TIME public health

3 Things You Can Catch from a Pool

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Outbreaks of illnesses from hot tubs and pools have been increasing in recent years

Think a chlorinated pool is a safe, sterile place? Think again. There are a few dangers lurking in a shared pool, whether at a gym, a community center or even a fancy resort. In fact, outbreaks of illnesses from hot tubs and pools have been increasing in recent years, with 90 outbreaks causing 1,788 illnesses and one death between 2011-2012, according to a new report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Learn what icky things you can pick up, plus how to ward them off.

Diarrhea

One of the top causes of post-swim illness is a parasite called cryptosporidium (crypto for short), which leads to diarrhea, stomach pain and nausea. According to the new CDC report, of the 69 outbreaks associated with treated water, more than half were caused by crypto. Symptoms can last for up to two weeks. The parasite ends up in the water if feces (even trace amounts from someone who didn’t shower first) of an infected person gets in the pool. The bug is resistant to chlorine and survives outside the body for long periods.

Protect yourself: Crypto spreads when you accidentally swallow contaminated pool water or you touch your mouth before washing your hands. Don’t touch your face until you’ve had your post-swim shower, with soap and hot water.

Pinkeye

Burning eyes, excessive tearing and redness can occur because of an allergic reaction to chlorine, or an infection if the pool isn’t chlorinated enough. It can also happen if people aren’t showering before swimming or are (ugh!) peeing in the pool. Urine, as well as cosmetics and other chemicals that can wash off people’s skin, can irritate your eyes.

Protect yourself: You can shield your eyes from all of this by wearing a pair of well-fitting goggles every time you go for a dip.

Hot Tub Rash

This is an itchy skin infection that can lead to a bumpy, red rash, often worse in the areas covered by your bathing suit. Chlorine can easily kill the germ that causes it, but the warm water in a hot tub makes chlorine break down faster, so it’s more likely you’d pick it up there.

Protect Yourself: The risk of hot tub rash goes up the longer the contaminated water touches your skin, which is why it seems to show up in areas your wet bathing suit clings to. Save your dip in the hot tub for the end of your pool day, shower and change shortly after your soak and wash your swimsuit before wearing it again.

Contributed reporting by Amelia Harnish.

This article originally appeared on Health.com

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TIME public health

First Person Dies of Measles in U.S. Since 2003

The death is the first in Washington since 1990

(SEATTLE) — Washington state health officials say measles caused the death of a woman from the northwest part of the state in the spring — the first measles death in the U.S. since 2003 and the first in Washington since 1990.

The measles infection was discovered during an autopsy.

Washington State Department of Health spokesman Donn Moyer says the woman was hospitalized in Clallam County for several health conditions before being moved to the University of Washington Medical Center in Seattle, where she died. He says officials are withholding her age to protect her identity, but she wasn’t elderly.

Officials didn’t say whether the woman was vaccinated, but they did note she had a compromised immune system.

Moyer says the woman likely was exposed to measles at the Clallam County medical facility. Clallam County had an outbreak of five cases this year.

TIME employee benefits

Why Employers Are Offering More Generous Benefit Packages

Doctors Seek Higher Fees From Health Insurers
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Fewer workers are using nap rooms

Employers are offering more generous benefit packages, primarily driven by improvements in health care coverage.

Of the 402 human resource departments that responded to a survey from the Society of Human Resource Management, 35% said they were improving their benefits packages and 58% said they were keep them the same in 2015. Last year, only 28% of respondents said they were improving their packages.

Over the past five years, employers have especially improved mental health coverage, with 91% saying they would improve coverage in 2015, up from 82% in 2011. Over the same period, contraception coverage also improved, with 83% of employers making improvements this year, up from 69%, and the percentage of employers boosting critical illness insurance rising from 22% to 34%. Health savings accounts, which are tax-deductible accounts for medical expenses, have also seen an uptick, with usage rising 8% in the past five years.

As health care expenses rise for the majority of companies, many are offering preventative health benefits in order to tamp down spending in the long run, the study found. Those include health and lifestyle coaching, wellness programs, and smoking cessation programs, among others. Meanwhile, nap rooms, which were considered a preventative measure on the study, logged a 4% decrease in the past five years.

