth.

7. The most common STD in women, Human papillomavirus, is the main cause of cervical cancer. HPV is also common in men, but they do not develop any serious health problems from the disease.

While this list may seem scary and daunting, know that there is good news! According to the CDC, women see their doctor more often than men, which means they should use this time to get Pap smears and get tested for STDs. There are also medications and treatments available for STDs that can prevent serious health consequences.

The CDC has a great list of resources available to learn more about STDs, how to protect yourself, and where to get testing and treatment: www.cdc.gov/std and findstdtesting.org.

Be sure to check out our upcoming blog series on STDs to learn more about specific diseases!

 

CDC Fact Sheet

 

3 Easy Ways to do Breast Self-Exams

While the most effective way to detect breast cancer is by having a mammogram and a clinical breast exam, adult women of all ages are encouraged to conduct breast self-exams (BSE) at least once a month to become familiar with the look and feel of their breasts so that they can alert their doctor if there are any changes. Finding a breast change does not necessarily mean there is a cancer, but it is important to note unusual changes just in case as when the cancer is detected in its earlier stages, your chances of surviving the disease are improved.

There are three ways a breast self-exam can be performed:

In front of a mirror

Stand undressed in front of a mirror. Relax your arms by your sire and look for any changes in the size, position, shape or skin of the breasts. Inspect your skin for any puckering, dimpling, discoloration and examine your nipples for any sores or change in the direction of the nipples. Next, raise your arms high over your head and look for the same symptoms listed above.

In the shower

Raise one arm behind your head to spread out the breast tissue. Using the pads of your fingers from the other hand, press gently and move around your entire breast in circular, up-and-down patterns along the breast, moving from the outside to the center. Check for any lumps or thickening. Repeat on the other side.

Lying Down

Lie down on your back and place a small pillow under your right shoulder and put your right hand behind your head. Place your left hand on the upper part of your right breast with your fingers together. Move the pads of your fingers around your breast in small circular motions to cover the entire breast area using medium pressure. Make sure to feel the out areas that extend into your armpit. Next, check for any changes or discharge in the nipple. Repeat for your left breast.

Changes can include how the breast of nipple feels: nipple tenderness, lump in or near the breast area. A change in the breast of nipple appearance: unexplained change in the size or shape of the breast, unexplained swelling or shrinkage of the breast (especially if on one side only), dimpling on the breast, nipple that is turned inward or is inverted, or skin anywhere on the breast or nipple that becomes scaly and red. Finally, any nipple discharge, particularly clear or bloody discharge.

If you experience or find any of these signs and symptoms, you should make an appointment with your doctor. But don’t worry! Changes in your breasts are natural and normal, but it doesn’t hurt to stay alert!

 

Check out these breast self-exam guides for diagrams and more information:

American Cancer Society 

US National Library of Medicine

National Breast Cancer Foundation

WebMD

 

NIH Announces Inclusion of both Biological Sexes in Research Studies!

Exciting news! Yesterday, the National Institutes of Health (NIH) announced that starting in 2016, all research studies approved through their institutes will be required to study both biological sexes in cell, animal, and human studies in order to account for the possible role of sex as a variable. In the past, the research community has focused on male animals and cells in basic science research, neglecting the examination of female cells and animals as variables. This exclusion of female animals and cells neglected the fact that there are differences in male and female biological processes, including how they experience disease, react to medications, and even behave in social functions. Now there will be equal consideration of both sexes in basic and preclinical biomedical research!

We here at the Women’s Health Research Institute are particularly thrilled about this announcement as our years of advocacy have finally yielded this formalized inclusion of both sexes in all scientific studies. Our policy publications, sex-inclusion research forums, our launch of the Illinois Women’s Health Registry in 2008, and most recently, our unveiling of the Illinois Men’s Health Registry earlier this year, have all been attempts to garner sex inclusion in all aspects of basic and clinical research. This announcement is a great success! If you are interested in learning more about sex inclusion, consider joining our Health Registries, as they serve as a gateway between the state community and researchers who are motivated to include both sexes in their studies.

