ost of us can remember our teenage years and the physical changes our bodies experienced. With puberty starting and hormones raging, many of us developed pimples, blemishes, and even acne. Acne is a term that can be defined in many different ways, affect people at different times, be triggered by various behaviors, and be treated by a number of methods. This article will explore what acne really is, ways in which you can treat it, and why it may affect some more than others.
According to Brown University’s Health Education Department, acne is a term defined as the over production of oil, which can result in plugged pores and outbreaks of lesions called pimples or zits, whiteheads, blackheads, nodules, or cysts.1 Although there is no single cause of acne, it is thought to be triggered by an increase in androgens that cause oil glands to enlarge and produce more oil, which can change into a thick white substance called sebum. 1
Physicians have also seen a correlation between acne and genetics. In other words, if your parents had acne, you are more likely to get it. Acne can appear on the face, back, neck, and chest, and can range in redness, pain, and severity.3 While you may be tempted to “pop” or “squeeze” these irritations, remember that this can make it even worse, causing more acne to develop, infections, and your skin to scar.
Whether you are experiencing mild to severe acne, there are several treatment methods to choose from, ranging from face washes to oral medications. For mild acne, dermatologists recommend using a mild cleanser in the morning when you wake up and at night before you go to bed.1 You can also try products that contain benzoyl peroxide or salicylic acid. If you feel as if you have tried everything and your skin still isn’t clearing up, then it may be time to see a dermatologist. They can prescribe medication as well as topical creams and face washes that you can’t purchase over the counter. In very severe cases, the dermatologist may prescribe Accutane, a high dose of Vitamin A that reduces the amount of oil in your skin and helps your skin renew itself more quickly.2 If you are looking for alternate ways to treat your acne, tea tree oil, which targets bacteria and prevents oil production, can be used.3 People have also found success from doing acupuncture, and even just changing their eating and exercise habits.1 The success of these treatment methods depends on the individual, but it is important to remember that there are plenty of options available to treat acne. So if you or someone you know is currently affected by acne, consider using one of the treatment methods discussed to see if it improves!
Due to the relatively warm winter we have had this year, allergy season has come early.1 Hay fever is the term used for seasonal allergies; however, there is no fever associated with the condition as the name suggests. Allergens are the cause of hay fever and are defined as any substance that causes allergies. By examining the causes of hay fever, the symptoms it produces, the treatments available, and ways to prevent it, this allergy season may be filled with less runny noses, sneezing, and itchy eyes.
When a person breathes in an allergen, the body’s immune system responds by releasing chemicals, including histamines. Histamines cause blood vessels to open, resulting in redness of the skin and swollen membranes. 2 Many different substances can cause hay fever, and every person is different when it comes to what triggers their seasonal allergies. Some common allergens include tree pollen, dust, spores from mold or fungi, and pet dander. Hay fever is almost never caused by hay despite the name of the condition. Allergens can cause a variety of symptoms including sneezing, runny nose, itchy throat, and watery eyes. Sometimes it may be difficult to tell whether your symptoms are being caused by hay fever or a cold. A cold tends to be accompanied by a fever, symptoms begin to show a few days after exposure to the virus, and the duration of the illness is usually a few days to a couple of weeks. On the other hand, hay fever does not cause a fever, symptoms begin right after exposure to the allergen, and the condition lasts as long as the allergens are present.
Many treatment options are available for hay fever. Decongestants may be prescribed in order to shrink the swollen tissue lining of the sinuses and ear. Oral over-the-counter decongestants include Sudafed©, Actifed©, and Drixoral©. Some side effects of decongestants may include headaches, insomnia and increased blood pressure. Antihistamines are another common treatment available for hay fever. Usually given as a pill, antihistamines work by blocking histamines in order to reduce swelling, redness, and itchiness. Over-the-counter brands include Claritin© and Allegra.3 While treatments are effective, there are preventative measures you can take in order to lessen the severity of hay fever symptoms.
Staying away from the allergens that cause hay fever is the best way to reduce symptoms. When pollen counts are especially high, it is important to stay indoors as much as possible. If you have been outside for an extended period of time, changing your clothes and taking a shower will help keep the allergens off you. If you have pets, make sure to keep them indoors during hay fever season, or if you let them outside, wash them regularly to remove the dust, pollen, etc. By following the prevention strategies offered here, hay fever season can be easier to get through.
Asthma is a disease of the lungs caused by inflammation and narrowing of the airways. When asthma fails to stay under control, the body releases mucus, a sticky substance that can further obstruct the airways. Common symptoms of asthma include wheezing, coughing, and shortness of breath. Typically, patients who have a family history of allergies or asthma are more likely to develop asthma, which can occur at any age. Medical practitioners have developed helpful and life-saving treatment and prevention methods directed towards asthma control and management.1
There are many possible causes linked to asthma susceptibility, especially among sensitive people. Triggers or allergens (allergy-causing substances) are likely to induce asthma. Some examples of triggers include: animals (pet or dander), dust, changes in the weather (usually in cold weather), exercise, smoke or odors (e.g., perfumes or colognes), upper respiratory infections, mold, pollen, stress, air pollution, and cockroach droppings.2 All of these triggers may be the cause of irritation and additional complications associated with asthma, such as an asthma attack. Triggers differ for every person. Paying close attention to and avoiding individualized triggers will reduce the amount of symptoms such as wheezing or coughing. Through awareness and acknowledgement of asthma triggers, patients will be able to lessen their asthma problems.
