The Flu Is Killing Children, And Here’s What Parents Need To Know

Here’s how to recognize flu symptoms and get your child treated.

The US is in the middle of a severe flu season, and 53 children have died so far.

The US is in the middle of a severe flu season, and 53 children have died so far.

Influenza hits the US every winter, but this year's season has been particularly rough. According to the the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the 2017–18 influenza outbreak has now led to the highest measured hospitalization rates for the virus.

“This is a very difficult flu season,” acting CDC director Anne Schuchat told reporters last week. “We are not out of the woods yet.” There are still weeks to go in this flu season, and cases can pop up as late as April and May. Although flu activity is starting to go down in Western states, such as California, it's still high in the rest of the US and increasing on the East Coast.

There are three strains circulating this year: H3N2, H1N1, and influenza B. The prevailing strain, H3N2, is known for being particularly vicious and is likely to cause more complications and deaths among the very old and very young.

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The flu kills children every year, so this isn’t unusual. But it is concerning, so here’s what parents need to know.

The flu kills children every year, so this isn't unusual. But it is concerning, so here's what parents need to know.

The flu killed 101 children last year and 128 in 2014–15. “We had a very serious flu season in 2014–2015 and it's looking a lot like that right now,” Dr. Robert Jacobson, pediatrician and vaccine researcher at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota, told BuzzFeed News.

Children are more vulnerable because their immune and respiratory systems are less mature, Jacobson says, which means they struggle more to fight off a virus like the flu, which puts stress on the heart and lungs. When the flu kills children, it typically does so by overwhelming the cardiorespiratory system or causing a secondary infection, such as pneumonia.

“Children, like the elderly, also struggle to stay hydrated and end up under-eating when they have the flu, which puts them at higher risk,” Jacobson says. During most flu seasons, the hospitalization rates for children are typically the same or just below those for people over 65.

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Most healthy children will recover from the flu — but some can develop life-threatening complications.

Most healthy children will recover from the flu — but some can develop life-threatening complications.

Typically, healthy children who get the flu will recover within a week or so. Children who are at high risk of serious complications from the flu include those under the age of five (especially under the age of two), children with an underlying chronic health problem, such as asthma or diabetes, an immunodeficiency disorder, or who require immunosuppression therapy, and those with neurological and neurodevelopmental disorders.

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If your child gets sick and they aren’t in a high-risk category, keep them home and treat any symptoms as necessary.

If your child gets sick and they aren’t in a high-risk category, keep them home and treat any symptoms as necessary.

In children, flu symptoms can include a fever, chills, fatigue, vomiting, aches, cough, and congestion. A doctor can do a rapid flu test in the office with a nasal swab to confirm the diagnosis.

It's important for the child to get plenty of rest, fluids, and proper nutrition to help the body as it fights off illness. Over-the-counter medications like ibuprofen or acetaminophen (the preferred options for kids) can ease some symptoms, but make sure you adjust the dose for a child per the medication instructions. Children should never be given aspirin due to the risk of Reye’s syndrome, a rare condition that can harm the liver and brain.

Most important, keep your child out of school and have them stay home until they are better, Jacobson says. Staying home from school is both better for recovery and it helps prevent the spread of illness to other schoolchildren.

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The flu can progress very quickly. So it’s important to be vigilant and seek medical care if symptoms become severe or start to worsen.

The flu can progress very quickly. So it's important to be vigilant and seek medical care if symptoms become severe or start to worsen.

“Symptoms to look for in a child are a sudden fever of 102 degrees or higher, persistent fever, difficulty breathing, inability to eat or drink, not urinating for over 8 hours, cottonmouth, sunken eyes, or dizziness,” Jacobson says. If your child has any of these symptoms, you should seek medical care — whether that means going to the doctor or urgent care or an emergency room. “If the child goes into respiratory distress or shows signs of collapsing, call 911 right away,” Jacobson says.

Another thing parents should watch out for is a fever that comes back after going away. “Anyone who has had a fever that went away for at least three days and came back should go to the hospital or doctor's office, because this could be a sign of a bacterial infection in the lungs — even if it's just a middle ear or sinus infection, you should get it checked out; it could be life-threatening,” Jacobson says.

Most important, parents should trust their instincts. If, in your gut, you know something is wrong with your child, then call or go see a pediatrician or take them to the hospital.

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If your child is considered high risk and you think they have the flu, go to the hospital. They may be able to benefit from antiviral medication.

If your child is considered high risk and you think they have the flu, go to the hospital. They may be able to benefit from antiviral medication.

If a child is younger than 12 months, has an underlying or complicating illness, or is significantly immunocompromised, skip waiting for the doctor and go straight to the hospital, Jacobson says.

These high-risk children can be treated with prescription antivirals (like Tamiflu), which can lessen the severity of the flu and shorten its course. Antivirals can also help prevent serious complications from the flu, such as pneumonia. “Anyone who is high risk should get treated with antivirals as early as possible,” Jacobson says, because they are more vulnerable and can benefit the most from antivirals.

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In past flu seasons, between 80% and 85% of flu-related pediatric deaths occurred in children who had not gotten a flu vaccine.

In past flu seasons, between 80% and 85% of flu-related pediatric deaths occurred in children who had not gotten a flu vaccine.

“The most important point is that the majority of children who died from the flu in other seasons were unvaccinated — and no more than half of them had underlying diseases that put them at risk to die from the flu,” Jacobson says. It's unclear how many of the children who died this season were vaccinated, and that information will not be available until the season is over.

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The best thing parents can do is get their child (and their whole family) vaccinated every flu season.

The best thing parents can do is get their child (and their whole family) vaccinated every flu season.

What can you do to protect your children? “Based on all our experience over the years, the best thing you can do is to get your kids vaccinated and get everyone else in the house vaccinated,” Jacobson says. The flu vaccine is recommended for most children over the age of six months, and getting older children vaccinated can help protect babies who are too young to be vaccinated themselves.

When you get your children and family vaccinated, you aren't just protecting yourself. “You create a halo around loved ones, friends, neighbors, coworkers — and in kids, we see lower rates of outbreaks in schools with vaccination requirements,” Jacobson says.

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So if you or your child hasn’t gotten a flu shot yet, do it now. It’s not too late.

So if you or your child hasn't gotten a flu shot yet, do it now. It's not too late.

“If you get your vaccine now, you're protecting yourself for the rest of the season — which could go on for months in certain parts of the country,” Jacobson says. Some children under the age of nine actually require two doses of the flu vaccine, so talk to your doctor about your child's vaccination needs. “Getting your kid vaccinated today, even at height of flu season, makes sense because it will protect them for the next few months, but it might also prepare them for next year,” Jacobson says.

Experts will not know how effective the 2017–18 flu vaccine is until this season is over, but current predictions are around 17% for H3N2, BuzzFeed News previously reported. However, the flu shot also protects against H1N1 and influenza B, which have a higher vaccine effectiveness and are also circulating this year.