 

To read the official announcement from the NIH, click here

To learn more about our Women's Health Registry, click here

To learn more about our Men’s Health Registry, click here

 

Migraines: More Common in Women than Men

Most people get headaches every now and then, known as tension headaches. These are generally less severe, rarely disabling, and can be treated easily with pain relief medication. Migraines, however, are different than normal headaches: they are extremely painful and are usually accompanied by symptoms such as nausea, vomiting, and sensitivity to light and sound. Of the more than 36 million Americans that suffer from migraines, 27 million are women -- this means that women suffer from migraines three times as often than men!

Migraines cause intense throbbing or pulsing sensations on one, or sometimes both, side of the head. Most people can feel the pain in the temples and behind one eye or one ear, although any part of the head can be involved in the pain. In addition to the pain, migraines can cause nausea, vomiting, sensitivity to light and sound, and temporary vision impairment such as seeing spots or flashing lights. Other symptoms include loss of appetite, fatigue, and diarrhea. The pain of a migraine can last from a few hours up to three days. Some people suffer from migraines once or twice a year, while others get them once or twice a week.

Not much is known about the causes of migraines. However, genetics and environmental factors seem to play a role in their onset. While the causes are not fully understood, experts do know that migraines react to a wide range of triggers including lack of sleep, hormone changes during the menstrual cycle, stress and anxiety, weather changes, caffeine (too much or withdrawal), and sensory stimuli such as bright light and loud sounds. The best way to find out your specific triggers is to make a headache or migraine diary including information on what time you got your migraine, what happened around the time you got it, what you ate/drank beforehand, how long the migraine lasted, and the severity of it. By keeping track of these things, it can be easier to see if the attacks are related to certain factors in your life.

While migraines cannot be cured, there are a variety of medications that treat them. There are many types of medications that help reduce the pain including pain relievers, triptans, ergots, and preventative medications. Which medications people use depends on the painfulness of the migraine and the consistency of the attacks.

Migraines can make life difficult by causing severe pain and wearing a person down. These attacks can make it impossible to continue day-to-day work and activities and have a major impact on performance and ability to concentrate. If you experience migraines, be sure to consult with your doctor to find the best solution to reduce your pain!

 

Sources:

Mayo Clinic

National Library of Medicine

Office on Women’s Health, U.S. Department of Health 

Migraine Research Foundation

Happy National Safety Month!

The month of June is National Safety Month, led by the National Safety Council (NSC), and focuses on bringing attention to and reducing the leading causes of injury and death on the road, at work, in homes, and in communities. Every year, the month has a theme that serves as the focus of the NSC’s educational goals. This year, the theme is “What do you live for?” a simple question that encourages us to all think about what is important in our lives and to shape our safety goals in that direction. Here are some summer safety tips!

Heat Safety

Summer months get hot and everyone is at risk for heat-related illnesses.

  • Drink water frequently to stay hydrated
  • Use sunscreen with an SPF of 15 or higher
  • Never leave children or pets unattended in a vehicle 

Water Safety

About 10 people die from drowning every day. Keep yourself and your kids safe in the water during the summer.

  • Enroll kids over the age of 3 in swim lessons
  • Don’t solely rely on lifeguards to watch over kids
  • Never leave your child unattended in or near water

Window Safety

With warm weather come open windows to let in the breeze. Around 8 children under the age of five die each year and more than 3,300 are seriously injured from falling out of a window.

  • Keep children’s play safely away from windows
  • Close and lock windows when children are present
  • Move furniture away from windows
  • Do not open the window more than 4 inches

Firework Safety

Fireworks are a summer staple and are beautiful to enjoy. However, over 11,000 people are severely injured during firework-related incidents every year.