In terms of leave benefits, paid maternity and parental leave has increased in prevalence in the past five years. Flexibility is on the rise too: 56% of employers this year reported allowing workers to telecommute on an ad-hoc basis, compared to 42% in 2011.

According to the study, employers sink much of employee compensation in benefits that workers don’t notice in their paychecks: almost a third of private industry employee compensation came in the form of benefits in 2014. “In an environment with limited compensation growth in most sectors of the U.S. economy, a competitive benefits package can make the difference in attracting top talent to an organization,” the study said.

TIME Healthcare

This Vitamin May Be Behind Your Acne Problems

It can be found in your burgers and cheese

Vitamin B12 is notably found in beef, dairy, and some fish. It’s been used to improve memory and combat anemia. Now, according to a study just published in Science Translational Medicine and as reported on the Verge, it may be linked to acne. It’s still early, so researchers don’t want everyone freaking out and nixing burgers and cheese from their diet, but it’s important to note that B12 changes how the genes of facial bacteria behave, a shift that aids in inflammation. The vitamin has been connected to acne in studies since the 50’s, but the researchers say that was mostly anecdotal.

“It has been reported several times that people who take B12 develop acne,” Huiying Li, a molecular pharmacologist at the University of California-Los Angeles and a co-author of the study, told the Verge. “So it’s exciting that we found that the potential link between B12 and acne is through the skin bacteria.”

Acne is still largely a mystery to researchers, even though 80 percent of teens and young adults have to deal with the pesky skin condition. Oily secretion known as sebum and faulty cells that line hair follicles play a role, but Li and her team wanted to see where bacteria factors into acne development.

The study found in a small group of people that humans who take B12 develop high levels of vitamin in their skin (which sounds like a good thing), but that skin bacteria known as Propionibacterium acnes then lowers its own production of B12 causing an imbalance. More porphyrins (naturally occurring chemicals in the body and a related molecule) are produced, which have been known to induce inflammation, AKA where acne begins.

Li says that the “main message is that skin bacteria are important. But until other researchers confirm the link between B12 and acne in a larger number of people, dermatologists won’t really be able to make any clinical recommendations one way or the other. I don’t want people to misinterpret the results by not taking B12.”

Let’s just drink more water and eat more berries until we know for sure what’s going on.

This article originally appeared on MIMI

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TIME Obamacare

How Obamacare Has Impacted The Uninsured Rate

Obamacare's 6-Million Target Hit As Exchange Sees Visits Surge
Bloomberg/Getty Images An Affordable Care Act application and enrollment help sign stands outside a Westside Family Healthcare center in Bear, Delaware.

An annual survey by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recorded the sharpest drop in uninsured adults in 2014 since the survey began in 1997. The uninsured rate among adults under 65 dropped from 20.4 percent in 2013 to 16.3 percent in 2014. The uninsured rate among adults 19-25, especially, saw progress from 31.3 percent uninsured to 26.9 percent in 2014.

The growing prevalence of insurance reflects the start of Obamacare’s expanded coverage in January 2014. In states that accepted Medicaid expansion with Obamacare, the percentage of insured adults dropped from 18.4 to 13.3 percent — 2 percentage points more than the drop in states that refused the expansion.

But there’s still much more to do before all Americans have health insurance. The survey found that a total of 36 million people were uninsured at the time the survey was taken. Now, a Supreme Court decision is expected within the week on King v. Burwell, which will determine if the insurance subsidies given to 6.4 million Americans through the Affordable Care Act are constitutional. If not, then President Obama’s signature legislation could be crippled.

 

TIME Healthcare

The Number of Uninsured Americans Continues to Drop

36 million people were uninsured last year

New federal data released Tuesday reveal that 36 million people in the United States were uninsured in 2014. That number marks a significant drop from the 48.6 million Americans without insurance in 2010, the year the Affordable Care Act was signed into law.

The new data from the CDC’s National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS) are based on interviews with 111,682 people. The findings show that the number of uninsured Americans of all ages dropped to 36 million in 2014 from 44.8 million in 2013. “That’s pretty sharp,” says study author Robin A. Cohen, a statistician at the NCHS.