Even if the flu shot isn't super effective, it's better to have some protection against the circulating strains than no protection at all. The vaccine can also mitigate illness, so if you do get the flu, it will be a less severe, shorter course. In short, the flu shot can keep you out of the hospital.

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And remember: Wash your hands constantly and teach your kids to do the same!

And remember: Wash your hands constantly and teach your kids to do the same!

“Remember to wash your hands with soap and water throughout the day and teach your kids to do the same — especially after they play with other kids, use the bathroom, and before they eat,” Jacobson says. You can also use hand sanitizer if the sink isn't an option. Parents should also take special care to clean their hands before touching their child's face or preparing their food.

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Literally Just 27 Jokes About Trying To Be Healthy

“Buying a salad is all fun and games until you have to eat it.”

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Here’s The Most Popular Sex Toy In Your State

What’s your state’s ~sex toy personality~?

Everyone’s sex toy taste is different, but some popular and trendy choices always prevail.

Everyone's sex toy taste is different, but some popular and trendy choices always prevail.

Online adult product retailer Adam & Eve figured out the best-selling sex toy in each state based on sales data from 1.5 million unique buyers who ordered 6.5 million items through their site in 2017.

DRUMROLL, PLEASE:

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We-Vibe Nova, Alaska

We-Vibe Nova, Alaska

Buy it on Adam & Eve for $149.

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Fifty Shades Desire Explodes G-Spot Vibe, Arkansas

Fifty Shades Desire Explodes G-Spot Vibe, Arkansas

Buy it on Adam & Eve for $76.49.

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Womanizer Deluxe, California

Womanizer Deluxe, California

Buy it on Adam & Eve for $229.

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Fifty Shades Greedy Girl G-Spot Vibe, Colorado

Fifty Shades Greedy Girl G-Spot Vibe, Colorado

Buy it on Adam & Eve for $84.99.

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Fun Factory Stronic Drei, Connecticut

Fun Factory Stronic Drei, Connecticut

Buy it on Adam & Eve for $199.99.

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A&E Butterfly Kiss, Delaware

A&E Butterfly Kiss, Delaware

Buy it on Adam & Eve for $19.95.

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We-Vibe Sync, Florida

We-Vibe Sync, Florida

Buy it on Adam & Eve for $199.

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A&E Silicone G-Gasm Rabbit, Georgia

A&E Silicone G-Gasm Rabbit, Georgia

Buy it on Adam & Eve for $49.95.

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Magic Wand Rechargeable, Hawaii

Magic Wand Rechargeable, Hawaii

Buy it on Adam & Eve for $159.95.

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Fifty Shades Greedy Girl G-Spot Vibe, Indiana

Fifty Shades Greedy Girl G-Spot Vibe, Indiana

Buy it on Adam & Eve for $84.99.

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A&E Magic Massager Deluxe 8x, Iowa

A&E Magic Massager Deluxe 8x, Iowa

Buy it on Adam & Eve for $69.95.

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OhMiBod Club Vibe 2, Kansas

OhMiBod Club Vibe 2, Kansas

Buy it on Adam & Eve for $89.95.

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A&E Thruster, Kentucky

A&E Thruster, Kentucky

Buy it on Adam & Eve for $149.95.

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Womanizer Deluxe, Louisiana

Womanizer Deluxe, Louisiana

Buy it on Adam & Eve for $229.

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Pure Enrichment Peak Wand Massager, Maine

Pure Enrichment Peak Wand Massager, Maine

Buy it on Adam & Eve for $69.95.

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Fifty Shades Greedy Girl G-Spot Vibe, Maryland

Fifty Shades Greedy Girl G-Spot Vibe, Maryland

Buy it on Adam & Eve for $84.99.

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Fleshlight Stamina Trainer Value Pack, Massachusetts

Fleshlight Stamina Trainer Value Pack, Massachusetts

Buy it on Adam & Eve for $109.95.

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Fleshlight Go Surge, Michigan

Fleshlight Go Surge, Michigan

Buy it on Adam & Eve for $59.95.

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Pure Enrichment Peak Wand Massager, Minnesota

Pure Enrichment Peak Wand Massager, Minnesota

Buy it on Adam & Eve for $69.95.

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Lovelife Cuddle G-Spot Massager, Mississippi

Lovelife Cuddle G-Spot Massager, Mississippi

Buy it on Adam & Eve for $69.

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Fifty Shades Greedy Girl G-Spot Vibe, Missouri

Fifty Shades Greedy Girl G-Spot Vibe, Missouri

Buy it on Adam & Eve for $84.99.

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Womanizer Plus, Nebraska

Womanizer Plus, Nebraska

Buy it on Adam & Eve for $219.

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Magic Wand Rechargeable, Nevada

Magic Wand Rechargeable, Nevada

Buy it on Adam & Eve for $159.95.

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Womanizer Deluxe, New Hampshire

Womanizer Deluxe, New Hampshire

Buy it on Adam & Eve for $229.

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Fifty Shades Greedy Girl G-Spot Vibe, New Jersey

Fifty Shades Greedy Girl G-Spot Vibe, New Jersey

Buy it on Adam & Eve for $84.99.

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Fifty Shades Greedy Girl G-Spot Vibe, New Mexico

Fifty Shades Greedy Girl G-Spot Vibe, New Mexico

Buy it on Adam & Eve for $84.99.

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A&E Silicone G-Gasm Rabbit, New York

A&E Silicone G-Gasm Rabbit, New York

Buy it on Adam & Eve for $49.95.

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Pure Enrichment Peak Wand Massager, North Carolina

Pure Enrichment Peak Wand Massager, North Carolina

Buy it on Adam & Eve for $69.95.

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Hydromax Hercules Water Penis Pump, North Dakota

Hydromax Hercules Water Penis Pump, North Dakota

Buy it on Adam & Eve for $109.95.

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Womanizer Deluxe, Ohio

Womanizer Deluxe, Ohio

Buy it on Adam & Eve for $229.

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Liberator Wedge, Oklahoma

Liberator Wedge, Oklahoma

Buy it on Adam & Eve for $125.

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Magic Wand Original, Oregon

Magic Wand Original, Oregon

Buy it on Adam & Eve for $79.95.

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Pure Enrichment Peak Wand Massager, Pennsylvania

Pure Enrichment Peak Wand Massager, Pennsylvania

Buy it on Adam & Eve for $69.95.

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Vibrating Dual Harness, Rhode Island

Vibrating Dual Harness, Rhode Island

Buy it on Adam & Eve for $69.95.

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Fleshlight Go: Surge, South Dakota

Fleshlight Go: Surge, South Dakota

Buy it on Adam & Eve for $59.95.

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Bangin’ Betty Stroker Kit, Tennessee

Bangin' Betty Stroker Kit, Tennessee

Buy it on Adam & Eve for $69.95.