  • Never allow children to handle fireworks
  • If you are using fireworks or standing nearby, wear protective eyewear
  • Never light fireworks inside and light them away from people, flammable material, and houses
  • Maintain a safe distance after lighting
  • Keep a bucket of water nearby in case of fire

           

Remember: part of being healthy is being safe!

 

Sources:

National Safety Council

CDC Unintentional Drowning

US Consumer Product Safety Commission

Safe Kids Worldwide 2015

Yeast Infections: Common and Treatable

Vaginal yeast infections are very common – 3 out of 4 women experience at least one yeast infection in their lifetimes. Yeast is a fungus that normally lives in small amounts in the vagina, along with other types of bacteria. Healthy vaginas contain balanced mixes of both yeast and bacteria: the bacteria normally prevent the overgrowth of yeast. However, disruptions can affect the balance, leading to an overgrowth of yeast, causing a yeast infection.

There are a few factors that can cause an overgrowth of yeast. First, use of antibiotics can change your vaginal pH and decrease the amount of bacteria in your vagina, allowing more yeast to grow. This does not mean the antibiotics should be avoided – it is important to take antibiotics prescribed by your doctor. Changes in hormone levels, such as in pregnancy and the use of birth control pills or hormone replacement therapy, lead to higher estrogen levels that can cause yeast infections. Douching can also lead to yeast infections as it upsets the natural balance of yeast and bacteria in the vagina. Other factors include diabetes and conditions affecting the immune system. A yeast infection can also be sexually transmitted.

The symptoms of yeast infections include itching and irritation in the vagina, especially on the vulva, redness and swelling of the vulva, burning sensations during urination or intercourse, other vaginal pain and soreness, and thick, white, odor-free vaginal discharge that looks like cottage cheese. See your gynecologist if you are experiencing any of these symptoms.

Eating a balanced diet, controlling diabetes, and practicing good genital hygiene can all help prevent a yeast infection. For good genital hygiene, it is important to keep your vaginal area clean, always wipe from front to back, change pads and tampons often, do not use scented feminine products, and do not douche. Also, it is important to wear cotton underwear and change out of a wet bathing suit as soon as possible – both of these will help keep your vagina dry and won’t expose your vagina to extended periods of warmth and moisture, which can cause bacterial imbalances.

Having an occasional yeast infection is normal. The infection is treated easily with antifungal medication prescribed by your doctor.

 

Sources:

Mayo Clinic

WebMD

Office on Women’s Health, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services

 

Discovery Made at NU on Sex Differences in Multiple Sclerosis

Scientists at Northwestern Medicine recently made an exciting discovery regarding why there is a higher prevalence rate for women than men in multiple sclerosis (MS) and other autoimmune diseases. They found that the innate lymphoid cell, which is a type of white blood cell, works differently in males versus females.

Most labs that study MS use female mice because they are much more likely than male mice to get the disease. Typically, two groups of female mice are used: one group of normal mice used as a control group and one group of mice with a genetic mutation in a growth factor receptor, which blocks the development of a subset of immune cells. However, a graduate student in the lab made an honest mistake and used two sets of male mice instead of female mice. At the end of the experiment, the male mice who had the mutation were extremely sick, which led to the realization that the mutation was acting differently in females and males.

The mice with the mutation were found to lack type 2 innate lymphoid cells, which are normally present in bone marrow, lymph nodes, and the thymus of both females and males. These cells are not found in the males with the mutation, which leads to a drastic change in the immune response of the mice and means that they are not protected against MS. In the normal male mice, these lymphoid cells were activated and protected the mice from the disease.

While female mice have the same lymphoid cells that male mice do, they do not become activated and therefore do no protect them from developing MS. This discovery in the lab has led to the current investigation into why these cells are activated more so in males than females and subsequently if it is possible to activate them in females in order to reduce their vulnerability to contracting MS.

