Health

We Know You’re Dying to Talk About Period Poop

We Know You’re Dying to Talk About Period Poop

Certain aspects of having a period are talked about more frequently than others, like dealing with menstural cramps, sore boobs, and bloating. But there’s one common symptom that, for whatever reason, gets less buzz: period poop.Yup, it’s not just you—pooping habits can get weird during your period. “Many people do get bowel changes just before or during their period,” Kyle Staller, MD, a gastroenterologist at Massachusetts General Hospital, tells SELF. That includes a whole potential host of things, from period constipation to period diarrhea, with some people just pooping more than usual during that time of the month.Maybe you just happened to notice that period poop is a thing for you and are simply curious about what, exactly, is going on down there. Or maybe period poop is a problem for you and you need a solution ASAP. Either way, getting to the bottom of this (no pun intended) can go a long way toward helping you understand your body and figuring out a solution if your period poops start to interfere with your life. Here’s what you need to know about this totally normal phenomenon.What are period poops?Some people refer to changes in bowel movement that happen around their menstrual cycle as period poops. As with most other period wonkiness, you can thank hormonal fluctuations for this phenomenon. “The reason that this happens is largely due to hormones,” Dr. Staller says. That includes constipation that starts before your period and subsequent diarrhea or excessive pooping that happens once aunt Flo has actually come to town.Preperiod constipation could be a result of an increase in the hormone progesterone, which starts to increase in the time between ovulation and when you get your period.1 Progesterone can cause food to move more slowly through your intestines, backing you up in the process.But levels of progesterone plummet around the same time that your period starts.1 Simultaneously, there’s an increase in hormone-like compounds in your body called prostaglandins. The cells that make up the lining of your uterus (known as endometrial cells), produce these prostaglandins, which get released as the lining of your uterus breaks down right before and during menstruation. These chemicals cause the blood vessels and muscles in the uterus to contract. If your body has high levels of prostaglandins, they can make their way into the muscle that lines your bowels.There, they can cause your intestines to contract just like your uterus and push out fecal matter quickly, Ashkan Farhadi, MD, a gastroenterologist at MemorialCare Orange Coast Medical Center, tells SELF. (Fun fact: These prostaglandins are also responsible for those painful menstrual cramps you might get every month.) This explains why you might have diarrhea or poop so much more often during your period.Of course this can all vary for different people. But if you notice you experience constipation or diarrhea right around your period like clockwork, this may be why.Back to topCan health conditions cause period poop changes?Certain health conditions like endometriosis, Crohn’s disease, irritable bowel syndrome, or ulcerative colitis, can flare up during menstruation, leading to bowel changes. For example, if you struggle with Crohn’s disease, which can often cause diarrhea, or IBS-D (a form of IBS that causes people to have diarrhea), your body’s release of prostaglandins during your period may exacerbate your condition, worsening your diarrhea. But if you suffer from IBS-C (IBS that causes people to have constipation), you may find yourself struggling even more to have a bowel movement on your period as progesterone further slows your bowels’ activity. Since ulcerative colitis can lead to both diarrhea and constipation, you might experience an uptick in either during your period.Back to topWhat does it mean if it hurts to poop during my period?There are a few potential reasons why it might hurt to poop on your period. If it’s something you notice here and there—especially if you’re dealing with a lot of diarrhea—it could be a side effect of diarrhea itself, like cramping in your stomach or even irritation around your anus from going so often, Dr. Farhadi says.

