Shingles vs. Chickenpox. What’s the Difference?

You may have heard that only kids can get chickenpox, while only older adults can get shingles. Or perhaps you’ve heard it said that it’s the same virus, but it’s given a different name, whether the patient is a child or a senior. We’re here to set the record straight on the differences between shingles and chickenpox so that you can protect your loved ones, of all ages, from the discomfort that comes from this itchy, painful condition.

What is Chicken Pox?

The varicella-zoster virus causes the infection we know as chickenpox. Symptoms include an itchy rash marked by tiny, fluid-filled red blisters. The rash often appears 10 to 21 days after virus exposure and typically lasts from five to ten days. During the total period in which symptoms are present, the rash typically evolves through three distinct phases:

  • During the first several days, the rash often appears as raised pink or red papules (bumps)
  • Next, small fluid-filled vesicles (blisters) form over a day, which then break and leak
  • The broken blisters then scab over, taking several days to heal

Since new bumps continue to form until the virus is destroyed, patients may have bumps on their skin in all three phases at once.

Other symptoms of chickenpox include:

  • Fever
  • Loss of appetite
  • Headache
  • Tiredness and malaise

Chickenpox patients can spread the virus to others up to 48 hours before the rash appears and remain contagious until all broken blisters have scabbed over. The infection is highly contagious for those individuals who have never had chickenpox or who have never been vaccinated against it, which is why the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends routine vaccination of children against the varicella-zoster virus.

While chickenpox is often thought of as a childhood illness, adults can contract the virus too, and when they do, their symptoms may be more severe.

What is Shingles?

Like chickenpox, shingles is a viral infection caused by the varicella-zoster virus that creates a painful rash. Unlike the chickenpox rash, which can form all over the body, the shingles rash typically appears as a single stripe of blisters around one side of the torso.

In addition to the painful rash, shingles symptoms may include:

  • A painful, burning, numbness or tingling that for some is intensely uncomfortable
  • Sensitivity to touch
  • An itchy, red rash that begins a few days after the first pain symptoms
  • Fluid-filled blisters that break and scab, as with chickenpox
  • Fever
  • Headache
  • Sensitivity to light
  • Fatigue

It is possible for someone who had chickenpox to develop shingles later in life. In patients who have had chickenpox, the varicella-zoster virus lies dormant in nerve tissue near the spinal cord and brain. It can reactivate in the form of the shingles virus years later.

If not properly treated, shingles can result in health complications, including a condition called postherpetic neuralgia, in which a patient experiences shingles pain for a long time after the blisters have healed.

Also, like chickenpox, there is a CDC-recommended vaccine for shingles; however, it is recommended for seniors rather than children.

When to Talk to Your Doctor

If you or a loved one has developed a red, painful rash, talk to your doctor. Whether it is chickenpox, shingles, or another condition, your doctor will diagnose the cause and recommend a treatment plan. Further, if you have any questions regarding recommended vaccines for chickenpox and shingles, and when you, your child, or senior parent may be eligible, talk to your doctor.

Common Triggers for Hives and When to Get Help

It starts as a mindless tickle on the side of your neck. You find yourself itching the spot casually. A few minutes later, you’re rubbing your side along your ribs with more persistence, moving to scratch the back of your hand next. You look down and recognize, in a second, the telltale sign of a larger issue than just an itchy sweater or pesky few mosquito bites.


The unsightly red, itchy spots are noticeably appearing like unwanted house guests, and you feel helpless and desperate for relief. If you’ve ever developed an allergic reaction to a food item or an insect that has resulted in a hive breakout on your skin, then you know all too well the discomfort and stress of these little red spots. What causes hives, and if you’re susceptible, how can you avoid them? More importantly, when is the appearance of hives the first indication of a potentially dangerous allergic reaction, and when should you receive urgent treatment?

What are Hives?

