How to protect your eyes during next week’s solar eclipse in Southern California

By Courtney Perkes | Orange County Register – August 15, 2017

Watching the eclipse could be enlightening or interesting or, if you roll this way, soul nourishing.

It also could be bad for your eyes.

Eye injuries from watching a solar eclipse are most common in children and young adults, but on Monday, when an eclipse will be at 69 percent in Southern California, everybody who wants to sky gaze should protect themselves with proper viewing equipment, doctors say.

While it’s human nature to avoid looking directly at the sun on a normal day, the novelty of the rare celestial spectacle could override those instincts. Wearing ordinary sunglasses will not offer enough protection.

“This is going to be an interesting astronomical phenomenon, so we’re going to want to stare at it,” said Dr. Baruch Kuppermann, a UC Irvine ophthalmologist and retina specialist. “We may overrule our common sense by our desire to see it.”

Here’s what you need to know for safe viewing:

How can I safely view the partial eclipse?
Serious eye damage can occur from viewing the sun even when it’s partially covered by the moon. Wear eclipse glasses or watch with a handheld solar viewer or through pinhole projection.

According to the American Academy of Ophthalmology, eclipse glasses must meet the worldwide standard known as ISO 12312-2. Recommended vendors can be found here:

Carefully examine your solar filter or eclipse glasses before using them. Don’t use a pair that’s been scratched or damaged. Read and follow all directions and supervise use by children.

Put the glasses on before looking up at the sun. After viewing the eclipse, turn away and remove the glasses.

Why aren’t dark sunglasses good enough?
Regular sunglasses absorb at most 90 percent of sunlight while eclipse glasses are designed to absorb 99.99 percent, according to the Mayo Clinic.

“Sunglasses are not designed to look at the sun,” said Dr. Colin McCannel, a UCLA ophthalmologist and retina specialist. “They’re designed to keep the stray sunlight out of your eyes when you’re driving or sitting on the beach. The eclipse glasses are designed specifically to look at the sun.”

What happens if I look directly at the partial eclipse?
Damage can occur in seconds, not minutes, Kuppermann said. The retina is a delicate structure in the back of the eye that can be permanently scarred by the intensity of the sun.

“The risk is to the central retina, the part you use for reading, driving, recognizing people’s faces,” Kuppermann said. “Don’t take a risk. There will be no safe viewing moments without protection.”

McCannel compared looking at the sun to using a magnifying glass to burn dried leaves.

“Because the sun has so much energy, power and heat, when it gets concentrated by being focused into one tiny spot, there’s an extra amount of energy and heat,” McCannel said. “The longer the person looks at the sun the more severe the vision loss is going to be.”

What has research shown about eye injuries after an eclipse?
Injuries are most common in children and young adults. In a Canadian study, young men were more likely to ignore danger warnings and suffer injury from viewing.

“Particularly teenagers and perhaps very young adults tend to have a sense of invincibility that’s just part of the development cycle,” McCannel said. “If somebody thinks they’re Superman and can stare at the sun and it won’t hurt them, the sun is stronger and the physics will outweigh any sense of invincibility.”

After the 1999 partial eclipse in the United Kingdom, more than half of those with vision loss watched with no eye protection. Thirty percent wore sunglasses and 14 percent reported using eclipse glasses or welder’s masks. All 70 patients recovered their vision after several weeks, according to a summary written by B. Ralph Chau, a Canadian optometry professor.

However, McCannel cautioned that many patients will continue to have abnormalities that later in life can cause premature aging damage and vision loss.

While wearing eclipse glasses, is it safe to take pictures or use binoculars?
No. The intense solar rays coming through the devices will damage the solar filter and your eyes.

“You’re introducing much more light energy than those glasses have been designed to block,” McCannel said. “They concentrate more light into that small focal point than would be captured on the flat surface of the eclipse glasses.”

Is it safe to watch from the car or indoors?
No. Tinted glass does not provide adequate protection, Kuppermann said. If you’re indoors, a number of websites will stream the eclipse live, including NASA.

Are some people at greater risk than others?
Yes. Those with lighter eye color or underlying eye disease are more susceptible to damage, Kuppermann said.

So What Exactly Is the Deal With Germs and Your Immune System?

by Sabrina Rojas Weiss – articles have appeared on Yahoo, MTV News, and

When you look at health news right now, it feels like every other headline is either a warning about the next rare disease or a tale about how flourishing gut bacteria is the secret to happiness. So should we all embrace the world’s dirt, walking around barefoot in the mud, or live in spacesuits with a bottle of bleach at the ready? The very fact that we still use the word germs to describe bacteria, viruses, parasites, and whatever just attached itself to your shoe in the airport bathroom is probably one source of our collective confusion. We went in search of the answers to these seemingly conflicting reports about pathogens.

Our Constantly Evolving Immune System – In utero, babies have rather weak, incomplete immune systems. This is probably so they can peacefully coexist with their mothers’ bodies but also because in the womb, they have little exposure to bacteria. The good gut microbiota—a.k.a. the reason everyone pretends to like kombucha—first comes from the birth canal and then everything babies are exposed to afterward. Their memory T-cells (the white blood cells that kill antigens) are also a blank slate until they’ve had something to fight and “learn” from.

