Poison Ivy

I have no idea why there are so many myths about poison ivy.

Poison ivy has an oil called urushiol that causes a rash on skin in something like 85% of humans. There is truly nothing else to it. That’s it!!!!

The rash does not spread. Our skin has different thicknesses and the oil takes longer to penetrate some areas than others, so the rash can show up some places faster than others. You also might have gotten a huge gob on your arm and just a little brush on your leg, so maybe the arm rash shows up first.  You might have a rash on your arms on day one and a rash on your feet pops up on day two. It didn’t spread, it just took longer to show up on the feet. I hope that makes sense.  It’s like at a meeting how some people show up late. The meeting isn’t spreading around, the people in the meeting aren’t multiplying on the spot, some people are just showing up late. That other part of your rash slept through the alarm.

Poison ivy oil does not “go systemic”, it does not spread when you pop the blisters, you cannot avoid getting it by eating small amounts of the leaves (this can actually kill you), you cannot avoid getting it by drinking the milk of goats who have eaten it. I’m so sorry, there is no magic way to avoid getting it, and the people that don’t get it simple haven’t gotten it *yet*. They’re lucky, not using “this one great trick no one wants to tell you”.  It’s a bummer, I know.

Back to the blisters. Blisters are full of a liquid that your body produces. There is NO poison ivy oil in the blisters. Smart people have sucked that fluid out with needles and looked at it really closely in their smart ways, and those smart people have had poison ivy just like you have and they also desperately want to find a magic solution. Sadly, they didn’t. It’s just regular ol’ blister fluid in there, same stuff as when you get a blister from your new shoes. Disappointment all around.

To avoid getting poison ivy, first avoid touching the plant, and never ever ever ever burn it. If you touch it, scrub yourself with strong soap and water. I like to use Dawn dish detergent- think about it, that’s what they use to wash crude oil off of sea creatures. It’s great at removing oils. It’s also way cheaper than fancy soap that’s marketed as ‘for poison ivy’. You don’t really need that stuff, dish detergent will definitely get the grease off. Maybe use some lotion after you shower because your skin will be really dry.  Also wash your clothes (with soap). Yes, all of the clothes, even your vest that you never wash. Yes, with clothes detergent. Shoes and tools can be cleaned with alcohol. Unless you wash a few minutes after you touch it you’re unlikely to avoid the rash entirely, but it’s still worth trying.

The oil can stay on clothes, shoes, tools, etc up to a year or more, and you can get it later by touching these items.

I know it might seem disappointing to stop believing in the ‘it goes systemic’ thing or the ‘magic goat milk’ thing, but there’s loads of magic in the world without us needing to make stuff up, I promise.  Happy summer!

 

yeast again!

For those of you who would like a second opinion on yeast infections and sugar consumption, here’s one written by an OB/GYN physician, who’s opinions clearly trump mine:

http://drjengunter.wordpress.com/2011/12/26/will-i-get-a-yeast-infection-if-i-eat-too-much-sugar/

I especially like that she points out the folks peddling special diets are trying to sell you something. Plus she has good citations from medical studies, including one where (non-diabetic) folks ingested large amounts of sugar and then had their vaginal secretions tested (spoiler alert: no sugar ended up in the vaginal secretions).

Also, eating loads of sugar does NOT cause overgrowth of yeast in the bowels. Fancy that!

Can we move onto a more interesting question? I want to know why people are SO INVESTED in making claims about yeast infections and their treatment that are absolutely not supported by any medical science at all, and have in fact been dis-proven. Can anyone begin to fathom this phenomenon?

A Few Ankle Injury Gems

You’ve rolled your ankle! Oh no! It hurts! Should you go get it x-rayed?

My first rule of thumb about going to the ER or to get something x-rayed is: if you think that maybe you should seek help- you should. The body has its own wisdom.

