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Here’s How to Talk to Your Daughters About Sexual Harassment

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You’ve probably seen the hashtag in your Twitter feed, read the stories on Facebook, or posted your own heart-wrenching stories about sexual harassment. On Sunday night, actress Alyssa Milano resurfaced a 10-year-old campaign originally created by activist Tarana Burke with the first “Me Too” tweet. Since, literally millions of women have posted the words in solidarity and shared their own stories.

And chances are, if your daughter is on social media, she’s seen those stories, too. Even if she’s too young to be on Instagram (or watch Saturday Night Live, or follow the news about her favorite actresses), your daughter has likely witnessed men or boys making inappropriate sexual comments. She may have even experienced it herself.

“The news about Harvey Weinstein and Me Too is really hitting a nerve,” says Holly Kearl, founder of the nonprofit Stop Street Harassment. Though the stories are unsettling, Kearl says the positive side is that everyone is talking about it now, and it’s providing an invaluable opportunity for you to discuss the issue with the girls—and boys—in your life. “Many parents want to talk to their daughters, but they worry they’ll do it wrong, or they don’t know exactly what to say, so they wind up not saying anything,” says Kearl. Here are three ways to start the conversation:

If Your Savvy Tween or Teen Daughter Is on Social Media and Has Lots 0f Questions…

  • Ask how much she already knows about the news, and what questions she has about it, and answer her honestly. You can also use this opportunity to share your own experiences from the past and how you handled them—or wish you had, says Kearl. As your girls get older and ready to go out into the working world, you can also broaden the conversation to let her know it’s not just about sex, but about wielding power, says Dana Dorfman, PhD, a New York family and child therapist.
  • Give her strategies for what to do if someone harasses her or a friend. “If someone is bothering them at school or in public, they can say ‘Nope, I’m not interested,’ and walk away,” says Kearl. “But also let them know if they are being harassed, and the other person is older or in a group, they shouldn’t feel any pressure to respond in the moment. They should just get to a safe place, and talk to someone about it afterward.”
  • Teach her to trust her intuition. “With older girls, let them know it’s okay to want to be attractive and to flirt with a boy, but when it crosses a line, they shouldn’t feel they are somehow responsible,” says Dorfman. “Make sure girls know they have their own inner barometer of when something isn’t right, and they should trust that and get out of the situation.”

If Your Daughter Hears You Talking About the News and Wants to Know What It’s All About

  • Break it down: You can say that one very powerful man in the movie business has gotten fired because he treated women very badly, touching them sexually when they didn’t want to be touched and saying crude and mean things to them—behavior that is never acceptable in any situation. And now women all over the country are supporting each other by sharing their stories.
  • Use language they relate to. In order to bring up the concept of sexual harassment without scaring your child, you can say, “Most men and boys are really nice and great to be friends with, but there are a few who think it’s okay to talk about girls in a way that’s mean or creepy. Sometimes they may touch them without permission. If you ever see this or if it happens to you, I want you to know you can talk to me about it.”
  • Use real-life teaching moments. “When you see someone being disrespectful to a woman, either in the movies, on TV, or in real life, use it as a springboard to a conversation with your sons and daughters,” says Kearl. “I know what we’re seeing, but in our family that is not how we treat women.”

If Your Daughter Is Too Young to Know What’s Going On…

  • Talk to her generally about boundaries.
    For the youngest girls, there’s no need to bring up news that they’re not interested in or can’t understand. But you should start talking about good touching and bad touching as soon as they can understand. “Even at age 5 or 6, a girl may have heard someone say something to her mothers or older sister, and you can say it is never okay for someone to talk about your body or touch you without your permission,” says Kearl.
  • Model good behavior at home. “Children pick up more from listening to us talk about others than from what we say to them,” says Dorfman. This means that any time your kids overhear you referring to someone as “hot” or hear a male member of the family comment on a woman’s body, they internalize that this is acceptable behavior. “No one is born a harasser, they are just modeling behavior they have seen other people do,” says Kearl.


5 Signs You’re Getting Fitter—Even If the Scale Hasn’t changed

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You’ve been doing everything right: loading up on greens, lifting weights, and going easy on the wine and late-night snacks. But whenever you step on the scale, the same digits stare back at you—or worse, the number is higher than it was last time. WTF?

Before you get too worked up, the scale doesn’t tell the whole story—and you know this! Fortunately there are other ways to gauge your progress: As you get healthier, a few subtle mind-body clues begin to surface. Read on to learn what to look for. If you can check any of the boxes below, it’s a safe bet you’re on the right track (even if the scale claims otherwise).

Your junk food cravings have mellowed out

Once you’ve adapted to a cleaner diet, your hankerings for sugar and processed foods should get less intense (and may even go away completely), says Mark Hyman, MD, director of the Center for Functional Medicine at the Cleveland Clinic. “You can absolutely train your body to crave healthy foods instead,” he says. In other words, jonesing for edamame is an excellent sign you’ve made headway.