Here’s How the U.S. Handled Its Last Big Monkeypox Outbreak

Here’s How the U.S. Handled Its Last Big Monkeypox Outbreak

Symptoms of monkeypox are similar to smallpox but milder. Symptoms usually begin one to two weeks after exposure. Early on, this can include fever, headache, exhaustion, muscle aches, and swollen lymph nodes (which is the only notable symptom present with monkeypox but not smallpox), according to the CDC. One to three days later, a rash appears, often starting on the face and then spreading to other areas of the body. The lesions change over time, eventually turning into pustules and then scabs before falling off. People are usually sick for two to four weeks. The 2003 monkeypox outbreak was contained through a multi-pronged approach.Spearheaded by the CDC, federal agencies like the U.S. Department of Agriculture and U.S. Food and Drug Administration, and state public health departments, the response included lab testing; epidemiological investigation; the development of treatment guidelines for patients and doctors, as well as vets and other people who handle animals; the distribution of smallpox vaccines and treatments; and federal regulation. For instance, the CDC quickly issued a ban on the importation of African rodents (dead or alive), including animals who were born outside of the African continent but whose native habitat is in Africa. The FDA also issued a ban on the interstate sale, transportation, or release of prairie dogs and six types of African rodents, though it was rescinded in 2008.That first outbreak was a primer on how to quickly mount a multifaceted defense. It also prompted authorities to take preparatory steps that left us better resourced to handle the situation today. Namely, the government renewed interest in smallpox vaccination, which has not been routine in the U.S. since 1972, when smallpox was eradicated, according to the CDC. (Currently, the smallpox vaccination is only recommended for military personnel and lab workers who work with certain kinds of poxviruses.)Observational studies in Africa have indicated that smallpox vaccinations are about 85% effective in preventing monkeypox, per the WHO. Experts also think that getting vaccinated after monkeypox exposure can help either prevent the disease or lessen the severity, the CDC explains. (The agency recommends vaccination within four days of exposure.) The U.S. is in the process of securing more smallpox vaccines in the event of an emergency. The Danish pharmaceutical company that created the smallpox vaccine licensed for use against monkeypox in the U.S. said in a news release that the U.S. government is exercising options from an existing contract to order $119 million in smallpox vaccines to be manufactured starting next year. However, a U.S. Department of Health and Human Services spokesperson told Axios that this order was unrelated to the recent monkeypox cases. The company says they have been working with the U.S. government on the smallpox vaccine since 2003. Another smallpox vaccination has also been FDA-approved for monkeypox prevention, although it isn’t CDC-recommended or available yet. The CDC committee that issues vaccine recommendations is currently evaluating that vaccine for use in people whose jobs put them at higher risk of exposure.The federal government says it is monitoring the current situation in the U.S. closely.“We’re working on it hard to figure out what we do,” President Joe Biden said on Sunday.  continued. “It is a concern in the sense that if it were to spread, it’s consequential.”He also sent a more hopeful message during a news conference in Tokyo on Monday, per USA Today. “I just don’t think it rises to the level of the kind of concern that existed with COVID-19,” President Biden said.Ashish Jha, MD, MPH, the White House Coronavirus Response Coordinator, told ABC News on Sunday that he feels the country is well-prepared should the outbreak grow. “This is a virus we understand. We have vaccines against it,” Dr. Jha said. “I am confident we’re going to be able to keep our arms around it. We’re going to track it very closely and use the tools we have to make sure that we continue to prevent further spread and take care of the people who get infected.” Related:

Here’s How to Survive Your Spring Allergies

Here’s How to Survive Your Spring Allergies

There’s nothing more invigorating than opening your window on a spring day and breathing in the fresh air—unless you have spring allergies, that is. In that case, taking a whiff of those budding blooms may only lead to sneezing and wheezing.Allergies, including seasonal allergies, occur when your immune system mistakenly sees typically harmless substances (like pollen) as a threat. This sets off an attack that leads to an allergic reaction, which can affect your nasal passages, skin, airways, eyes, and digestive system. These reactions can range from mild to severe and vary by person, according to the Mayo Clinic. While you can’t cure allergies, you can learn to control them. Here’s how to conquer your spring allergies when pollen season hits full swing.What are the most common spring allergens?Tree pollen is the most common spring allergen, according to a 2021 allergy report from the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America (AAFA).1 Even if you don’t live by a forest, tree pollen is more likely to affect you because the pollen grains are very small. We’re talking about the tiniest of pinches containing thousands of grains, which are even smaller than ragweed pollen grains, the main fall allergy offender. The wind can carry tree pollen for several miles, making spring allergies especially hard to avoid.There are lots of different tree types that release pollen associated with spring allergies, including:AshAspenBirchCedarElmHickoryOakOlivePecanPoplarWillowGrass pollens can also trigger spring allergies for many people, but it depends on where you live. In the northern U.S., grass allergies are at their worst in the late spring and early summer. In the south, grasses may release pollen all year long, according to the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America. Weed pollen is typically more of late summer or early fall allergen, so you might be spared in the spring.Back to topWhat do spring allergy symptoms feel like?Spring allergy symptoms are the result of a complex set of reactions that occur in the body. Researchers tend to break these reactions down into an early phase and a late phase.According to a 2020 study published in the journal Asthma, Allergy, and Clinical Immunology, in the early phase, an allergen (like pollen) enters your body. There are specific receptors on your cells called antigen-specific immunoglobulin e (IgE) receptors. These IgE receptors trigger a rapid response in the body that involves the release of histamines and other substances that quickly trigger symptoms like sneezing, runny nose, and itchy eyes.2 Think of these symptoms as those that occur seemingly the minute you step outside on a nice spring day.The late-stage effects are when your body takes hours to respond to allergen exposure. The cells release other substances that cause inflammation in the body. This inflammation then leads to tissue swelling, which can spur nasal congestion and, in some people, asthma symptoms, such as shortness of breath, coughing, and wheezing. Uncontrolled asthma can be dangerous, so it’s important to talk with your doctor or allergist if you experience those symptoms.To sum it up, common spring allergy symptoms can include the following:Dark circles under your eyes (known as “allergy shiners”)Itchy eyes and noseRunny noseSneezingStuffy noseWatery eyes“Some people also have really bad fatigue, which can be the major symptom of their seasonal allergies,” Gary Stadtmauer, MD, FACP, an allergist in private practice in New York City, tells SELF. “Those people need to come in to see an allergist and, in my experience, typically need allergy shots.”

Jif Peanut Butter Products Recalled Following Salmonella Outbreak

Jif Peanut Butter Products Recalled Following Salmonella Outbreak

The parent company for Jif peanut butter, the J.M. Smucker Co., has issued a voluntary recall of multiple products following a salmonella outbreak. The contaminated peanut butter has been distributed nationwide in retail stores and other outlets, according to a statement from the company posted by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Among the list of recalled products were the creamy, crunchy, reduced fat, and natural varieties, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).The outbreak has caused 14 illnesses and two hospitalizations and has so far affected the following states, per the CDC: Washington, Texas, Missouri, Arkansas, Illinois, Ohio, Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, New York, and Massachusetts. The outbreak has been traced to a manufacturing facility in Lexington, Kentucky, and hasn’t affected other facilities the company uses to produce peanut butter, according to a statement provided to TODAY.The CDC recommends checking any Jif products on your shelves to see if they’ve been recalled. A full list of recalled products can be found in the FDA statement, including sizes and types. To see if your product was recalled, you’ll need to check the lot code number on the packaging. Lot code numbers 1274425 through 2140425 (with “425” at the end of the first seven numbers) were recalled, per the CDC.The shelf life for peanut butter products can be long, so the CDC encourages you to check your products even if you didn’t buy them recently. If you do find a recalled product in your home, you should throw it out immediately, per the CDC. You should also use hot, soapy water to clean surfaces and containers that may have come in contact with the peanut butter. If you consumed some of the peanut butter and you start experiencing any of the following symptoms, you should contact your health care provider, per the CDC: diarrhea and fever higher than 102 degrees Fahrenheit, diarrhea for more than three days, bloody diarrhea, vomiting to the point that you can’t keep liquids down, or dehydration (which might manifest as decreased urine output, dry mouth and throat, or feeling dizzy when you stand up).Salmonella refers to a group of bacteria found in raw poultry, beef, eggs, and unwashed vegetables and fruit, according to the U.S. National Library of Medicine (NLM). Symptoms include diarrhea, fever, abdominal cramps, nausea, vomiting, headache, and loss of appetite, and symptoms can last four to seven days. Salmonella can be more severe for certain people, including children younger than five, adults 65 and older, and those with weakened immune systems, per the CDC. Some people recover without treatment, but health care providers sometimes prescribe antibiotics to kill the bacteria causing salmonella, according to the Mayo Clinic. Additionally, since salmonella can cause dehydration, fluids may have to be administered through an I.V. in severe cases.Related

