Kirsten Nunez

5 Signs That Weird Bump Might Actually Be a Spider Bite

5 Signs That Weird Bump Might Actually Be a Spider Bite

It’s easy to have sympathy for the itsy-bitsy spider if you’re not actively worried about whether its eight legs are crawling all over you—or worse, the cause of a suspicious bite mark on your body.Before you let the mere thought of spiders spike your anxiety, know this: Most spider bites are totally harmless and only a few spider species have fangs long enough to pierce human skin. You’re also more likely to encounter a bite-happy spider when, say, digging out your seasonal clothes in the basement than when you’re outdoors on a hike, according to the Mayo Clinic.Plus, it’s pretty difficult to identify what, exactly, bit you unless you see it in action. “Spider bites generally look very similar to insect bites or stings,” Craig Mittleman, MD, FACEP, the emergency department director at Lawrence + Memorial Hospital in Connecticut, tells SELF. This can be especially confusing when the weather is still mild enough to expect bites from pesky critters like mosquitoes and ticks.That said, there might be a few signs that you’re dealing with a spider bite specifically. Here are the symptoms to keep on your radar, plus when you should consider seeing a doctor.What are the potential signs of a spider bite?First, it’s worth noting that the majority of spiders have zero interest in biting you, according to the American Osteopathic College of Dermatology (AOCD). Case in point: There are more than 3,500 types of spiders in the US alone, but only about 50 actually bite humans when they feel threatened. Of those biting spiders, only two have venom that is poisonous to people—the black widow and the brown recluse—so most bites usually aren’t a cause for concern.But let’s say you’re pretty positive you have a spider bite, and you’re feeling a bit unsettled by that possibility. Generally, spider bite symptoms can vary depending on the species, but here’s what to look out for:1. Two fang-like puncture marksIf you look closely, you might be able to see two puncture marks near the suspected bite spot. “These are made by the fangs piercing the skin,” Eric Ascher, DO, family medicine physician at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City, tells SELF. Sometimes these are visible, and sometimes they’re tricky to see with the naked eye.2. An itchy bump or a gnarly rashThe appearance of a potential spider bite rash depends on the type of spider involved, says Dr. Ascher. If it’s a nonvenomous spider bite, you might have a simple, itchy bump on your skin. It might even go unnoticed, depending on the location.But if you’re bitten by a venomous spider—like a black widow or a brown recluse, both of which can cause necrotizing wounds—your rash will be difficult to ignore and may even warrant a trip to the ER. “It may present as a blister with pus, an area of hardened skin, or a bull’s eye patterned bruise with an outer dark ring around a central dark ring,” he says. Sometimes, these skin symptoms take time to appear. In the case of a brown recluse bite, for example, you may not see an ulcerated wound develop for seven to 14 days after the bite.13. Noticeable skin discolorationThe rash caused by a spider bite will likely take on a different color from your surrounding skin. This all depends on your complexion and the type of spider that may have bitten you. For instance, if you have a lighter skin tone, a harmless spider bite will likely cause red or pink discoloration. If you have a darker skin tone, a nonvenomous might look reddish-brown, says Dr. Ascher.

5 Ways to Actually Take Care of Your Mental Health in College

5 Ways to Actually Take Care of Your Mental Health in College

If you’re short on time, consider joining an intramural team, club sport, or group fitness class on campus. “This will give you an opportunity to connect with people and get regular exercise,” explains Dr. Adams. Think of it as a two-for-one deal for your mental and physical health. You may even want to look into exercise classes that will earn you credits. For example, Boston University offers everything from beginner weight lifting to marathon training so students can fit workouts into their class schedules.3. Don’t be tempted to pull all-nighters.This is admittedly easier said than done, especially during busy times like finals week. But when it comes to nurturing your mental health, prioritizing sleep is critical. “Our brains need sleep to learn, process emotions, make sense of difficult experiences, and interpret subtle signs from other people about how they’re feeling, which is important for relationships,” explains Dr. Adams. Ideally, you should try to aim for a minimum of seven hours of solid shuteye per night (we know, a tall order!)Dr. Adams recommends building your schedule around sleep, balanced eating, and classes first. “Other healthy activities can be tucked in around academic work and other obligations,” she adds. That means doing your best to plan ahead for big exams and papers, not waiting until the last minute to cram overnight.If you have roommates, Dr. Adams suggests having a chat about everyone’s schedules and establishing ground rules that protect late-night hours in your home. (For example, no loud music after 10 p.m.) While you’re at it, consider picking up some earplugs, wearing a sleep mask if needed, or listening to some form of white noise to help you get a good night’s sleep on the regular, says Dr. Adams.4. Find a self-care habit that you love.Self-care looks different for everyone, so there’s no right or wrong way to practice it. In fact, the strategies on this list—like exercise and getting enough sleep—totally count as forms of self-care. Other calming habits like journaling, meditating, crafting, reading, or even enjoying face masks with your roommates during a movie night can qualify as taking care of yourself.Regardless of how you choose to engage in self-care, know that it doesn’t need to be a picture-perfect practice. Start by slowly weaving a habit into your routine (say, about 10 minutes a day or 30 minutes a week), then note how you feel and decide if you want to adjust the time you spend on those activities.Even then, this will likely ebb and flow throughout the year, and that’s okay. “It’s important to be gentle with yourself,” says Dr. Adams. “If you miss your workout or meditation time today, you can pick it up tomorrow. Be intentional, experiment, and find what works for you.”5. Know that it’s okay to reach out for support.A major college perk is that you have all kinds of mental health resources at your fingertips. But knowing that these services are available to you and actually reaching out for help are two different things. Sometimes, it can be hard to see or admit to yourself that you’re actually grappling with a really tough problem. There are a number of ways that mental health issues can crop up for college students, including homesickness, peer pressure, and financial stressors, as well as traumatic events like sexual assault or potentially life-threatening mental health crises like eating disorders or suicidal thoughts, says Dr. Weller.