By taking the necessary action needed to control asthma, treatment can ensure better quality of breathing. Doctors and medical professionals will work with their patient about what steps are essential for asthma management. The first step of treatment for asthma is staying away from triggers. The next step of treatment is medicine, which differs on how it can be taken-either through inhalation or pill. Some common examples of medicine can be classified as short-acting inhaled bronchodilators, long-acting inhaled bronchodilators, and steroids. Short-acting inhaled bronchodilators include Ventolin© and Albuterol©, which provide immediate effects. These medicines work on the smooth muscle lining the airways, in order to prevent the airways from tightening.3 Long-acting inhaled bronchodilators like Severant©, function like short-acting inhaled bronchodilators, except they last for longer periods of time and should never be used for relieving immediate symptoms of asthma.1 Steroids, like Flovent© and Aerobid© are used on patients with chronic asthma conditions and operates by reducing inflammation in the airways.3 It is always important to take medications in the correct dosage and during the recommended time/days. Patients should always consult with their doctor if they experience unusual complications while taking their medication or when they have additional questions regarding their medications.
Asthma prevention will further help prevent unwanted symptoms. Some examples of asthma prevention include: covering bedding with “allergy proof” casings (dust/dust mite allergy), getting a flu shot if recommended by a doctor and frequent hand washing (upper respiratory infection), staying away from animals with fur, using detergents and cleaning materials that are unscented, maintaining a clean home (cockroaches), and eliminating or staying away from smoke.3 These basic techniques provide safe and effective approaches towards living a happier and healthier lifestyle.
The pain caused by headaches can be severe enough to keep a person from doing basic daily activities, or merely an annoyance that occurs throughout the day. This pain does not necessarily lead to a more serious illness, but it can indicate that something is wrong. Anywhere between 5070% of teens and young adults claim to have headaches at least once a month.1 Headaches have also been increasing among college-aged individuals, whether it is because of the stresses associated with school, social life, or even the vast amounts of caffeine consumed on late night study sessions. This is why it is important to be aware of the types of headaches and appropriate treatments so they can be prevented in the future.
There are several types of headaches that can occur and cause pain in different ways. Migraines are common affecting anywhere between 215% of the population, and can often be described as throbbing on one or both sides of the head.2 The pain can even lead to other side effects such as lightheadedness, nausea or vomiting.1 Tension headaches are different in that they feel as if a tight band is around the head causing dull and aching pains on all sides.1 This pain can be attributed to pressure or stress and therefore tension headaches are commonly seen in young adults who have to deal with the pressures of school and relationships. Cluster headaches can occur as well, causing consistent and intense pain often resulting from high blood pressure.3 Although it is not a common sign, headaches can be a precursor to more serious problems and should be treated appropriately. It is important to see a medical provider if: headaches stem from a recent head injury, are increasingly occurring, painful enough to stop regular daily activities, wake you from sleep or early in the morning, affect vision or increase other unrelated symptoms.1
Prevention and relief techniques vary from person to person. Those who suffer from tension headaches can try over-the-counter pain relief like ibuprofen or acetaminophen.1 There are a few over-the-counter medicines to help suppress migraines, but there are significant advances for treatment as in Occipital Nerve Stimulation, or ONS. A small device is implanted at the base of the skull near the occipital nerve. The device is powered by an electrical source implanted under the collarbone in order to stimulate the nerve and ease a chronic headache.3
If headaches get to the point where they occur regularly and become obtrusive in daily activities, medical attention should be sought. One way to help a medical provider gain insight on an appropriate diagnosis or diagnoses would be to keep a “headache diary” highlighting when the headache occurs and the duration, what was happening when it began, foods consumed prior to the pain, the amount of sleep, other symptoms occurring at the same time, and any medicine taken.1 This way the provider can have a better idea of things that may trigger the pain and ways to go about preventing headaches in the future. If you have found yourself struggling with consistent headaches, be sure to call the Student Health Services at (562) 9852727 to schedule an appointment with a doctor.
Linda Peña, MA, CADC
Heidi Burkey, MPH, CHES
Christina Goldpaint, MPH, CHES
Nop Ratanasiripong, RN, MSN, CCRC
The HEALTH BEAT Newsletter is published by California State University, Long Beach, Division of Student Services, 1250 Bellflower Blvd., Long Beach, CA 90840. Printed in the USA. Copyright© 2008 by the Student Health Services. All rights reserved. Contact CSULB, Division of Student Services, Health Resource Center for a free subscription at (562) 985-4609.
The Health Resource Center does not accept responsibility for views expressed in articles, reviews and other contributions that appear in its pages. The purpose of the HEALTH BEAT newsletter is to serve college students and related professionals with health-related information, which may help understand a diagnosis or treatment, yet cannot serve as a replacement for the services of a licensed health care practitioner. The information and opinions presented in the HEALTH BEAT newsletter reflect the views of the authors.