Here’s a way a doctor might assess if your ankle should be x-rayed: http://www.mdcalc.com/ottawa-ankle-rules/   Some tips for reading this webpage: “Lateral view” means looking at the outside of the ankle. “Medial view” means looking at the inside of the ankle. “Posterior edge” means back edge. “Tip of medial malleolus” is the ankle bone that makes a bump on the inside of your ankle (some people have two of these, if you do, the lower one potentially an extra navicular, the higher up one is the tip of the medial malleolus).

That’s really about it.

If you think it’s ‘just’ sprained:

RICE it (rest, ice, compression, elevate), take it easy, let your pain be your guide. Note that “REST” is first- lay off it as much as you can. Each step you take *right after* you injure it is said to be roughly equivalent to an extra hour of healing time. Those 24 steps you took over to that rock to sit down? That’s another whole day of healing time added on. Expect the pain to get worse and better and worse and better and for the healing to take longer than you’d think. Yes, it’s really frustrating. No, you can’t just go trail running whenever you want and expect good, speedy healing. Yes, that applies to you even if you’re some crazy-badass and even if you’re just plain ornery. Yes, that pretty much describes all punks.

Here’s why the same ankle gets twisted over and over:

  1. It’s not because of “weak ankles”
  2. It’s because the brain doesn’t quite understand WHERE IT IS

When you twist your ankle real well, you tear these things called ‘proprioceptors’. Proprioceptors are little sensory thingies that tell your brain where your body is in space, this is how you can ‘feel’ roughly where your body parts are without looking at them. When they’re busted you tend to put your ankle down willy-nilly when you’re walking or running, and you’re less likely to compensate quite right when you step on a rock or a root or whatever… i.e. you twist that same darn ankle again.

If you don’t do some pretty specific ankle ‘rehab’, the connection between your re-growing proprioceptors and your brain never re-sync and you’re at greater risk of re-injury

Think of it like when your computer and your router aren’t ‘talking’ to each other even though they’re both on and working. So the ankle ‘rehab’ is a little like resetting the router, it re-establishes the connection between your brain and the proprioceptors. The main things here are to let your pain be your guide (don’t ‘push through it’) and to follow some kind of recommendations for ‘ankle sprain physical therapy’ (look this up online, I’m not linking to one b/c there are so many available.) The best ones might be where you stand on one foot on something sort of unsteady like a big piece of foam or a half-yoga ball. Get creative. Don’t fall over. All the tiny wobbly movements that happen when you balance helps your brain re-coordinate with the proprioceptors and reduces your risk of re-injury.

Drugs:

If you want the anti-inflammatory effects of ibuprofen (advil), you actually need to take it every 4-6 hours (or whatever the directions on the bottle say) for at least a couple of DAYS before the anti-inflammatory effect starts to happen. If you take less than the recommended dose, or you don’t take it every few hours, you’ll get the pain-relieving effect, but NOT the anti-inflammatory effect. Pain relief is nice, but the anti-inflammatory effect arguably does more to help you get better. Don’t be afraid to take advil for a few weeks to help your injury heal, when taken this way it’s really a pretty safe drug and won’t turn you into a capitalist and it isn’t a sign of physical or moral weakness (I promise). Don’t let the haters get you down; it’s ok to take drugs when you need them.

Peeing in Jars Without Infecting Yourself, or, how not to piss off your bladder.

So it’s getting cold again and tis the season for peeing in jars instead of leaving the warm place you’re in to go expose your poor tush to the elements. Some folks of course pee in jars in any ol’ season. Here’s the quick and dirty of doing it right:

A lot of people say: “pee is sterile”. This isn’t exactly the truth. Pee is pretty much sterile when it’s in the bladder, but on the way out of the body it picks up a bunch of bacteria from the urethra and genitals. Pee is therefore pretty clean but not sterile once it’s exciting the body. Once the pee sits in a jar or other container it’s a perfect delicious broth for bacteria! So your pee jar is super bacteria-laden, and not only that, the kind of bacteria in there are exactly the kinds of bacteria that like to live in pee. Therefore, if your junk touches the container you’re peeing in, and if you’re re-using that container later, those pee-loving bacteria are gonna crawl their happy way up your bladder and squat there. Thus you’d have a urinary tract infection (UTI). Some possible symptoms of a UTI are a burning pain when you pee, cloudy urine, feeling like you need to pee often, and a crampy feeling in your low-low belly where your bladder is.