PSA: Don’t Sleep on the Campus Health Center When You’re in College

PSA: Don’t Sleep on the Campus Health Center When You’re in College

There’s a lot to love about college: sudden independence, late nights with new people who turn into lifelong friends, and endless opportunities to learn and grow. It can also keep you super busy—a packed schedule probably means that checking out various campus services is the last thing on your mind. But if there’s one service you use, make it your student health center.Not only will it put your health into your own hands (which may be a new thing for you), but it will help you stay on your A-game all throughout college. And if this is the first time you’ve had access to a one-stop shop for all your health needs, you may not even know everything that is available to you. In fact, when the SELF team discussed their biggest health-related college regrets, an overwhelming number of people said they wish they’d taken advantage of their campus health center.So here’s a rundown of the most important services that your student health center has to offer and why you should definitely check them out.1. You’re already paying for these health services.Here’s the thing: The cost of college includes tuition, room and board, and various student fees. Those fees generally include student health services, which means you might already be paying to access those resources. So why not make the most of it?For example, the health fee is mandatory for all students at UNC-Chapel Hill, whether or not they actually visit the health center, Ken Pittman, MHA, FACHE, executive director of campus health services at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, tells SELF. (Though 78% of students do utilize the university’s health services at least once a year, he notes). Basic services such as primary care visits, gynecology checkups, urgent care, and mental health counseling are covered under that fee, he says—so they won’t be billed to health insurance at all.As for services not covered by the student health fee? These vary at each school, but can include lab tests, like rapid flu testing, X-rays, and some procedures (for example, some campus health centers do IUD insertions and others don’t), says Pittman. These services are billed to the student’s personal health insurance, which may be required at some institutions.Remember, you can stay on your parents’ health insurance plan until you turn 26 years old, per Healthcare.gov, so you might have coverage that way. Many colleges and universities even offer students medical insurance plans, which may be another option for you. To learn more about your school’s specific health care requirements, chat with the folks at your campus health center.2. It makes it easy to schedule regular checkups.When you’ve got papers to write and classes to attend, getting annual checkups can feel like a drag. Besides, if you feel fine (save for the occasional sleepless night), do you really need routine checkups?TBH, yes. Regular checkups are a form of preventive care, which can help you identify or avoid health issues before they become bigger problems that require treatment. This involves services like routine blood tests, mental health screenings, and physical examinations, according to the US National Library of Medicine. Yes, your childhood primary care doctor, if you have one, can perform these services—but thanks to your student health center, you won’t need to wait until you’re back home to book an appointment.

Why Do Mosquitoes Love Me So Much?

Why Do Mosquitoes Love Me So Much?

