Summer is all about having fun in the sun. We’ve all made plans to enjoy the beach, lake, and/or pool. Many of my friends are planning to lay on the beach and even out their tans for that perfect summer-kissed glow (due to all the up-coming weddings they are attending). Seems like no big deal, right? Well, it’s NBD until you have few moles removed from your back and your doctor is telling you that a sunburn you got 10-15 years ago is probably what made those moles a problem today. Listen, skin cancer is the most common type of cancer and accounts for about half of all cancers diagnosed. According to the American Academy of Dermatology nearly 145,000 Americans will be diagnosed with some form of melanoma this year. Moreover, 75% of skin cancer deaths are due to melanoma. It is a big deal.
My fiance just had a mole removed from his back two weeks ago. Today, he goes in to have the stitches removed. The doctor explained to us that on a scale of 1 – 5, where “1 is normal” and “5 is cancer” the previous biopsy of the mole was a “3” and that’s why the mole and the area around it needed to be excised. As a cancer survivor and liver transplant recipient, I understand the importance of protecting my skin because I am “100 times more likely than the general public to develop squamous cell carcinoma.” Despite the cautionary tales I’d shared and the “wear sunscreen” speech I’ve relayed from my doctors, friends, and fellow cancer survivors- it wasn’t until this happened to him that it “clicked.”
I don’t want you to have to end up with a cancer diagnosis to realize and practice the simple steps you can take to avoid getting sunburned. Sunburns today could be skin cancer in a year or 10 years. Trust me. Cancer is expensive and interrupts your life significantly. Below are some questions and answers to help make the case for protecting your skin this summer.
Q: If the sun is so scary, are you expecting me to stay inside all summer?
A: Please don’t hide in your closet all summer. Go outside, be active! It’s essential to your health in countless ways. I’m just asking that you be smart about it. Avoid going outside during the hottest part of the day when the sun is at its highest peak. If you can’t avoid being outside during that time, limit your time in the sun, find shade, wear broad spectrum protective clothing, hats, sunglasses, etc. Think about it this way, one hour of sun at 9 A.M. is nearly equivalent to 15 minutes of sun at 1 P.M. Your goal is to stay safe in the sun. As my fiance says regularly, “Fun ends when safety ends.”
Q: So, how much sunscreen do you really need?
A: You need to apply at least one oz. of sunscreen every two hours in order for it to really be effective. Truly! If you’ve spent 4-5 hours at the beach and a quarter of your 8 0z. tube of sunscreen isn’t gone, you didn’t use enough. If you went with a group and you still have any sunscreen left- clearly, you all didn’t use enough. Rule of thumb: apply sunscreen 30 minutes prior to being out in the sun and reapply often. Even if your sunscreen is labeled as “water-resistant” or “water-proof” you still need to reapply. Efficacy of these kinds of sunscreens means about 40-80 minutes of SPF coverage when wet.
Q: Fine! I’ll wear sunscreen. What SPF (Sunburn Protection Factor) should I use?
A: There is some debate over this. Many believe that the higher the SPF number is, the greater it is at protecting you from UVA/UVB rays. Actually, it’s pretty negligible; but for someone who has a history of or susceptibility for skin cancer, the marketing of SPF numbers could mean peace of mind. Truth is, no matter the SPF you put on, it’s ineffective after a couple hours. Which means, it’s not necessarily the SPF number that counts, it’s how often you reapply. Effectively, you should reapply after you do anything that could make the sunscreen slough off. Be sure to purchase a quality sunscreen with “broad spectrum” protection. An everyday SPF of 15 (blocks 93% of harmful rays) for your daily commute through life, in and out of buildings, etc. should be sufficient (reapply religiously). Thankfully, many lotions and make up products include SPF 15 already. However, if you’re playing in a sporting event, or near water (which is reflective) in directly sunlight, etc. you’re probably better off with a thicker, higher SPF of 30+ (blocks 97%+ harmful rays) which is the recommendation found on hopkinsmedicine.org.