One way to avoid this whole thing is to use a wide-mouth jar so you’re not touching your junk to the jar when you use it. Like so:

peejar

Beaver Fever aka Giardia

Giardia is one of those things that makes you poop your brains out! Keep in mind that this is on a spectrum ranging from maybe 2 or 3 bouts of diarrhea a day to not being able to leave the toilet for any appreciable length of time. The person infected also has foul smelling gas, sulfurous burps, sometimes loses weight, and sometimes has floating greasy poop. It spreads via the oral-fecal route and is commonly acquired through drinking out of lakes or streams. Drinking standing water near a beaver dam is particularly risky because it’s standing water the beavers are pooping in, hence the term “beaver fever.”

As I learned recently (oops!), it can also be transmitted through sex or other intimate contact that involves the butt. Sometimes that oral-fecal route gets to be pretty direct!

If you don’t do anything, your symptoms may well resolve in 4-6 weeks but you’ll still be able to pass it on to others, even while you feel fine. I am not finding good data yet on how long a person can give this gift that keeps on giving… Also, sometimes the symptoms just don’t go away on their own- so there’s that, too.

It’s a decent idea to go ahead and treat it both because that’s the community-minded thing to do and because during that 4-6 weeks that you have giardia the intestine is getting all fucked up and the more fucked up it gets, the longer it takes to really get back to normal afterwards. There are a couple of antibiotic choices you’d have to go to a clinic to get, one of them is cheaper and you can’t drink alcohol on it (for real, you’d get crazy sick) and one is more expensive but you can drink alcohol while you’re on it.

A small medical study showed success treating giardia with an herbal drug called “‘Pippali Rasayana” 1gram by mouth, three times a day for 15 days, so that might be something to try instead of antibiotics.

Some people find they have a temporarily lower tolerance to milk (lactose) right after they’ve had giardia- so you may want to avoid large amounts of dairy while you have giardia and for maybe a couple weeks after successful treatment just in case.

Avoid it by treating questionable water, washing your hands, and being careful about who’s butt your mouth goes near!

Where there is no doctor… online!

Where there is no doctor… online!

If  y’all haven’t seen the fantastic book “Where There is No Doctor”, it’s great! There are useful charts for identifying skin disorders, as well as a fascinating chapter regarding home remedies and popular beliefs that should be absolutely required reading for all radicals and punks. (Go read it now!) It’s also available in full, online, for free! Thanks to http://www.anarchapistemology.net for pointing this out. Attention punks with printing presses… maybe it would be helpful to print some of the charts (or chapters?!) to give out at the next book fair?

Spaghetti “Fungus”, Philly Funk

[Bottom line: It’s not a fungus. Shave your armpits and keep them dry until it’s gone. ]

While we’re on the subject of armpits, let’s talk about the Philly Funk, shall we? This condition has a lot of names punk circles, probably because it is really common. Like how there are lots of names for dandelions (puffball, clock, &c). I’ve mostly heard the armpit hair stuff called “Philly funk” or “spaghetti fungus”. In case you don’t already know what I’m talking about, it’s when armpit hair (and sometimes groin hair) gets a yellowish or reddish or even black coating of schmutz on it. This changes the texture of the hair, and generally makes the area more smelly than usual. If you are rather observant, you might notice the hair coating swells when it’s wet, becoming more noticeable. It also sometimes leaves yellow or red stains on clothing! So… lots of us have experience with this… what the heck is it?