“From the moment babies are born, they interact with the environment and come into contact with all kinds of germs,” says William Shaffner, M.D., an infectious disease specialist at the Vanderbilt University Medical Center in Nashville. “We live in a very germy world. This interaction with the germy world actually results in protection of children against all kinds of infections.”

There’s also evidence that exposure to microbes prevents children from developing allergies. You may have heard of the study in Sweden that indicates kids whose parents immediately sanitized dropped pacifiers were more likely to have asthma, eczema, and allergies than the children whose parents licked the pacifiers clean. (We’re just going to assume the parents who sucked on that dirt are doing well too.)

OK, but Not All Germs Are Created Equal – A few unsettling facts: While some bacteria are part of our immune system, there are, of course, plenty of others that are deadly—and becoming deadlier as they grow resistant to antibiotics. According to the Review on Antimicrobial Resistance (commissioned by the U.K. Department of Health), at least 700,000 people across the world die each year of bacterial infections, malaria, tuberculosis, and HIV/AIDS as a direct result of drug-resistant bacteria. The WHO says that 480,000 people in the world develop drug-resistant TB each year.

While not usually fatal, the norovirus (that nasty bug we usually call the stomach flu) is so highly contagious, it takes just 18 viral particles to make one person ill, and the virus lives on in an infected person’s stool for two weeks. Herpes simplex type-1 (oral herpes) can be passed to a child simply by pinching her cheek. Also, 20 percent of sexually active adults have herpes simplex type-2.

In July, a 3-week-old baby made headlines when she tragically died from complications of viral meningitis after contracting herpes, probably from someone who kissed her when she was a week old at her parents’ wedding.

“What I will say about viral meningitis in infants is that this issue is now super, super rare,” Shaffner says. “A much more common cause of serious disease in children that can actually kill them is influenza.”

In the United States, influenza and pneumonia are one of the leading causes of death (ranking eighth overall in 2014).

“The recommendation is to give every child an influenza vaccine,” Shaffner says. “It will provide—if not complete—certainly partial protection. Also, moms and dads should be comforted that the lights are on in the research laboratories at night. People keep working to develop a better flu vaccine and other mechanisms of protection for our children.” In case you’ve forgotten, vaccines are good for us all.

Go Ahead: Touch Those Toilet Seats, Doorknobs, and Keyboards – “You don’t have to spray every computer keyboard with disinfectant, which will ruin it anyway,” Shaffner says. “And you don’t have to worry about picking up a phone or a dollar bill. You’re not going to get killed from that. A few years ago, one of the most common questions I got was, ‘What can you pick up from a public toilet seat?’ The answer is nothing. That’s not a risk. If it were, we wouldn’t have public toilets.”

Even though places like public restrooms are basically petri dishes for bacteria and viruses, in most cases, all you have to do is wash your hands to be rid of them.

On Handwashing and Hand Sanitizer – Though they seem ridiculously obvious, think twice the next time you want to laugh at the handwashing instructions you see at restaurants and medical offices. They save lives. The official recommendation from the CDC is to wet your hands first; lather them up with regular (nonantibacterial) soap, being sure to get under fingernails and between fingers, for the time it takes to sing “Happy Birthday” twice; rinse; and dry.

The FDA denounced antibacterial soap as useless at best and, at worst, potentially responsible for making bacteria more drug resistant. Hand sanitizer, however, is still your second-best friend after soap and water. It doesn’t get rid of dirt or kill all germs—norovirus, for example, may stick around—but it’s better than nothing when you aren’t near a sink.

“My wife always has a small bottle of hand hygiene liquid in her purse; I have one in the glove compartment of my car,” Shaffner says. “And then my wife has a simple rule in our house: You walk in the front door, hang up your coat and then go directly to the sink and wash your hands. Simple rules like that really are the great protection.”

So unzip your bubble and the next time you read scary health news, just remember the lyrics to “Happy Birthday.”


Biking *in* libraries

You’ve probably heard of or even seen a standing desk – they are becoming an increasingly popular way to combat the negative health consequences of sitting at a desk for long periods of time.

But have you heard of biking desks? Texas A&M libraries recently installed 6 stationary bikes and so fair they’ve proven to be a popular way for patrons to study and learn at the same time:

7 Simple Exercises To Try For Over 50 Year Olds

So this post is really for me, and a few others I know… and I don’t think it will harm anyone coming in under the 50 threshold either!

We are all aging (breaking news!) and exercise is critical to our health.  So check it out!

7 Simple Exercises To Try For Over 50 Year Olds

“Much as we hate to admit it, once we hit our 50s, our bodies don’t work as well as they did during our teens, 20s, and 30s. The risk of injury is higher, and we have to be more careful with how we train.”

The article suggests:

  • Work with a Trainer
  • Check with your doctor
  • Don’t overdo it
  • Give yourself more recovery time
  • Don’t let anyone tell you “you can’t do it”

The 7 Exercises

  1. Push-Ups
  2. Pull-Ups
  3. Dumbbell Raises
  4. Bent Over Barbell Rows
  5. Squats
  6. Lunges
  7. Plank