Q: Sunscreen is gross. Couldn’t I just use a tanning bed?
A: If you want to jump from the frying pan and into the fire, that’s your decision as an adult. However, there’s a reason why Howard County, Maryland does not allow tanning for minors. If you read the report and its findings, I expect that you’ll see how important your skin is too. Perhaps you’ll decide tanning beds aren’t for you and that wearing sunscreen isn’t such a bad idea after all.
Clearly, I’m not a doctor or medical professional. Please consult with your primary care physician or your dermatologist for your skin health needs. Take these questions and answers as what they are: another way to hear the “wear sunscreen” speech.
Remember: use high quality, broad spectrum sunscreen, and reapply religiously!
Summer is not half way done and many of us are involved in the back to school process. Educators, parents and students will all experience that half-excitement, half-dread, pit-of-the-stomach feeling that unfamiliar experiences and change generate. And of course, there is a picture book for that. Lots of them. Reminding us that we can do this.
A little girl in a humongous blue-striped helmet chooses a bike, practices a lot, and (aided by a patient guy in a green tie) learns to ride. The gentle text offers pithy encouragement. “Let’s go! . . . Watch everyone ride . . . They all learned how . . . Come on, let’s give it a try . . . Training wheels are helpful . . . They keep you from tipping over.” Raschka’s well-chosen words, spread over several pages, admonish: “Find the courage to try it again, again, and again until… by luck, grace, and determination you are riding a bicycle!” Raschka deconstructs what’s needed to acquire this skill (which may be unique for its lessons on the physics of motion and the rewards of self-reliance), but also suggests the complexity of achieving balance and independence in any of life’s transitions.
From those wobbly first steps to those wobbly last steps, it’s all about the balance. And if you have a cheerleader and someone to catch you that’s an extra bonus.
Kevin Henkes’ wonderfully appealing child-mouse has a stubborn habit: worrying. Wemberly, a shy white mouse with gray spots, always feels nervous. “At the playground, Wemberly worried about/ the chains on the swings,/ and the bolts on the slide,/ and the bars on the jungle gym.” She tells her father, “Too rusty. Too loose. Too high,” while sitting on a park bench watching the other mice play. Her security, a rabbit doll named Petal (rarely leaves her grip. Henkes lists Wemberly’s worries, “Big things” heads the list, paired with a vignette of the heroine checking on her parents in the middle of the night with a flashlight, “I wanted to make sure you were still here.” He shows how Wemberly’s anxieties peak at the start of nursery school with huge text that dwarfs illustrations. At school Wemberly meets another girl mouse, Jewel, who turns out to be a kindred spirit (she even carries her own worn doll). Henkes offers no solutions, handling the subject with realistic gentleness; while playing with Jewel, “Wemberly worried. But no more than usual. And sometimes even less.”
Sometimes you just want to know that you are not the only one. A perfect book for those with anxiety and for those who ‘don’t understand what all the fuss is about’.
Sometimes you need to be your own cheerleader and this girl has it covered. No matter what she does, wherever she goes, or what others think of her, she likes herself because, as she says, “I’m ME!”. Evoking Dr. Seuss’s work with quirky absurdity, she is so full of joy that readers will love her. Even with “-stinky toes/or horns protruding from my nose”. The rhymes are goofy, the illustrations are zany (for the “I like me on the inside” verse, he shows the narrator and her horrified dog in X-ray mode).
Whatever new experiences await you, you can do this! And we have a book, DVD, or e-resource that might help. See you at the library.
I rejoice when the weather is warm enough to swim! Swimming is one of the most healthful ways to exercise, and is broadly enjoyed by people of all ages, from babies to the aged. People can get into the pool and enjoy themselves so much that they don’t even know how much beneficial aerobic (heart-pumping) exercise they’re getting.