“This is another set of data tracking what I think has become a pretty broad consensus that the Affordable Care Act is having a significant impact on reducing uninsurance,” says Sabrina Corlette, a senior research fellow and project director at the Center for Health Insurance Reforms at Georgetown University (who was not involved with the research.)

The findings estimate that 170.4 million Americans under age 65 were covered by private health insurance plans in 2014. Overall, 2.2% of Americans were covered via plans that were purchased through the Health Insurance Marketplace or state exchanges. Hawaii had the lowest percentage of uninsured individuals under age 65 in 2014, and Texas and Oklahoma had the highest rates of uninsured Americans in that year.

“If you look at the states with the greatest decrease in uninsurance rates, they are all Medicaid expansion states, and the states that continue to have pretty high rates of uninsurance have declined to expand Medicaid,” Corlette says.

Though the numbers show a significant decline in the number of Americans without health insurance, there’s still a lot of room for improvement, Corlette says. “[36 million people] is still a pretty hefty portion of the population,” she says. “It’s understandable that there is always going to be a certain segment of the population that doesn’t have insurance at a given point in time, but 36 million people is not where we need to be.”

TIME Healthcare

5 Sleep Problems Nobody Talks About

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From teeth grinding to jittery legs

You drift off at night like a newborn baby, yet can’t recall the last time you woke up truly refreshed. It may not seem that weird: “People tend to assume that because our modern lives are so hectic, nobody feels rested,” says Meir Kryger, MD, a professor at the Yale School of Medicine. But the reality is, you might have a sleep disorder and not even know it. There are a handful of problems that can cheat you out of quality slumber, leaving you more tired in the morning than you were when you went to bed. Find out what could be going on between your sheets and how to catch more restorative z’s, starting tonight.

Sleep Problem No. 1: You snore like a saw

Those snuffle-snorts mean that your slack tongue and throat muscles are narrowing your airway, possibly due to the shape of your soft palate or any extra weight you’re carrying.

Although you’re likely to wake up if you get short of breath, it may not be for long enough to remember. Some people wake dozens or even hundreds of times a night—a disorder known as sleep apnea that increases the risk of heart disease, stroke and possibly osteoporosis, according to a new study in the Journal of Bone and Mineral Research. “Those repeated awakenings are as disruptive as someone pinching you every two minutes all night long,” says Safwan Badr, MD, chief of the division of pulmonary, critical care and sleep medicine at Wayne State University School of Medicine in Detroit.

Sleep aid: If you rarely wake up feeling bright-eyed, see a specialist to get checked for sleep apnea.(Three to 9 percent of women between the ages of 30 and 70 suffer from it.) If you have the condition, a CPAP machine and mask can help by keeping your pharynx open with a steady stream of air.

To quiet your snore, avoid rolling onto your back—a position that makes your airway more likely to collapse. Rachel Salas, MD, associate professor of neurology at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, suggests this little trick: Sew a tennis ball into the pocket of a sweatshirt and wear it backward to bed.

Sleep Problem No. 2: You grind your teeth

Do you wake up with a sore jaw or get chronic headaches? If so, you may be gnashing your ivories overnight. All that clenching can cause enough pain to interfere with your shut-eye (not to mention wear down your enamel). Experts believe that teeth grinding, which about 16 percent of us do, is associated with anxiety—though an abnormal bite and antidepressants can also play a role.

Sleep aid: A dentist will fit you with a mouth guard. If you’re clamping down because you’re overwhelmed and overloaded, find a healthier way to manage stress, urges Michael A. Grandner, PhD, an instructor in psychiatry at the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania. “It’s also crucial to spend plenty of time winding down before bed so you drift off in a calm, relaxed state,” he adds.

Sleep Problem No. 3: Your body clock is off

Not even drowsy until the wee hours? Delayed sleep-phase syndrome (DSPS) is the technical term for this disorder, which afflicts 10 percent of people who seek help for insomnia. It involves a biological glitch that prevents your body from making melatonin (the sleep hormone) until 12 a.m. or later. A prime sign you’ve got DSPS: You’ve been a night owl since high school. The syndrome is common among teenagers and sometimes persists into adulthood. If you’re not squeezing in at least seven hours of z’s a night, you’re at greater risk of high blood pressure and diabetes. What’s more, a recent study published in Cognitive Therapy and Research found that people who nod off late (and get less sleep as a result) tend to experience more negative thoughts.