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Fifty Shades Greedy Girl G-Spot Vibe, Texas

Fifty Shades Greedy Girl G-Spot Vibe, Texas

Buy it on Adam & Eve for $84.99.

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We-Vibe Sync, Utah

We-Vibe Sync, Utah

Buy it on Adam & Eve for $199.

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OhMiBod Club Vibe 2, Vermont

OhMiBod Club Vibe 2, Vermont

Buy it on Adam & Eve for $89.95.

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Fifty Shades Greedy Girl G-Spot Vibe, Virginia

Fifty Shades Greedy Girl G-Spot Vibe, Virginia

Buy it on Adam & Eve for $84.99.

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Fifty Shades Greedy Girl G-Spot Vibe, Washington

Fifty Shades Greedy Girl G-Spot Vibe, Washington

Buy it on Adam & Eve for $84.99.

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Miko Realistic Love Doll, Washington, DC

Miko Realistic Love Doll, Washington, DC

Buy it on Adam & Eve for $169.95.

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Fifty Shades Greedy Girl G-Spot Vibe, West Virginia

Fifty Shades Greedy Girl G-Spot Vibe, West Virginia

Buy it on Adam & Eve for $84.99.

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A&E Magic Massager Deluxe 8x, Wisconsin

A&E Magic Massager Deluxe 8x, Wisconsin

Buy it on Adam & Eve for $69.95.

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Everything You Need To Know About The JUUL, Including The Health Effects

They’re supposed to help you quit smoking cigarettes, but with a cool design and flavors like fruit medley and creme brulee, critics say the nicotine-delivery device is maybe a bit too attractive for its own good.

What exactly is the JUUL? Meet the sleek, trendy, USB-shaped e-cigarette that everyone is talking about.

What exactly is the JUUL? Meet the sleek, trendy, USB-shaped e-cigarette that everyone is talking about.

Since launching about two years ago, the JUUL has become one of the hottest e-cigarettes on the market. It's been called “the iPhone of e-cigs” and it has gained somewhat of a cult following among young adults.

Electronic cigarettes are battery-powered devices that convert liquid into a vapor, which you inhale. So they can deliver nicotine like a regular cigarette, but without the tobacco, burning, or carcinogen-laden smoke — which is why they are generally thought of as a safer alternative.

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The JUUL is a portable “nicotine-delivery device” designed to mimic the physical and sensory experience of a cigarette, without looking like one.

The JUUL is a portable "nicotine-delivery device" designed to mimic the physical and sensory experience of a cigarette, without looking like one.

The e-cigarette delivers a potent dose of nicotine with each puff and could potentially be just as addictive as traditional cigarettes.

“The JUUL has two components: the bottom part is the device, which includes the battery and temperature regulation system, and the top part is the e-liquid cartridge that you stick into the device,” Ashley Gould, JUUL's chief administrative officer, tells BuzzFeed News. The cartridge is also the mouthpiece, so you just click it into the JUUL and you're ready to go. The JUUL device is rechargeable and comes with a USB charger that you can pop into your laptop or charging block.

One of the biggest differences between the JUUL and other e-cigarettes is that there are no settings. The device senses when you take a pull from the mouthpiece and heats up to vaporize the liquid inside. “The JUUL isn't user-modifiable, and has a special temperature-regulation technology to prevent overheating or combustion,” Gould says. So it's less likely to burn or explode, which has been an issue with other vapes.

JUUL / Via juulvapor.com

The e-liquid cartridges, or “JUUL pods,” come in a variety of flavors like “cool mint” and “fruit medley,” and each pod contains about as much nicotine as one pack of cigarettes.

The e-liquid cartridges, or "JUUL pods," come in a variety of flavors like "cool mint" and "fruit medley," and each pod contains about as much nicotine as one pack of cigarettes.

JUUL pods contain a mix of glycerol and propylene glycol, nicotine, benzoic acid, and flavorants, Gould says. The health effects of inhaling these ingredients aren't well-known, but one thing is certain: Nicotine is a highly addictive substance — and each hit of the JUUL packs quite the nicotine punch. The nicotine content is 0.7mL (or 59 mg/mL) per pod, which is approximately equivalent to one pack of cigarettes, or 200 puffs.

The JUUL is a “closed system,” meaning the user doesn't refill the e-liquid like you do with “tank systems,” aka vape pens, which does allow for more quality control. “We use a thorough screening process to ensure the ingredients and flavorants — other than nicotine — are not included on the 'Harmful and Potentially Harmful Constituents' outlined by the FDA,” Gould says.

Generally, the JUUL device costs between $35 to $50 and a package of four JUUL pods costs $15.99. The pods come in “classic flavors” like Virginia tobacco, cool mint, fruit medley, creme brulee, and mango, according to the company. At $4 a pod, that’s a bargain compared to a pack of cigarettes, which after years of hard-fought legislation and additional taxes to cover the health effects of smoking now can cost more than $10 a pack in places like New York City.

JUUL / Via juulvapor.com

JUUL is marketed as an alternative for adults who smoke tobacco cigarettes.

JUUL is marketed as an alternative for adults who smoke tobacco cigarettes.

“Our mission is to get adult smokers to switch away from cigarettes,” Gould says. The JUUL is portable, easy to use, and delivers a cigarette-strength dose of nicotine — which makes it an attractive alternative.

The stick-shaped design was also intended to appeal to smokers who were trying to quit. “The designers wanted to make a product that wouldn't visually remind people of cigarettes since they are trying to quit, but still provide the same nicotine delivery and sensory aspects of a cigarette,” Gould says. The JUUL also produces minimal byproduct, so you don't blow out an obnoxious cloud of smelly smoke or vapor. This also makes it easier to use inside, although many places such as bars and restaurants have banned e-cigarettes and vapes.

“We are confident that over 500,000 smokers have replaced cigarettes with the JUUL, but that number is still growing,” says Gould. However, the FDA has not approved any e-cigarette as a safe or effective method to help smokers quit, according to the American Lung Association. The company is actively engaged in clinical and nonclinical studies and is going through the process of submitting applications to the FDA.

Cludio Policarpo / Getty Images / Via gettyimages.com

Yes, the JUUL is safer than regular cigarettes, but no e-cigarette is considered “safe” — and it’s never just vapor that you’re inhaling.

Yes, the JUUL is safer than regular cigarettes, but no e-cigarette is considered "safe" — and it's never just vapor that you're inhaling.

“Electronic cigarettes are without a doubt safer than regular cigarettes and the immediate harms from using them have been minimal so far,” Dr. Michael Siegel, professor of community health sciences at Boston University, tells BuzzFeed News. That being said, just because e-cigarettes are safer than tobacco cigarettes it doesn't mean they are harmless.

And JUUL agrees. According to their website, “no tobacco or e-liquid product should ever be considered 'safe' [and] we encourage consumers to do their own research regarding vapor products and what is right for them.”