Aerobic exercise itself has important health benefits: it reduces harmful inflammation linked to many diseases; lowers stress; lowers blood pressure; strengthens muscles (including the heart), and can even help smokers to quit. In fact, swimming is one of the most highly-recommended types of aerobic exercises, according to Johns Hopkins exercise physiologist Kerry J. Stewart, Ed. D. In addition, it’s one of the best exercises for older adults, as it’s easy on the joints.
Most swimmers in Howard County don’t have access to natural bodies of water, such as lakes or the ocean, so we swim in the neighborhood pool, kindly supplied by Columbia Association, one of the neighborhoods in other towns, or by a private owner. The water in these pools needs to be carefully maintained for cleanliness, because the people splashing around bring bacteria into the standing water of the pool. The operators of these pools add chemicals to the water. Without chlorination, health risks would prevent our swimming in a pool.
Most pool operators maintain water cleanliness with chlorine-based chemicals, then test the water for the correct balance of pH (acid-alkaline balance) and chemicals several times throughout the day. Although several alternatives to chlorine exist, each has a disadvantage, including a substantial differential in price. So additions of chlorine seem to be the default choice for water cleanliness.
But chlorine use has its side affects: it’s drying to skin and hair, and may make swimmers’ eyes redden and burn. Some some people are undeniably allergic to chlorine; some people suspect chlorine of causing serious diseases of the respiratory tract or even cancer; but research on these serious side effects is not conclusive.
But (sniff) what’s that sharp smell? Smells like too much chlorine!
Actually, that smell is the result of inadequate amounts of chlorine. Here’s the science: molecules of chlorine combines with molecules of nitrogen or ammonia being thrown off our bodies (organic matter). This is what smells bad. Whenthere is more chlorine in the water, the chlorine can do its job and the odor should be minimal. It’s inadequately-chlorinated water that is most irritating to the skin and eyes, and may be implicated in swimmer’s ear, a common ear infection due to constantly-wet ear canals and bacteria in the water.
And why is the water so cloudy? It’s due to any combination of these events: particles forced out of the water by imbalanced water, poor filtration or sanitation, or heat. Hot days can contribute to cloudy water.
Unless there are other health-related risks, the health benefits, fun, and social value of swimming far outweighs the disadvantages posed by chlorine. One of the rites of summer is swimming, especially out of doors on a hot Maryland day.
The Center for Disease Control’s Triple A’s of Healthy Swimming go into depth on ways to keep everyone healthy when in the water. The most important and easiest of these include:
- Staying out of the water if you are ill, especially illness of your digestive tract. Also stay out of the water if you have a cut or other break in your skin. Being aware of potential water-borne problems.
- Showering before you swim to rinse off the organic materials on your skin. This way, you won’t be contributing to what the chlorine as to break down.
- Regular bathroom breaks for children and adults are crucial. Urine, after all, in another organic material.
- Protecting yourself with eye goggles, an after-swim shower, shampoo, and body moisturizer.
- Questions to ask the pool operator: “Are chemical levels checked at least twice per day, or more often when the pool is heavily used?”, “What is the latest pool inspection score?”, and “Has the pool operator completed specialized training in pool operation?”Have a great swim!
I don’t know whether you’ve had any lab work done recently, but if you have, there’s a good chance your healthcare provider took a look at your vitamin D level. Why all the growing interest in vitamin D? Won’t a couple of glasses of milk per week and some sunlight take care of it?
Sufficient vitamin D promotes bone growth and repair and is required for our bodies to absorb calcium. Adequate calcium levels help assure bone strength. Conditions associated with low vitamin D levels include rickets, osteomalacia, and osteoporosis. Symptoms of decreased vitamin D include bone pain, muscle weakness, and fatigue. Older adults may experience symptoms of depression and cognitive impairment.