Background on MS

Multiple sclerosis is a disease in which your immune system attacks your central nervous system, which is made up of your brain, optic nerves, and spinal cord. More specifically, the protective layer (myelin) that covers your nerves is attacked and subsequently damaged, disrupting the crucial communication between your brain and the rest of your body. The distortion and disturbance of nerve impulses traveling to and from the brain generate a wide variety of symptoms, depending on which nerves are affected and how damaged they become.

 

Sources:

Northwestern Press Release

Original Publishes Findings in The Journal of Immunology

National Multiple Sclerosis Society

Mayo Clinic

 

 

Peppermint Oil may be Helpful for IBS

A new slow-release formulation of peppermint 0il has been shown to reduce the severe abdominal symptoms of Irritable Bowel Syndrome  (IBS) according to a study researchers  at the U of Alabama.  Peppermint has been used to relieve  stomach problems for generations but this is a new look at an old remedy.    The main component of peppermint oil is  L-menthol which has properties that help with intestinal bloating, cramping, and infections.  Until recently, the main source has been typically over-the-counter capsules or gel caps but the dosing has not been well regulated.    Too much of the oil at the beginning of the GI tract can lead to heartburn and dyspepsia.   Too much release at the end of the track can lead to lower bowel symptoms.

According to the researchers, IBgard is a new ultra pure formulation of peppermint oil with a unique delivery system that gets the product out of the stomach quickly  and into the small intestine where it will have its primary effect.  IBS symptoms can be severe and include adominable pain, bloating, constipation and flatulence.

The new slow release formula will be on the market soon, but as with every herbal related product, users should check with their health care provider before taking it.

 

Beware of Ticks & Lyme Disease!

Planning on hiking, camping, or gardening this summer? If so, be careful of ticks and Lyme disease! The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report that there were over 30,000 cases of Lyme disease in 2013, a number that is estimated to grow each year.

Lyme disease is a tick-borne illness caused by the bacteria Borrelia burgdorferi. Infected ticks spread the bacteria by biting animals and people. The two types of ticks that carry Lyme disease in the United States are Deer ticks, which are primarily found in the Northeast and the Midwest, and Western black-legged ticks, which are found along the Pacific coast. These ticks are brown and can be very small – often they are around the size of the head of a pin – and often attach to moist or hairy areas of the body.

In order to contract Lyme disease, a tick carrying the bacteria must bite you. In general, the tick must be attached for between 36 and 48 hours in order to transmit the disease. The bacteria enter your body through the bite, making its way into your bloodstream.

This disease is also known as “The Great Imitator” because its symptoms mimic a host of other diseases and it affects more than one system in the human body, including skin, joints, and the nervous system. Early signs and symptoms of Lyme include a rash in a bull’s eye pattern that has a red outer ring surrounding the site of the tick bite. This rash may also be found on other parts of your body, not just where the bite was. Other early symptoms may mimic the flu, including fever, chills, sweats, muscle aches, fatigue, nausea, and joint pain. Later symptoms, which develop several weeks after you’ve been infected, include severe joint pain and neurological problems such as temporary paralysis of one side of your face or impaired muscle movement. If left undiagnosed or untreated, the disease may become late-stage or chronic. The disease can spread to other parts of the body and can cause neurological symptoms, cognitive defects, chronic joint inflammation, and heart rhythm irregularities.

The best ways to protect yourself from Lyme disease are to avoid heavily wooded, bushy areas where ticks live, and wear long pants and long sleeves when walking through these types of areas. Check yourself, your kids, and your pets for ticks regularly, especially after spending time in the woods. Since ticks can be the size of a poppy seed, make sure to search carefully and thoroughly. If you find a tick, remove it as soon as possible by gently getting ahold of the tick with tweezers and pulling it carefully away from the skin. Don’t squeeze or crush the tick. If you think you’ve been bitten by a tick and start to experience symptoms of Lyme disease, contact your doctor immediately!