Test your taste buds: Make a list of five foods you once craved; then after two weeks, note whether you crave them anymore. The shift can happen very quickly, says Dr. Hyman, who wrote The Blood Sugar Solution: 10-Day Detox Diet. “If you load up on plant foods, healthy fats, and protein with every meal, you will find that eventually you won’t want the junk.”

You’re reaching for heftier dumbbells

So you finally started lifting—or doing body-weight workouts—to build fat-burning muscle. Here’s some encouraging news: You may notice progress stat. For some people, it takes just a few weeks to see improvements in strength. “This is often referred to as beginner’s gains,” says Kourtney Thomas, a certified strength and conditioning specialist based in St. Louis. (After that, progress may slow, but it should still happen over time.)

Track your gains: As a general rule, if your regimen includes progressive overload (meaning you gradually make your muscles work harder over time, by adding weight or tension) you should be able to lift weight that is 7 to 10 percent heavier—or do endurance strength moves (such as planks) for longer—after every 14 days or so. Try using specific exercises (think bicep curls and a squat hold) as “benchmarks,” and testing yourself every two weeks or so. But keep in mind that fitness progress isn’t always linear, Thomas notes. “Other general clues like having more energy for workouts, and better balance and coordination are valuable indicators too,” she says.

You’ve never felt more rested

“Exercise has been proven to not only boost your daytime energy, but your sleep quality, too,” says Marci Goolsby, MD, a physician in the Women’s Sports Medicine Center at the Hospital for Special Surgery in New York City. Researchers have found that when people with insomnia get on a long-term exercise program, they tend to doze off quicker, snooze longer, and sleep more deeply than before they started working out. (Just don’t bang out a HITT routine right before bed, Dr. Goolsby warns, because that might actually keep you up.)

Collect some data: Use a sleep tracker device for a few weeks. “It can give you some general feedback,” says Dr. Goolsby, such as how long it takes you to drift off, and how long (roughly) you spend in REM sleep (the deepest stage). Once you start noticing positive changes, you may be motivated to hit the hay earlier, she adds.

Your appetite has changed

If your get-fit plan has you turned you into a gym rat, you may not be as hungry as usual—or, you may be famished. Exercise can actually have both effects: Some people experience a drop in appetite, while others crave more food.

If your end goal is a slimmer waist, feeling ravenous can be frustrating. But you may actually need more food to keep burning calories, says Thomas: “You might have to increase what you are eating to fuel your body through your exercise routine.”

Assess your eating habits: In a notebook or with voice recordings in your smartphone, keep tabs on your hunger levels and rough calorie intake. If you do notice you’re eating more since you’ve started crushing your workouts in full-on beast mode, that okay, says Dr. Hyman. “Just make sure you’re adding real, whole foods,” he says. “Eight hundred calories from an avocado is going to do dramatically different things to your body than 800 calories coming from gummy bears.”

Your jeans fit differently

“Focusing on how your clothing feels is a good gauge for most people,” says Thomas, “as long as you recognize that sizing is a messed up mind game and are able to not worry about that.” But don’t expect your pants to get looser necessarily; you may actually fill them out a bit better. This is what happens to Dr. Goolsby (who describes herself as not naturally muscular) when she starts a new workout. “If I start doing Spin, for example, all of a sudden I’m starting to notice my pants feel a bit tighter as I’m building my quads. It’s not because I’m gaining weight, I’m putting on muscle.”

Do a mirror check: If you want visual evidence of how your body is changing, consider snapping pics of yourself wearing the same outfit (and at the same time of day) every so often. (Note: If this habit becomes obsessive or makes you feel discouraged, it’s not worth doing.) Even just taking a mental note of how you feel physically in your clothes when you get dressed in the morning is fine.

Should you toss your scale?

The number on the scale is not worth fixating on—but that doesn’t mean weighing yourself is a complete waste, says May Tom, RD, an in-house dietitian at Cal-a-Vie Health Spa in Vista, California. “Having objective data to look at can help move people toward change,” she says. Research backs her up: Two recent studies have reaffirmed that people who step on the scale regularly tend to lose more weight than those who weigh themselves less frequently or not at all.

So how often should you weigh in? Once a week at most, says Tom. “That’s my usual recommendation if people feel like [the scale] keeps them on track and accountable,” she explains. “Any more than that and you can become frustrated if you don’t see progress.”


How to Keep Your Friendships as Strong as Ever Even When Life Gets busy

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There’s no question: When life gets complicated, it’s harder to keep up with your crew (beyond liking each others’ pics on Instagram). With a little creativity, however, it is possible to stay close no matter how far apart you live, or how little time you have. Here, relationship experts offer a few simple ways to connect IRL.

Chat on your commute

Schedule a (hands-free) phone catch-up with a friend for your trip home, suggests Suzanne Degges-White, PhD, a counseling professor at Northern Illinois University—and make it a weekly date.

Make big announcements one-on-one

Pregnant? Got a new job? Before you post the news on Facebook, tell your inner circle. “There is nothing more devastating to a friendship than learning about your friend’s life at the same time as everyone else,” says Karla Ivankovich, PhD, a clinical counselor at OnePatient Global Health Initiative in Chicago.