I Didn’t Always Embrace My Chinese Heritage. Here’s How I Plan to Change That for My Son.

I Didn’t Always Embrace My Chinese Heritage. Here’s How I Plan to Change That for My Son.

When people looked at me growing up, I’m not sure exactly what they saw. They probably couldn’t tell I had ancestors from Italy, England, Scotland, Slovakia (Vikings, no less, but that’s a story for another day), and, yes, China. These identities met and mingled, and eventually melded into the DNA of a quarter-Asian girl living in Akron, Ohio.What I do know is they saw someone… different. As a kid, I never quite fit in, with comments from classmates like “What are you?” and “Where are your chopsticks?” jolting me out of a lulled sense of belonging and laying the groundwork for life-long anxiety.The biggest difference between me and the other Asian kids I knew, was that most of them grew up with parents who immigrated to the United States, so they had the shared experience of living in their home country to connect them—something I never had. The only thread I had was my grandfather who immigrated to the U.S. when he was a teen, before the dawn of communism in China. When he came here for high school, stayed for college and medical school, eventually met and married my white grandmother, and settled in Ohio, there wasn’t a whole lot of culture left. My dad and uncle grew up in the 50s and 60s, a time when embracing your Chinese heritage wasn’t exactly the norm. Once my brother and I came along in the 80s, our grandfather was the only person who held the key to that part of our identity.For us, that meant hanging out at the local Chinese restaurant eating braised tofu and shark fin soup (something I was embarrassed to even mention to my friends), dodging the Peking duck hanging from the ceiling in our grandparents’ basement, and listening to stories of my grandpa’s adventures as a young man. My grandfather was gregarious and loved by the community, but most of all he was loved by me, the so-called “apple of his eye.” He died when I was seven, and although I can’t say that I immediately embraced being Chinese, as it took over a decade to feel that pride, his memory is a big part of why I want to wrap myself in the armor of my Asian heritage and teach my young son to wear it proudly, too.In the flash of a devilish grin or the tilt of my son’s head thrown back in giggles, I can sometimes see a glimpse of my dad or grandfather. But to the untrained eye, my son doesn’t look Chinese at all, nor does he share my Chinese name (I kept it for myself after marriage for many reasons, but one was to hold on to that part of my identity).They say your genes are made up of all your ancestors who lived before you. Maybe you have the same smile as a great, great uncle who died well before you were born. Or maybe your laugh is identical to a long-forgotten sister who your grandmother cherished from way back when. I like to imagine that even though our ancestors are no longer here—we’ll never know the warmth of their hands or the bite of their humor—they are still within us, showing up for their great, great (infinitely great) grandchildren in these small ways. Maybe my son shares one of these traits with my great grandfather or his father’s father. I’ll never know for sure, but here’s how I plan to keep our culture alive through him.Connect through family recipes (with a vegetarian twist).Since my kid is all in on pizza and mac and cheese at the moment, this one may have to wait a few years. But we do have a collection of Tsai family recipes in a bound cookbook—stir-fried cellophane noodles are my favorite—and I want to share my love of these flavors with him. We may have to skip the Peking duck since we’re vegetarians (Peking tofu just doesn’t have the same ring to it), but we can improvise.

