The sun is out and the temperature is rising! People are escaping the indoors to enjoy some time outside such as in the backyard, at the baseball field, or at the lake. Will you be doing the any of these? Whatever activity it is that you participate in, how do you protect yourself from the sun? Friday, May 25th is “Don’t Fry Day” and brings awareness to protecting our bodies from skin cancer.
Did you know that skin cancer is the most common and most preventable cancer out there? Skin cancer is caused by being exposed to ultraviolet (UV) rays. Where do UV rays come from? The sun and tanning beds both expose our skin to these types of rays. It is important to take precautionary measures to protect ourselves from them. Read the following bullet points for some tips to decrease your risk of skin cancer!
Spend your time outside in the shade, especially between 10a and 2p when the UV rays are strongest.
Wear clothing that covers your arms and legs
Wear a wide brim hat and sunglasses
Apply sunscreen at least every two hours and after you towel off or get out of the water
Avoid tanning beds!
UV rays from the sun can start causing damage to your skin in as little as 15 minutes. Even when it’s cloudy you still need to protect yourself. Keep an eye out for signs of skin cancer such as a new growth, sore that doesn’t heal, or change in a mole. The CDC has also posted a list of traits that may increase the risk of skin cancer:
A lighter natural skin color.
Family history of skin cancer.
A personal history of skin cancer.
Exposure to the sun through work and play.
A history of sunburns, especially early in life.
A history of indoor tanning.
Skin that burns, freckles, reddens easily, or becomes painful in the sun.
Blue or green eyes.
Blond or red hair.
Certain types and a large number of moles.
Even if you don’t have these traits, you can still get skin cancer. If you notice any changes in your skin, contact your doctor! Keep your body healthy and safe this summer by protecting it from the sun’s harmful rays!
April is Autism Awareness Month. The designation of the month to bring awareness to autism is very controversial, as the organizations that participate in this month are rife with ableism. If you are unfamiliar with the term, ableism is the discrimination and social prejudice of society against people with disabilities. Many people with autism would rather the month be focused on acceptance more so than awareness. Autism Speaks, a widely known non-profit, is closely affiliated with Autism Awareness Month. It is disliked by the autistic community for multiple reasons, mainly that it does not accurately represent or serve the majority of autistic people, therefore failing in its purpose as a non-profit. It targets caretakers and parents of autistic people, and as a result treats actual autistic people as unable to contribute to conversations about their disorder. In order to combat some of the misinformation spread during Autism Awareness Month, we have complied information about what autism is, and how to avoid being ableist it your everyday interactions.
What is Autism?
Autism is a neurodevelopmental disorder, meaning it effects how a person’s nervous system develops. Because their neurology is different, autistic people experience the world differently, and this is part of the reason many people see being autistic as an indivisible part of who they are. An important part of autism diagnosis is the idea of a “spectrum”, with one side representing a person traditionally considered “low-functioning”, meaning that they have severe trouble communicating, issues with social interaction, and a low IQ (which does not necessarily correlate to intelligence), and the other side representing someone considered “high-functioning”, meaning someone who speaks “acceptably”, can “pass” while socializing, and has a high IQ. Many autistic people have issues with the terminology associated with the spectrum, specifically labeling people as high or low functioning. It is considered oversimplified, and contributes to stigma around autistic people.
There are many characteristics of autism, however as everyone is different, these characteristics may present differently or not at all. Below we have listed some of the characteristics an autistic person may present with.
Problems Understanding Tone/Inflection
People on the spectrum may have trouble picking up nuances in a person’s tone while speaking. This, combined with the tendency to take everything literally, can cause mixed messages to be communicated.
Sensory Processing Differences
Due to the neurological aspect of autism, autistic people interpret the world differently than someone without autism. This can effect all senses, but most commonly affects sight and sound. Things that may not seem all that loud and bright to a non-autistic person can be very overwhelming to someone with autism due to their neurological differences.