Urticaria, or hives, are a skin rash that appears as welts or raised bumps on the skin. They are often red and uncomfortably itchy. They can range in size from small to large bumps, up to 8 inches in diameter at their largest, and may appear on one body part or all over the skin. When you press on a hive, it will appear white in the middle. Like their size, the duration of an outbreak of hives may vary as well. For some patients, hives may appear for a few minutes or last for several months, with most people experiencing hives finding them to last at least 24 hours.

What are the Most Common Causes of Hives?

Anyone at any age can develop hives if exposed to an irritant that causes an autoimmune response in the body. About 20 percent of people will develop hives at least once in their lifetime. The most common triggers of hives include:

  • Infections, including the common cold and other viruses
  • Food allergies, most commonly including eggs, shellfish, and nuts
  • Medications, such as aspirin, antibiotics such as penicillin, and sulfa
  • Insect stings or bites
  • Blood transfusions
  • Other autoimmune conditions, such as thyroid disease

Some patients experience chronic episodes of hives that can last over six weeks. In these cases, doctors cannot always determine the underlying cause of the outbreak.

Another form of hives is dermatographia, a condition in which light scratching of the skin causes raised, uncomfortable red lines at the scratch site. Delayed pressure urticaria occurs when skin under constant pressure, such as from constrictive clothing, swells and becomes irritated.

Other hive triggers may include:

  • Exposure to low temperatures followed by re-warming—a potentially life-threatening situation if there is a generalized body cooling
  • An increase in body temperatures during exercise, a hot shower, or an anxiety-inducing situation, known as cholinergic urticaria
  • Sun-exposure

When to Seek Urgent Medical Care?

Hives can often be treated with a topical or oral antihistamine medication. However, in more severe cases, hives are one symptom that appears during anaphylaxis. This potentially dangerous allergic reaction can cause swelling of the tongue or throat and difficulty breathing. If anaphylaxis occurs, call 911 immediately. If your doctor diagnoses you with a severe allergy to a specific food or other substance, they may prescribe you an epinephrine pen which can be administered during a severe allergic reaction to immediately abate swelling that can make it difficult to breathe.

Otherwise, if you often experience hives that do not cause respiratory issues and you believe you may be allergic to a food item or medication, talk to your doctor. They can conduct tests to help you identify the cause of your outbreaks. If you are experiencing chronic urticaria, your doctor may refer you to an allergist or immunologist for more specialized testing and treatment.

How to Overcome Blood Injury and Injection (BII) Phobia

If the sight, smell, or even the thought of blood makes you queasy, uncomfortable, or downright panicked, you’re not alone. Three to four percent of the population experiences blood injury and injection (BII) phobia. With this common psychiatric disorder, sufferers are so fearful of being exposed to blood or a medical professional taking a blood sample or receiving an injection—such as a vaccine—that they will avoid medical appointments and critical care entirely.

While blood draws and vaccines may provide temporary discomfort, blood testing is critical to identifying health risks, and vaccines are critical to protecting our population from contagious viruses and other diseases—such as COVID-19. If you suffer from BII, overcoming your fear is critical to ensure you don’t feel the need to avoid medical care and maintain regular preventive and chronic care appointments with your trusted medical care team.

Symptoms of Blood Injury and Injection Phobia

At the sight or prospect of blood, a blood-inducing injury, or an injection, BII phobic individuals may experience:

  • Decreased blood pressure leading to fainting
  • Anxiety and intense, irrational fear of seeing blood, being injured or disabled, or receiving an injection
  • Avoidance behaviors

How to Overcome a Blood Injury and Injection Phobia with Applied Tension (AT)

If your fear of blood, an injury, or injection is so intense that you find yourself avoiding doctor appointments, routine tests, or vaccines, talk to your doctor or seek treatment by a certified mental health care provider. A common treatment for BII phobia is Applied Tension (AT), a technique to help BII phobic individuals prevent fainting or recover more quickly if they faint. AT involves tensing your muscles, which raises your blood pressure, making you less likely to faint.