Watch the same TV shows

If you and your squad love The Bachelor but can’t get together for watch parties, dish about the drama via group text.

Put a group outing on the calendar

We’re all short on time, but most people can set aside one day every few months to spend with friends, says Degges-White. “Go day-tripping for kicks,” she says. “Choose the date and make a plan to drive two hours north, east, south, or west. See where you end up.”

Recruit a wellness buddy

Choose a healthy challenge (say, a sugar detox) and commit to regular check-ins to celebrate your progress, and cheer each other on when motivation wanes.

Check out Glide

The phone app lets you send video messages (worth 1,000 texts!) back and forth. Hearing your bestie laugh may be enough to brighten your whole day.

Include the kiddos

If you have friends with kids who live nearby, sign your little ones up for the same activity or sports team, suggests Degges-White. “Then you can get whole families together before or after practice for a quick meal,” she says.

Don’t forget about snail mail

Once in a while, send a reminder you care. “It can be a postcard, or a pair of funny socks, whatever,” says Ivankovich. That simple surprise can mean a lot.


9 Surprising Ways Caffeine Affects Your Health

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Your body on caffeine

Does your morning start only after your first (or second) cup of coffee or mug of tea? You’re not alone: It’s estimated that 85% of U.S. adults consume caffeine, the world’s most widely used central nervous system stimulant. Most of those folks get their caffeine through coffee, but it’s also in chocolate, tea, soda pop, and even painkillers.

Caffeine shakes out the cobwebs, making you feel more mentally alert. But it can also disrupt your sleep or make you anxious or jittery, especially if you’re sensitive to it or consume too much.

“Clearly some people are more sensitive to the physiological effects of caffeine than others and would benefit from keeping coffee to a minimum or switching to a decaffeinated variety,” says Robin Poole, MB ChB, a researcher at the University of Southampton in the U.K., who has reviewed the health effects of coffee.

It’s worth noting, says Connie Weaver, PhD, distinguished professor in the department of nutrition science at Purdue University, that research to separate the benefits of coffee versus caffeine are lacking. In fact, recent research from the University of Southern California Keck School of Medicine tied both regular and decaf coffee consumption to a lower risk of death due to heart disease, cancer, stroke, diabetes, and respiratory and kidney diseases.

So how does caffeine specifically affect overall health? Studies point to a number of possible benefits and some risks. For most healthy adults, a daily dose of up to 400 milligrams of this widely used stimulant does not pose health risks, studies suggest. That’s roughly four small (5-ounce) cups of coffee–or upwards of 10 cups of tea.

If you’re wondering about your own caffeine habit, talk to your doctor about these potentially helpful and harmful effects.

Caffeine enhances physical performance

Caffeine is a known performance booster. Not only does it ease the pain and fatigue of a workout, but it’s believed to help muscles burn fat as an energy source too.

In a small Brazilian study of endurance cyclists, caffeine supplements gave athletes an edge: They were able to pedal longer and faster than when they took a placebo instead. What’s more, they benefited from the caffeine boost–the supplement contained about 400 milligrams of the stuff–no matter how much caffeine they got from their daily coffee habit.

It helps your brain react

caffeine buzz can really snap you out of a sleepy lull. In doses up to 300 milligrams, studies suggest it enhances attention, reaction time, and “vigilance,” meaning you’re able to stick with “lengthy, boring, or tedious tasks,” according to one review of caffeine’s effects.

Whether caffeine is a boon to higher-level mental tasks is less clear, researchers note. Its impact on problem solving and decision making, for example, “are often debated.”

It can tamp down pain–or trigger it

Caffeine helps ease migraine and tension headaches by constricting swollen blood vessels in the brain. That’s why some prescription and over-the-counter pain relievers (like Excedrin Migraine) add caffeine to the mix. Studies suggest it can boost the effectiveness of these medicines by up to 40%.

But, if you overuse caffeinated painkillers, you can get rebound headaches from stopping the medication. Without those meds, blood vessels expand again, leading to pain. If you have a regular caffeine habit, quitting cold turkey can give you a throbbing headache due to caffeine withdrawal.

It’s a lifesaver for preemies

Caffeine is routinely administered to preterm infants in the neonatal intensive care unit to coax their brains and lungs to keep breathing.

Studies show this natural stimulant works by reducing “apnea,” or pauses in preemies’ breathing, and staving off intermittent drops in their blood oxygen levels.

For some, caffeine may pose a heart risk

Caffeine is not recommended for heart patients because it can induce an abnormal, rapid heart rate, especially at high doses. But what if you’re otherwise healthy?

The evidence on caffeine’s cardiovascular effects is varied and incomplete, and there are many unanswered questions, according to a 2013 workshop convened by the Institute of Medicine. It could be, for example, that some people are genetically susceptible to caffeine’s heart health effects while others are not.