11 Possible Reasons You Always Feel Cold

11 Possible Reasons You Always Feel Cold

That being said, it’s still worth getting checked out if you’re cold all the time but don’t feel like anything else is amiss, Dr. Besson says. Your doctor will likely look at your medical records and ask about how often you’re cold, along with teasing out any other symptoms you may not have noticed, Dr. Vyas says. That can help determine what kind of testing might be necessary to land on a diagnosis, if any.2. You have hypothyroidism.Hypothyroidism is a condition in which your thyroid does not produce sufficient levels of the hormones that regulate your metabolism, which in turn slows it down, according to the Mayo Clinic. This can happen for various reasons, the most common being Hashimoto’s disease, an autoimmune disorder that prompts your immune system to attack your thyroid, according to the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK).Since a slow thyroid affects a bunch of metabolic functions, hypothyroidism can cause a wide range of symptoms including fatigue, unintended weight gain, constipation, dry skin, thinning hair, a depressed mood, heavy or irregular periods, and—that’s right—an increased sensitivity to cold, per the NIDDK. Dr. Besson points to fatigue as the usual tip-off, so if your energy levels are dragging and no amount of fuzzy sweaters can keep you warm, you should definitely mention that to your doctor.Treatment for hypothyroidism involves taking a daily dose of a synthetic replacement for thyroid hormone (thyroxine or T4) called levothyroxine. You’ll also need ongoing blood tests to ensure your hormone levels are up to par once you start treatment, so it may take some time to find the right dose for you.13. You have anemia.Anemia is a blood disorder that happens when you don’t have enough healthy red blood cells to carry oxygen throughout your body, according to the American Society of Hematology (ASH). There are many types of anemia, but the most common one stems from iron deficiency, according to the Mayo Clinic. When you don’t have enough iron in your blood, you can’t make sufficient hemoglobin, a protein that allows your red blood cells to transport oxygen and carbon dioxide. This leads to less circulation to your limbs, causing you to feel colder, Dr. Vyas says, particularly in your hands and feet. Other common anemia symptoms include weakness, fatigue, an irregular heartbeat, paler skin, chest pain, and headaches.2Anemia can also be the result of your body making too few red blood cells, destroying too many red blood cells, or losing too much blood for some reason, the U.S. National Library of Medicine explains. Blood loss due to heavy periods can cause anemia, as can pregnancy, which increases your blood volume. (This is why iron is a key component of prenatal vitamins.) Other forms of anemia are connected with deficiencies in folate and vitamin B-12, which are necessary for producing red blood cells. Genetics can also be to blame, such as with the chronic illness sickle cell anemia.The cause of anemia determines the treatment, the goal of which is to increase your levels of healthy red blood cells by addressing the underlying condition or deficiency. This can involve taking iron supplements, making dietary changes to get more folate or vitamin B-12, or more intensive methods such as blood transfusions if you have a chronic condition.24. You have Raynaud’s disease.Raynaud’s disease is a condition that causes your extremities to become cold, discolored (red or blue), numb, and even painful when you’re in cold temperatures or stressed out. “It happens because your blood vessels are constricting,” Dr. Besson explains.