If you would like to learn about AT as a viable method for coping with your BII phobia, talk to your doctor or a mental health care provider to determine if AT is right for you and for assistance in learning how to apply the methodology to the situations in which you find yourself fearful.

In general, to apply AT, you may be directed to follow steps such as those outlined below:

  • Sit comfortably and tense your arms, legs, and core muscles for 10 – 15 seconds or until you feel a warm sensation in your head
  • Relax your body for 20 to 30 seconds and return to a normal state; avoid allowing yourself to be overcome with feelings of relaxation, which may cause your blood pressure to drop
  • Repeat the cycle five times

If your care provider advises that AT may be a viable technique to help you cope with BII phobia, your care provider may encourage you to practice your AT technique a few times a day for at least a week before you expect to be exposed to blood or an injection to help you mindfully master the technique so that you can use it effectively when needed.

When to Talk to Your Doctor

If you feel paralyzed by the possibility of being exposed to blood, are terrified of a blood-inducing injury, or avoid necessary routine testing or vaccines out of a desire to avoid needles, or if you have ever fainted at the sight of blood, talk to your doctor. BII phobia is an understandable and treatable condition. With proper support and a master of a treatment plan prescribed by your doctor, you can reclaim your confidence over any medical setting.

How to Talk to Your Doctor About Your Mental Health

No one should have to suffer in silence, especially when the battle they are fighting is against a challenge that only they can feel. The term mental health covers a broad spectrum of emotional and mental ailments and conditions that affect millions of people worldwide of all ages, abilities, backgrounds, and financial statuses. One in five adolescents globally live with a mental disorder, and almost half of U.S. adults will experience a mental illness during their lifetime.

If you are among the millions living with depression, an eating disorder, anxiety, panic disorder, a personality disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), or a psychotic disorder, you are not alone. You are surrounded by a community of people who understand what it feels like to live with a complicated condition. You are also only a phone call away from a care provider who will help you understand your condition, risk factors that trigger your symptoms and help you develop a treatment plan to ensure you maximize every day and lead a full and fully capable lifestyle.

If you believe that you may be suffering from a mental health disorder, talking about your concerns can be one of the most challenging but critical first steps you will take on your road to recovery. If you’re ready to talk to your doctor about  your mental health concerns, use this guide to help you confidently say those first, vital first words: “I need help.”

How to Start the Conversation with Your Doctor About Your Mental Health

Your doctor may perform a mental health screening during your annual physical. You may also consider scheduling an appointment with your doctor to discuss your concerns at any time throughout the year. The easiest way to begin a conversation with your doctor about your mental health is by describing your symptoms. Be specific about your symptoms and describe the frequency with which you experience them.

You may start the discussion with a simple statement. “I am concerned that [frequency] I feel [symptom]. Should I be worried?” Such statements may sound like:

  • “…Every day, I find myself obsessing over my weight and heavily constricting my calories…”
  • “…at least three days a week, I find myself so worried about things in my life that I can’t control that I struggle to get out of bed. About once a month, I even call in sick to work.”
  • “…I struggle throughout the day to control my emotions. Sometimes, for days at a time, I feel depressed or angry at everyone for no reason. Then it passes, and I feel like I have an abnormal amount of energy.”
  • “…several times a week, I’m not able to sleep because I have nightmares about my recent military service.”

Your doctor will ask specific and probing questions based on your opening statement to help them diagnose your condition, if necessary. Be patient and thoughtful in your answers. Your doctor may also want to ask questions about your medical and family history and about situations in your life that may be causing you stress. Be honest about whether you are suffering from financial difficulties, have recently suffered the loss of a loved one, or are going through a divorce. Such situations can cause extreme stress and result in depression and anxiety.

Also, be prepared with questions of your own, such as:

  • I often feel physical pain in my joints and muscles. Could depression be the cause?
  • Is anxiety hereditary?
  • Could my diet or sleep habits be contributing to my depression?
  • Could medication trigger my symptoms?
  • What can I do to manage my symptoms without or alongside medication?