Sleep aid: Begin by improving your sleep hygiene. Cut back on caffeine. Avoid tech and television starting 90 minutes before bedtime. Create a soothing wind-down routine. And get some sun first thing in the morning to help reset your body’s 24-hour rhythm. “In 80 percent of cases, these strategies lead people to conk out earlier,” Dr. Badr says. If they don’t do the trick, a specialist may prescribe synthetic melatonin, as well as light therapy with a medical lamp to use in the morning.

Sleep Problem No. 4: Your legs feel jittery at night

That creepy-crawly feeling—aptly called Restless Legs Syndrome (RLS)—troubles as many as 1 in 10 people and is thought to be linked to a dysfunction in the way the brain processes the neurotransmitter dopamine. However, in some cases it suggests a nutritional deficiency, Dr. Kryger notes: “With people who have low iron, there seems to be overactivity in parts of the brain that results in an urge to move the legs.”

Sleep aid: Ice packs, warm packs, massages, a bath—any of these remedies might help, says David N. Neubauer, MD, associate professor of psychiatry at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine: “Different things seem to work for different people.”

Also, talk to a sleep doc about trying an RLS drug. Be sure to mention your current prescriptions because some meds (including certain antidepressants) reduce dopamine activity. Get your iron levels checked, too, Dr. Gardner advises: “Sometimes a supplement is the only treatment necessary.”

Sleep Problem No. 5: You sleepwalk—and even sleep eat

For reasons that aren’t completely understood, somnambulists are partially aroused in the night—often from the deepest stage of slumber (called slow-wave)—and proceed to wander around the house. The behavior, which may affect up to 4 percent of the population, appears to run in families and is more likely to occur with sleep deprivation. Another trigger: taking zolpidem (one of the most popular sedatives), according to Robert S. Rosenberg, DO, author of Sleep Soundly Every Night; Feel Fantastic Every Day.

Additionally, 1 to 3 percent of people who experience such a zombie-like state actually raid the kitchen. Called sleep-related eating disorder, this condition often strikes women on a diet, who go to bed hungry.

Sleep aid: Benzodiazepines (aka tranquilizers) can sometimes help, and so does getting more sleep. As long as your nocturnal adventures don’t involve anything risky (like, for example, baking cookies), you may not need medication, Rosenberg says: “Just make sure you safety-proof your home by clearing out clutter and stowing away sharp objects.” If you’re a nighttime roamer, let your partner know that the ideal approach is to gently lead you back to bed.

This article originally appeared on Health.com.

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TIME Diet/Nutrition

5 Surprising Things That Are Ruining Your Teeth

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Some juices have higher sugar content than smoothies or soda

We all know that candy and soda aren’t good for our teeth, but the sugars and acids lurking in other, seemingly innocuous (and even healthy) foods can also do a number on your dental hygiene. We got New York City-based cosmetic dentist Marc Lowenberg, DDS, to give us real talk on five culprits you didn’t realize were hurting your choppers, and how to prevent the damage.

Juicing

Say it ain’t so: While bottles of the cold-pressed stuff may be chock-full of good-for-you nutrients, juices also have such a high sugar content (some have even more than smoothies or soft drinks) that drinking them isn’t far off from bathing your teeth in chocolate, Lowenberg says. This sugar is consumed by the bacteria in our mouths and converted into acid that wears away enamel and can cause cavities.

The solution: Sip juice through a straw to help keep it away from the surfaces of your teeth. And make sure sure to wait at least 45 minutes post-drinking to brush your teeth: Scrubbing them immediately while after acid has softened their enamel can leave them even more vulnerable to damage.

Chewable vitamins

They taste just like gummy candy—and they’re not much better for our mouths. In fact, their sticky, sugar-y makeup adheres to teeth so well that they’re just practically bound to cause cavities.

The solution: Take your vitamins in pill form. While that may not be as fun (or taste nearly as good), neither is a trip to the dentist for a filling.