Brian Austin Green Opens Up About Living With Ulcerative Colitis

Brian Austin Green Opens Up About Living With Ulcerative Colitis

Brian Austin Green, 48, opened up about living with ulcerative colitis in a new interview with Good Morning America. The actor said that his body wasn’t absorbing nutrients properly and that he’d lost 20 pounds during a recent flare-up. “I would eat food, and my body didn’t process any of it. So, then, you start playing catch-up with trying to stay on top of being hydrated–it’s such a battle,” Green said during the interview.Last month he spoke about his condition in an Instagram video, explaining why he hadn’t been posting recently: “I disappeared from Instagram for a while–I had ulcerative colitis for about six-and-a-half weeks, which wasn’t very fun.” Green went on to say that he was bedridden and that his girlfriend, Sharna Burgess, 36, had to care for him while seven months pregnant. On GMA, Burgess, who was interviewed alongside Green, said watching him struggle with ulcerative colitis was distressing. “I didn’t realize how debilitating it was until I saw him, and I watched weight drop off him,” the Dancing With the Stars performer said. “I was scared, not having experienced this type of thing before and still learning. I was supportive and loving, [but] internally fearful: How long does this go on for?”Green said that his most recent struggle wasn’t his first ulcerative colitis flare-up and that for his specific treatment plan, he avoids gluten and dairy, when possible. “It’s really just dietary,” he said. “As long as I can keep things within my system that my body doesn’t think I’m poisoning it with then it doesn’t fight back.” Green said he has recovered and is looking forward to his first child with Burgess, who is currently 33 weeks pregnant. “I’m feeling good, thank goodness,” Green said. “It was a terrible experience. I’m glad it’s over.”Ulcerative colitis causes inflammation and ulcers in the lining of the colon and rectum; it belongs to a group of diseases known as inflammatory bowel disease, according to the U.S. National Library of Medicine (USNLM). In addition to weight loss, it can cause abdominal pain and cramping, blood and pus in stool, diarrhea, and fever, per the USNLM. In severe cases a person may need to be hospitalized and given nutrients through an IV, though treatment options can help people with the condition manage symptoms and prevent flare-ups. Though Green manages his symptoms by avoiding certain food groups, that course of treatment isn’t recommended for every patient. However, your doctor may advise certain lifestyle changes, per the USNLM, including eating small amounts of food throughout the day (as opposed to three big meals) and avoiding high-fiber and fatty foods. An ulcerative colitis diagnosis doesn’t necessarily mean any dietary changes are encouraged, though, and you should speak with your doctor about the best options for your symptoms. Certain medications, among them corticosteroids, can be used to manage ulcerative colitis, as can therapies that restore the immune system, per the USNLM. Symptoms and treatment plans can look very different depending on the individual patient and the severity of their symptoms.The symptoms of ulcerative colitis are mild for about half of people diagnosed with the condition, according to the USNLM. Those living with ulcerative colitis may find support groups helpful; the USNLM directs patients to the Crohn’s and Colitis Foundation of America (CCFA) for more information on social support programs.Related:

Ticks Are Spreading in the U.S., Spurring New Health Threats

Ticks Are Spreading in the U.S., Spurring New Health Threats

It happens every year: Warmer weather brings out ticks, along with an increasing threat of tick-borne diseases and illnesses.In 2019 (the most recent year with available data), there were 50,865 reported cases of tick-borne disease compared to 47,743 cases in 2018, according to estimates from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). If you look back even further, CDC data shows a worrisome trend: Tick-borne diseases have more than doubled between 2004 and 2019.Lyme disease, which is a bacterial infection that can cause fever, chills, and a red rash, is the most prevalent tick-borne disease. But new tick-borne threats are gaining more attention this year: Powassan virus disease, which can cause severe infections like meningitis or fatality; alpha-gal syndrome, an allergic reaction to mammalian meat triggered by tick bites; and heartland virus, a still poorly understood virus that can be deadly. All are caused by tick species that are growing in population and expanding geographically throughout the U.S.For example, between 2011 and 2015, there were anywhere from 6 to 12 reported cases of Powassan virus per year; from 2016 to 2021, that number jumped to 20 to 39 per year, according to the CDC. Earlier this month, the Connecticut Department of Public Health reported its first 2022 case of Powassan virus. And while we don’t have concrete figures for alpha-gal syndrome cases, the number of people affected has steadily increased, according to the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services.All of this sounds unsettling—but is there any reason to panic? SELF talked to experts about this year’s tick season, so you can keep yourself as safe as possible.Why are tick-borne diseases and illnesses on the rise?In short, ticks are thriving in the U.S., leading to more bites and tick-borne illnesses. But the reasons for the tick explosion are complex. Generally speaking, ticks thrive in warm weather and grassy, wooded environments, though the preferred temperature and humidity of each species vary. Changes in climate patterns, such as warmer-than-typical spring and summer temperatures, allow populations of ticks to live in areas they previously couldn’t survive in, according to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). As a result, tick populations are moving further north, Nancy Troyano, PhD, a board-certified entomologist for Ehrlich Pest Control, tells SELF. For instance, lone star ticks were predominantly found in the southeast, but have moved to the midwest and northeast, popping up in states like New York, Massachusetts, and Michigan. This spread has heightened talk about alpha-gal syndrome, which is an allergic reaction to red meat caused by lone star tick bites, according to the Mayo Clinic. When they bite, lone star ticks transmit alpha-gal, a sugar molecule, into a person’s body, which may trigger the allergy.Another factor driving an uptick in populations? Animals like deer and white-footed mice, both of which ticks feed on, are abundant in locations where the parasites are found, Dr. Troyano says.

