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Monday, June 17, 2013 at 10:05 pm
Soap and Water Before Hand Sanitizers
For as long as I've carried my own backpack or purse, I've had my own little bottle of hand sanitizer with me. I used it after touching money, opening doors, getting out of the BART, coughing, sneezing, or anytime I felt like I was touching something "germy"—especially when flu season hit. Hand sanitizers are just so convenient for always-on-the-go college students, and although I won't necessarily die without it, I do get uneasy when I don't have that precious bottle with me.
Now, don't get me wrong. I still wash my hands when I'm cooking, before eating, and after using the restroom. I once made the mistake of rubbing my hands with sanitizer before digging into some fries and ended up tasting oils, salt, and the sharp taste of alcohol. It's not a taste I want to try again, so I've stuck to washing my hands with soap and water instead. Otherwise, I use hand sanitizers and I see plenty of other people around me using hand sanitizers just as much.
The other day, however, I was washing my hands in the restroom when someone walked out from one of the stalls and, instead of moving towards the sink, headed straight out the door. I was grossed out that this happened, especially since this was in a restaurant. I approached my friend who had been waiting outside and recounted what I saw. My friend simply told me not to worry about it because the girl had used hand sanitizer on her way out.
But what if she had touched something that got stuck in the crevices of her nails? Or what if the hand sanitizer missed the spot? Hand sanitizer wouldn't just dissolve the dirt, muck, and any other unmentionables into nothing.
According to a column in the New York Times by Deborah Franklin, hand sanitizers aren't meant to remove dirt and grime. If anything, hands should be cleaned with soap and water and then be rubbed with hand sanitizer to deal with any remaining germs, because otherwise, the dirt would just be moved around. It seems that there is a misconception that hand sanitizers work just like soap and water except without the soap or water. It may kill some germs, but it can't be used to wash off dirt, paint, or anything that leaves from a restroom with you. So, if some of the germs cling to that dirt or grime, then the hand sanitizer isn't removing the germs at all. They stay on your hands and spread with everything you touch, even when you think you're safe and clean.
In fact, even though hand sanitizers are advertised to kill most germs, there are feared germs that are immune to the disinfecting qualities of hand sanitizers, ones like Salmonella, HPV, and anthrax spores. David Friedman, a Doctor of Naturopathy at Harvard, found that hepatitis-causing blood and feces are unaffected by hand sanitizers; yet, and I cringed at this part, these hand sanitizers are frequently used in restaurant bathrooms.
Obviously the girl I saw in the bathroom has been depending on hand sanitizer a little too much, and I'm sure that she isn't the only one forgoing handwashing in favor of a quick and easy hand sanitizer. I can see how it just makes sense. The instant "cleaning" that hand sanitizers offer is so much more convenient than searching for soap and water every time you feel like you've got germs on your hands. This false sense of cleanliness, however, could be allowing germs to spread not only to other parts of your body that you touch but to others as well without you even realizing. A study of 161 long-term care facilities revealed that the facilities favoring the use of hand sanitizers over handwashing were more likely to have outbreaks of norovirus.
People are always in such a hurry these days, and I would be lying if I said that I didn't think getting up to go wash my hands before I eat at a restaurant is a hassle. Still, with the limitations of hand sanitizers in mind, shouldn't we be avoiding the use of hand sanitizers when there are soap and water around? I believe hand sanitizers were created not to completely erase the need for traditional handwashing but to serve as a temporary relief for those moments when there aren't bathrooms, soaps, and water around. Don't you?
Friday, June 14, 2013 at 11:29 am
Your Lungs Lose More in the Cinnamon Challenge
The cinnamon challenge isn't just difficult. It's dangerous. It's not just because people end up choking on and coughing up cinnamon. The challenge can have long-term consequences on the body. For the past few years, we've seen pictures of people planking and videos of people stuffing their mouths with marshmallows or chugging down a gallon of milk. Maybe some of you have actually been a part of these pictures or videos. These little fads are supposed to be just for fun, little challenges to laugh about with your friends. Shortly after each of these fads has garnered enough participants, however, information about their dangers emerge. Someone fell off a balcony while planking when they lost their balance. A few people have suffocated from marshmallows blocking their airways. Most who try the milk gallon challenge end up in a puddle of vomit.
Recently, the cinnamon challenge has grown in popularity, and thousands of YouTube videos continue to be put up. The challenge involves swallowing a tablespoon of ground cinnamon without water. According to professionals, the cinnamon challenge is impossible, because the cinnamon quickly absorbs any moisture in the mouth, preventing the spice from being washed down. Instead, once the cinnamon is placed into the mouth, it is inhaled into the lungs. And that's about when the coughing and choking starts and everyone behind the camera starts laughing. The person rushes around trying to wash it all down with water, and the video usually ends there.
The problem is that the effects of the challenge don't just stop with that glass of water. Cinnamon contains cellulose, a plant fiber that does not easily break down, so when cinnamon gets into the lungs, it stays in the lungs for a long time, and damage occurs. Coated with cinnamon oil, the cellulose can cause an inflammation in the lining of the lungs, pulmonary fibrosis. The scarring of the lining of the lungs causes shortness of breath, chronic dry coughing, fatigue, and chest pains, and because pulmonary fibrosis creates scar tissue, the scarring is permanent. The possible treatments for pulmonary fibrosis are very limited. It would be far easier to keep cinnamon out of your lungs by not trying to swallow a tablespoon of it.