“E-cigs might be safer than the most toxic delivery method for nicotine, combustible cigarettes, but they are in no way safe. And it's never just 'vapor' you are inhaling — it's vapor plus irritants and toxins and nicotine,” Farber says. So you're still inhaling a lot of chemicals, especially if the vapor has flavoring agents. Although there aren't many acute health effects of inhaling e-cigarettes, they can exacerbate asthma and other lung conditions.

Martina Paraninfi / Getty Images / Via gettyimages.com

And nicotine is highly addictive, so if you don’t already smoke you should not start using the JUUL or any other e-cigarette.

And nicotine is highly addictive, so if you don't already smoke you should not start using the JUUL or any other e-cigarette.

Researchers are most concerned that young people who are not smokers will start using e-cigarettes because they think it's harmless. Since e-cigarettes like the JUUL contain nicotine, they're actually highly addictive. In theory, that means that someone who starts using e-cigarettes could become addicted to nicotine and end up smoking regular cigarettes.

“The JUUL delivers a very strong dose of nicotine — so for an adult smoker, that means it's an important innovation because it can actually help them get off cigarettes. But for the youth, that means it has a higher addiction potential than other vapes,” Siegel says.

So if you don't already use tobacco products, you really shouldn't start — because nicotine dependence is a real problem. “Nicotine is highly addictive. It's unquestionable. And we do not want anyone who isn't already using nicotine to use the JUUL,” Gould says.

Voisin / Getty Images / Via gettyimages.com

“We don’t know the long-term health effects of e-cigarettes yet, but we do know that nicotine can affect brain development — especially in kids,” Farber says.

"We don't know the long-term health effects of e-cigarettes yet, but we do know that nicotine can affect brain development — especially in kids," Farber says.

Since e-cigarettes are still relatively new, there simply hasn't been enough time to study the long-term effects of inhaling these vapors. “We don't have those 10, 20, 30 years of research on people who use e-cigarettes so we really don't know what it does yet — but we do know what nicotine does, and it's not good,” Farber says.

Nicotine can act as a neurotoxin and alter brain chemistry, Farber says, so the brain doesn't function normally without it. “Nicotine is very dangerous for kids and teenagers, because their brain is still developing and nicotine is a gateway drug — it primes the brain so things like cocaine and heroin are more rewarding,” Farber says.

The effects of inhaling secondhand emissions from e-cigarettes are still being studied, but the experts do advise parents to not vape around their children. “Pregnant women should not use e-cigarettes, because the baby will get exposed to nicotine and this can impact lung and brain development,” Farber says.

Wladimir Bulgar / Getty Images / Via gettyimages.com

So there you have it: While e-cigarettes might help adults quit smoking, they can also hook young nonsmokers on nicotine.

So there you have it: While e-cigarettes might help adults quit smoking, they can also hook young nonsmokers on nicotine.

“There is evidence that electronic cigarettes are an effective strategy for harm reduction — so they have a place in our repertoire of strategies to deal with smoking addiction, but it's kind of a double-edged sword,” Siegel says.

Whether the benefits of e-cigarettes outweigh costs is an ongoing debate — which might be why FDA regulation has been slow. However, as of 2018 the FDA now requires all newly regulated tobacco products, including e-cigarettes, to have a nicotine addictiveness warning statement on the packages.

“If this were simply about getting adult smokers off of cigarettes, I wouldn't mind — but the problem is people are using e-cigarettes who weren't already smoking, so we risk hooking a new generation on nicotine,” Farber says.

Martina Paraninfi / Getty Images / Via gettyimages.com

“Kids need to understand how addictive nicotine is and that it can affect their health, and performance in school and sports, and lead to worse addictions in the future,” Farber says. Experts also encourage parents to have open conversations with their child and their pediatrician about e-cigarettes and other tobacco products. “It's about teaching kids at an early age and getting them to commit to staying nicotine-free — because the earlier you start using nicotine, the harder it is to stop,” Farber says.

“JUUL as a company is taking the use among teens very seriously and working hard to enforce age restrictions and implement youth prevention programs,” Gould says.

"JUUL as a company is taking the use among teens very seriously and working hard to enforce age restrictions and implement youth prevention programs," Gould says.

According to Gould, the company is actively trying to remove content showing teens using the JUUL from social media platforms such as Instagram and Twitter. “The social media stuff has been unhelpful because we feel very strongly no teens should be using our products, and we have substantial prevention efforts underway,” Gould says.

To prevent underage people from lying about their age and buying the products online, the company has now made their website 21+, and Gould says they are continually working to use the most cutting-edge age verification technology.

“We recently hired a full-time director of youth prevention and education, and started to work with schools to help prevent JUUL use among students,” Gould says.

Troy Aossey / Getty Images / Via gettyimages.com

If you are ever concerned about e-cigarettes and your health, always consult a health care professional.

If you are ever concerned about e-cigarettes and your health, always consult a health care professional.

As we mentioned, the FDA has not yet approved any electronic nicotine-delivery system as safe and effective for use as a tobacco cessation aid. “If you're looking for tobacco dependence treatment, there are also medications and patches and gums that are very effective,” Farber says.

E-cigarettes might help some people quit smoking, but they are not the only option. So if you're trying to quit smoking, you should always do your own research and talk to your health care professional to find out what's right for you.

Ihar Paulau / Getty Images / Via gettyimages.com

Should You Even Be Allowed To Wear Contacts Lenses?

Sometimes, you just gotta nap without taking out your lenses.

Okay, but should you sleep in your contacts?

Okay, but should you sleep in your contacts?

Source: buzzfeed.com

Do you have to wash your hands, though?

Do you have to wash your hands, though?

Source: buzzfeed.com

Should you be down to take them out wherever?

Should you be down to take them out wherever?

Source: buzzfeed.com

But does wearing them longer than they’re designed for really matter?

But does wearing them longer than they’re designed for really matter?

Source: buzzfeed.com

Okay, but you can totally shower in your contacts, right?

Okay, but you can totally shower in your contacts, right?

Source: buzzfeed.com

How often should you change it, though?

How often should you change it, though?

Source: buzzfeed.com

How thorough do you need to be?

How thorough do you need to be?

Source: buzzfeed.com

So, how often should you?

So, how often should you?

Source: buzzfeed.com

Is it that bad?

Is it that bad?

Source: buzzfeed.com

Does the order matter?

Does the order matter?

Source: buzzfeed.com

Oh boy, let’s talk about swimming pools.

Oh boy, let's talk about swimming pools.

Source: buzzfeed.com

You get the point by now, right?

You get the point by now, right?

Anna Borges / BuzzFeed

10 Ways You May Be Self-Sabotaging Your Relationship

Hindsight is always 20/20.

Relationships can be tough. Sometimes it feels like you’re doing them right, and other times it feels like literally everything is falling apart, and you’re the reason behind it.

Relationships can be tough. Sometimes it feels like you're doing them right, and other times it feels like literally everything is falling apart, and you're the reason behind it.

