Health

These Are the Best Ways to Protect Yourself From the Omicron Variant

These Are the Best Ways to Protect Yourself From the Omicron Variant

The COVID-19 omicron variant continues to concern scientists and public health officials. On Sunday, the World Health Organization warned its member states that “the likelihood of potential further spread of omicron at the global level is high.” They rated the overall risk from the variant as “very high.”Why the risk? The omicron variant has a number of mutations to its spike protein that may make it more transmissible and give it the potential to evade immunity gained from vaccination or previous infection, as SELF previously reported. Experts are working quickly to understand whether these mutations do, in fact, make the variant easier to spread, and how much effectiveness current vaccines maintain against it.But while we wait for more information—which experts suggest will take about two weeks—what can do to keep ourselves and each other safe?Priority number one is to get vaccinated if you haven’t already. (Here’s how to prepare for your COVID-19 vaccine appointment.) If you’re already fully vaccinated and at least six months out from your full Pfizer/Moderna vaccination or at least two months out from your Johnson & Johnson shot, get your booster. “This is the best way to protect yourself against delta, which is still very much with us in the U.S., and omicron if it comes to the U.S., which it almost certainly will at some point,” Francis Collins, M.D., Ph.D., director of the National Institutes of Health, told MSNBC’s Morning Joe on Monday.This echoes the advice of other public health officials, including the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), which updated their guidance on Monday to recommend boosters to all adults. “The recent emergence of the omicron variant (B.1.1.529) further emphasizes the importance of vaccination, boosters, and prevention efforts needed to protect against COVID-19,” CDC director Rochelle Walensky, M.D., M.P.H., said in a statement announcing the update. “I strongly encourage the 47 million adults who are not yet vaccinated to get vaccinated as soon as possible and to vaccinate the children and teens in their families as well because strong immunity will likely prevent serious illness. I also want to encourage people to get a COVID-19 test if they are sick. Increased testing will help us identify omicron quickly.”If you’re wondering why a COVID-19 vaccine is a good call when we still don’t know how effective it will be against omicron, Anthony Fauci, M.D., director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, explained to PBS Newshour that he believes current vaccines will still offer some level of protection against the variant—particularly with boosters. He pointed to how effectively the vaccines have worked against the delta variant, which emerged after our currently available COVID-19 vaccines were already developed. “When you get a high enough titer following vaccination, and certainly following a booster, you cover the delta variant, you have a crossing over of protection to it,” he said. “Knowing what we know about variants, I wouldn’t be surprised if there was at least some degree and maybe a significant degree of protection [against omicron]. We don’t know that yet till we prove it, but I wouldn’t be surprised if that was the case.”