Stimming, or self-stimulating, is the process of repeating motions or vocalizations in order to self-regulate or self-soothe. There is some discussion as to whether stimming should be trained out of people with controversial therapy methods such as ABA (applied behavioral analysis), but since stimming can be extremely beneficial and is not shown to be harmful, many autistic people see this as an attempt to force people to hide their autism, therefore hiding and being ashamed of a part of themselves.
Following a Routine
Many people who fall on the spectrum are also diagnosed with anxiety. Maintaining a routine is a way to add order and structure to an otherwise uncontrollable world. Every person’s flexibility with their routine is different, as no two people are identical.
Generally, autistic people have trouble making eye contact. It can feel unnatural, uncomfortable, and in some cases aggressive. Many people come up with coping methods to appear as though they are making eye contact, such as looking at someone’s eyebrows. There is debate around forcing autistic people to make eye contact, as it is less about helping the autistic person and more about making them acceptable for society.
Navigating Unspoken Rules
This falls along the same vein as problems with picking up tone and inflection. There are many unspoken rules about social interaction, such as personal space and acceptable topic conversations, that non-autistic people pick up subconsciously. However, for an autistic person, they may not recognize the rules and unconsciously break them.
Common Myths About Autism
There is a lot of misinformation about autistic people, and what is means to be autistic. Below is a list of common myths about autism.
Autistic People Have No Empathy
This is a multifaceted accusation, and does not look at all sides of what it means to be autistic. First of all, empathy is not the ability to care about people. Simply, empathy is the ability to “step in someone else’s shoes” and understand what they are feeling. The inability of an autistic person to do this harks back to their struggle to accurately look at a person and understand what they are thinking or feeling through body language or tone of voice. In fact, newer theories speculate that autistic people are overly empathetic, meaning that the issue they have is not relating to others, but instead being unable to place exactly what a person is feeling through body language and tone of voice. Like everyone, empathy levels vary regardless of a person’s placement on the spectrum, making their inability to feel empathy a myth.
Autistic People are Violent
Very simply, there is no evidence to suggest that an autistic person is more prone to premeditated violence that anyone else. In fact, autistic people are far more likely to be the victim of bullying and emotional/ physical abuse by parents or caregivers than other children.
There is an Autism Epidemic
While there is an increase in the amount of people being diagnosed, this is considered a result of an improvement in diagnosis as opposed to an increase in the autistic population. The term autism has only been around for a short time, and for the majority of its existence, the criteria for being diagnosed was very strict. As you have learned from this post, no two people present the characteristics of autism in the same way, making many autistic people fall outside of the antiquated criteria for diagnosis. In addition, when looking at the overall population of autistic people, there is around the same number of autistic adults as there are children, meaning there has not been an increase in the overall rate of autism, just improved diagnosis.
Vaccines Cause Autism
This is a very controversial issue, not just in the autism community but in mainstream media as well. It is an issue that many parents (not so much autistic adults or medical professionals) in the autism community are very passionate about. However, it is not true. Vaccines do not cause autism, and not vaccinating your child can leave them susceptible to many dangerous diseases.
All Autistic People Want to be Cured
This is incorrect, and a highly offensive statement to many members of the autistic community. As their most basic neurodevelopment is different than a non-autistic person’s, people with autism often see their disorder as being an indivisible part of themselves, and not something that needs curing or fixing.
How to Avoid Being Ableist
If you are someone who is unfamiliar with the autism community, or generally uneducated on autism or other disorders and disabilities, you may be participating in ableist language. We have included some common phrases people say to autistic or disabled people, and why they are ableist.
“You’re so Inspirational”
This implies to autistic and disabled people they are inspiring for living, as if being disabled or autistic is so bad it is a miracle they can continue to go on with their lives. This sends really negative messages about what you think of their lives.
“You Don’t Look Disabled/Autistic”
This is often said to people with “invisible disabilities”, such as neurological differences or chronic pain. This invalidates the person’s experience, and insinuates that the only real disabilities are ones you can see.
“Stop Complaining, Other People Have It Worse”
Just because there are things that are worse doesn’t mean that what someone is going through isn’t bad, painful, or hard. One person’s pain does not invalidate someone else’s. This is like saying “Stop being happy, other people have it better”. Just because other people are happy doesn’t mean someone else can’t be as well.