How caffeine affects your heart may also depend on whether you’re a habitual or infrequent user of caffeine, whether you have other preexisting health conditions, and what medicines you may be taking.

Young people may be more vulnerable to these effects, especially when consuming large amounts of caffeine. Media reports of adolescents whose hearts stopped suddenly after downing popular highly caffeinated energy drinks have raised serious safety questions.

The American Medical Association supports a ban on the marketing of high-caffeine beverages to anyone under age 18, and the American Academy of Pediatrics says energy drinks “should never be consumed by children or adolescents.”

Caffeine’s risk to bone health is minimal

Caffeine slightly reduces calcium absorption, studies suggest. Other studies link the caffeine and phosphorus in colas (but not other soft drinks) to bone loss.

As long as you’re getting enough calcium in your diet and you’re otherwise healthy, there’s no solid evidence that consuming up to 400 milligrams of caffeine will harm your bones. Studies to date have shown no significant fall or fracture risk, nor heightened risk of bone loss among healthy adults with adequate calcium intake.

Some people experience gut discomfort

Caffeine doesn’t cause ulcers, but experts suggest avoiding caffeine if you have one. That’s because the jolt sparks stomach acid production, which might in turn aggravate ulcers, open sores that sometimes develop on the lining of the stomach, esophagus, or small intestine.

Likewise, caffeine alone doesn’t cause gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), also known as acid reflux. According to the American College of Gastroenterology, there have been no studies to show that quitting caffeine improves GERD symptoms. Yet many doctors advise heartburn sufferers against consuming caffeine because it may worsen symptoms.

It can spike blood sugar

Coffee drinkers seem to have a lower risk of developing type 2 diabetes. But if you already have the disease, you may want to be careful with caffeine. Studies show caffeine drives up blood sugar levels and impairs insulin sensitivity, frustrating efforts to keep diabetes under control.

Researchers at Duke University Medical Center, who studied the effects of giving caffeine capsules to people with type 2 diabetes, suspect that caffeine may interfere with sugar metabolism or trigger the release of adrenaline (the fight-or-flight hormone), which is known to boost blood sugar.

It can cross the placenta if you’re pregnant

Avoiding caffeine as much as possible is the safest bet if you’re pregnant, says the American Pregnancy Association. Caffeine can raise your heart rate and blood pressure. It can boost urination, which can dehydrate you. And it can cross the placenta, affecting your baby’s movement and sleep patterns.

Some studies link caffeine to miscarriage, while others do not, according to the March of Dimes.

However, moderate caffeine consumption–less than 200 milligrams a day–“does not appear to be a major contributing factor in miscarriage or preterm birth,” adds the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists.


How to Rewire Your Negative Thinking Habits and Feel Happier

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For many of us, it’s second nature to focus on the negative. We tend to dwell on criticisms (while brushing off compliments), and brace ourselves for the worst possible outcomes. But it doesn’t have to be that way, says Loretta Graziano Breuning, PhD, author of The Science of Positivity: Stop Negative Thought Patterns by Changing Your Brain Chemistry ($16;

In her new book, she explains how cynical thought habits develop (remember we humans evolved to focus on threats for survival), and how you can rewire your brain to “transcend negativity.” The ultimate goal, she says, is to experience the world in a more optimistic—and realistic—way.

And it’s worth the effort: A recent study by Harvard University researchers found that women with an optimistic outlook were less likely to die of top killers like cancer, infection, and heart disease. We tapped Breuning, who is a professor emerita of management at California State University East Bay, to learn how to remove our crisis goggles, and prioritize positivity for a more balanced and healthier life. Read on for simple steps you can take starting today.

Pause for positivity three times a day

The brain’s neural pathways are shaped during childhood and adolescence, Breuning explained in an interview: “Our early experiences create superhighways in the brain where electricity flows effortlessly.” As a result, by the time we finish puberty, we’re biased toward certain paths of thinking, like finding the “bad” in most situations.

The best way to carve new pathways is through repetition, says Breuning. It might feel weird at first, but you can redirect your thinking habits by taking note of positive things in your life three times a day for six weeks.

If you need inspiration for what to feel positive about, Breuning recommends appreciating your micro-accomplishments: “I’m not talking résumé things,” she says. Instead, focus on little choices you made that worked out well. It could be something as simple your decision to wear waterproof boots because of the foul weather predicted that day. “Your inner mammal is worried about survival, so it’s going to panic about every choice unless the brain circuit for feeling good about your decisions is as well-developed as the brain circuit for feeling bad about your decisions,” she says.

Set realistic expectations

It sounds counterintuitive, but it can really help to stop expecting greatness from yourself. “On the one hand, you don’t want to think, Nothing ever goes right for me. But on the other hand, many of us are coached to avoid that hopelessness with excessively grandiose expectations,” says Breuning. And when we can’t meet those expectations, we feel like failures.

To sidestep this vicious cycle, it’s best to set realistic goals that are within your control—and appreciate the journey, even if you don’t get there. For example, choose a doable goal (say, learning to do a chin-up), and make an effort to enjoy the process (building the muscle memory and strength required), no matter the outcome. “That’s really the secret to life,” says Breuning. “Enjoying the steps.”