It’s unfortunate, but most of the time, you don’t realize how your behaviors damage your relationships until it’s too late. So we spoke to Irina Firstein, a couples therapist in New York City, to learn more about the different ways people unknowingly sabotage their relationships, and which steps they could take to prevent these things from putting a strain on their love lives.

Alright, take out your pencil and notebook — you may want to take some notes.

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You always assume the worst-case scenarios are true.

You always assume the worst-case scenarios are true.

So maybe you haven’t had the best relationship experiences. The pain that those caused can make you feel like it’s better to err on the side of caution going forward, closing yourself off from your partner, or they might influence the trust and faith that you have in your partner or the relationship. Constantly thinking that your relationship is at risk of failing isn’t healthy and can influence you to behave in ways that are detrimental and keep you from have having a happy relationship, Firstein tells BuzzFeed Health.

“If every time your partner is gone for a while or takes a while to respond to a text, you’re coming to catastrophic conclusions such as they must be cheating on you or not interested in the relationship anymore, it’s definitely going to create problems that otherwise may not have existed,” she says.

However, you don’t want to not care at all about where they are or what they’re up to, she says — there’s a spectrum, and that it’s best to be somewhere in the middle. TL;DR: You don’t want to assume that it’s always the worst-case scenario, but you also don’t want to be so comfortable in the relationship that you don’t think about them at all.

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You prioritize everything else in your life because you think your relationship isn’t going anywhere.

You prioritize everything else in your life because you think your relationship isn’t going anywhere.

When you really like someone, more often than not you’ll do whatever it takes to show that person you care, and make them feel special and important, so that they know how good the relationship can be. But as the relationship becomes more secure — it gets more serious, or you move in together, become married, or have kids — your priorities may change.

“When people get comfortable, they think they don’t need to do anything to maintain the relationship anymore,” Firstein says. “They get lazy and complacent. They don’t think about romance, emotions, and fostering that relationship and connection, and prioritize everything else in their lives. If you did that with a job, you’d get fired.”

She says it’s important to not take your partner for granted. It’s tempting to only prioritize work, kids, friends, etc. when you feel like you have such a secure relationship. But neglecting someone can be the fastest way to lose them, she explains.

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You put meaning and motive behind the things your partner says or does.

You put meaning and motive behind the things your partner says or does.

Your brain wants to protect you from getting hurt or being taken advantage of (amen!). But these defenses can go too far, encouraging you to look for selfish motives behind why they are saying or doing nice things for you — there’s no way they’re ~fooling~ you with those romantic gestures. But overthinking your partner’s every single move, in the hopes of outsmarting them, is only going to hurt your relationship, Firstein says.

“There’s a motivation for everything that we do. When someone does something nice, they do it because they want something good to be happening. The motivation is good, whether it’s sustained or not,” she explains. “Why question a good deed? It’s important to look for what’s good in the moment, and accept it for what it is.”

If they say “I love you,” listen to them. Don’t just assume they’re saying it because they want something from you. Firstein recommends being appreciative of the things your partner says and does for you — don’t belittle their actions or put your own thoughts in their head.

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You play the ~blame game~ because your partner is an easy target.

You play the ~blame game~ because your partner is an easy target.

It’s hard to take responsibility for your actions and life problems when things aren’t going your way, and it can be tempting to blame your partner for the things you’re upset about. Why? Because when you’re comfortable, you assume your partner will love you unconditionally, and that there will be minimal repercussions, Firstein explains.

“Clients have said things like ‘I put on 10 pounds because you’re driving me crazy,’ ‘I'm so stressed because you don’t do anything you say you’re going to do,’ and ‘My relationship with my mom is awful because she hates you,’” she says. “It’s an easy fallback position for tough situations you find yourself in. Making a habit of this behavior is extremely destructive and will result in your partner feeling bad about themselves and eventually resenting you.”

Instead, she recommends sitting down and being honest with yourself about why you’re not happy and why things are difficult. Ask yourself, What am I doing to contribute to this? Don’t just blame it all on someone else.

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You think it’s not safe to talk about or bring up the things that are bothering you.

You think it’s not safe to talk about or bring up the things that are bothering you.

Holding in your feelings and waiting for your problems to resolve themselves is problematic because those issues will grow bigger and more serious until, one day, they’re much more difficult to address and take care of, Firstein says.

“It may seem beneficial to keep your negative feelings in so you don’t stir the pot — so that you’re keeping the peace,” she explains. “But those feelings don’t just go away. They will come back over and over, and it’s just so much healthier for a relationship if you deal with them earlier on.”

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You keep a running score of who’s right or wrong.

You keep a running score of who’s right or wrong.

It’s tempting to get frustrated during arguments and say things like, “Yeah, well remember all the times you did this to me?” But while, things in the past aren’t forgotten, and it’s okay to bring things up as a way to heal, Firstein says you should try your best to not use them as a weapon to hurt someone or get the “upper hand” in an argument.

“There shouldn’t be a winner or loser when it comes to arguments,” Firstein explains. “Instead of tallying up who’s right or wrong, you should be listening to your partner’s underlying feelings and addressing them. You may not feel like your partner’s feelings are justified, but they feel that way for a reason, and talking that through together is what’s important.”

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You put negative labels on your partner.

You put negative labels on your partner.

Calling your partner “lazy” or “selfish” can be incredibly detrimental to a relationship.

“It boxes people in and puts labels on them,” she says. “It makes your partner feel that’s how you think of them all the time, even when they’re not being lazy or selfish — like they have no positive qualities. It will create resentment and angry feelings. No one wants to be told they’re a ‘bad’ person.”

Look, we’re all human, and sometimes we feel so exasperated that we end up saying things we don’t mean. If you’re really angry and something slips out, it’s better to wait until things are a little bit calmer so that you can be more careful and deliberate about how you speak to them. This is also when you should try to make amends, Firstein advises. Try to make sure you apologize and acknowledge that what you said wasn’t okay.

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You hold your partner or your relationship to unrealistically high expectations.

You hold your partner or your relationship to unrealistically high expectations.

If you are basing your expectations for what a relationship “should be” or how a partner “should act” on what you see in movies, TV shows, books, or, even worse, on social media, then you’re only going to set yourself up for disappointment.

“There’s always going to be some level of conflict and growth,” Firstein says. “Holding your partner to ridiculous standards will make it impossible for them to meet and impossible for you to find your ideal happiness. People aren’t always going to be honest about their relationships on public social media platforms, so don’t just assume those couples aren’t going through things that you do.”

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You assume your partner knows, or ~should~ know things.

You assume your partner knows, or ~should~ know things.

“Using the word ‘should’ is patronizing and condescending, which immediately makes things adversarial,” Firstein says. “Don’t say, ‘You should know how I feel.’ Instead, be like, ‘I would like you to understand that I’m upset about this.’ ‘It’d be good for you to know that this is something that’s been bothering me.’”