Here’s What President Biden Had Removed During His Colonoscopy

Here’s What President Biden Had Removed During His Colonoscopy

On November 19, President Joe Biden temporarily transferred presidential power to Vice President Kamala Harris for an important reason: a routine colonoscopy. During the procedure, doctors found and removed a 3 millimeter-size growth from his colon that appeared to be benign. “The polyp was removed without difficulty,” his doctor’s initial report said. Several days later, on November 23, a follow-up memo said the growth was a tubular adenoma, a “benign, slow-growing, but thought to be potentially pre-cancerous lesion for which no further action is required at this time.” It’s not the first time President Biden has gotten that news. During a 2008 colonoscopy, President Biden had another tubular adenoma removed. Tubular adenomas are a kind of colon polyp associated with an increased risk of colorectal cancer, according to the Mayo Clinic. Colorectal cancer is the fourth most common and fourth most deadly cancer in the United States, per the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).Most of the time, colorectal cancer begins as a polyp, according to the Mayo Clinic. Colon polyps are cells that clump together along the colon. Polyps are usually harmless, but some can develop into colorectal cancer over time. Anybody can get colon polyps, though people are at higher risk if they’re 50 or older, smoke, have inflammatory bowel diseases like ulcerative colitis or Crohn’s disease, or have a family history of colon polyps or colorectal cancer, among other factors. (There’s a racial disparity when it comes to colorectal cancer specifically; for a complex list of reasons, Black people are more likely to develop and die from the illness.)Colon polyps can cause rectal bleeding, changes in the color of your poop (including blood in your stool), changes in bowel habits, abdominal pain, or anemia—but these kinds of issues don’t happen very often in relation to colon polyps. Most people actually won’t know they have polyps because they rarely cause symptoms. Instead, screening tools like colonoscopies are used.Due to increasing rates of colorectal cancer in younger people, the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) recommends that any adult with an average colorectal cancer risk begins getting routine colonoscopies at 45 (as opposed to the previous recommendation of age 50). A colonoscopy involves a long, flexible tube being inserted into the rectum and snaked through the colon, the Mayo Clinic explains. A small camera on the end allows a doctor to look around, and the tube also allows them to remove and test concerning growths. If you’re getting a colonoscopy, to prep for the procedure, you’ll be instructed to avoid certain foods as well as take a laxative to give your doctor the cleanest view. On the day of, you’ll typically be provided a sedative to help you relax. It usually takes about 30 to 60 minutes for a doctor to complete a colonoscopy.A virtual colonoscopy requires the same prep work as a standard colonoscopy but uses a CT scan to look for issues instead of an internal exam. But if a polyp is found during a virtual colonoscopy, you’ll have to go through prep work again and have a standard colonoscopy to get the growth removed and tested.There are other screening tools for colon polyps and colorectal cancer, like flexible sigmoidoscopy, which also uses a small light and camera on a flexible tube, but only examines the last third of the colon. Doctors can’t see any polyps or cancers further into the colon using this technique, the Mayo Clinic notes. There are also stool tests, which look for evidence of blood or polyps in your poop. If a stool test comes back positive, you’ll need to have a colonoscopy for further evaluation.For people like President Biden who have polyps removed, follow-up screenings are recommended based on how many polyps are found, what size they are, and what their other potential risk factor characteristics look like. Standard screening for one to two polyps is at least every 5 to 10 years, with the frequency increasing based on the number of polyps involved.Related:

Virgil Abloh Dies of Cancer, Age 41

Virgil Abloh Dies of Cancer, Age 41

Scientists still have a lot to learn about how this kind of cancer develops and why, but angiosarcomas can sometimes have a hereditary component. In the case of cardiac angiosarcomas specifically, scientists have located a gene, called POT1, that may make it more likely for a person to develop the disease, the NCI explains. Other potential risk factors for all kinds of angiosarcomas include a history of exposure to certain cancer-causing chemicals or radiation therapy, as well as lymphedema, a condition where lymph fluid builds up and causes swelling. Symptoms of cardiac angiosarcoma depend on the location of the tumor. A cardiac angiosarcoma growing in the right atrium (the most common location) obstructs the flow of circulating blood in or out of the heart, Johns Hopkins Medicine explains. This can cause symptoms like swelling in the feet, ankles, legs, and abdomen, as well as bulging of the neck veins. An angiosarcoma that forms on the sac of tissue around the heart can cause fluid buildup within the sac, which can impede the heart’s ability to pump blood and trigger symptoms like chest pain, shortness of breath, and heart palpitations. Other symptoms of cardiac sarcomas include coughing up blood and heart rhythm abnormalities. People can also experience more generalized symptoms, according to Johns Hopkins Medicine, like fever, weight loss, night sweats, and fatigue. And if small pieces of the tumor (called emboli) break off, they can be carried in the bloodstream to other regions of the body, obstructing blood flow and causing additional symptoms in that area. For example, emboli that travel to the lungs can cause respiratory issues.Cardiac angiosarcomas can be diagnosed with a physical exam and a variety of diagnostic tests, including echocardiograms, electrocardiograms, imaging tests like CT scans, MRIs, and X-rays, blood tests, and biopsies, according to Johns Hopkins Medicine. Often, by the time a cardiac sarcoma begins causing symptoms and is diagnosed, it has already begun to spread to other parts of the body, which makes treatment more challenging. The best treatment for a cardiac angiosarcoma depends on a variety of factors, like the size and location of the tumor and the medical history of the patient. Treatment options include open-heart surgery to remove the tumor, a heart transplant, or autotransplantation, a new procedure where the patient’s heart is temporarily removed (and the patient is put on a life-support machine) so that the surgeon can better excise the tumor. Chemotherapy and radiation therapy may also be part of treatment if cancer has spread throughout the body. Currently, researchers are conducting clinical trials to develop new drug treatment therapies, according to Johns Hopkins Medicine. The more scientists study this disease, the better-equipped doctors will be to not only treat cardiac angiosarcoma, but also to diagnose and prevent it. Related:

Here Are Dr. Fauci’s Thoughts on the Omicron Variant So Far

Here Are Dr. Fauci’s Thoughts on the Omicron Variant So Far

On November 25, South African scientists identified a highly-mutated variant of the coronavirus right in time for the holidays. By November 26, the World Health Organization (WHO) had categorized B.1.1.529 as a “variant of concern.” It also got a name, “omicron,” based on the Greek alphabet, which is how all major variants have been named so far.The current seven-day moving average of new coronavirus cases in the U.S. is more than 88,400, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). That’s an increase of 16% from the previous week, even though the first omicron case hasn’t yet been detected in the country, per the Washington Post. (It has, however, been detected in Canada, and it’s likely already in the U.S. at this point as well.) So, many people are understandably concerned that the variant could lead to a fifth wave of surging cases. Unfortunately, that’s a real possibility.Omicron is concerning because it has about 50 mutations that set it apart from other variants, according to the New York Times, including at least 30 on its spike protein, which is what the virus uses to bond with human cells. Spike protein mutations cause alarm because the antibodies we produce, whether they’re from vaccination or previous infection, are mostly built to fight against SARS-CoV-2’s spike protein. If those antibodies can’t recognize the spike protein, it’s possible the virus could be more effective at evading immunity.But at this point, that’s only a theoretical possibility. Several health officials, including Anthony Fauci, M.D., director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, have said it will take at least two weeks to get a fuller understanding of how easily this variant spreads, how sick it makes people, and whether it impacts the effectiveness of current COVID-19 vaccines.“The profile of the mutations strongly suggests that it’s going to have an advantage in transmissibility and that it might evade immune protection that you would get, for example, from the monoclonal antibody or from the convalescent serum after a person’s been infected and possibly even against some of the vaccine-induced antibodies,” Dr. Fauci said Sunday on Meet the Press. “So it’s not necessarily that that’s going to happen, but it’s a strong indication that we really need to be prepared for that.”And early indications point to, at the very least, the variant spreading easily. “When you look at it clinically, it appears from what we’re observing with our South African colleagues—who have been extremely cooperative and helpful to us to understand this—that it appears to be spreading very readily and that it has a transmission advantage,” Dr. Fauci said Monday morning on CBS Mornings.So far, the variant has been detected in South Africa, Botswana, Israel, Australia, Hong Kong, Canada, and several European countries, including England, Germany, and Italy, according to the Washington Post.As of Monday morning, the United States joined several other countries in issuing travel restrictions from South Africa and neighboring countries. Many have criticized these travel bans, including the WHO. “Travel restrictions may play a role in slightly reducing the spread of COVID-19 but place a heavy burden on lives and livelihoods,” Matshidiso Moeti, WHO’s regional director for Africa, said in a statement. “If restrictions are implemented, they should not be unnecessarily invasive or intrusive, and should be scientifically based, according to the International Health Regulations, which is a legally binding instrument of international law recognized by over 190 nations.”

Is There a Diet That Helps Manage Psoriasis Symptoms?

Is There a Diet That Helps Manage Psoriasis Symptoms?