Despite the name and common assumption, it is actually an overgrowth of bacteria rather than a fungus. Clearly, someone else thought it was a fungus as well, since the latin name for it —Trichomycosis axillaris– means ‘hair fungus of the armpit’. So, everyone can be surprised to find it’s a bacteria. Why do we care about the difference? Because you do different stuff to get rid of it. If you read the previous post, you will already understand that bacterial poop is what makes the armpits smelly and thus know that it stands to reason that the Philly funk would be extra smelly. In short, that’s a lot of bacteria, and it’s making a lot of poop, and that makes for a noticeable smell. You might notice smelling a bit different than your normal smell.

Where does it come from? T. axillaris is caused by gram positive bacteria in theCorynebacterium genus who love warm, consistently moist conditions. Not bathing much, not shaving the armpits, and otherwise being a radical armpit, really sets these guys up nicely and they take off encrusting everything!

Here’s how to get rid of it… Have a clean shirt ready. Shave your armpits (I know, I know. I promise it will grow back) if you can’t shave them for some reason, carefully removed as much hair as you can with scissors. Put on that clean shirt. Don’t put on any shirts you haven’t just washed or get in any bedding you were in before you shaved those pits. Wash everything first! Shaving your pits and washing your clothes and bedding alone might do the trick especially if you wear anti-antiperspirant every day, but honestly, you’d be lucky if that’s all it took. To really send it running, splash your armpits with rubbing alcohol after showering, and every day for a while, maybe a week or two. Wait an hour or so after shaving before applying rubbing alcohol to avoid the sting. An alternative to alcohol is to wash your (hairless) armpits daily with benzoyl peroxide. This is an ingredient in some face washes (like Neutrogena Clear Pore). Try to keep the area as dry as possible, by using an anti-antiperspirant for a while, or a drying powder. If you don’t want to do either of those things, change clothes often to keep pits as dry as you can. The same procedures can be used on the groin area, though I don’t think you ought to be putting antiperspirant down there and a benzoyl peroxide cleanser might carry less sting than rubbing alcohol. This should do the trick! If it doesn’t, of course you may have misdiagnosed it. Or, if you have a really persistent case, you might need a topical antibiotic. As always, see a healthcare professional whenever you can instead of taking advice from blogs. For real. It may not be as expensive as you’d think, and getting regular checkups is worth every penny. Those folks go to school for a long time, and even after all that school, diagnosing things correctly is still one of the most difficult skills they develop. To think we can do it without any training and by using the internet is actually pretty foolish, but I digress. This regimen ought to beat the Philly Funk, good luck!! Leave a comment if you’ve heard another name for this!

 

 

Axillary Auxiliary (Armpits!)

It’s getting to be winter in the northern hemisphere, and that means more time spent indoors. And for some it means travel, holiday gatherings, and generally more time spent in close proximity to others. For a lot of us punk type folks, winter also means experiencing a wide range of quickly changing temperatures along with sometimes negotiating space with non-punks. Maybe it’s cold where you sleep, and hot where you work. Or it’s cold where you usually sleep, and hot where you’re spending your holidays. For me, being in a warm place often coincides with being around people I don’t want to share my smell with Here’s the scene: it’s chilly where I get dressed so I sleep in long-johns, jump out of bed and put on lots of layers as fast as I can, then I go somewhere hot and take off layers, only to discover that I totally stink under there. Sometimes, like when I’m with a lover, this is totally fine- even preferred. Other times, I’m with people I don’t want to share ‘smell-intimacy’ with, for me that’s some friends, some co-workers, classmates, and family. Personally, I only like to share the way my body smells with people I share other things about my body with. For me, my smell is personal and lovely and I don’t want to share it with just anyone. Some people figure capitalist society wants to reduce our smell to reduce our wildness, I personally think they just like to capitalize on insecurity because it’s a great way to sell people stuff. For me, deciding to stink all the time in reaction to capitalism would still be a way of making a decision about my body with culture at the center, rather than myself. Relationship to body odor is of course different for everyone, but whatever your own reasons are for wanting understand the causes or perhaps lessen your odor, read on!