Telling your partner what they should or shouldn’t know is self-aggrandizing, and makes it look like you’re all knowing and that everything is black and white, with no in-between, she says.

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You think that in order for the relationship to be “right,” the both of you have to be willing to devote all your time and energy to each other.

You think that in order for the relationship to be “right,” the both of you have to be willing to devote all your time and energy to each other.

“Yes, you want to make sure your partner is always a priority — the same way you’d hope you’re always a priority of theirs. But there are other things in life, besides your relationship that are important — work, family, friends, your living space, school, etc. — and it’s okay to make time for those things too,” Firstein says.

It’s not an all-or-nothing kind of deal. “Your partner doesn’t need to give you all of themself all the time in order to prove that the relationship is healthy and happy.”

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Remember, everyone makes mistakes. This shit is not easy, but you can do it!

Remember, everyone makes mistakes. This shit is not easy, but you can do it!

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27 Pillboxes And Organizers That’ll Make Your Life So Much Easier

So much better than that plastic prescription bottle.

Obviously, everyone has different pills, doses, and schedules, and not everything on this list will work for every person, so take what you like and leave the rest. Oh, and FYI — prices are accurate and items are in stock as of time of publication.

This water bottle/pillbox combo that’ll make sure you never have to dry swallow.

This water bottle/pillbox combo that'll make sure you never have to dry swallow.

It even looks like a jumbo pill.

Get it on Amazon for $17.99.

amazon.com

This floral pill case that’s as cute as any clutch.

This floral pill case that's as cute as any clutch.

*heart eyes*

Get it from Etsy for $8.99.

etsy.com

This travel-friendly pill organizer you can carry day-by-day or all week in its leather pouch.

This travel-friendly pill organizer you can carry day-by-day or all week in its leather pouch.

A moment of appreciation for the little happy face pills, please.

Get it on Amazon for $14.57.

amazon.com

This refreshing pill dispenser that comes in orange, lemon, and pomelo.

This refreshing pill dispenser that comes in orange, lemon, and pomelo.

Quench your citrus cravings.

Get it on Amazon for $9.66 for a pack of three.

amazon.com

These gently aspirational tins that will help get you through it.

These gently aspirational tins that will help get you through it.

*dumps my lorazepam into the chill pill case*

Get it on Natural Life for $8.

naturallife.com

This ~poisonous~ pill case that’s crafted to look like the tooth of some deadly beast.

This ~poisonous~ pill case that's crafted to look like the tooth of some deadly beast.

Or just a really badass way to take your vitamins.

Get it on Cool Material for $44.

shop.coolmaterial.com

The PillDrill kit that will take your medication organization and tracking to the next level.

The PillDrill kit that will take your medication organization and tracking to the next level.

The whole kit reminds you to take your meds, logs that you did, and tracks the side effects — plus there's an optional PillDrill app where you can do it all.

Get it from PillDrill for $199.

pilldrill.com

This compact pill dispenser that is delightfully simple.

This compact pill dispenser that is delightfully simple.

No more saying, “Crap, did I take my pill today???”

Get it on Amazon for $6.99.

amazon.com

This unsubtle container that might just give you away to your enemies.

This unsubtle container that might just give you away to your enemies.

JK, load with nontoxic pills only, please.

Get it on Etsy for $14.

etsy.com

This keychain capsule that will make forgetting your pills impossible.

This keychain capsule that will make forgetting your pills impossible.

Unless you're someone who regularly forgets your keys, too, but it's worth a shot!

Get it on Amazon for $12.99.

amazon.com

This adorable animal pill case that will keep you whimsical.

This adorable animal pill case that will keep you whimsical.

The only problem is deciding *which one.*

Get it on Blippo for $3.30.

blippo.com

This super light and foldable pouch that’s perfect for travel.

This super light and foldable pouch that's perfect for travel.

Also, LOOK AT THE TEENY-TINY ZIPLOCK BAGS.

Get it on Lewis N. Clark for $12.99.

lewisnclark.com

This distressed metal pillbox that’s just as ~fashionable~ as it is functional.

This distressed metal pillbox that's just as ~fashionable~ as it is functional.

Watch out, though. People might see it and ask if they can have a mint.

Get it on Etsy for $14.97.

etsy.com

These vintage-inspired polished shell pillboxes that will make you feel like a mermaid walking around on land.

These vintage-inspired polished shell pillboxes that will make you feel like a mermaid walking around on land.

Keep up on your meds so your tail doesn't come back, babe.

Get it on Etsy for $10.95.

etsy.com

These handcrafted lacquer pill cases that will let you keep your meds in a ~heart-shaped box~.

These handcrafted lacquer pill cases that will let you keep your meds in a ~heart-shaped box~.

So much better than an orange vial.

Get it on World Market for $15.96 for a set of four.

worldmarket.com

This large-capacity pill organizer that you don’t even need to open to load up.

This large-capacity pill organizer that you don't even need to open to load up.

Just poke through the opening on top and you're good to go.

Get it on Sagely for $34.95.

sagely.myshopify.com

This stainless steel keychain pill holder that’s sleek AF and always right where you need it.

This stainless steel keychain pill holder that's sleek AF and always right where you need it.

And it comes in a variety of colors including rainbow. So, fuck yes.

Get it on Amazon for $20.45.

amazon.com

This Edison bulb keychain that will light up your keys.

This Edison bulb keychain that will light up your keys.

Because taking your medication is always a brilliant idea.

Get it on Etsy for $12.87.

etsy.com

This mini first aid kit case to help you play doctor.

This mini first aid kit case to help you play doctor.

Not just for emergencies.

Get it on Amazon for $6.99.

amazon.com

13 Libido Facts For People Who Want More (Or Less) Sex

It’s not a one-size-fits-all situation, people.

There are a lot of societal beliefs and expectations surrounding libido, such as how often people should be having sex and how often they should want to have sex.

There are a lot of societal beliefs and expectations surrounding libido, such as how often people should be having sex and how often they should want to have sex.

Libido, or sex drive, plays an incredibly important role in how you feel about yourself. (Do I want to have sex more or less than other people? Why is my sex drive higher/lower than it was in the past?) And it’s super-important in sexual experiences and satisfaction overall, with or without a partner. So to better understand all things libido, we reached out to Logan Levkoff, PhD, Sexual Health Educator and Member of the Trojan Sexual Health Advisory Council, and Raquel Dardik, MD, a gynecologist at NYU Langone Health in New York, and gathered some important information that could change the way you think about your sexual needs and sexual interactions.

Alright, let’s get into it!

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First things first, libido is more complex than just how often you want to have sex.

First things first, libido is more complex than just how often you want to have sex.

“A lot of people don’t understand that libdo has two parts to it — desire, which is the mental aspect, and arousal, which is the physical aspect,” Levkoff tells BuzzFeed Health. “And they don’t always work in tandem with one another.”