People with asthma are obviously at a higher risk if they participate in this challenge. Even those without a history of lung problems, however, have suffered lung collapses, asthma, and shortness of breath after attempting the challenge. Some people who were hospitalized after the attempt had to be placed on ventilators.
As is in the case of the Chubby Bunny Marshmallow and Milk Gallon challenges, the food used is easily accessible and common in households. A lot of people seem to be under the impression that because the food is sitting around the house and is natural like cinnamon, they can be taken into the body in any way without real consequences. There's usually very little hesitation to do these challenges because food is an everyday thing, but if misused as it is in the milk, marshmallow, and cinnamon challenges, food can be dangerous too.
Wednesday, June 5, 2013 at 9:32 am
Planned Parenthood Comes to West Oakland!
"With no grocery store or bank in the area, West Oakland is often overlooked to say the least," said Donna McNichol, manager of the new Planned Parenthood center opening in the area last April.
"We wanted to find out what is the niche, how can we help, because there's lots of existing community groups that are helping," explained Donna, "and they said that access to reproductive health care services was one of the most important missing pieces rights now, that there are some great organizations but there's a delay in getting appointments and things like that."
According to Donna, the center has been long in the making. Though Planned Parenthood Mar Monte has been collaborating with other local organizations for years, this is the first time they maintained a separate presence in west Oakland, and they wanted to get it right.
Looking around the center, it was clear that much time and effort have been invested in the site and equipment—from their high-tech colposcopy machines that required a special collaboration to be made accessible to the carefully picked staff to the strategic location just down the street from the West Oakland BART Station.
Unlike other centers with similar services, the new Planned Parenthood center focuses on birth control as a part of a life plan, said Donna, helping patients assess various birth control methods and decide which are most suitable for their long-term plans—be they birth control pills or one of several LARC (long-acting reversible contraceptives) options like patches or IUCs.
But don't be fooled by services that seem geared toward women! The center is open 20 hours a week to serve the community as a whole, Donna assured me, offering HIV and STI testing and health counseling for men as well and hoping to launch their trans-inclusive services and expand their hours soon. As part of the county grant project for opt-out HIV testing, the center encourages all individuals to learn their HIV status through a quick 5 to 10 minute preliminary test regardless of their lifestyle or sexual profile. They expect a high turnout in the upcoming months.
But how will patients pay for these services? Financial compensation is clearly a concern in a community consisting of mainly low-income families.
"The center operates on a sliding scale," explained Donna, charging patients based on factors like income, family size, and insurance coverage to ensure the affordability of these health services.
"And it's all completely private," said Donna, explaining that patient records are kept entirely confidential, even from a partner or family member, unless otherwise authorized by the patient, which may be a concern for many minors in particular.
Yet the services of Planned Parenthood extend past the center as well. As Lupe Rodriguez, the Director of Public Affairs, demonstrated, there's also much politics involved in this effort to make a positive impact.
For example, Planned Parenthood Mar Monte was one of the main supporters of AB 1248, which passed into law earlier this year, allowing registered nurses to provide birth control services previously limited to medical practitioners only. This improves access to health services for people living in remote areas where the number of medical personnel is more limited, explained Donna.
The center also rallied behind SB 640 to prevent further cuts to reimbursement rates of insurance companies, which would have forced Planned Parenthood to reduce their services. In addition, Lupe was excited to announce that the Safe and Early Access Bill, their most recent endeavor, is currently passing through the state senate. The bill will increase access to abortion services by allowing trained mid-level clinicians (nurse practitioners, physicians' assistants, and certified midwives) to provide aspiration abortion, yet another service that had been previously limited to physicians. The center had worked tirelessly for 6 years in collaboration with UCSF to research the efficiency of such a measure before deciding to support it.
"It's all connected," remarked Donna, who had started as a volunteer herself, explaining Planned Parenthood's commitment to enacting change through various approaches. The organization has even recently contracted with the Oakland Unified School District to provide sexual health education to local middle schools, attesting to their reliability.
"We're just excited to be in the community," declared Lupe with a smile to Donna's approving nods, "Come one, come all!"
The Planned Parenthood Mar Monte health center in West Oakland (not to be mistaken with the West Oakland Health Center) is open and more than happy to serve the community. To get more information or to make an appointment, visit their website or call 1 (877) 855-7526.
The center is located at 1682 7th Street, Oakland, CA 94607, and is tentatively open on Mondays and Wednesdays from 9 am to 4 pm as well as on Saturdays from 10 am to 2 pm until more hours are made possible.
Monday, June 3, 2013 at 12:34 pm
Dropped from the Dialogue on Sexual Violence
You might have come across an article recently written by the The Daily Californian's Elisabeth Bahadori titled "Asking for It." I know it's been going viral on my own Facebook news feed. The article talks about sexual violence against women in light of a recent incident taking place in Ohio involving two football players publicly assaulting a 16-year-old girl while their peers presumably cheered them on.