“If You Just Tried Harder, You’d Get Better”
First of all, autism isn’t something to “get better” from. It is apart of someone, and not something that needs to be cured or fixed. Secondly, there is not a magic cure for things like depression or anxiety, two common comorbid disorders. It is incredibly insulting to insinuate that what someone is going through is completely in their control, and that they are not trying hard enough to get better.
“Try To Act More Normal”
This implies that there is something wrong with the way an autistic or disabled person is. Some things autistic people do may make others uncomfortable, like stimming in public or needing to wear earplugs or sunglasses inside, but there is nothing wrong about it, and there is no reason to need to change to act mo9re “normal”
“You’re Not a Disabled Person, You’re a Person With a Disability”
There are a few things wrong with this statement. First of all, telling somewhat how to identify is called tone-policing. It is not for anyone other that the person themselves to decide what they are or are not. Many people prefer identity-first language such as “autistic person”, as they feel it conveys that being autistic is an important part of who they are and their identity . The other option, which is still widely used, is called person-first language, and signals that the person and the disability or disorder are separate.
Below are a list of sources used to write this post. This blog is only the tip of the iceberg, and if you feel the desire to learn more about autism and ableism feel free to check out the links below. A special thank you to sisters Caley and Creigh of Autism Spectrum Explained. This website is a great resource to educate yourself about multiple facets of autism and the community.
Cyber Bulling statistics show that over half of teens have been bullied online and have engaged in cyber bulling. They also show that more than 1 in 3 teens have experienced cyber threats online. Come join Professor Dave Eisenmann on March 31st for a presentation for parents and students about keeping technology and social media positive and healthy for students of all ages. This is a FREE event and is open to the community. Eisenmann will be giving the presentation from 7PM-8:30PM at the First Lutheran Church in Fargo. This presentation will cover topics about cyber bullying and harassment, sexting, and the dangers of pornography. Why students should be careful about information that they share online through Instagram, Snapchat, and Twitter and how this a permanent digital record will also be covered in the presentation by Eisenmann. Attend this event to help students all ages understand how to keep their technology and social media positive and healthy.
2016 statistics show that there is an average of 1 poison exposure reported to U.S. poison control centers every 14.6 seconds. Fortunately, not all reported incidents resulted in an actual poisoning. Do you know how to avoid a poisoning incident or what to do in the case a possible poisoning does occur? The Health Resources and Services Administration has dedicated March 15-21 as Poison Prevention Week to bring awareness. Read on to learn more about poison prevention and care.
A good start to preparing for or handling a poison incident is to have the Poison Help line written in a convenient location. That number is 1-800-222-1222. Keep the number in your phone and have a magnet on your fridge.
Poison proof your home. Keep medications in properly labeled containers and stored appropriately. Have properly functioning carbon monoxide detectors near bedrooms and furnaces. Keep cleaning supplies in proper containers and out of reach of children. Keep an eye on children when they are using craft supplies that may be made with chemicals and wash all surfaces after contact with the supplies. Use proper food preparation and storage techniques such as washing hands before handling food and storing foods at proper temperatures. Know what animals, insects, and plants are in your area that may be poisonous such as snakes and mushrooms.
What do you do if you suspect a possible poisoning? Do your best to stay calm and call the Poison Help line. Doing so may save you a trip to the Emergency Room. However, if the person is not breathing you must call 911. When you call the help line, an expert will be able to help you by giving first aid advice. If the poison was inhaled, get fresh air immediately. If the poison came in contact with the body, take off clothing that has been touched by the poison and rinse the skin with running water for 15-20 minutes. If the poison in in the eyes, rinse the eyes with running water for 15-20 minutes.
Being aware of possible poisoning incidents will help you be better prepared when a real incident occurs. Know what materials and organisms may be putting you at risk. Finally, if an incident does occur, do not wait for signs of a poisoning to call for help.
In 2017, about 79,767,026 United States citizens traveled internationally. Traveling has increased in popularity over the years and the industry grows every year. Traveling is exciting and fun, but it is important to stay safe and healthy while at your chosen destination. Whether you are traveling for work or adventure, take a look below for some safety and health tips while traveling abroad.