In fact, the little buggers can sense carbon dioxide from as far as 180 to 230 feet away.1 As they fly closer to you and sense the heat of your body, they’ll start to detect other cues on this list, like body odor, which may solidify your status as a blood meal.Since it’s not possible to stop releasing carbon dioxide, it’s worth keeping this factor in mind (and taking extra precautions) before a strenuous outdoor workout in really buggy areas, especially during the prime mosquito hours of dawn or dusk.3. You’re working up a sweat.On that note, if you’re breathing heavily in the hot summer sun, sweating is probably inevitable, which also “marks you as a target,” Dr. Ascher says. That’s because mosquitoes are drawn to lactic acid, a significant compound in sweat, particularly when combined with carbon dioxide, says Dr. Pereira. “Because active people are producing lots of lactic acid, mosquitoes are strongly attracted to them,” he notes. In fact, research shows that mosquitoes have a distinct smell receptor in their antennae that responds to the chemicals in human sweat.24. You prefer to wear dark clothing.Yes, these insects are drawn to dark colors set against high-contrast backgrounds, simply because you may be easier to spot once the carbon dioxide lures them in, according to a 2022 paper published in Nature Communications.3 For example, if you’re lounging on bright green grass while wearing a black shirt in the daytime, you may be a feast for little mosquito eyes. Consider switching to lighter-colored clothing in the summer—it has the bonus of potentially helping you feel cooler in the heat.5. You happen to be pregnant.With all the bodily changes that you deal with during pregnancy, you’d think the insect world would have the decency to leave you alone. Unfortunately, mosquitoes are particularly attracted to pregnant people, says Dr. Ascher, and this comes down to a couple of factors: greater carbon dioxide output and higher body temperature. The hormonal fluctuations that occur during pregnancy cause you to breathe more deeply and quickly, according to experts at Harvard Health, ultimately causing you to release more mosquito-attracting carbon dioxide. Additionally, as the uterus expands, it pushes against the abdomen, which can place pressure on the lungs, further contributing to heavy breathing.As for body temp? During pregnancy, the fetus also emits heat, which increases your overall body temperature. Again, this can make you extra attractive to mosquitoes, who seek out heat.36. Your blood type might even play a role.Some mosquitoes might have a preference for a specific blood type, says Dr. Periera, as certain species may have evolved around groups of people who had more of one type of blood. A small 2019 study published in the American Journal of Entomology found that to be the case with type O blood, specifically, but this research was done in a controlled environment, so Dr. Periera says to take that finding with a grain of salt. “Despite any preferences, mosquitoes will still bite people with different blood types.”Here’s how to prevent mosquito bites, even if they seem to be super attracted to you.Okay, so you know that mosquitoes seem to adore you, but what can you do about it? Here are a few expert-approved ways to reduce your risk of a gnarly bite:

Why Is There a Gender Disparity in Migraine?

Why Is There a Gender Disparity in Migraine?

When it comes to migraine attacks, every hormone can play a role. That’s because all hormones can affect brain function, Salman Azhar, MD, a neurologist at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City, tells SELF. But in terms of migraine in cisgender women, changes in estrogen—the primary female sex hormone—is the main culprit, says Dr. Krel. Case in point: According to the Mayo Clinic, steady levels of estrogen can help ease both regular headaches and migraine attacks. However, when estrogen levels oscillate, which happens throughout a person’s life, migraine can get worse.When are hormone fluctuations most likely to occur?During your menstrual cycle, estrogen naturally drops right after ovulation, then again just before your period starts, says Dr. Krel. “It is during these moments, when estrogen is lowest, that some women tend to experience more frequent migraine attacks,” she says. In fact, among people with menstrual periods who have migraine, at least 60% report menstrual-related migraine attacks.Estrogen also increases during pregnancy, potentially improving the frequency and severity of migraine attacks. But after giving birth, the hormone rapidly drops, often causing migraine to roar back with an almighty force, according to the Mayo Clinic.And then there’s perimenopause, or the years leading up to menopause, which might start anywhere between your mid-30s to mid-50s. This time is characterized by uneven fluctuations in hormones, including—you guessed it—estrogen. Specifically, the body starts making less of the hormone, potentially causing more intense and frequent migraine attacks in some people. But once the body stops making estrogen altogether, hormone-related headaches may improve.Bottom line: Fluctuating hormones, of any kind, can trigger migraine attacks. Experts don’t fully understand why estrogen fluctuations can catalyze the development of migraine, though.Here are some possible explanations:Estrogen may affect pain neurotransmitters.Estrogen affects the activity of certain neurotransmitters (chemical messengers released by nerve cells) involved in migraine attacks and pain. As a 2018 review article published in the Frontiers in Public Health notes, estrogen increases the production of serotonin, a neurotransmitter that regulates many biological processes.3 This includes the sensation of pain, Dr. Krel says. According to a 2022 study published in Cells, estrogen also has a protective effect against migraine—but when it fluctuates, so does serotonin, which could potentially trigger a migraine attack. Similarly, estrogen increases the release of gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA), a neurotransmitter that reduces pain. But again, when estrogen fluctuates, so does GABA, which may also result in migraine attacks.4Estrogen may protect against inflammation in the brain.Estrogen may also help protect against inflammation in the brain. Low levels of the hormone may increase this inflammation, potentially contributing to those painful migraine attacks.4 Finally, estrogen is needed for healthy relaxation of the blood vessels, including those in the brain. When estrogen rapidly drops, the blood vessels may constrict, ultimately leading to a migraine attack.1 It’s worth noting again that the high rate of migraine in cisgender women isn’t linked to the presence of estrogen itself. Instead, it’s more about the fluctuations. As Dr. Azhar points out, people assigned male at birth also have estrogen, albeit in smaller amounts. But since they don’t experience the same estrogen fluctuations, people assigned male at birth who have migraine are less likely to have hormonal triggers.Don’t forget a migraine attack can have other triggers, too.A lot of things can trigger migraine attacks, says Dr. Azhar. “When you’re susceptible to migraine, either because of genetics or your own physiological makeup, a series of triggers can culminate into an attack.” Hormonal variations happen to be one of those triggers and an especially strong one, he says.

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