While the article most nobly explores rape culture and how female victims are often blamed for their assaults, a large portion of sexual assault victims were nearly left out of the conversation altogether: men. Contrary to common belief, sexual violence against men is possible and common.
According to the National Institute of Justice (NIJ) and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 2.78 million men in the U.S. had reported sexual assault by 1998 alone, making up 14% of the total reported rapes. If we take unreported assaults into consideration (about 54% of total assaults), that number skyrockets to over 6 million.
But sexual assault against men is more than just statistics; it is a serious crime that is often motivated by a desire to overpower another using sex as a weapon against him. Sexual violence often leaves the victim with feelings of shame, guilt, and quite often an inability to talk about or even acknowledge the assault.
And how could the, when our society takes little measure to assure male rape survivors that they are not alone and that what they experienced is indeed not their fault?
The National Alliance to End Sexual Violence sums up the stigma surrounding sexual violence against men in the following statement:
For our society to acknowledge that men are raped, we must first recognize and acknowledge that men can be vulnerable. Both men and women are socialized to see men as powerful, assertive and in control of their bodies. It may be challenging for some to think of men being the victims of sexual crimes because it is challenging to recognize men as 'victims' and still think of them as men.
In order to decrease that 54% of unreported sexual assaults and increase the number of perpetrators who face the consequences of their hateful crimes (only about 3% do at this point), we must first rethink the way we address sexual violence against men in our daily interactions and in media in a way that focuses less on gender roles and more on basic human needs: the need to feel safe and supported.
But how can male victims of sexual violence regain feelings of safety and support when so little representation of them exists in the media except as perpetrators, when the few media outlets that do depict sexual violence against men treat it as a joke, and when most sexual violence resources cater their efforts toward female victims to leave men and transgender individuals underrepresented and underserved?
Think of movies like I Now Pronounce You Chuck and Larry, when no one wants to pick up the bar of soap from the communal bathroom, or the 2006 release Let's Go to Prison, both trivializing institutionalized rape as something that is acceptable and comical when it is anything but.
In 2001, the Human Rights Watch published a report titled "No Escape: Male Rape in U.S. Prisons" highlighting 200 prisoners' experiences with sexual violence in prisons across 37 different U.S. states. A similar survey conducted by Prison Journal in 2000 estimated that 21% of male prisoners experience some kind of sexual assault while serving their time. This includes non-consensual penetration and other coerced sexual activities. I fail to see the humor.
As long as male victims of sexual violence continue to face society's unwillingness to acknowledge and validate their experiences, no substantial progress can be made in reducing sexual violence as a whole—be it on the institutionalized or individual level. Sexual violence must be considered in its entirety—through its effects on men, women, and transgender individuals—for resources to be most efficiently utilized toward supporting its victims regardless of how they identify.
Here are some resources for male victims of sexual violence:
Monday, May 13, 2013 at 9:44 am
Review of "Silver Linings Playbook" in the Perspective of Mental Illness
Winning many awards and nominations in the Academy Awards, "Silver Linings Playbook" offers an interesting, at times controversial, view on mental illness. Featuring a main character, Pat, who suffers from bipolar disorder and experiences manic and depressive episodes, the film also includes a few other characters—ranging from the Pat's father to his love interests, Tiffany and Nikki—who display hints of mental illness.
The irony of the movie is that Pat at times seems to be the sanest character in the film, because other characters who have not been diagnosed as mentally ill clearly have mental health issues.
A hardcore football fanatic, Pat's father believes that his favorite team winning a game was dependent on his son being present. He shows symptoms of obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD): needing to keep his office organized to the point of counting the number of envelopes in his office. When his team loses a game, Pat's father becomes hysterical and even violent, demonstrating he also suffers from mental instability.
A few other characters also display mental health issues. For example, Pat's best friend confides in Pat from time to time telling him he is unhappy with his marriage and that he sometimes punches the wall. Tiffany is Pat's indirect love interest and is suffering from depression due to the death of her husband. Tiffany is prone to mood swings throughout the film; she also accuses Pat of trying to harass her when he was not.
One of the take-home messages of the film is that every person likely exhibit some forms of "deviant" behavior or emotional "disturbance" sporadically. In other words, we are all a little crazy.
One of the questions raised by the film is one theme revealed toward the end, which follows along the lines of "love conquers all." After a sudden wrap-up in the form of a Hollywood happy ending, Pat's mental illness is no longer addressed. It is unclear if he began taking medication or if he simply got better on his own through his therapy sessions or support from his family. This ambiguity leaves some experts and psychiatrists wondering if this is sending the wrong message to those struggling with actual bipolar disorder.
It is important to remember that although love certainly can help those suffering from mental illnesses, it can neither hide nor eliminate diagnosable mental illnesses. Professional help is often necessary.
In the end, it is up to the viewers to decide if they like the film, but these points should be taken into consideration when watching "Silver Linings Playbook." The media can occasionally propagate stereotypes and misconceptions about mental illness, and it is important to critically think about these issue in all films.