Pursue variety

Mix up the simple pleasures in your life, and you may appreciate them even more: “Our brains are designed to look for reward, but any reward that you already have stops triggering your happy chemicals,” says Breuning. “That’s how dopamine works.” In other words, instead of feeling content once a specific need is met, we tend to shift our attention on other needs. It’s a phenomenon known as habituation.

So how can you manage it? The answer involves embracing variety. Take this real-world example: If you love red wine, try having a glass just three days a week rather than every single night, to preserve your brain’s ability to enjoy it when you do have it. The aim is not to suffer, but to find alternative things that make you feel good, while also training yourself to derive more pleasure from the thing you already know you love. “Above all,” says Breuning, “variety is going to give you the most feeling of reward.”


Exactly What to Do if Your New Year’s Resolution Is Already Slipping

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With each new year comes a new opportunity to better ourselves. We vow to kick our sugar addictions, call our parents more, and check Facebook less. Yet within weeks, most of us are back to snacking, screening parental calls, and mindlessly scrolling through our newsfeeds.

But before you become one more person observing Ditch Your New Year’s Resolutions Day (yep, it’s a real thing; January 17 is the day most people throw in the towel), know this: There’s still time to revamp a resolution that’s losing steam and initiate the lasting change you aimed for back on January 1. “The most important thing is to first figure out the top reasons why resolutions fail, and then use that to get back on track,” says behavioral psychologist Art Markman, PhD.

Markman, the author of Smart Change: Five Tools to Create New and Sustainable Habits in Yourself and Others explains the top five reasons New Year’s resolutions fail—and the small tweaks to make to fix each mistake.

Your resolution is framed in a negative way

We often make resolutions around what we want to stop doing instead of what we want to start doing, says Markman. “When you have a behavior you’re trying to change, whether it’s eating less or checking your email fewer times a day, you actually have to put another behavior in its place,” he explains. “The key is to focus on a positive action that you’re going to perform in the situation where you were doing the old behavior.”

So instead of vowing to give up a certain behavior or do without something, frame your resolution around the new positive action you will do in place of it. Let’s say you want to quit mindlessly scrolling through your phone at night. Instead of pledging to turn off your device by 10 p.m., vow to start getting ready for bed at that time instead. This way, you unplug digitally while rewarding yourself with more sleep—a positive action that can motivate real change.

Your end goal is too vague

Resolving to exercise twice a week sounds like a solid plan, but it isn’t targeted enough, says Markman. “Your goal has to be so specific that the actions you’re going to take [to accomplish it] can make it onto your calendar,” he says. “‘Twice a week’ isn’t on your calendar, but ‘Mondays and Thursdays at 4 p.m.’ is.”

Getting specific doesn’t just help you realize what you need to do in order to see your resolution through; it also highlights the things that could get in the way of it (think: your weekly manicure also scheduled at 4 p.m. on Thursdays). Start accounting for all possible roadblocks, and add into your planner the steps you’re taking to get them out of the way so you can actually make it to the gym, rather than make excuses.

You don’t address the root cause

In order to carry out a resolution, you need to know the who, what, when, where, and why of the behavior you’re trying to change. For example, if want to stop biting your nails, pay attention to the circumstances under which you engage in the habit.

“I encourage people failing at their resolution to keep a habit diary for a week or two,” says Markman. “Not so they can change their behavior, but just to watch it and see what they’re doing.” Once you realize that you always bite your nails while anxiously finishing a work project, you’ll be better equipped to take actions to stop it—like buying desk toys to busy your hands throughout the day or just being more mindful about keeping your fingers on your keyboard as the deadline ticks away.

You think it’s all about willpower

Willpower is overrated. According to Markman, people often believe their commitment is enough to prevent them from falling back into their bad habits. Sadly, a pantry full of cheese popcorn isn’t going to magically become less tempting just because you’ve told yourself you’ll stop gobbling it down while you watch Netflix.

“At this point you’re riding the brakes,” says Markman. “Your motivational system is reminding you of the snack in the kitchen and you have to rely on your willpower to keep you from eating it. But just like in a car, if you ride the brakes long enough, they’re going to fail.”

The solution? Rather than relying on willpower, structure your environment so the thing you want or habit you’re trying to break is so difficult to get or do that won’t bother attempting it. Because you can’t eat a pint of ice cream you never bought, right?

You’re going at it alone

News flash: If you succeed in carrying out your resolution, no one’s going to say Congratulations, but it’s not that big a deal because you had a support system. “If you find yourself ditching your resolution, phone a friend,” suggests Markman. “Find somebody who’s willing to serve as your backup so that when you’re about to slip, you can call or text them for support instead.” Crushing your goals doesn’t count any less if you do it with a little help from your friends.


Malaria Breath test shows promise

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People with malaria give off a distinctive “breath-print” that could be used as a test for the disease, according to American scientists.