Sometimes people don’t have a lot of sexual desire, but can still get physically aroused, and sometimes people do have a lot of sexual desire, but their bodies don’t have much physical arousal. Both situations happen all the time and can be totally normal, she explains.

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And there is absolutely no such thing as a ~normal libido~.

And there is absolutely no such thing as a ~normal libido~.

“We live in a world where many of us believe, even though we know it’s not true, that we’re supposed to have constant spontaneous desire, or there’s something physically/mentally wrong with us,” Levkoff says. “But the reality is that for many people that’s just not the case.”

Everyone is different, and all bodies are different, which means there is no normal amount of sexual desire. Desire can be spontaneous, but for a lot of people it also comes as a response to stimulation. Sometimes it might require a little bit of work to get in the mood and THAT’S OKAY, she says.

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Trying to hold yourself to the societal standard of an ~ideal libido~ can actually be damaging to your self-esteem and relationships — and ironically, may lower your libido.

Trying to hold yourself to the societal standard of an ~ideal libido~ can actually be damaging to your self-esteem and relationships — and ironically, may lower your libido.

“We have to come to terms with the fact that there’s no normal libido because so many of our relationship and sexual problems happen because we don’t know how to talk about our needs,” Levkoff explains. “The reality is you can have a lot of sexual desire, you can have a little sexual desire, or your sexual desire could be totally nonexistent — that doesn’t mean there’s something wrong with you.”

She says that if you’re constantly afraid or stressed about whether your sexual needs are ~normal~ or not, it could affect your confidence and change the way you engage in sexual interactions.

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And if your sexual partner’s libido is different than yours, it doesn’t mean they aren’t attracted to you.

And if your sexual partner’s libido is different than yours, it doesn’t mean they aren’t attracted to you.

It’s easy to assume that if your partner isn’t in the mood every time you are, it means your partner isn’t truly attracted to you, or is just attracted to you less than you are to them. But Levkoff says that is usually not the case, and that train of thought only hurts your confidence and makes things in bed more complicated and confusing.

“Your partner does not need to want to jump into bed with you every time they see you in order to truly be attracted to you,” she explains. “Sometimes, people just have lower levels of sexual desire and that’s okay.”

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A change in libido can sometimes be a result of other underlying medical issues.

A change in libido can sometimes be a result of other underlying medical issues.

Anything to do with blood circulation, hormones, or physical pain or discomfort can easily affect libido levels. So there are a few things that have a history of affecting people’s desire to get it on, such as medications (antidepressants, birth control pills, etc.), mental illnesses, and chronic diseases, like diabetes and polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS), Dardik says.

She recommends seeing a medical professional if you ever notice a drastic change in your sexual desire. That way, you can undergo an evaluation and rule out any serious medical conditions.

dierk schaefer / creative commons / Via Flickr: dierkschaefer

BUT there are A LOT of common, everyday factors that play into one’s libido, and they can be different for everyone.

BUT there are A LOT of common, everyday factors that play into one’s libido, and they can be different for everyone.

According to Dardik, there is very little research into the science behind libido. But what researchers do know, is that there are multiple factors that can affect someone’s desire to have sex, and the most common one is stress.

“The higher a woman’s stress level, the lower her libido usually is,” Dardik explains. “Libido can also be affected by your work schedule, your eating habits, whether you’re exercising more, whether you’re exercising less, and many other lifestyle changes.”

So if you notice a change in your desires and you’re wondering why, she recommends first looking at your everyday routine and see if there’s been any significant changes to it.

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And yes, your libido can change as you get older and your body matures.

And yes, your libido can change as you get older and your body matures.

Your brain changes as you age, your body changes as you age, and therefore so will your libido, Dardik says.

For example, when women go through menopause, their vaginal tissue changes and it can result in women experiencing painful intercourse. Just experiencing the pain, can alone decrease libido. If you start to associate sexual experiences with pain, it becomes less desirable, she explains.

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Oh, and no, libido should not be defined based on gender norm stereotypes.

Oh, and no, libido should not be defined based on gender norm stereotypes.

“It’s my biggest frustration that libido is categorized into gender norms,” Levkoff says. “There are so many damaging stereotypes, such as it’s only men that want sex and they want it all the time. And women always want it less, and if they actually want it more than that’s weird and not normal, and they should feel ashamed about it.”

She says it’s not true because there are men who experience lower desire and then feel super ashamed about it because they feel they aren’t “masculine enough,” and there are women who have low desire, but there are also women who have high desire, and that doesn’t mean there’s something wrong with them.

Classifying people, and holding them to these ~societal norms~ is only going to make people feel inadequate and do things they aren’t comfortable with, making it harder for people to have successful sexual experiences, she says.

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Your ability to orgasm has nothing to do with your libido.

Your ability to orgasm has nothing to do with your libido.

Orgasms are a muscular response, and having desire does not mean you’re going to orgasm, Levkoff explains.

“Someone could have a ton of desire, but if they’re in the middle of a sexual act and they get really distracted or stressed, or something doesn’t feel good, the likelihood is it could take a really long time to orgasm, if at all.”

She says it’s also possible to end a sexual experience with an orgasm, even if it didn’t initially start out with you wanting to have sex.

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And libido aside, if you’re not enjoying your sexual experiences, it will decrease your desire to have them.

And libido aside, if you’re not enjoying your sexual experiences, it will decrease your desire to have them.

If your experiences are not pleasurable, or if they’re unfulfilling for you, you’re going to be less likely to want more of them — and that has nothing to do with libido. That’s why Levkoff says it’s important for you to know what you enjoy, and what feels good for you. You have to figure that out before you can figure out what you want with your partner.

“If your libido is already low, and your experiences aren’t good, then it’s not going to help you want to have more sexual experiences or get aroused when thinking of having sexual experiences with that person,” she explains. “Sometimes if you’re having amazing sexual experiences, but you’re not in the mood, you still may be able to get aroused because you’re excited about the potential for those great sexual experiences.”

Maritsa Patrinos / BuzzFeed

If you want to increase your libido, you first have to understand why, and what’s causing it to be lower than you’d like.

If you want to increase your libido, you first have to understand why, and what’s causing it to be lower than you’d like.

How you deal with your lack of libido is going to depend on why you want to increase your libido and what factors are preventing you from having a higher libido in the first place.

If your partner wants more sex than you, that’s one type of problem, Dardik says. But if you’re not feeling as desirable because you are uncomfortable with how you look, and that makes you uncomfortable with having sexual experiences, then that’s a completely different problem. In both situations you’re experiencing lower libido, and want to be more sexually active, but the causes are different and will require different plans of action.

“Men have Viagra, but there is no Viagra for women,” she says. “I do recommend people visit a therapist for sexual counseling or psychosocial counseling because most of the time libido problems that people experience are mental.”

Comedy Central / Via tenor.com

And note that while you should always explore your own needs and desires, it’s even more important to figure out so you can recognize a change when you need to.

