Health News

Lockdown is making period poverty worse – here’s how you can help

Coronavirus has made life for those already struggling financially even harder.

It took an intervention by footballer Marcus Rashford to get free school meals to children who were going hungry with schools closed.

Lockdown has also deepened the levels of period poverty experienced by women and girls all over the UK.

According to the period poverty charity, Bloody Good Period, there’s been a 5.5 fold increase in the volume of period products being distributed during lockdown.

The charity told Stylist that it’s ‘now distributed just under 33,000 packs of period products since the start of lockdown: that’s a 5.5 fold increase in the volume of supplies distributed in “normal” times’.

Before Covid-19, 10% of women in the UK couldn’t afford period products and another 15% found themselves having to use less suitable products because they were more affordable. Lockdown has exacerbated the problem with more people having to rely on sanitary products.

The Department of Education launched a scheme back in January to give out free period products in schools. However, with so many schools being closed or inaccessible to non-key worker families, many girls have had their main source of help cut off. The government claims that the scheme is still running and that girls can have products distributed to them by their school or college whether they’re learning on site or at home.

But the fact remains that many people are having to make difficult choices at the moment. Is a mum who’s struggling going to buy a pack of nappies for her baby or a box of tampons for herself?

Back in March, the Food Foundation found that more than 1.5 million adults in Britain couldn’t obtain enough food, with 53% of NHS workers reporting that they were worried about getting food. If people are having to choose whether they can afford to eat three meals a day, the chances are that period products will come pretty low down the list of priorities – despite how fundamental they are to our existence and health.

How to help

Sponsor a period

A really easy way to help other people get access to products is to donate to the Bloody Good Project.

There are three suggested donations, starting at £8.45 to support a light flow (1 x pack of day pads, 1 x pack of night pads), going up to £17.01 for a heavy flow (incl. more day pads and pantyliners). Or, you can choose your own donation. Either do it as a one-off or sign up to sponsor a period every month. Read more about it here.

Buy from brands who give back

Brands like Hey Girls not only create brilliant period products, but all their profits from their Buy One Give One scheme go directly towards helping girls and women in need in the UK. Choose from menstrual cups, period pants, reusable pads, tampons, and pantyliners.

Donate period products

Freedom4Girls is a period poverty charity in West Yorkshire which is gladly accepting products from the public, business and product providers. It’s got a number of donation stations set up around Leeds and other areas in the region. You can also donate if you’re not based in West Yorkshire – just contact them here and they’ll tell you how to help.

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Health News

Breathing exercises that will help get you to sleep faster

There’s nothing worse than lying in bed unable to get to sleep. So whenever there’s a technique that promises to help you get to sleep faster, we’re all ears, especially if it’s something as simple as changing the way we breathe. “We know that the body, mind, and breath are all connected,” Peggy Lundquist of Gen X Mindfulness tells The List. “Understanding this can be used to our advantage because if we can bring about change in one of those pieces, change will inevitably come to the other two.” 

Lundquist continued, “Often, we can’t get to sleep because our wandering, sometimes even hyper, mind keeps us awake, tossing and turning. But, if we change our breathing pattern in a deliberate way, we will encourage change in our overactive mind, as well.” Sophie Jaffe, a health and wellness expert, as well as founder and CEO of Philosophie, agrees: “Those few moments before you drift off to sleep can be deeply healing,” she tells The List, introducing us to two different breathing techniques: butterfly breath and the 4-7-8 breathing method. 

Breathing techniques can work to calm the mind

According to Jaffe, the butterfly breathe technique is super simple and works to calm the mind. “You sit in a comfortable seated position and cross your arms over your chest, then begin to pat your hands on your shoulders and inhale, then look to the left as you exhale,” she explains to The List. “Inhale back at the center and exhale to your right,” she continues, adding that you should continue to repeat as necessary. If you’re a more visual person, Jaffe shared this adorable video of her son Leo demonstrating the technique.

The 4-7-8 breathing method, on the other hand, requires you to follow a few more steps. To begin, breathe out making a “whoosh sound”, then “close your mouth and inhale through your nose, counting to 4,” instructs Jaffe. “Hold your breath for seven seconds then exhale completely out your mouth for a total of 8 counts,” she continues, pointing out that you need to make a “whoosh sound” again before repeat the process four times. While it may seem odd at first, the more you do it, the more you’ll relax into it. Sweet dreams!

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Health News

Air pollution could help London transport planners fight COVID-19

Measuring air quality across London could help fight COVID-19 by providing a rapid means of deciding whether to reduce public transport movement—given strong links between exposure to air pollution and COVID-19 transmission, a new study reveals.

Analysis of air pollution, COVID-19 cases and fatality rates in London demonstrates a connection between increased levels of nitrogen dioxide (NO2) and particulate matter (PM2.5) and higher risk of viral transmission.

Scientists at the Universities of Birmingham and Cambridge say that this shows air pollution could be used as an indicator to rapidly identify vulnerable parts of a city such as London—informing decisions to suspend or reduce operation of busses, trains, and Underground.

Researchers have published their findings today in Science of The Total Environment, highlighting that using public transport in the UK during a pandemic outbreak has a six-fold increased risk of contracting an acute respiratory infection.

City boroughs with access to London Underground interchange stations also have higher pandemic case rates as users are exposed to higher number of individuals compared to through stations.

Report author Dr. Ajit Singh, from the University of Birmingham, commented: “Short-term exposure to NO2 and PM2.5is significantly linked to an increased risk of contracting and dying from COVID-19. Exposure to such air pollutants can compromise lung function and increase risk of death from the virus. Levels of airborne PM2.5in the London Underground during summer are often several times higher than other transport environments such as cycling, busses or cars. We recommend a strategy that tailors the level of public transport activity in cities like London according to COVID-19 vulnerability based on air pollution levels across the city. This could help decision-makers take the right measures to counter COVID-19 in London—for example deploying transport staff and arranging dedicated services for key workers.”

Scientists have earlier found the greatest PM2.5 concentrations across the London Underground network on the Victoria Line (16 times higher than the roadside environment), followed by the Northern, Bakerloo, and Piccadilly lines.

Routine cleaning and maintenance of the London Underground ranges from litter removal to preventing safety incidents rather than reducing PM concentrations.

Co-author Dr. Manu Sasidharan, of the University of Cambridge, commented: “Human-mobility reduction measures provide the greatest benefit in the fight against COVID-19. We need to balance the public health benefits of closing public transport during a pandemic against the socio-economic impacts of reducing mobility. Determining the vulnerability of city regions to coronavirus might help to achieve such trade-offs—air pollution levels can serve as one of the indicators to assess this vulnerability.”

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