 

CDC

Mayo Clinic

LymeDisease.org

Protect Your Skin This Summer!


It is almost summer, which means many of you may be thinking about laying outside on the beach, by the pool, or in your backyard to soak up some sun! While being outside in the sun can help make us happier and help our bodies produce Vitamin D, sunlight can also cause a lot of damage to our skin, so much so that the most common type of cancer in the United States is skin cancer. The American Cancer Society estimates that over 73,800 people in the United States will be diagnosed with skin cancer in 2015.

Sunlight travels to the Earth in both long and short waves. While long waves are harmless to humans, short waves, such as ultraviolet light, are harmful to people. Sunburns are caused when the human body is exposed to too much ultraviolet light from the sun. There are two major affects that this can have on the human body. The first is that too much exposure to these rays makes your skin thicker, leading to wrinkled, aged skin. The other affect that sunlight has is much more dangerous and severe: it can cause skin cancer.

When ultraviolet light enters the skin, it causes a disruption in the growth process of skin cells. This damage causes changes to the cells that make them grow and divide uncontrollably, leading to the growth of tumors, just like other forms of cancer. These typically appear as a small spot on your skin and can be sometimes hard to notice. The spots, however small, reach deep and invade the surrounding tissue. This can eventually cause the cancer to spread to other parts of your body, making it harder to cure.

The best way to protect your skin and help prevent skin cancer is to first limit your exposure to the sun. This includes avoiding long periods of time in the direct sunlight, choosing to sit in the shade, and wearing a hat, sunglasses, and sunscreen when you will be in the sun. Sunscreen is especially important as it can protect every inch of skin if used properly. Different sunscreens can be found in every drugstore and they come labeled in different sun protection factor (SPF) levels, from as low as 15 to as high as 75. An SPF labeling of 30, for instance, means it will take you 30 times as long to burn from the sun than if you were not wearing sunscreen at all.

Remember to be safe in the sun and protect your skin from wrinkles and disease!

 

Sources:

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

NIH

National Cancer Institute

Pretty Nails...but at What Price?

 Manicures and pedicures used to be reserved for special occasions but they have now become a staple for all ages of women across the economic spectrum.    

 Two recent articles in the New York Times, have exposed the harsh reality of the price nail workers pay so we can have those ‘pretty toes’

 The first, a May 7th NYT article explores how salon workers are underpaid, mistreated and even abused.   This exploitation by salon owners mainly focuses on Asian and Hispanic immigrant workers.  The majority of them are paid below the minimum wage---if they are even paid!    Some salons charge new employees a fee during their ‘training period’ and even when they are paid, many report wages as low at $1.50 an hour with no overtime pay.   Some salons skim tips and dock workers for mishaps that they may or may not have caused.

 The second NYT article,  focuses on the growing number of health problems reported by salon workers that may be due to the environmental dangers associated with the ingredients found in nail polishes and other beauty products.  There is more and more evidence showing a link between chemicals used by the industry to health problems including  miscarriages, respiratory diseases, cancer and abnormal fetal development.  Research on these issues is long overdue and organizations that work with immigrants are demanding more.  Laws that regulate the beauty industry are weak and outdated. Unfortunately, the beauty industry manufacturers are fighting more stringent regulations which may cut profits.

 Read the articles –they are truly enlightening and troublesome!   It is a classic example of exploiting the most vulnerable for the benefit of those with money to spend on personal pleasures.

 What can we do??    Ask a few questions about the salon you visit ---especially if it has really cheap prices (an indication that they DO NOT pay well).  If it looks like the workers are being exploited, report it and stop patronizing that place.    Give your tips in cash directly to your manicurist (not to a tip jar or on your credit card). 

 Well groomed nails are an important part of our personal hygiene plan and we all like a bargain.   But take a good look at the working conditions of your salon, ask a few questions, and only support salons that treat their staff well---even if it costs a few dollars more.  

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