The NIH Dietary Supplements site notes that vitamin D is naturally present in very few foods. Fatty fishes such as mackerel, tuna, and salmon contain vitamin D. Tiny amounts of vitamin D are found in beef liver, cheese, and egg yolks. Some mushroom varieties are grown under ultraviolet light to boost their vitamin D content. Much of our vitamin D, however, is ingested from artificially fortified products such as milk, breakfast cereal, and yogurt. Ingestion of supplements and cod liver oil will also boost vitamin D levels. Patients with an abnormally low level of vitamin D may be advised to take vitamin supplements as it is difficult to obtain significant amounts of dietary vitamin D.
Sun exposure causes our skin to synthesize vitamin D. During cold winter days and in smoggy conditions, sun exposure is limited, thus decreasing the body’s vitamin D creation. People who have more pigment in their skin are able to block some UV radiation – helpful in preventing sunburn, but detrimental to generating vitamin D. As we age, our skin’s ability to synthesize vitamin D decreases. The use of sunscreen also blocks the initiation of vitamin D production. Patients with digestive disorders such as inflammatory bowel disease or celiac disease may have decreased ability to absorb ingested vitamin D. Obesity is also be associated with decreased vitamin D levels as fat cells absorb vitamin D from the blood.
Studies have shown that vitamin D deficiency can lead to an increased susceptibility to colds, especially for those who have asthma and lung conditions. Blood cells critical to immune function have vitamin D receptors. When enough vitamin D is not present, the risk of autoimmune disease and infection increases.
Researchers have also found an association between low vitamin D levels and stroke. When vitamin D levels are insufficient, patients are at higher risk for strokes. In patients who have had strokes, the stroke is likely to be more severe if the vitamin D level is decreased. Links have also been found between poor bone health, low vitamin D level and increased risk of cardiovascular disease. Much research is underway to improve our understanding of population studies indicating high rates of hypertension, obesity and glucose intolerance in patients with low vitamin D levels. Further studies are needed to increase our understanding of the significance of vitamin D levels.
[Editor’s Note: As always, please consult your physician before taking any kind of supplement. Your doctor(s) are your greatest resource for your health needs. The post above is for informational purposes only and should not be interpreted as medical advice.]
As you may already know, the Central Branch of HCLS closed its doors for an exciting three-month renovation (it’s going to be so cool when it reopens!). Central team members have been temporarily relocated to the East Columbia and Miller Branches during this time. Both East Columbia and Miller have been welcoming and accommodating beyond belief. Moving, however, is never without stress, confusion, and a bit of nerves. It occurred to me, as an adult woman, that if a temporary move into a more-than-friendly territory gives me the jitters, then a young person encountering his or her first move into a new home must be completely freaked out.
So if you’re getting ready to move and you’ve lost your mind (as well as your keys and match to every other sock) in a slew of boxes, and you haven’t accidentally packed the kids, then they may be just as stressed out, if not more so, than you. The first thing you can do is head to the library and pick up some books that might ameliorate your kids’ unease.
One of my favorites out of the gate is one from our Summer Reading 2015 picks, Peanut Butter & Cupcake by Terry Border. A simple tale about newly transplanted Peanut Butter who wanders around his new town with a soccer ball looking for a new friend to play with. Don’t be fooled by the simplicity and humor of this story; one of the biggest fears of a child who is moving is finding new friends.
Continuing with the theme of friendship, but also focusing on the anxiety caused by how “scary” a new place can be, is the charming Lenny & Lucy by Phillip C. Stead. This American Library Association Notable Books for Children pick and Publishers Weekly Best Book of the Year for 2015 will reassure your kids that their feelings are perfectly normal and that things will get easier.
Before I Leave by Jessixa Bagley takes a different tack. This sweetly sad picture book focuses on the fear of leaving behind a beloved friend with a new move. And the heartwarming Ice in the Jungle by Ariane Hofmann-Maniyar touches on the loss of the familiar and how alien a new place can seem. While Eve Bunting’s Yard Sale explores the theme of loss even more deeply as the main character must watch her family sell off some of their possessions to move from a house to an apartment. And if you want a book that that’s less of a story and more of an aid to help you start a conversation about the fears your child may be having about the move, then a nonfiction book such as Moving by Caitie McAneney might be what’s needed.