And note that while you should always explore your own needs and desires, it’s even more important to figure out so you can recognize a change when you need to.

It’s important to know what your normal is when it comes to sexual desires. How often do you get sexual urges? How often do you masturbate? If you understand this, then it will be easier for you to notice a change (if it happens), and know when it’s time to see a medical professional that you can talk openly with about your sex life, Dardik says.

instagram.com / Via Instagram: @chi.bli

Here’s What You Need To Know About Cold Sores And Herpes

Let’s talk about cold sores, why you get them, and how you can treat them.

You’ve probably heard about cold sores, or fever blisters, but you might not be completely sure about whether they are herpes, or if they are contagious.

You've probably heard about cold sores, or fever blisters, but you might not be completely sure about whether they are herpes, or if they are contagious.

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First of all, yes: Cold sores are herpes.

First of all, yes: Cold sores are herpes.

“Cold sore” is just a more pleasant term for oral herpes, or infection with the herpes simplex virus. The herpes simplex virus is categorized into two types: herpes simplex virus type 1 (HSV-1) and herpes simplex virus type 2 (HSV-2). Both types of herpes are very common, highly contagious, and incurable — but they are treatable.

“Cold sores are most often caused by HSV-1, and we used to think they were only caused by HSV-1, but we now know that HSV-2 can also cause sores on the mouth or you can have both types or herpes — it's just less common,” Dr. Michele S. Green, an NYC-based dermatologist, tells BuzzFeed Health. HSV-1 is usually transmitted through mouth secretions or sores (oral-to-oral contact). HSV-2, on the other hand, is almost exclusively spread by skin-to-skin or sexual contact, causing genital herpes.

Elitsa Deykova / Getty Images / Via gettyimages.com

They are not the same as canker sores, and typically ooze or crust over before healing — which can take weeks.

They are not the same as canker sores, and typically ooze or crust over before healing — which can take weeks.

Although the two are often confused, they are very different. Canker sores are not contagious and tend to be inside the mouth or throat. And don't mistake other lesions around the mouth — like pimples or cracked lips — for oral herpes, either. “Cold sores are small ulcers, or blisters, on and around the lips that don't heal like other sores,” Green says.

Cold sores often start with a tingling or burning sensation on the lip, which turns into a fluid-filled blister that eventually oozes and crusts over, Green says. But it can take several weeks to completely heal. Cold sores are usually pretty harmless, but they can become severe in people with weak immune systems. “People can also get a secondary infection if bacteria get in the sore, such as staph, so the sore will keep crusting and it won't heal unless they get treated for both,” Green says.

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HSV-1 is very common, and most people have it. But not everyone will get cold sores.

HSV-1 is very common, and most people have it. But not everyone will get cold sores.

A lot of people are infected with the herpes simplex virus. According to the World Health Organization, an estimated 3.7 billion people under the age of 50 (or 67%) are infected with HSV-1, globally. HSV-2 is less common, but still prevalent. “If you were to give everyone blood tests, the number would be very high — up to 80% of people have HSV-1 — but a lot of people who have HSV-1 don't realize it because they never have any symptoms,” Green says.

Most oral and genital herpes infections don’t cause any symptoms at all, according to the WHO. “The virus can lay dormant in dorsal root ganglia, a cluster of nerves on the spine,” Green says. So you can live your whole life with HSV-1 and never get a cold sore. “Cold sores usually appear when the immune system is stressed — so when you're sick, fighting another virus or infection, have a debilitating cancer, or fatigued.”

That’s actually why they’re called “cold sores,” Green says, because they tend to pop up when you have a cold. But the cold virus does not cause the sore; instead the body is more vulnerable, which can lead to a reactivation of herpes virus that is already present in the nervous system. Cold sores can also pop up if the body is stressed, like after surgery or too much sun exposure.

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Cold sores are contagious, but you can still spread HSV-1 when you don’t have a blister or any other symptoms.

Cold sores are contagious, but you can still spread HSV-1 when you don't have a blister or any other symptoms.

Most people get exposed to HSV-1 through oral-to-oral contact, like kissing, but they might not be aware of it because people can transmit HSV-1 even if they don't have a cold sore. “The virus can be inactive for a long period of time but you can still be shedding the virus around the mouth and spread it to other people,” Green says. So even if you don't have a cold sore or you think it's healed, you might still be contagious. You can actually spread oral or genital herpes without any symptoms, says Green, which is one reason why these infections are so prevalent.

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Cold sores can lead to genital herpes when transmitted by oral sex.

HSV-2, the less common type of herpes, is almost always transmitted through skin-to-skin or sexual contact, leading to genital herpes. However, genital herpes can also be caused by HSV-1 if an infected person transmits the virus while performing oral sex. A growing number of genital herpes cases are caused by HSV-1, so don't just think of it as the “cold sore virus.” A 2015 report from WHO estimated that 140 million people between the ages of 15–49 have genital herpes from HSV-1 transmission (oral-to-genital contact).

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The only way to know if you have HSV-1 or HSV-2 is to get tested.

The only way to know if you have HSV-1 or HSV-2 is to get tested.

Routine screening for herpes is no longer recommended, but you should definitely check with your doctor if you think you were exposed or you have any symptoms. If you have an active outbreak, your doctor can swab the area and do a culture, Green says, but blood tests can also detect HSV-1 and HSV-2 if you don't have any symptoms.

If you do get a diagnosis, don't panic. Herpes is common and treatable and you can still live a normal, healthy life and have sex despite having oral or genital herpes.

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You should also avoid kissing people, engaging in oral sex, and sharing lip products during an oral herpes outbreak.

You should also avoid kissing people, engaging in oral sex, and sharing lip products during an oral herpes outbreak.

If your lips are covered in cold sores, it's really easy to transmit HSV-1 to another person during oral-to-oral contact or oral-to-genital contact, so it's important to take precautions. To reduce the risk of transmission, you should avoid kissing and oral sex, and don't share anything that touches your lips and mouth, such as makeup, lip balm, washcloths, razors, utensils, etc.

When we say no kissing during an outbreak, we don't just mean smooching your partner. It means no kissing at all, even casual cheek or family kisses. And definitely don't kiss any babies (especially newborns), because a baby will have a harder time fighting the herpes virus off and they can get really sick.

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Remember that anyone can get oral herpes and it’s more common than you think.

Remember that anyone can get oral herpes and it's more common than you think.

Two-thirds of the population has the virus, and it can spread in countless different ways — it’s as simple as sharing a cup or lip balm. As we mentioned, you can still spread oral herpes virus when you don't have any symptoms, which is one reason why it's so common.

So technically, you're never 100% safe from getting herpes. But that doesn't mean you should never kiss anyone or have sex again — and it also doesn't mean you should throw all your safe sex habits out the window. It just means that this is a very common virus, it can happen to anyone, and there really shouldn't be any stigma about it.

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