So, first things first: how does it work? Body odor (here i’m speaking mostly of armpit smell) is caused by several things. I’m going to keep this post simple, the main cause is bacterial poop. Sweat itself has no smell. For real. It really doesn’t. Ok. Folks have loads of bacteria on our skin at all times, just like we have bacteria in our guts. These bacteria (also referred to as “normal flora” just like the gut bacteria) are mostly helpful, living peacefully on your skin and taking up all the space so that bad bacteria can’t get established and cause trouble. These bacteria need to eat and poop (or “take in nutrients and excrete”, the process looks a bit different for them than it does for us) just like every other living thing. Their poop makes up your smell. It’s your smell because they are your bacteria.

So, the smell in your armpits is (pretty much) due to bacterial poop. They (pretty much) eat your sweat. People have different smells because they have different bodies, and different habits, and slightly different bacteria. This has to do with genetics, habits, favorite foods, medications, environment, etc!The immune system balances our skin flora and there isn’t generally a reason to worry with its composition. The immune system sorts them out and if all is going pretty alright, it ‘picks’ the ones for you. Interestingly, there is evidence that people are attracted to the body odor of people whose immune systems are very different than their own! Some people have an “extra” type of sweat gland in their armpits that secrete a milky sweat that’s rich in proteins, pheromones, and other things bacteria love to snack on. This sweat doesn’t have it’s own smell either, but it contributes to a more odoriferous armpit by being really nutritious as compared to that of folks who just have the one kind of sweat gland. But the point is really the bacteria and their poop here, not the sweat, so let’s get back to that.

There are several ways to reduce armpit smell. Below are some of my favorites.

Generally speaking, these strategies work best after cleaning the armpits with soap and water.

No ins, No outs: you can reduce the amount you sweat thus taking away the bacteria’s food. No food means no poop means no smell. This is a little hard to accomplish, and is basically the arena of anti-perspirants. I go this route when I know i’m going to be sweating, like during stressful interviews. This way I also avoid looking quite as nervous, i.e., no tell-tale wet spots on my nice shirts. Anti-perspirants aren’t too good for your health though, so I recommend using them somewhat sparingly.

Is that… swamp violets?: you can cover the smell with another smell. Sometimes this works just fine, sometimes it is not helpful (some personal smells are just too strong). This is the realm of deodorants without anti-perspirant. If you are taking this route, I suggest picking a scent that “goes along with” your own scent, rather than against it. I personally think muskier, woodsier scents tend to go well with body odor and powdery/floral scents go badly with it. This is clearly a matter of opinion.

Faster– Kill!! Kill!!: If you kill off the bacteria in your armpits, you won’t have armpit smell until they come back. Don’t worry, they repopulate just fine from the surrounding area, but you’ll have a little while (hours?) scent-free. Basically, splash or wipe your ‘pits with rubbing alcohol. This is a great method to use if you don’t have any deodorant on hand but you do have rubbing alcohol. It isn’t great for your skin, so don’t do it all the time. But, say you only need to not-smell like once a year (holidays, anyone?) and you don’t want to buy deodorant just for that one day… this is a great method! I use this method also when I’m working in a clinic or hospital (where alcohol wipes are plentiful) and forgot to de-stink before I got there. An extra note- a good option if you have “the philly funk”, also known as “spaghetti fungus”, the alcohol will help you get rid of it.

No home and it’s got to roam(?): If you shave your armpits, you will smell less. The hair traps the smell and holds onto it. Shaving won’t totally eliminate it, but it really can make a big difference. I prefer to trim the hair really short with a beard trimmer, myself. I do this before I go traveling, or any other time I might not be showering as much.

