Doctor, Heal Thyself

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One thing I never thought about before I went to medical school was how much I would be exposed to various illnesses as a physician. I guess you could say it’s an occupational hazard, but it can be downright frightening when you are exposed to some of the most virulent microbes which circulate in communities and in hospital environments. You’re bound to catch something at intervals.

Most people think of hospitals as disease-riddled, and they’re pretty much correct. But there are other places which have the potential to make you too weak to whip a gnat.

One of the worst environments is the pediatric setting, in which walking Petri dishes, also known as children, traipse into the clinic and somehow fling their nasty germs onto you. Before you know it, you are struck with a horrific infection that require an army of medications before you begin to feel human again. I remember spending the majority of my time in every single pediatrics rotation I completed, whether it was as a student, intern, or resident, so ill that I spent my days feeling like I had been hit by a truck, with a pressure cooker for a noggin, fuzzy-brained and miserable from whatever pathogen those little brats had brought to me.

Another microbe-filled gathering place is urgent care, a setting in which I have worked regularly over the past couple of years. Last year, when I was working more shifts than ever, I contracted three upper respiratory infections which progressed to bronchitis, and developed acute gastroenteritis (stomach flu) twice. Thank goodness I always get a flu shot every fall, otherwise I am sure I would have been hit with influenza as well. I see patients who are so sick that they can barely stay awake during their exams, people who have no business being out in public.

I recently saw a young female patient with a 103 degree fever who looked very ill, so I tested her for strep throat and influenza A&B. The nurse on staff asked if I wanted both, to which I replied, “Absolutely. I wouldn’t be surprised if both tests lit up like Christmas trees.” And they did. She actually had both influenza A and streptococcal pharyngitis. Poor girl.

It’s my duty as a physician to care for others, and I take it very seriously. But I will admit that my attitude towards my own illnesses is similar to the attitude of the Black Knight. My attitude is that it’s “only a flesh wound”, or “just a scratch” when I am ill or injured, so when I finally break down and admit that I am ill or injured, I am definitely in a bad place physically.

I suspect this attitude is similar to that of other physicians. So keep that in mind when you see that your provider is under the weather. We are only human as well.

Don’t Sleep In Your Makeup!

sleeping in makeup

There are enough women out there who are in the habit of sleeping with their makeup on that I thought this would be a great topic to tackle in my blog. The three most common reasons why women sleep in their makeup are 1) they don’t want their bedmates to know what they really look like (listen, if you’re that concerned, the object of your love/lust is probably too shallow to be a good catch anyway), 2) they are too lazy to take a few minutes to remove their makeup, or 3) they are too drunk to perform a makeup removal ritual. I am not going to say that I have never fallen asleep with my makeup on, but it is exceedingly rare. I am so fastidious about removing makeup that I do a thorough face cleansing immediately after photo shoots and events, because I can’t stand the feeling of full makeup on my face. I honestly don’t know how many women wear full makeup every single day, and I especially cannot understand how some of them will sleep in those layers of gunk!

I cringe every time I hear a woman say that she frequently sleeps in her makeup, because I immediately think about how her skin is unable to breathe and heal because of all the pollutants, germs and oils which bake into it while she sleeps. Makeup is like a mask, and when it sits on top of the skin at night when you are sleeping, it prevents the cells in the skin from performing their restorative processes. Harmful chemicals from the environment cause free radical formation which goes unchecked when the skin is not cleansed, so the result is dull, prematurely aged skin.

Another reason why sleeping in makeup is unhealthy is that it clogs pores. As if that wasn’t enough, all that caked-on makeup serves as a perfect breeding ground for bacteria. I can always tell when women sleep in their makeup, because their skin has a congested, dull appearance, and acne breakouts are common. Even on the nights when a woman who habitually sleeps in her makeup decides to cleanse her skin, she is re-exposing herself to the bacteria, pollution, and oils which were left on the pillowcase along with the makeup from the evenings when she was too lazy to remove her makeup. In addition, sleeping with full makeup is a sure way to stain pillowcases.

I have actually heard women say that as long as they remove their face makeup, there shouldn’t be any hygienic issues with leaving eye makeup wrong. They couldn’t be more wrong. Eye shadows commonly have highly irritating substances like bismuth in them, and leaving them in contact with the delicate skin of the eyelids can invite eyelid inflammation, aka blepharitis, which is NOT fun at all. In addition, mascara, eye shadow and eyeliner can transfer onto the pillow, then get into your eyes, causing corneal irritation or infection.

Another reason why sleeping in eye makeup is a bad idea is that most mascara formulas dry out the eyelashes, and when left on for prolonged periods of time, can cause them to become extremely brittle. Lashes are more prone to breakage when they are dry. Also, for those of you who dare to sleep in false eyelashes at night, be aware that lash adhesives also tend to be very drying and irritating to the lash line, and can even inhibit lash growth if kept on the lash margin for too long.

Though the best way to cleanse your skin at night is to use a gentle yet thorough cleanser and a motorized brush (Clarisonic makes great brushes, but there are decent drugstore brands too), you should at the very least use a makeup remover towelette. If you are truly lazy, keep the towelettes by your bed so that you can easily grab them and wipe your face and eyes before hitting dreamland.

Antibiotic Resistance

antibiotic resistance

I cringe every single time I hear people say that they stopped taking an antibiotic after a day or two because they felt better. Those of you who are not trained in medicine, who flippantly decide that you won’t continue to take an antibiotic because you “feel much better”, should be aware that by engaging in this habit, you are making the issue of antibiotic resistance even worse.

Bacteria are quite crafty, because they constantly find ways to neutralize or block the effects of antibiotics. Most of the time, they acquire genetic mutations from the bacteria which have become resistant. So even if some of the more susceptible bacteria die, even one resistant bacterium can multiply rapidly and thus replace all the bacteria which were killed. Those new bacteria also have the same resistance which the original stubborn bacterium has. This is how things can get pretty ugly pretty quickly in the face of bacterial resistance.
it is a virus
Antibiotic resistance can occur even when patients follow instructions and take the full course of antibiotic therapy, but the chances are far greater when patients miss doses or stop taking the medication because a smaller proportion of the bacteria are killed or inhibited. Another situation in which antibiotic resistance can run rampant is when antibiotics are taken for viral infections such as the common cold. Specific antibiotics are used for specific types and strains of bacteria, and are not one-size-fits-all medications. Yet people continue to foolishly turn to an antibiotic (usually one which was prescribed for a bacterial infection, and which was abandoned before the full course was taken) when they have symptoms which they believe to be from a bacterial source. I have even heard friends freely admit that they took their child’s or spouse’s leftover antibiotic in hopes that it would make them feel better.

Please don’t be one of those people who contributes to antibiotic resistance by being irresponsible about antibiotic use!