What to Know About the Monkeypox Case in Massachusetts

What to Know About the Monkeypox Case in Massachusetts

A case of monkeypox has been confirmed in Massachusetts, following reports of nine cases in the U.K. since early May. The Massachusetts Department of Public Health (MDPH) released a statement on the case, claiming it’s the first case in the U.S. this year. The affected individual had recently traveled to Canada, and MDPH and the CDC are identifying those who may have been in contact with the person while he was infectious, the statement said.Monkeypox is a rare disease caused by infection with the monkeypox virus, according to the CDC. Experts don’t know exactly where monkeypox virus comes from, but African rodents and monkeys “may harbor the virus and infect people,” per the CDC. Humans can get the virus after coming into contact with another human or an animal contaminated with it. The virus can enter the body via broken skin (such as a cut), mucous membranes (the eyes, nose, or mouth), or the respiratory tract. Human-to-human transmission is thought to happen mainly through “large respiratory droplets,” the CDC says. Those can be stopped by surgical masks, Patricia Bartley, MD, an infectious disease physician at Cleveland Clinic, tells SELF. One characterizing symptom of monkeypox is a rash that usually starts on the face, Dr. Bartley says. It progresses into scabs, which fall off and may leave pitting scars. Other symptoms include headache, fever, chills, muscle aches, swollen glands (such as lymphatic nodes), exhaustion, sore throat, and cough, Dr. Bartley adds. Illness from monkeypox can last up to four weeks, and the incubation period—the time between infection and the first symptoms—is one to two weeks. In other words, it may take 14 days for infected individuals to start experiencing symptoms.Though the symptoms may look dramatic, the fatality rate for monkeypox is thought to be around 3 to 6%, according to the World Health Organization (WHO). The virus can present itself similarly to smallpox, and antiviral treatments and vaccines against smallpox have been used to treat and prevent monkeypox in some parts of the world, per the WHO, which adds that monkeypox causes less severe illness than smallpox.To handle this current case, contact tracing is the most appropriate approach, the statement read, “given the nature and transmission of the virus.” Talk of contact tracing and transmission may sound reminiscent of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, though the MDPH statement stressed that the public shouldn’t be worried right now: “The case poses no risk to the public, and the individual is hospitalized and in good condition.” In addition to the U.K., there have recently been cases in Spain and Portugal, Dr. Bartley says. “We have recently seen an increase in limited locations and populations, but the risk to the community remains low.”The new case doesn’t mark the first time monkeypox has occurred in the U.S. In 2003, there were 47 “confirmed and probable cases” across 6 states. Those affected by the outbreak became ill after contact with pet prairie dogs that had recently been housed near small mammals from Ghana, the CDC says. This outbreak was the first time human monkeypox was reported outside Africa, per the CDC. There have been subsequent travel-associated cases in the U.S. Last year in July, a case was recorded in Texas, and a second case was identified in Maryland in November. In both cases, the affected individual had recently traveled to Nigeria.There is no treatment or vaccine currently available for monkeypox specifically, Dr. Bartley says, though as we mentioned, the course of treatment can be similar to how smallpox is addressed in some countries. She adds that a vaccine is being evaluated but isn’t currently available for clinical use in the U.S.If you suspect you’ve been in contact with an individual who has the virus and you start experiencing symptoms, you should contact your doctor remotely to make an appointment to come in, Dr. Bartley says. It’s important to let them know about your potential exposure via phone or email so they can take the necessary precautions to keep themselves and other patients safe when you arrive. In spite of the cases in Europe and the new case in Massachusetts, experts aren’t recommending any safety precautions right now. “There is no reason to panic,” Dr. Bartley says.Related