Barbecue sauce

Backyard barbecues are a summer staple. But most people don’t realize that the thick, sweet sauce marinating your chicken and ribs is also marinating your teeth in sugar (yep, the sauce is full of it), potentially sending you down a road of tooth discoloration and decay if it’s in your mouth long enough.

The solution: Before you know you’ll be eating ‘cue swipe a (very) thin layer of petroleum jelly over your teeth to create a barrier between the sauce and your enamel. Can’t stand the feeling of the jelly on your teeth? Try to brush right after the cookout to remove any residue.

Dried fruit

While some fresh fruits are actually considered good for teeth (think water-packed produce like apples and pears), dried fruits never are. This otherwise-nutritious snack is packed with non-cellulose fiber, which traps sugar on and around teeth the way gummy candies (and vitamins) do.

The solution: Get it off! Brush and floss teeth immediately after eating dried fruit to get rid of any stuck-on sugar.

White wine

Red wine tends to get a bad rap for staining teeth—and it does!—but white’s no better for your dental health. The acid in white wine eats away at your enamel and leaves teeth vulnerable to stains from other foods or drinks.

The solution: Eat more cheese with your wine! It’s rich in protein, calcium and phosphorus, all of which can help buffer the acids vino leaves in your mouth. A less-caloric approach: Gargle with water after drinking to flush away some of the acidity.

This article originally appeared on Health.com.

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TIME Careers

These Jobs Are Most Likely To Be Taken by a Computer

SPAIN-TECHNOLOGY-ROBOT
Gerard Julien—AFP/Getty Images A man moves his finger toward SVH (Servo Electric 5 Finger Gripping Hand) automated hand made by Schunk during the 2014 IEEE-RAS International Conference on Humanoid Robots in Madrid on November 19, 2014.

Great news, dentists!

Telemarketers’ jobs have the highest chance of being automated, according to recent report. Other positions with huge potential for being overtaken by robots? Cashiers, tellers and drivers, among others, according to this new NPR interactive.

While telemarketers have a 99% chance of one day being totally replaced by technology (it’s already happening), cashiers, tellers and drivers all have over a 97% chance at being automated. Many positions within the “production” category put together by NPR, including packaging and assembly jobs, tend to rank highly as well.

The job with the lowest shot at being overtaken by technology in the future? Mental health and substance abuse social workers. They have a 0.3% chance, according to the data. Occupational therapists also rank at 0.3%, while dentists, surgeons and nutritionists appear pretty safe at just 0.4%.

Per NPR:

The researchers admit that these estimates are rough and likely to be wrong. But consider this a snapshot of what some smart people think the future might look like. If it says your job will likely be replaced by a machine, you’ve been warned.

To play around with the complete data, check here. But beware, it’s pretty addicting.

TIME Video Games

How Minecraft Players Are Funding Stem Cell Research

Game Minecraft in education
Chicago Tribune—MCT via Getty Images Bobby Craig, left, and Doogy Lee create worlds in Minecraft that parallel what they have bene reading in "The Hobbit" as part of their fifth grade class studies at Quest Academy in Palatine, Ill.

They're logging 10,000 hours for the cause

Online video game streaming service Twitch is hosting a 24-hour Minecraft marathon to benefit the National Stem Cell Foundation.

The Saturday, June 6 charity marathon, called Reason2Play, is slated to feature top Minecraft players. According to a release by the NSCF, the Minecraft players said they’d log 10,000 hours on the intensely popular video game in order to help fund stem cell science. During the marathon, Twitch will promote the Reason2Play effort and ask viewers to make donations to the NSCF.

The foundation likens Minecraft’s use of blocks to create structures in-game to stem cells being the “building blocks of the human body.”

“Mastering Minecraft requires a great deal of ingenuity, creativity, and social cooperation,” said Dr. Paula Grisanti, the chair of the National Stem Cell Foundation, in a statement. “Not only that, it has proven to be a highly successful educational tool all over the world.”

“Reason2Play is a terrific opportunity to make the connection to stem cell research and treatment among gamers because they value skill, innovation, and dedication,” added Grisanti.

The company behind Minecraft was acquired by Microsoft last year for $2.5 billion. At the time, the 10-year-old daughter of Fortune’s Jennifer Reingold penned a letter to CEO Satya Nadella about the game.

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