They had already tried out a crude prototype breathalyser in Africa, a tropical medicine conference heard.

The test was reasonably good at detecting cases in children, but needs developing to become a routine device.

One of the odours it sniffs out is identical to a natural smell that attracts insects that spread malaria.

Pine trees and conifers emit these terpenes to summon mosquitoes and other pollinating insects, say the researchers, from Washington University in St Louis.

man with a mosquito on his handImage copyrightGETTY IMAGES

They believe people with malaria who have this odour in their breath may also attract mosquitoes and infect more of the biting insects, which can then spread the disease to other people that they bite.

Although the test needs perfecting, it could offer a new cheap and easy way to help diagnose malaria, Prof Audrey Odom John and colleagues say.

Distinct odour

The prototype breath test detects six different odours or volatile organic compounds to spot cases of malaria.

The researchers tried it on breath samples from 35 feverish children in Malawi, some with and some without malaria.

It gave an accurate result in 29 of the children, meaning it had a success rate of 83%.

This is still too low for the test to be used routinely, but the researchers hope they can improve its reliability and develop it into an off-the-shelf product.

Simple, rapid blood tests for malaria are already available, but they have limits, say the Washington University researchers.

Testing blood can be expensive and technically challenging in rural settings.

A non-invasive method of detection that does not require blood samples or technical expertise could be of great benefit.

Prof James Logan from the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine said: “The rapid detection of asymptomatic malaria is a challenge for malaria control and will be essential as we move towards achieving the goal of malaria elimination. A new diagnostic tool, based on the detection of volatiles associated with malaria infection is exciting.”

He said more work was now needed to see if it could be made into a reliable test.

The findings are being presented at this year’s annual meeting of the American Society of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene.



Hepatitis B: Why you should get tested

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Hepatitis is a group of viral infectious diseases. The five known hepatitis viruses are types A, B, C, D and E.

Hepatitis B and C cause acute and chronic liver disease and lead to death, according to World Health Organisation.

Speaking at a recent Hepatitis Symposium in Kampala, Prof. Ponsiano Ocama, the president of the Uganda Gastroenterology Society, noted that hepatitis is a significant global epidemic that infects one in 12 people.

According to WHO, Hepatitis B is a potentially life-threatening viral infection that attacks the liver and can cause both acute and chronic disease.

When a person is first infected with the hepatitis B virus, it is called an “acute infection” (or a new infection). While some adults are able to get rid of the virus, others are unable to get rid of it and after six months, they are diagnosed, through a blood test, as having a “chronic infection”.

Most of the burden of Hepatitis B virus-related disease results from infections acquired in infancy (before five years) because infection acquired at an early age is more likely to become chronic than infection acquired later in life.

The health ministry encourages members of the general public to test and get to know their status. In addition, those who are negative should seek vaccination to protect themselves against acquiring the disease. Vaccination is done in three doses, ie, at the beginning, after one month; and after six months from the first dose.

Those who are positive are encouraged to seek medical care for further evaluation. According to information from the health ministry, some of those who test positive might need to be put on treatment, while others will just be observed and advised to do regular tests.

According to Emmanuel Seremba from the Uganda Gastroenterology Society, Hepatitis B cannot be cured, although it can be controlled. He adds that treatment aims at preventing progression of the disease, particularly to cirrhosis (liver damage due to scarring), liver failure and liver cancer.

Speaking at the recent Hepatitis Symposium to Mark World Hepatitis Day, Seremba noted that before treatment, a patient is supposed to be assessed through tests such as liver and kidney functioning. He noted that treatment might be lifelong for some patients, while for others, it can be discontinued in certain situations.

Before treatment, doctors recommend that a patient should be counseled about its implications (especially cost), likely benefits and side-effects; the need to go for regular monitoring and importance of adhering to treatment. Adherence is necessary for the drugs to be effective and to reduce the risk of a patient developing drug resistance.

The virus can be passed from mother to child. That is why babies are vaccinated withing the first weeks of birth
The Government has been providing free vaccination for people who test negative in areas with high prevalence. However, Ocama advises that vaccination is more needed for newborns and people in areas with low prevalence. He explained that chronic infection is usually developed if people are infected in infancy or before the age of five years, noting that almost 80% of adults who acquire Hepatitis B clear it/ expel it from their bodies. Therefore, he explained that adults in high prevalence areas could have been exposed to the virus and their bodies expelled it, making them develop immunity. However, those in low prevalence areas might never have been exposed to the virus. This means, they could develop acute infection if they got exposed. Therefore, they need to be vaccinated in order to get protection.

Even the new WHO guidelines state that children should be given the hepatitis B vaccine at birth because many children are exposed to the virus in the first weeks of life if their mother has it or a family member. Therefore, the Government is urged to introduce the Hepatitis vaccine for babies at birth.