In most research that has studied a person’s diet and its impact on psoriasis, he explains, the sample sizes tend to be small, so the data is limited. Further, many people who participated in these studies continued to take their prescribed psoriasis medication in addition to changing their diet as part of the research. For these types of experiments, people are asked to make detailed logs of their behaviors, which may encourage them to take their medications as prescribed without skipping doses, Dr. Feldman says—and when it feels like a researcher is “watching” you via your logs, you may be more inclined to take your meds consistently. “So while it might look like the dietary intervention was beneficial, it may have been beneficial only in that it caused people to take their other medicines better,” Dr. Feldman says.Unfortunately, because of the way many of these studies have been designed, it’s really hard to conclude which changes, including diet changes, are responsible for certain outcomes, like worsened or improved symptoms. That doesn’t mean it’s out of the question that certain diet changes can have a beneficial impact on psoriasis—it just means that more research that addresses these issues needs to be done so scientists have more solid data to work with.With that said, it’s really unlikely that there will ever be one “psoriasis diet” to help each person with the condition. “You’re not going to cure psoriasis with diet—this is a chronic disease,” Dr. Feldman says. “But if you find that when you eat certain things they seem to exacerbate your psoriasis, avoiding those things makes entirely good sense.”So far, there are two main diet approaches for people with psoriasis: additive diets and subtractive diets. With an additive diet, you’d focus on consuming more of a specific food or nutrient. With a subtractive diet, you’d slowly remove certain foods or nutrients.This is tricky territory. Any time you make a diet change, especially if you have a chronic health condition, it’s best to talk to your doctor or a registered dietitian who is familiar with the disease, so they can guide you through the process and help you avoid risky side effects, like lower energy, unintended weight loss, or nutrient deficiencies.Here’s a closer look at some popular diet changes people make when they have psoriasis—and what the science says about each one so far:Anti-inflammatory dietPsoriasis lesions are set off by inflammation in the body, so it makes sense to assume that “anti-inflammatory” foods could help tame that irregular immune response. Researchers believe that foods with certain nutrients may reduce oxidative stress in your body, a process that contributes to inflammation, but it’s an area of research that is still being explored. A typical list of “anti-inflammatory” foods is pretty expansive and diverse, including berries, green leafy vegetables, nuts, fatty fish, tomatoes, and so much more. The theory is that these foods may prevent inflammation from starting in the first place or reduce its impact.For example, a fat called eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) that is found in fatty fish like salmon is thought to help reduce the number of inflammatory chemicals in the body, according to Dermatology Online Journal1. However, in the case of psoriasis, researchers are still unsure if consuming EPA has much of an effect on a person’s symptoms. Many studies looking at EPA and psoriasis specifically involve using fish oil supplements instead of whole fatty fish, which may not offer the same theorized benefit. Dr. Feldman’s team found that fish oil studies have really conflicting results: Some people saw no improvement, some said their psoriasis got better, and others said their psoriasis actually got worse.