Travel Advisories: Are you traveling to a safe location? The U.S. Department of State – Bureau of Consular Affairs issues travel advisories for each country. There are four levels based on safety and security risk. Where does your destination land?
Exercise normal precautions
Exercise increased caution
Do not travel
STEP: This acronym stands for Smart Traveler Enrollment Program. It gives travelers information and updates about their location. It also allows the U.S. Embassy to contact you in the case of an emergency.
Weather: What’s the weather like? Does it rain often? Is it tropical storm season? Bring appropriate clothing and have a plan in the case severe weather conditions occur.
Driving and Road Safety: Do you plan on driving yourself while at your destination? Make sure you know the laws and road conditions (and what roads to avoid) as well as driving norms (i.e. driving on the left side of the road rather than the right side). Carry spare tires and extra fuel. Make sure you have the proper driving permits and documentation. Some countries require international driving permits
Medications, Vaccines, and Hospital Availability: Will you be bringing medications with you? It is advised to carry a doctor’s note that describes your medical condition, leave your medications in their original container with a clear label. Check out your destination’s drug policies to see if your medications are allowed. Another tip to consider is to see what vaccinations are recommended for traveling in general or for your particular destination. You should also have a plan if you do happen to get ill or injured. Find a doctor or hospital to go to and see if your insurance covers you while abroad. It’s important to be prepared.
Food Safety: Avoid foodborne illnesses and other diseases by practicing good eating and drinking habits. Safe foods are typically thoroughly cooked and hot. Packaged foods are also typically safe to eat. Bottled and canned beverages are also safe to drink. However, make sure bottles have not been tampered with and wipe the mouth of the can clean before drinking. Raw food, tap water (and ice made from tap water), and fountain drinks can be risky. Also use precaution when eating from street vendors as they may have decreased hygiene standards.
Belonging Safety: We all may have heard stories about belonging getting stolen while traveling. To avoid having your own belongings taken, don’t keep everything in one place. When going out, only bring the necessities and do not carry them in your back pocket. If you are carrying a purse or bag, keep it toward the front of your body. If you happen to be in a situation where someone is trying to take something of yours, it may be best not to fight for it. Although this may be hard to do and not your first reaction, you should remember that your safety is more important.
Money: What kind of money is used (i.e. Euros, Pesos, British pound)? You may wish to pick up some currency at your U.S. bank to reduce the cost of exchanging dollars into local currency overseas. Research the use of credit cards if you plan to use one. Call your credit card company to let them know you are traveling or your card may be declined overseas.
While these tips do not cover all areas of travel health and safety, they are a good start! We hope that this information will provide a safer and healthier experience while traveling abroad.
The last full week of February is Eating Disorder Awareness and Screening Week. Eating disorders are defined as mental illnesses that cause serious disturbances in a person’s everyday diet. This can mean eating both too much or too little, obsessing over food, and distress or concern about body weight/ shape. The purpose of Eating Disorder Awareness and Screening Week is to fight myths and misunderstandings about various eating disorders, as well as to help people identify whether or not they have a problem.
There are multiple types of eating disorders. Warning, this section may be triggering to some as it details harmful behaviors that accompany some eating disorders.