The most important thing you should know is that there is no wrong way to talk to your doctor about your mental health symptoms. Asking for help from a medical professional is always the first critical step to reclaiming your life and learning to manage your condition.

Stroke Awareness Month and Increasing Dialogue About the Signs and Risk Factors

May is stroke awareness month, a time to reflect on the millions of people and their loved ones affected by this dangerous medical emergency. One American has a stroke every 40 seconds, and every four minutes, a stroke takes a victim’s life. Many of the risk factors that can lead to stroke can be avoided with simple lifestyle changes. This month, commit to understanding the risks and symptoms of stroke and making the wellness changes needed to minimize your chances of suffering a dangerous and potentially deadly stroke.

What is a Stroke?

When a blood vessel carrying oxygen and nutrients to the brain becomes blocked by a clot or bursts, the brain cannot receive the necessary amount of blood and oxygen it needs to perform optimally. As a result, brain cells die. This occurrence, known as a stroke, can result in temporary or permanent disability or possibly death.

Stroke Risk Factors

Many risk factors that can lead to stroke are avoidable. Some, unfortunately, are genetic or otherwise not preventable. Stroke risk factors include:

  • High blood pressure
  • Smoking
  • Diabetes
  • High blood cholesterol
  • Diets high in saturated fat
  • A physically inactive lifestyle
  • Obesity
  • Being age 65 or over
  • Family history of stroke
  • Race, as African Americans are at a higher risk of stroke than Caucasians
  • Gender, as women are at a greater risk of stroke than men
  • Having suffered a previous heart attack, transient ischemic attacks (TIA), or stroke
  • Carotid artery disease, peripheral artery disease, atrial fibrillation, and other forms of heart disease
  • Sickle cell anemia

The Signs and Symptoms of Stroke

Acting quickly at the sign of a stroke can be the difference between recovering fully and being left with a long, difficult permanent disability or losing one’s life. Signs of a stroke may include the following sudden symptoms:

  • Numbness or weakness in the face, arm, or leg, especially on one side of the body
  • Confusion, difficulty speaking, or understanding speech
  • Severe headache
  • Trouble walking, dizziness, a lack of coordination, or a loss of balance
  • Difficulty seeing out of one or both eyes

What to Do if You Believe You May be Suffering a Stroke

If you believe you may be having a stroke, or if you believe you are witnessing stroke symptoms in a loved one, follow these emergency safety steps:

  • Call 911 and allow emergency responders to assess the situation and provide appropriate treatment
  • Note when you first began to see symptoms and provide the information to emergency responders
    • Assessing the time symptoms first presented is critical because a clot-busting medication called tissue plasminogen activator (tPA), if given to a patient within four-and-a-half hours of the start of symptoms, can help to reverse stroke symptoms
  • Perform CPR if the patient is unconscious, not breathing, or does not have a pulse

Final Words of Wellness

Stroke is the number five cause of death and a leading cause of disability in the United States. With such a high prevalence of stroke cases in our country, everyone should understand the risk factors that can increase one’s chances of experiencing a stroke and the symptoms that must be acted upon quickly to prevent disability or death. During Stroke Awareness Month, we are committed to increasing the dialogue around stroke, supporting sufferers of the condition, and educating our communities so that strokes claim fewer victims—fewer fathers, mothers, friends, and loved ones.

World Immunization Week and the Importance of Routine Vaccinations

Over the past year, no one can hear the word vaccine without thinking of one thing: COVID-19. The coronavirus has elevated our understanding of the efficacy of virus immunizations in ways that many Americans have not needed to think about in modern times. COVID-19 reminds us, however, that our bodies are, in many ways, fragile and that we must guard against virus contagion and keep those dangerous conditions that we have suppressed from the population over time through routine vaccinations at bay with continual routine vaccination best practices.