Microplastics Have Been Found in Human Blood and Lungs

Microplastics Have Been Found in Human Blood and Lungs

The majority of us don’t purposefully eat plastic, but that doesn’t mean we’re not consuming it every day. Microplastics, which are tiny plastic fragments, are everywhere—including inside of our bodies, according to mounting research. For the first time, researchers found that 17 out of 22 people had microplastics originating from common products in their blood, according to a May 2021 paper published in the journal Environment International1.“This is the first study to identify plastics that we know are in containers, plastic bottles, clothing, and other products that we use, inside of people,” Andrea De Vizcaya-Ruiz, PhD, an associate professor in the department of environmental and occupational health at the University of California Irvine, tells SELF. The two most common types of plastic found in the study were polyethylene terephthalate (PET), which is used to make plastic water bottles and clothing fibers, and polystyrene, which is found in food packaging, disposable utensils, and straws.In March 2022, researchers published a paper with another original discovery: 11 out of 13 people had microplastics in their lungs, according to the study published in The Science of the Total Environment2. Numerous other studies support that we’re regularly consuming plastic, Kelly Johnson-Arbor, MD, a medical toxicologist at MedStar Health in Washington, D.C., and co-medical director at the National Capital Poison Center, tells SELF. “Microplastics have been found in human saliva, scalp hair, and feces, suggesting that we are all likely exposed to these plastic fragments on a regular basis,” she says.Researchers are still exploring what this means for human health, but SELF talked to experts about what we do know.What are microplastics?Microplastics are tiny particles of plastic, less than 5 mm long, that are created in two ways. Primary microplastics3 are manufactured to make things like microfibers4, which are found in synthetic fabrics, or plastic microbeads, which are in some cosmetics. Secondary microplastics are formed after breaking off from larger plastic products like water bottles, car parts, and product packaging.Biodegradable items such as a banana naturally break down until they finally dissolve. But many plastics never decompose completely. They get smaller and smaller over time, but the pieces remain in our environments as pollution for hundreds of years, resulting in secondary microplastics, Dr. De Vizcaya-Ruiz says.Ok, but why are microplastics inside our bodies?Microplastics can be found in our water, air, food, and soil, so they’re unavoidable.“When humans consume food, drink water, or breathe air that is contaminated with microplastics, the plastic fragments can enter the body,” Dr. Johnson-Arbor says. Some estimates show that people in the U.S. consume and breathe in between 74,000 and 121,000 microplastic fragments each year5, according to Dr. Johnson-Arbor.But how exactly do these plastics get into our blood? After consuming food or water containing microplastics, researchers suspect those tiny particles make their way to the gut, through the intestinal membrane, and into the bloodstream, Dr. De Vizcaya-Ruiz says. Something similar may happen when microplastics enter the bloodstream after being inhaled and passing through the membrane of the lungs.How are microplastics affecting human health?Plastic may be ubiquitous now, but it’s only been widely used for the past 70 years or so6, meaning there aren’t a lot of studies examining what types of plastics may affect human health and in what quantities.

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