ARRRRTTAAAXXXX!!!! or, too slow to poop: this is your salt “crystal” deodorants. The salt makes your armpits so dang salty that the bacteria either die, or slow their metabolism so much that they aren’t pooping. I think of it as if they are stuck in quick-sand, though this metaphor actually has nothing to do with what’s physically happening. This stuff works really well and as far as I can tell, isn’t bad for you. You will still sweat, and the bacteria will live, but they will not be able to grow and eat and poop. Here’s the deal though: the crystal-salt has to actually coat your skin. This means if you have a lot of armpit hair, it’s not going to work quite as well. My suggestions here, either shave the hair or trim it short with clippers (I use a beard trimmer), then wet the crystal and rub it on your armpit. The trick here is to rub it all over and rub it a lot of times. Try rubbing up and down and also side to side. It’s got to coat the area. If you don’t want to remove hair, or if you don’t have ready access to water, I suggest the crystal roll on or spray- it’s already liquified and more easily coats and gets past hair. Either way, once you get it on there, it basically lasts until you shower or rub it off. This is a really good option for many punks in my opinion. It doesn’t add extra smells necessarily, and it works, and it isn’t bad for you. Your punk friends won’t know you’re using deodorant, and you also won’t be sharing your personal smell with others. The other punk-friendly thing here is that the solid forms of crystal deodorant last for years. I’ve been using the same crystal deodorant for almost three years now! Note- I’m talking about potassium alum, sold as “crystal deodorant”, not table-salt or quartz.

Well, that’s sums it up for now! There are surely other methods out there, let me know if you know of any good ones! I hope negotiating this coming holiday(s) goes alright for folks. 

Unfuck That Punk House Grime

[Bottom line: check out http://www.unfuckyourhabitat.com/%5D

For those of you who live in punk houses, or dirty houses… Houses do not need to be sterile in any way, and *some* exposure to microbes is good, but dust and grime and trash can bring down your general health and your well being. This is particularly true of houses that dogs come into. Living in a house that is dirty (I’m not just talking about clutter here, but actual dirt) can also bring down your mood in ways that might not be apparent until the house is clean(er). Also, you may get sick less. A co-worker of mine once moved out of her punk house because the shower was too dirty to use, and she felt it was uncleanable. I didn’t see it myself, but few showers, if any, are actually uncleanable in and of themselves. If you are interested in living in somewhat cleaner quarters, I highly suggest checking out this website: http://www.unfuckyourhabitat.com/  I love how it offers fierce, compassionate assistance to those who are intimidated by cleaning, or who find it emotionally troubling, or who live with people who are uninterested in a cleaner house. Also, I know we all love the earth. But, if you are facing a really daunting cleaning task, I highly suggest getting the cheapest, most chemical-laden cleaners at the dollar store or hardware store and using those, at least at first. “Pine Shine” is just as good as the more expensive stuff. Eco-products with happy babies and sunshine and such on the labels require a lot of elbow grease, and in my experience work much better to clean a home that’s pretty much already clean. Get those after you’ve scrubbed all the visible grime off with the harsher stuff. If you’d like, wear vinyl gloves, open the windows, and feel free to wear your gas mask if you want! Also, if you are averse to cleaning but wish it was a little cleaner, stronger products can sometimes be sprayed on and left for a while, making stuff easier to wipe up. If its in the shower, you can sometimes spray, leave, and rinse. Some products are even marketed for that! In the case of my co-workers gross shower, I bet leaving a spray cleaner on overnight, rinsing in the morning, and repeating would have made a major dent in the problem and saved her the hassle of moving. Feel free to email me if you want to know how to clean something but don’t know how, I’ll help if I can!

True facts.

You know how there’s a lot of bacteria in the world, but you know, they’re really, really small? Well, if you put all the bacteria currently living on earth end-to-end, they would reach all the way to the edge of the visible UNIVERSE.

EDIT

This wasn’t actually a true fact! Using William Whitman’s 1998 estimate of 5*1030 total bacteria on earth and an average bacterial length of 2micrometers, I calculate that they would stretch about 1.0579 light years, or about 1 billion light years. Hubble has been able to see things around 10-15 billion light years away, which gives us the size of the visible universe. Note that visible and observable are different things as it comes to astronomy. SO, all the bacteria on earth would stretch a bit more than 1 billion light years, or about 1/10th of the visible universe. That’s about 10,570 milky way galaxies lined up end to end. Still pretty impressive.