This eating disorder is characterized by distorted body image and severe weight loss that can lead to severe weight loss, with a pathological fear of becoming fat. Some warning signs that you or someone you know may be suffering from anorexia nervosa include but are not limited to:
refusal to eat
denial of hunger
obsession with body size and shape
making excuses for not eating
adopting meal or eating rituals, such as cutting food into small pieces or spitting it out after chewing
eating only certain foods perceived as “safe”
repeated weighing of themselves
wearing baggy clothes
cooking elaborate meals for others but refusing to eat
2. Bulimia Nervosa
This eating disorder is characterized by frequent episodes of binge eating, followed by purging behaviors such as self-induced vomit, fasting, excessive exercise, or the consumption of pills to induce bowel-movements in order to avoid weight gain. Binge eating is the act of eating large amounts of foods in a short period of time. Some warning signs that you or someone you know may be suffering from Bulimia Nervosa include but are not limited to:
eating large quantities of foods, followed by a compensatory behavior
dehydration or weakness
disappearing to the bathroom after meals
finding food in hidden and unusual places
intense fear of gaining weight
dental issues due to vomiting
scars on fingers or knuckles due to self-induced vomiting
3. Binge Eating Disorder
This eating disorder is characterized as recurring episodes of eating significantly more food in a short period of time than most people would eat under similar circumstances, with episodes marked by feelings of disgust or lack of control. Some symptoms that you or someone you know may be suffering from binge eating disorder include, but are not limited to:
Eating exceedingly quickly
Eating even when full
Feelings of guilt, embarrassment, or disgust
Frequent dieting without weight loss
Frequently eating alone
Hiding empty containers
Some people may show signs of disordered eating that do not fit these symptoms or definitions. These are called “eating disorder not otherwise specified”.
What to do if you think you or someone you know may be suffering from an eating disorder:
Educate yourself on eating disorders.
Realize that the person you are concerned for may be suffering from feelings of anxiety, guilt, and shame.
Choose the Proper Environment–
Approach the person in an environment where they feel safe and comfortable.
Use the Right Language–
Take into account their fear of disclosing their feelings or behaviors.
Let them know you care about them and support them.
Encourage them to express how they feel, rather than how you feel. Listen respectively, and let them know you won’t judge or criticize them.
Encourage them to seek help.
Putting the focus on food; instead, try talking about how the person is feeling.
Using language that implies blame or that the person is doing something wrong, i.e. “You are concerning me”. Instead, try “I am concerned about you”.
Taking on the role of a therapist. You do not have to have all the answers. Instead, focus on listening and creating a supportive space.
Using manipulative statements, i.e. “Think about how you are affecting me”, or “If you cared about me, you would eat”. This can worsen feelings of guilt and shame, and feed into their disorder.
Using threatening statements. For example, “If you don’t eat properly I will punish you”. This can negatively effect peoples emotions and behavior, and can make the problem worse
Contact a Helpline
If you feel like you cannot confide in anyone you know, or would like more information on how to further help someone you think may be suffering from an eating disorder, it may be helpful to talk to a stranger about whats going on. Some helplines you can contact are;
The National Eating Disorder Association
National Association of Anorexia Nervosa and Other Related Disorders
A good resource for some additional helplines, along with a detailed paragraph on what they can offer, can be found on Bulimia.com
Some Misconceptions about Eating Disorders
Eating disorders are a choice
Eating disorders are not a choice. They are a complex mental illness.
It is not a big deal
It is a big deal. Eating disorders have the highest mortality rate of any mental illness.
Anorexia is the only serious eating disorder
All eating disorders are serious.
If my love one insists they are fine, I should believe them
Some people with eating disorders have problems with self-awareness. They may believe they are fine when they are actually ill.
If someone isn’t emancipated, they’re not that sick.
Most people with an eating disorder are not underweight. You cannot tell if someone has an eating disorder just by looking at them.
Eating disorders only focus on food.
Eating disorders often focus on food in order to have control and to reduce anxiety that may be caused by other parts of life.
Eating disorders are only for girls
Anyone can suffer from an eating disorder, regardless of gender.
Humans are a social species. No matter how often or how much we socialize, having some sort of a social life is very beneficial to our health! July has been dedicated as Social Wellness month as a reminder that no matter what our social goals are, creating new and maintaining current relationships is so important. Here are some facts about having social connections:
Socially isolated people are more at risk to have illness and have a death rate two to three times higher than those who are not.
Those who have social support do better under stress and are physically and mentally healthier.
Social media and technology has become a huge part of many peoples’ lives. It helps us stay connected with friends and family and know what is going on around us. Want to stay connected with long distance friends or family? You can stay connected through email, but you could also get connected though social media sites such as Facebook and Instagram. Do you have a friend from the past that you want to reconnect with? Find them on social media! Social media and technology have made it easy to stay connected! Start building up your social connections today! Your overall health will thank you!