If you are a parent or hoping to become pregnant and you have considered the possibility of not giving your children the routine vaccinations recommended by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), we implore you to talk to your doctor. Ask them about the risks of not seeking vaccinations for your children and the proven benefits of routine immunizations. Also, read on to learn about recommended routine immunizations and the dangerous health conditions from which they protect us.

Immunizable Conditions and the CDC’s Recommended Vaccine Schedule

The CDC’s recommended routine immunizations protect Americans from the following dangerous and sometimes deadly viruses and bacterial infections:

Vaccines Administered Starting at Birth

  • Hepatitis B. A virus that can cause chronic swelling of the liver and possible lifelong complications. If contracted, infants are more likely than adults to develop an incurable chronic infection that can result in liver damage and liver cancer.

Vaccines Administered Starting at One to Two Months

  • Diphtheria – A serious infection of the nose and throat in which a sheet of thick, gray matter covers the back of the throat, making breathing difficult
  • Tetanus (lockjaw) – A serious bacterial infection that affects the nerves and causes painful muscle spasms, and can lead to death
  • Whooping cough (pertussis) (DTaP) – A highly contagious respiratory tract infection that is particularly dangerous for infants causing a cough that sounds like “whoop,” a runny nose, nasal congestion, and sneezing
  • Haemophilus influenzae type b (Hib) – A name for any illness caused by bacteria called H. influenzae, some of which—like ear infections—are mild while others—like bloodstream infections—are serious
  • Polio (IPV) – A virus transmitted through contaminated water and food or contact with an infected person that may cause paralysis, which can sometimes be fatal
  • Pneumococcal (PCV) – The name for any infection caused by a bacterium called Streptococcus pneumoniae, causing a range of infections that range from ear and sinus infections to pneumonia and bloodstream infections
  • Rotavirus (RV) –Typically causes severe diarrhea and vomiting in infants and young children and dehydration that may result in hospitalization or death

Vaccines Administered Starting at Six Months

  • Influenza –The flu; a common viral infection that can be deadly, especially in high-risk groups, young children, and the elderly

Vaccines Administered Starting at 12 to 23 Months

  • Chickenpox (Varicella) – An infection caused by the varicella-zoster virus that causes an itchy rash with small, fluid-filled blisters; it is highly contagious to those who haven’t had the disease or been immunized against it
  • Measles –A highly contagious infectious disease that causes fever, often greater than 104 °F, cough, runny nose, and inflamed eyes
  • Mumps – A viral infection that affects the salivary glands and the parotid glands
  • Rubella – A contagious viral infection that causes a distinctive red rash; while it may cause mild or no symptoms, it can cause serious complications for unborn babies whose mothers become infected during pregnancy
  • Hepatitis A – A highly contagious liver infection caused by the hepatitis A virus that spreads from contaminated food or water or contact with someone who is infected; symptoms include fatigue, nausea, abdominal pain, loss of appetite, and low-grade fever 

Vaccines Administered Starting at 11 to 12 Years

  • Meningococcal conjugate – Any illness caused by the meningococcus bacteria which cause infections of the lining of the brain, spinal cord, and bloodstream, which are often severe and can be deadly
  • Human papillomavirus (HPV) – The most common sexually transmitted infection, which can lead to genital warts or cancer

Vaccines Administered Starting at 50 Years

  • Shingles – A viral infection that causes a painful rash that often appears as a single stripe of blisters wrapping around one side of the torso

Vaccines Administered Starting at 65 Years

  • Pneumonia – An infection that inflames air sacs in one or both lungs, sometimes filling them with pus or fluid, causing such symptoms as cough with phlegm or pus, fever, chills, and difficulty breathing; the infection can be life-threatening to anyone, but particularly to infants, children, and people over 65

As we recognize World Immunization Week, we aim to reinforce the critical importance of vaccines as one of the world’s most successful health interventions and the crucial role that vaccines play in protecting us from infections and viruses whose symptoms range from uncomfortable to deadly. If you have questions about the vaccines appropriate for you, or what vaccines you should give to your children, and any possible risk considerations, talk to your doctor.