Here’s How a Low-FODMAP Diet Could Help Your GI Symptoms

Here’s How a Low-FODMAP Diet Could Help Your GI Symptoms

“​​Some examples of foods that do not contain detectable FODMAPs include strawberries, pineapple, kale, spinach, carrots, oranges, cucumbers and parsnips, additionally, meat, poultry, fish and eggs—unless prepared with marinades, sauces, or seasonings that include high FODMAP ingredients,” says Lavy.If that’s not enough to get you meal planning, you can find a complete list of low-FODMAP foods here. If you need a little more direction, Scarlata adds that some of her low-to-moderate FODMAP grocery store staples include:OatsBrown riceQuinoaChia and pumpkin seedsSlow leavened sourdough breadPeanut butterLactose-free plain Greek yogurt and lactose-free milkFirm tofuPumpkinIf you’re looking for more of an on-the-go snack, there are low-FODMAP snack bars you can buy at the store or online, such as FODY foods, Go Macro, and Enjoy Life foods.High-FODMAP foods listWhen someone with IBS eats high-FODMAP foods, they will likely experience unpleasant side effects, like stomach pain, bloating, gas, and an urgency or a change in their bowel habits, according to Monash University. While researchers are still trying to understand what exactly is happening in the body and brains of people with IBS, they do think it has something to do with how the brain perceives these symptoms, according to the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK).“Our gut bacteria ferment these carbohydrates and this can produce gas and draw water into the intestines,” says Lavy. “While this process occurs in everyone, those with IBS typically tend to have visceral hypersensitivity, meaning their brain may perceive this normal reaction as painful.”Some commonly consumed high-FODMAP food triggers for IBS include:OnionGarlicMangoHoneyFoods rich in lactose, like milk and yogurtStone fruitsCauliflowerBroccoliWatermelonWheatRyeBarleyApples and pearsMost beansThe thought is that by avoiding these foods, you may be able to reduce or eliminate the painful GI symptoms associated with IBS.What is a typical shopping list for low-FODMAP recipe ideas?Although you may think your options are limited on a low-FODMAP diet, there are plenty of foods to add to your grocery cart. You just may need to get a little creative when it comes to your meals. To help, Scarlata has an extensive list of low-FODMAP foods that she shares with patients, and there are a number of easy tips and recipe ideas you can follow.One way to add flavor is with infusion, says Lavy. “Garlic-infused oil can be used in recipes to provide flavor without the FODMAPs, since FODMAPs are not fat soluble, meaning they cannot leach into fat,” says Lavy. Another tip is to swap onions for other flavor-producing vegetables. “Chives and the dark green parts of scallions and leeks are low-FODMAP, so these options can be used in place of onion,” she recommends.And don’t forget other high-flavor add-ins like citrus and herbs. For example, lemon juice or fresh orange slices can brighten a dish, and herbs and spices, such as cinnamon, rosemary, thyme, oregano or paprika, add tons of flavor, says Lavy.

Is There a Certain Diet That Helps Relieve IBS Symptoms?

Is There a Certain Diet That Helps Relieve IBS Symptoms?

Does that mean you need to eat a low-fat diet to feel your best? Not necessarily, but if you notice that your IBS symptoms get worse on days when you eat particularly rich and fatty meals—especially creamy dishes, cured meats, fried foods, or fast food like pizza—then that’s something worth paying attention to.If fat seems to be your culprit, your doctor or dietitian may recommend following an elimination plan to identify specific fatty food triggers, and then assess your fat intake to see what kind of adjustments can be made based on your personal needs.Gluten-free dietGluten is a protein found in wheat, barley, and rye. If you have celiac disease, eating gluten sets off a wonky immune response that triggers lots of inflammation, leading to some really severe symptoms that can cause intestinal damage. Many people with IBS report experiencing symptoms after eating foods that contain gluten, even if they don’t have a wheat allergy or celiac disease, research shows. Experts refer to this as “non-celiac gluten sensitivity.”“While it is not necessary to avoid gluten if you are not diagnosed with celiac disease, some individuals with IBS feel relief when avoiding gluten,” Henigan confirms. One possible reason for this? These individuals may actually be responding to the elimination of FODMAPs, as many foods that contain gluten also contain FODMAPs. For others with IBS, eating foods that contain gluten is no big deal and a welcome part of their diet.If you’re unsure about gluten, check in with your doctor, who can run the appropriate tests to determine whether or not you have celiac disease or a wheat allergy. If you’re cleared of both and still suspect gluten may be doing more harm than good when it comes to your bowel habits, you can work with your doctor or dietitian to develop an elimination diet for gluten specifically. You may find that only certain foods that contain gluten—but also contain, say, tons of fiber—may be the culprit, so you may not need to avoid all gluten completely. Once you ID your specific triggers, you can create a balanced plan that works for your needs.Lactose-free dietHultin says that if you feel bloated or gassy (or other annoying GI symptoms) after eating lactose, then you might want to check in with your doctor about getting tested for lactose intolerance. “The symptoms of lactose intolerance are very similar to the symptoms of IBS, so it is important to rule the former out,” she says.If you have IBS and you’re lactose intolerant, then steering clear of cow’s milk products may help you prevent a flare-up. “People with lactose intolerance need to avoid foods that contain lactose, including cow’s milk, cheese, yogurt, sour cream, ice cream, buttermilk, cream cheese, butter, and prepared foods that could have these ingredients in them,” Hultin says.Instead, according to the Mayo Clinic, you may want to switch to dairy products that are lower in lactose if you can tolerate them, like ricotta cheese or kefir, as well as plant-based milks and yogurts.Is your diet the only IBS trigger you should be aware of?IBS is a complex condition, so it’s important to remember that while food is a big piece of the puzzle, it’s not the only thing that could be triggering your symptoms. For example, going through a heavy period of stress, taking certain medications like NSAIDs, not getting enough exercise, and not getting enough sleep can all contribute to an IBS flare-up, depending on the person, per the NIDDK.That’s why it’s so important to work closely with your doctor if your digestive symptoms are starting to take an overwhelming toll on your life. They can prescribe certain medications that help relieve your specific IBS symptoms and help guide you on the best lifestyle changes you’ll need to make to feel more in control of your condition.Sources:1. World Journal of Gastroenterology, Diet in Irritable Bowel Syndrome: What to Recommend, Not What to Forbid to Patients2. Journal of Nurse Practitioners, Addressing the Role of Food in Irritable Bowel Syndrome Symptom Management3. Nutrients, Low-FODMAP Diet Improves Irritable Bowel Syndrome Symptoms: A Meta-Analysis4. Advances in Nutrition, Low-Residue and Low-Fiber Diets in Gastrointestinal Disease Management5. BMJ Clinical Research, Soluble or Insoluble Fibre In Irritable Bowel Syndrome In Primary Care? Randomized Placebo-Controlled TrialRelated:

Kool-Aid, Country Time, and Arizona Tea Drink Mixes Recalled for Potential Metal and Glass Contamination

Kool-Aid, Country Time, and Arizona Tea Drink Mixes Recalled for Potential Metal and Glass Contamination

Kraft Heinz is voluntarily recalling several of its powdered drink products, including offerings from Kool-Aid, Tang, Country Time, and Arizona Tea. The affected products may contain small fragments of metal and glass.The recall was initially issued on November 12 for the 82.5-ounce Kool-Aid Tropical Punch sold at Costco and has since been updated to include more products. “The issue was first discovered during an internal review at the manufacturing facility,” says Kraft Heinz’s announcement on the U.S. Food and Drug Administration recall website. “The company is actively working with retail partners and distributors to remove potentially impacted product from circulation.”Kraft Heinz’s recall actually affects both U.S. and Canadian products. In the U.S. the recall applies to some Country Time Lemonade, Tang, Arizona Tea, and Kool-Aid powdered beverages with “best when used by” dates between May 10 and November 1, 2023. In Canada the recall applies to certain lots of Country Time Lemonade with “best when used by” dates of September 15, 2023, and Tang powdered drink mixes with “best when used by” dates of August 20–21, 2023. The full list of products being recalled and their individual UPC codes is available in the company’s announcement. “No other sizes, varieties, or code dates of Country Time Lemonade, Kool-Aid, Arizona Tea, Tang or other powdered beverages, ready-to-drink beverages, or Kraft Heinz products are included in this recall,” the company says. “Kraft Heinz is committed to upholding the highest safety and quality standards.”There’s no need to rush to the doctor if you’ve sipped on one of these already. “Due to the small particle size, third-party medical experts believe accidentally ingesting the affected product is unlikely to result in injury or illness,” a spokesperson for Kraft Heinz told Today Food.But if you have one of the potentially affected products and haven’t opened it yet, don’t. “Consumers who purchased these items…should not consume the product and can either return it to the store where it was purchased or discard it,” the company statement recommends.Kraft Heinz isn’t the only company struggling with potential metal contamination—Tastykake also issued a recall for select batches of its cupcakes and Krimpets in early November, as SELF previously reported.Related:

Here’s How Often You Should Really Change Your Pillowcases

Here’s How Often You Should Really Change Your Pillowcases

If it’s never occurred to you to wonder, Huh, how often should I change my pillowcase?, we can’t really blame you. You’d probably much rather associate your pillowcases—and pillows themselves—with comfort and sleep than with laundry. Unfortunately, if you don’t swap out your pillowcases often enough, you might be unknowingly messing with your pillow’s potential to be a key part of your bedtime oasis. Below, we talked to experts to learn just how often you should wash your pillowcases (and the actual pillows themselves).So what exactly is lurking on your pillowcase?  According to the American Academy of Dermatology (AAD), we humans shed between 30,000 and 40,000 skin cells every day. When you spend at least seven hours (hopefully) sleeping, you’re shedding many of those skin cells right onto your sheets and pillows. On top of that, sweat, oil from your skin (especially if you don’t wash your face before bed), and good ol’ fashioned drool are all going to end up on your pillowcases as well. You might even end up with allergens (like pollen) in your bed via your hair, if you’re not a nighttime showerer. And let’s not forget the skin cells, sweat, oil, and drool of your partner and/or pet, if you share a bed with them.All those cells and bodily fluids can cause microorganisms—like bacteria and fungus—to grow. This isn’t likely to have a significant bearing on your health, but it can lead to skin irritation, breakouts, and possibly even infections. Thomas A. Russo, M.D., professor and chief of infectious disease at the University of Buffalo Jacobs School of Medicine & Biomedical Sciences, tells SELF that while fabrics like pillowcases and sheets can potentially be contaminated, they aren’t generally ideal places for most microorganisms to grow and propagate effectively.Very contagious skin infections like staph or ringworm can theoretically transmit between two people via bed linens, Dr. Russo says. But it’s very difficult to know if something spread that way or was transmitted simply from skin-to-skin contact if two people are living together and intimately close.Even though the risk of spreading infectious bugs via your sheets is slim, the microbes that regularly build up on your pillowcase can disrupt your skin’s delicate balance of microbes, called the microbiome, which can cause breakouts if you have acne-prone skin, SELF previously reported. If you have eczema, it can potentially lead to a flare.Back to top.Now, let’s talk dust mites. Dust mites, which are too small to see without a microscope, are teeny tiny creatures that live in household dust and feast on dead human skin cells. They thrive in warm, humid environments, and especially love living in bedding—where they enjoy an endless supply of sloughed off skin cells. Yummy.These critters are NBD if you’re not allergic to them. If you are, they can be a huge deal. “Dust mites are by far the most pervasive indoor allergen,” board-certified allergist-immunologist Ryan Steele, D.O., assistant professor of clinical medicine at Yale School of Medicine and program director of the Yale Allergy & Immunology Contact Dermatitis Program, tells SELF. “Dust mites are something we think of as affecting airways and causing nasal congestion and watery eyes, but they can also make your skin itchy and worsen eczema.”There’s not really any way to get rid of or prevent dust mites, Denisa E. Ferastraoaru, M.D., assistant professor of medicine in allergy and immunology and attending physician at Einstein/Montefiore and Jacobi Medical Centers, tells SELF. So allergists advise patients with dust mite allergies to get allergy covers for their pillows (and mattress and comforter). “Covers basically keep dust mites inside the pillow/bed so that we can’t breathe them in,” Dr. Ferastraoaru says. If you can put a dust mite cover on any new pillows before using them for the first time, you can also keep dust mites out in the first place.Back to top.So, how often should you change your pillowcase?The best and easiest way to prevent potential skin issues? Wash or change your pillowcases and allergy covers regularly. Dr. Steele suggests doing so once a week, and if washing, using the hottest setting you can to kill microbes and allergens. If you’re a big-time drooler or make it a habit of going to bed with makeup on, you may want to wash or change your pillowcases more often.On that note, washing your face every night and showering before bed (especially if you got super sweaty or have seasonal allergies) will help keep your pillowcases cleaner for longer.Back to top.What about the actual pillows? The National Sleep Foundation recommends washing pillows (if you can) every six months with hot water and mild detergent. That’s right, many pillows can actually be washed! And it turns out…you should be doing that! Generally, down/feather pillows and down-alternative pillows can go in the washing machine on the gentle cycle; while most foam pillows shouldn’t be machine washed. Some pillows may do best when dry cleaned. Make sure to read the manufacturer’s instructions for your specific pillow. When it comes to replacing your pillows, the National Sleep Foundation suggests swapping out pillows with new ones that aren’t full of dust mites and sweat every one to two years. Now, that’s not a hard-and-fast rule, and if buying new pillows yearly sounds like a hefty expense, you’re not wrong. By using allergy covers and washing your pillowcases, covers, and pillows as regularly as you can, you’ll keep them in good shape for longer and buy some time before their dustiness, mustiness, and/or lack of fluffiness get between you and a peaceful night’s sleep. Because that’s what it’s all about, after all.Back to top.Related: 