According to the Ministry of Health, Uganda is one of the countries most affected by Hepatitis B. Statistics from the ministry show that:
– About 3.5 million (10% of population) are living with chronic hepatitis B infection
– Highest infection rates are in Karamoja (23.9%), Northern Uganda (20.7%), West Nile (18.5%), and Western Region (10.0%).
– Central Region (6%) and South-Western (3.8%) have lower rates.
– Liver cancer (one of the complications of Hepatitis B) accounts for 2% of admissions at the Uganda Cancer Institute.

Mode of transmission
– Contact with infected blood and other body fluids
– Mother-to-child transmission, especially of newborns
– Unsafe blood transfusion
– Use of unsafe sharp materials such as needles, razor blades
– Sexual intercourse
– Child to child (horizontal transmission) especially in high prevalence areas

There different types of Hepatitis, why is focus only on Hepatitis B?
According to Dr. Freddie Bwanga, a senior lecturer in medical microbiology at makerere University, there are five types of hepatitis viruses, that is hepatitis A, B, C, D, E.

Focus is mainly on Hepatitis B, because people with Hepatitis A usually get better without treatment, while hepatitis C is curable. 95% of people with hepatitis C can be completely cured within two to three months of being on treatment. In Uganda B and C cause the most damage. If left untreated, chronic infection with hepatitis B and C may progress to liver cirrhosis or cancer.

Hepatitis B
Hepatitis B can either be acute or chronic. Acute infection is a short-term illness that occurs within the first six months after someone is exposed to the Hepatitis B virus.

Acute infection is usually self-limiting, although it can lead to chronic infection. Chronic infection is long-term illness that occurs when the hepatitis B virus remains in a person’s body.

Chronic hepatitis B is whereby a person test positive for atleast six months.

Most people do not experience any symptoms during the acute infection phase. However, some people have acute illness with symptoms that last several weeks, including yellowing of the skin and eyes (jaundice), dark urine, extreme fatigue, nausea, vomiting and abdominal pain. A small subset of persons with acute hepatitis can develop acute liver failure, which can lead to death.

In some people, the hepatitis B virus can also cause a chronic liver infection that can later develop into cirrhosis (a scarring of the liver) or liver cancer.

Many people with chronic Hepatitis B do not know they are infected since they do not feel or look sick. However, they can still spread the virus to others and are at risk of serious health problems themselves.

Who should go for Hepatitis B screening?
Adolescents and adults, including pregnant women born before 2002, especially in areas with high prevalence

Who does not need to go for screening and vaccination?
Children below 15 years, except those who missed the routine UNEPI infant vaccinations because since 2002, all infants received the Hepatitis B vaccine. In Uganda, childhood vaccination for hepatitis was rolled out in 2002 and the vaccine is incorporated into a combination vaccine of which children receive three doses. The combination vaccine is given to children at six, 10 and 14 weeks after birth.


Government of Uganda launches New Drinking Water Technology

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The Government of Uganda in collaboration with Uganda Health Marketing Group (UHMG) and Vestergaard have launched a new drinking water technology dubbed “LifeStraw” that ensures access to safe drinking water for families, communities and schools. LifeStraw is an instant microbiological water purifier that treats water at the point of use. The chemical free technology, is primarily made to remove bacteria, viruses, protozoan parasites, dirt and small particles.

While launching the new drinking water technology, Minster of State for Health in charge of General Duties, Hon. Sarah Opendi noted that the innovation will save the Government shs.389billion used in treating preventable diseases, some of which are caused by poor sanitation and hygiene and contaminated water.

“This innovation will go miles in curbing the high child mortality due to Cholera and other water related diseases” Hon. Opendi noted. LifeStraw is an instant water purifier with an in-built safe storage container that provides safe drinking water for up to 100 individuals per day and ideal for communities with no access to safe drinking water.

Hon. Opendi pledged her support to roll out the new drinking water technology in schools especially those located in rural areas and refugees who at a high risk of contracting water borne diseases. “The Ministry of Health will avail the necessary support to such innovations that aim at improving the well-being of the Ugandan population” she said.

In Uganda, 14,000 children die annually due to diarrheal diseases like Cholera, Typhoid and Bilharzia.  Only 28% of the rural population in Uganda use protected water sources while others use shallow wells. 15.4% of the urban dwellers have no access to safe drinking water and open defecation is still a practice by 3.3 million people in rural parts of country.

Steven Otieno, Country Director of Vestergaard noted that point- of- use treatment is an approach that can accelerate the health gains associated with the provision of safe drinking water to risk populations. “It empowers people to control the quality of their own drinking water” he said. 

Otieno said that treating water in the home at the point-of-use also reduces the risk of waterborne diseases arising from recontamination during collection, transport and use in the home, a well-known cause of water quality degradation.

Uganda is the 12th country to receive the technology after its roll out in 11 countries around the globe.



10 Things You Should Never Say to Someone With a Chronic Illness—Seriously

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1. “Can I try your medicine?”

I’m in constant pain. I take very serious, strong pain medication that helps me live my life, but even with the help of morphine there are times when I just can’t wear clothing or even get vertical. I need my medicine to survive, so no, you can’t have any. It’s no party to rely on these pills. Don’t be an idiot and don’t ask for them. We could die from misuse of these drugs.