Nova Health Opens New Urgent Care Clinic in Dallas, Oregon

Eugene, OR – April 26, 2021 – Nova Health, a provider of high-quality, convenient primary and urgent care services in the Western United States, has opened a new urgent care clinic in Dallas, Oregon on April 26th, 2021. The clinic is located at 186 West Ellendale Avenue and accepts walk-in and same-day urgent care appointments.

“We are committed to a strategic but aggressive clinic expansion plan,” said Nova Health Chief Executive Officer Jim Ashby. “It is the foundation of our goal of bringing quality, trusted patient care to the communities and people who need it most. As we look ahead to the future of patient care, we will continue to prioritize walk-in urgent care services, telemedicine, and access to the most qualified and compassionate caregivers in the Western United States.”

“We are proud to hire and retain a highly skilled, respected, and committed team of care providers,” said Ashby. “As our nation continues to respond to the ongoing COVID-19 crisis, we are committed to ensuring convenient access to on-demand urgent care.”

The opening of the Dallas location marks Nova Health’s eighteenth urgent care location across Oregon, Washington, and Montana.

Nova Health Opens New Urgent Care Clinic in Butte, MT

Butte Location Represents Nova Health’s Third Clinic in Montana

Eugene, OR – April 21, 2021 – Nova Health, a provider of high-quality, convenient primary and urgent care services in the Western United States, has opened a new urgent care clinic in Butte, Montana on April 21, 2021. The clinic is located at 3545 Harrison Avenue, in Butte, Montana and accepts walk-in and same-day urgent care appointments.

“We are pleased to expand in Montana in 2021,” said Nova Health Chief Executive Officer Jim Ashby. “More and more communities like Butte are in need of accessible, quality urgent care and we are excited to be able to meet them”

Nova Health entered Montana in 2019 by acquiring former Zip Clinic locations in Belgrade and Bozeman. Ashby says the continued expansion in Montana is consistent with its commitment to serve more communities through the Western United States.”

Testicular Cancer and the Importance of Annual Physicals for Early Detection

Approximately 8,000 to 10,000 men develop testicular cancer each year. They are our fathers, brothers, and friends, and about 400 of those diagnosed will lose their battle each year. While testicular cancer has a high survival rate, every single life that cancer takes is one too many. Like with every other form of cancer, early detection is critical to minimizing the evasiveness of treatment plans and maximizing cure rates. Whether you are a man or a woman who cares for the men in her life, familiarize yourself with the signs and symptoms of testicular cancer and understand the necessity of obtaining an annual physical to maximize ongoing health and wellness.

What are the Signs of Testicular Cancer?

Testicular cancer develops in the testicles—but typically only in one. Signs and symptoms may include:

  • A lump or enlargement in the testicle
  • An aching sensation in the groin or abdomen
  • Pain or discomfort in the scrotum
  • A heavy feeling in the scrotum
  • Fluid collecting in the scrotum
  • Tenderness or enlargement of the breasts
  • Back pain

Early Detection of Testicular Cancer

Testicular cancer can often be detected early before the cancer cells have metastasized or spread to other parts of the body.  Often, a man will detect a concerning, telltale lump in his scrotum and make an appointment with his doctor. At other times, however, the lump is discovered during an annual exam. Alternatively, a patient and doctor’s discussion during an annual exam regarding general questions and concerns may reveal unusual discomfort or sensations that indicate to the physician the need to test the patient for a potentially serious condition.