Christina Perri’s Lullaby Album ‘Songs for Rosie’ Grieves—and Celebrates—Her Stillborn Daughter

Christina Perri’s Lullaby Album ‘Songs for Rosie’ Grieves—and Celebrates—Her Stillborn Daughter

Christina Perri has not had an easy year. In July of 2020, the singer-songwriter shared that she was expecting another child with her husband, comedian Paul Costabile. The couple was overjoyed; this would be their rainbow baby after experiencing a pregnancy loss at 11 weeks in January of 2020. But in November of 2020, in her third trimester, Perri was hospitalized with pregnancy complications. Two weeks later, she and her family shared the devastating news that they had lost their daughter. “She was born silent, after fighting so hard to make it to our world,” Perri, who had been 33 weeks along, wrote at the time.The ensuing grief, she says, was unimaginable. By and large, Perri retreated from her public life, sharing occasional, emotional updates with her fans on social media. But with the anniversary of her family’s loss coming up, she feels ready to speak about what she’s been through—both to shed light on the earth-shattering, incomprehensible heartbreak of stillbirth and to share the memory of the daughter she lost with the world.Starting with her name: Rosie.“This is my first time talking about it,” Perri tells me over Zoom from her home in Los Angeles. “I have done so much work to be able to talk about it. I feel not just ready to talk about it—I want to. I want to be that voice.”Perri’s voice is, of course, what made her famous, beginning with her breakout hit “Jar of Hearts” more than a decade ago. Now, she’s using it to aid in her healing by releasing an album of lullabies on November 24th—the anniversary of the day Rosie died—called Songs for Rosie, an achingly beautiful tribute to a painfully short life. (In the lead-up to the release, Perri debuted her cover of “Here Comes the Sun,” the album’s first single.)“This record means the most to me because it carries forever the narrative—the correct narrative—that she exists,” says Perri. It also builds upon Perri’s legacy of commemorating her love for her children via song.In 2019, to celebrate her older daughter Carmella’s first birthday, Perri released an album of lullabies and sing-alongs titled Songs for Carmella. The companion album for Rosie had long been in her mind. “I want to make a lullaby record for every baby,” she says, “so the whole time I was pregnant with Rosie I kept a track list on my phone of songs I planned to [sing to her].” The song selections took on a heart-wrenching new meaning after Rosie’s passing—like “Smile,” which repeats the directive to ”smile, though your heart is breaking,” a challenging missive for anyone parenting an energetic preschooler after losing a baby—and drove Perri on her mission to record the songs. It was now imperative for her to build something concrete to honor Rosie’s life. “There was a moment where I was like should I [make the album]? And then I was like, oh, I absolutely should,” she says. “I have Songs for Carmella, and this is the same album cover. It uses the same font. It’s the second volume. Because Rosie is my daughter. And she will remain part of our family forever.”

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