2. “Everyone gets sick and tired. Don’t be such a wuss.”

When you’re in pain, it feels even worse to let your loved ones down. It feels unbearable to not be believed. I am a patient advocate, and I write books and articles. I go around the country speaking about pain and healthcare issues. Yet some people I’ve known for decades can’t understand that I have about 50% good days and 50% bad days. I get teased about gaining weight from prednisone—or just gaining weight. A woman I’ve been tight with since we were in out early 20s complained that I talk too much about chronic illness, and it will hurt my on-camera career. Um . . .what career?

3. “You look tired.” “You don’t look like yourself.” “You’ve gained weight, Chubs.”

Well, the chemo has really been taking it out of me. Thanks for noticing! And it’s true the steroids aren’t doing much for my figure. But I’d rather take my medicine than live up to your beauty standards.

4. “Keep me posted about your test results.”

The last thing I want to do is discuss my personal medical information over and over again. Unless you are wearing a lab coat and I am paying you a bloody fortune for your guidance, I’ll keep this information limited to my close circle of friends—and they don’t need to ask. Sometimes it’s a bummer to think about, never mind talking about it and explaining it.

5. “Let me know if there’s something I can do.”

I’m trying to manage my life and my illness—you want me to come up with your to-do list also? How about you use your noodle and figure it out for yourself? My sister Kate has a friend who was facing a long series of daily treatments for breast cancer. Her friend has a large family, so Kate and her circle of friends got together and bought a used refrigerator and put it in the woman’s garage. On the door of the refrigerator was a list of what had been delivered and what was needed. When friends and neighbors drove by they would drop off milk, eggs, prepared meals, and household staples. This way the family had meals delivered to their door but they didn’t have to deal with a constant stream of people knocking on the door, adding to their stress. If you want to help a friend in need, ask if there’s something specific you can do—like walk the dog, mow the lawn, take out the recycling, or give her a whipped cream foot massage.

6. “Call me.”

Why don’t you call me? Then I can decide if I want to answer. I enjoy a chat as much as the next chronically ill gal, but when I’m down I don’t answer my phone. I can’t deal with the burden of speaking to anyone—it actually hurts to hold the phone up to my ear. If you call and I don’t answer, send a card. I’ll appreciate it.

7. “I’m not good at this. I’m so upset about your illness, I can’t handle it.”

Hey, jackass! It’s not about you. I’m not asking you to donate a kidney. Having to deal with your dramatic overreaction is not helping. I have “friends” who act like my illness is the worst thing that’s ever happened to them!

8. “You’re sick because you work too hard.”

Ugh, how the hell do you know? I could be a gold-bricking malingerer for all you know. I choose to fill up my life as best I can with things that make me happy: my friends, my family, working, and volunteering. It’s not like I’m pounding rocks in a Chilean copper mine. I’m just living my life. These are the same jackasses who tell me when I’m bedridden, “You need to get up and around more!”

9. “Focus on you.”

My spiritual and emotional fulfillment is based not on who I am or what I have, but what I can give. Many of my favorite phi- losophers have suggested that self-fulfillment is found through service. Who am I to argue with great philosophers? I’m a firm believer that life gives to the giver and takes from the taker.

10. “Don’t take chemo, it’s toxic—it’s rat poison.”

What is toxic is this type of comment from friends. If you don’t know what to say to someone who’s been recently diagnosed with a serious illness, just acknowledge her situation. “I’m your friend. I know you are in pain. I don’t know what to say, but I’m here for you.”

Enduring a chronic illness takes a lot from you; it also takes a lot from your friends. Not everyone who was a friend is going to stick with you, or be the right friend for your new life. The five people you hang out with the most have the greatest impact on your life, so choose wisely.

I keep a pair of beloved four-legged jackasses at my farm, and I’m well acquainted with how to motivate them. I’ve spent a lot of time in this chapter wielding a stick, now it’s time for the carrots—positive things you can say and do when someone’s ill. Knowing how to behave will give you the power and confidence to be compassionate to a sick friend. Here are some quick tips on non-jackassery:

Make eye contact. Don’t act like you just encountered a leper you can’t bear to gaze upon.

Be supportive, even if you don’t agree with how your friend is dealing with the situation.

Be an active listener. Give your friend your full attention. Turn off your phone before you even walk in the door.

Don’t pretend it didn’t happen.

Don’t talk too much about yourself.

Think ahead: What do you think your friend could use?

Can you bring pet food? Coffee? Some snacks for her to share with her other visitors? Stamps for letter-writing? If you do bring a little something, make it nice. I think people tend to skimp on giftsfor sick people, maybe because they think they’ll die soon so it’s not worth it.

Tell the truth. When you lie, the temperature of your nose increases and the redness is called the Pinocchio effect. By all means share the latest gossip—which can have positive physical benefits!

The isolation of a chronic illness can be as painful as the malady. Aristotle wrote, “A friend is a second self.” Be a second self to a friend in need.