For this reason, most physicians recommend incorporating a testicle examination as part of male patients’ routine annual physicals. Your physician may also recommend a monthly self-exam, particularly if you are at higher risk of developing testicular cancer. Risk factors include:

  • A family history of testicular cancer
  • The presence of a previous germ cell tumor in one testicle
  • An undescended testicle

Tests to Determine Testicular Cancer

If, after a physical exam, your doctor identifies a concern that you might have testicular cancer, he or she may conduct testing to determine the presence of cancer cells definitively. Testing may include:

  • An ultrasound of the testicles
  • Blood tests that identify tumor markers
  • A biopsy in which a small piece of the tumor is removed and examined
  • Imaging tests to determine if the cancer has spread

When to See a Doctor

If you detect a lump in your testicle, especially if you have a known risk of testicular cancer, make an appointment to see your doctor promptly.  Consistent awareness and vigilance are critical to early detection and survival. If hyper-vigilance sounds overwhelming, know that you are not alone. Receiving an annual physical from a physician you trust as part of your long-term care team is a vital step in maintaining overall wellness and leading a long, healthy life.

National Facial Protection Month and Shielding Yourself with Proper Sports Gear

After a year in which COVID-19 put many of our favorite sporting activities on hold, millions of Americans are ready to suit up and hit the court, field, track, and ice to resume their favorite sports activities. This month, however, in recognition of National Facial Protection Month, we remind our patient community to please remember to protect yourself with proper facial protection gear.

Common Causes of Facial Injuries

Your face is one of the most vulnerable parts of your body, and unfortunately, injuries to the maxillofacial area (more commonly the jaw and face) are all too common. Aside from sports-related injuries, common reasons for facial injuries involve vehicle, domestic, and work-related accidents. Sports-related facial injuries account for eight percent of all facial soft tissue injuries, with approximately 11 to 40 percent of all sports injuries causing facial damage.

Some of the most common sports-related incidents that result in patients sitting in urgent care or emergency rooms include a ball striking the face and player-to-player contact. With the rise in popularity of sporting activities among youth and an increase in more dangerous athletic activities such as mixed martial arts (MMA), sports-related maxillofacial accidents have also increased.

Possible Maxillofacial Injuries Caused by Sports

Without proper facial protection, no matter how talented an athlete you are, you could be at risk of a fractured nose, zygoma (cheekbone), mandible (jawbone), or dental damage. At a minimum, you may need ice or stitches. At worst, you could require complex surgery, dental repairs, and a long recovery.

The Importance of Wearing Proper Protective Facial Gear During Athletics

Too often, athletes—including kids and teens—neglect the use of protective gear because they find it uncomfortable, burdensome, they feel it’s overly cautious and unnecessary, or they dislike how it makes them look. Putting on a helmet, safety glasses, or a mouthguard takes only a second, and it could be the most critical step you can take to protect your face from permanent damage or scarring. If you regularly participate in athletics, whether competitively or recreationally, this month, commit to investing in the following crucial facial protective gear:


If you bike, cycle, ski, snow or skateboard, participate in motorsports, play baseball, football, hockey, rugby, or any other type of contact sport, you absolutely must protect your head with a helmet. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that an estimated 1.6 to 3.8 million sports and recreation-related concussions occur annually in our country. A sports-related brain injury may result in a mild concussion or a devastating traumatic brain injury (TBI) with lasting effects. Protect your brain with a helmet.

Protective Eyewear

The American Academy of Ophthalmology reports that over 90 percent of all sports-related eye injuries can be prevented using appropriate protective eyewear. Clear or tinted goggles or sunglasses are available in varieties customized for nearly every type of sport.

Mouth Guards

In the 2011 Western Conference NHL final, Chicago Black Hawk’s Duncan Keith lost seven teeth when a puck struck him in the face. Hockey, understandably, results in many dental injuries, but dentists cajole that the simple decision to wear a mouthguard can help mitigate the need for cosmetic dentistry and repairs. Hockey players are not the only athletes who should protect their smiles. Basketball, football, and rugby players, wrestlers, and martial artists are just some of the athletes that need to protect their teeth from collisions with projectiles, player collisions, and falls.

If you need help choosing and sizing facial protective gear properly, visit a reputable sporting goods store and ask for help. What matters most is that you don’t lace up your skates, cleats, or sneakers until you properly gear up with protection for your face, head, and smile.