This is just a drop in the bucket of books covering this topic (a catalog search on moving, household will give you many more options). We even have some books for the older kids such as Seven Dead Pirates by Linda Bailey for middle grade readers (if you think moving is hard, try moving into a house occupied by the ghosts of seven pirates). There’s also Tell Me Three Things by Julie Buxbaum for teens (about a teen grappling with grief, navigating a new school and step-family, and corresponding online with a mysterious new “friend”). Or maybe a graphic novel such as Lost in NYC: A Subway Adventure by Nadja Speigelman will provide some comfort.
Moving, at any age, can be a trying experience. A book might bring a sense of peace (or at least help alleviate some of the loneliness and anxiety) for a kid. Even adults need support and comfort during a move. That being said, if you get a chance, I hope you’ll swing by the East Columbia Branch and say hi to me sometime during the next three months.
I love carbs! Technically, our bodies and brain NEED carbs. But the carbohydrates I’m referring to are the “bad” ones. The ones I grew up with: white rice, white potatoes, taro, and all kinds of breads. Frankly, I have a potato problem. I love potatoes in all their glorious forms! However, I am partial to a giant mountain of home made mashed potatoes. So, in order to keep an eye on my blood sugars, I trick myself with one of my favorite low-carb sides: garlic cauliflower mash. It’s a surprisingly delicious way to enjoy cauliflower while simultaneously satisfying those carb cravings for mashed potatoes.
Ingredients: cauliflower, minced garlic, salt, pepper, olive oil, butter, milk (optional: paprika, spinach, white beans, pesto)
Chop a head of cauliflower into florets. You can either blanch the florets in boiling water for 15 minutes, or stem the florets in the microwave or on the stove. You just need to get the cauliflower tender for “mashing.” While florets are cooking, get a small fry pan going with medium heat- then, drizzle a bit of olive oil, add a minced garlic clove. (At this point, you could add add a handful of spinach to lightly wilt in the pan or white beans or pesto or additional seasonings.) Whatever healthy, brave concoction you’ve created in your garlic pan, add to a food processor. Then, drain the water from your blanched cauliflower and add florets to the food processor as well. Blend in food processor with a little bit of salt/pepper, up to 1 Tbsp of butter, and splash of milk until its nearly smooth. Scrape down the sides occasionally. Keep an eye on its consistency so you don’t put it over the edge as a puree. You can also do this step manually with a fork or masher. Either way, it’ll be tasty. Dress up your mash with chives or other fresh herbs.
Another delicious and simple way to get more cauliflower into your diet: cauliflower rice!
My sister-in-love (as opposed to sister-in-law) bought some cauliflower rice from the store the other night. It was basically a head of cauliflower that was pulsed in a food processor and repackaged in a foam tray with a price tag and plastic wrap. Save yourself the extra cost and just get a head of cauliflower. Once your raw cauliflower is pulsed to the point of rice (or cous cous) texture, you should set a fry pan on medium heat with a drizzle of olive oil. You can then add a clove of garlic minced, along with a small white/yellow onion minced, maybe a handful of baby portobellas chopped. Saute until mushrooms are soft and onions are nearly translucent. At that point, add the cauliflower. This is a great base for any and all flavors you’re interested in creating. Simply season with salt and pepper or anything your heart desires! What’s great about cauliflower is that (like rice) it will absorb the seasoning beautifully. I’ve seen Indian cauliflower rice with cumin, turmeric, ginger, etc. The pellets of cauliflower will also absorb the colors of your herbs and spices! Try something fun like a Spanish style cauliflower rice or something Guam-style like achote red-rice (annatto seeds).
Cauliflower is pretty easy to work with, you just need to put in time. There’s all kinds of great recipes for cauliflower tots (like potato tots), cauliflower soup, cous cous like salad, cauliflower popcorn (deep fried cauliflower), “steaks”, tortillas- the only limit is your imagination! Try out our Paleo cookbooks for more ideas!