Archive | December 2011

Case of Mumps Confirmed on Campus

Tania MacWilliam

Dec. 1, 2011

*PDF of original article here.

A case of mumps has been confirmed at Trafalgar Campus.

Students may have been exposed since Nov. 8, according to a warning notice issued by Halton Public Health.

Mumps is a contagious viral disease that can be spread through coughing, sneezing, sharing food or drink and kissing, according to the health department mumps fact sheet.

Symptoms may not become apparent until two to three weeks after exposure. These include painful, swollen glands on one or both sides of your face, pain with chewing or swallowing, earache and fever, according to an internal Sheridan e-mail to faculty and staff.

Though people generally recover completely after about 10 days of symptoms, mumps can lead to complications such as pneumonia, meningitis and temporary deafness.

“Mumps virus can also cause painful swelling of the testicles in teenage boys or young men, and swelling of the ovaries in women and girls,” said Kathy Jovanovic, supervisor of communicable disease control services for Halton Region.

Jovanovic says two doses of MMR (measles, mumps, rubella) vaccine are necessary to be completely protected from contracting mumps.

“Normally they are both childhood vaccines,” she said. “One is given just after the first birthday and the second at 18 months, but sometimes that doesn’t happen.”

Those who are unsure of their immunization status are encouraged to check with their doctor or contact their public health office.

“If they’re not up-to-date, it makes them vulnerable if they’re exposed to the virus,” she said.

While there is only one confirmed case, it is more effective to inform the entire campus, than just those in the individual’s program, according to Jovanovic.

“Students and staff may have been exposed in other settings on the college campus,” she said. “It’s important that we keep the notification as broad as possible.”

Part of the role of public health is to alert people that they may have been exposed to an infectious disease, said Jennifer Cowie-Bonne, a professor in the Exercise Health and Science Promotion program at Davis Campus where she teaches a health communications class.

“Err on the side of caution and let people know,” she said. “Because if there is one case, chances are there’s maybe another one brewing.”


Get Scared – Best Kind of Mess

Tania MacWilliam
Album Review

December 16, 2011

*PDF of article on page 8 of Travis magazine)

Get Scared’s debut LP, Best Kind of Mess, was released this past July on Universal Motown Records. The songs, raw yet polished, evoke images of lead singer Nicholas Matthews crouched in a corner scribbling lyrics feverishly onto a pad. Many say this album was a cry for help (following Matthews’ crisis this past August). Intense messages aside, the sound quality is spectacular compared to their EP, Cheap Tricks and Theatrics, thanks to a greater guitar presence. Pick it up.

The Mature Student Survival Guide

Tania MacWilliam

Oct. 19, 2011

*PDF to magazine here (page 23)

The first day of college is exciting. Full of new adventures and burgeoning opportunities. The halls are filled with students clamouring to find their classrooms, relying on other lost souls for directions. They are filled with carefree wonderment and a sense of new-found freedom. They are no longer confined by the rules of high school. And they generally aren’t worrying if they forgot to turn the stove off or if they remembered to pack their child’s lunch.

Or are they?

There has been a 14 per cent increase in non-direct entrants, or mature students, in the last six years according to the 2005 and 2011 Colleges Ontario Environmental Scans. The latest environmental scan shows that 24 per cent of college students are over the age of 25. This means that there are approximately seven mature students in every 30 student class room.

A mature student is someone who returns to the classroom after taking a break from their studies. They often return from being in the workforce or after raising a family. Sometimes they have been laid off, other times they want a career change. No matter the reason for reentering school, adult learners bring life experience and face a whole new set of struggles compared to their direct-from-high-school counterparts.

The idea of returning to school can be intimidating to a mature student. Potentiallysharing a classroom filled with recent high school graduates, whose brains are still fresh and whose spirit is not yet jaded by life’s hardships, might seem like more than you can handle. Rest assured, many before you have slayed that dragon and lived to tell about it.

One of the struggles many mature students face is keeping up with advancing technology. And with Sheridan being an “Institute of Technology” you better be prepared to encounter plenty of unfamiliar technology.

Nancy Harris of Sheridan’s counselling services knows first hand the intimidation a person feels when learning new technology. When the hourglass spun on the screen of her Macintosh computer she had no clue what it meant. “I was so embarrassed I shut down the computer and didn’t go back to it for two days.” Says Harris.

But have no fear, the ITSC, or Instructional Technology Support Centre, is available to help when your disk gets stuck, when your computer won’t turn on or when you need help installing the latest software. You can obtain their services by visiting their desk in the learning commons of Trafalgar campus located in the C-Wing or room B195 at Davis campus.

So maybe you are technologically savvy but are otherwise rusty. Perhaps anything you learned in school years ago was replaced with more practical knowledge, like how long to leave a lasagne in the oven and which band-aids are the least ouchy. Sheridan offers assistance to help mature students transition back into learning. The first service Sheridan provides is a mature student orientation which addresses common struggles and offers tools to help keep you on top of school work. Think of it as a mature student bootcamp.

Once you begin your academic year you can also find support in Mature Student Connections. You will be kept apprised of workshops and meetings specific to mature students. Developing friendships is important, and here you can meet other students who face the same challenges as you. Friends will help you move the contents of your cluttered apartment in the pouring rain, but befriending a classmate can be doubly beneficial. Not only can you exchange notes and quiz each other for tests, only college friends can understand the stress academia can put on your already stressful life. To be added to the Mature Student Connections mailing list contact counselling services at

Another service that mature students can benefit from is a peer mentor. A First Year Connections peer mentor is a senior student who can give you tried and true advice on navigating your first year of college. They will keep you informed about events, important dates and help you connect with other students. Stop by the student advisement centre located in room B104 at Trafalgar and room B231 at Davis campus to learn more.

Among the challenges a mature student faces, is maintaing a balance between home life and school. According to the 2007 Colleges Ontario Environmental Scan, 11 per cent of college students have at least one dependant, which works out to approximately three students per 30 student classroom.

A parent can be riddled with guilt when they return to school. This stress can interfere with their ability to focus on assignment deadlines. A good way to combat this is to stay organized. Pick up a free student planner from the Student Union located above the campus bar – The Marquee at Trafalgar and The Den at Davis Campus. It already has all the important dates laid out and lots of room to pencil in your assignment due dates. Write a reminder at the halfway point so you aren’t scrambling the night before an assignment is due.

Another tip to help keep the home/school life balance is to keep a whiteboard at home for the whole family to see. Share your class schedule, designated study times, chore expectations, your children’s extracurricular activities and most importantly, schedule quiet time for yourself. This is key to college survival. If you don’t, you will burn out.

Finally, if you are having a rough go at balancing your life and scholastics, it might be a good time to reach out to Sheridan’s counselling services. Regular drop-in hours are Monday to Friday from 11 a.m to 2 p.m. Just sign the sheet posted outside of room B103 at Trafalgar or room B230 at Davis campus.

Remember why you are returning to school. Focus on your goal and embrace the journey. Hopefully this investment will bring you success and it will be the last time you need to do this. Welcome back, and good luck!

Water Woes: Is Your Water Bottle Making You Sick?

Tania MacWilliam
Health & Wellness

Nov. 3, 2011

*PDF of original article here

We’re approaching a new flu season and are washing our hands to prevent illness, but are you washing out your water bottle?

The average adult’s body weight is up to 60 per cent water and experts recommend that we drink eight glasses of the refreshing liquid each day.

To make sure they are meeting their daily requirements, many people take water bottles to work, school and to the gym, and more people are opting for reusable types to save a few bucks and to help the environment.

We are fortunate to have potable water to refill our bottles — but not washing them out regularly could make you sick.

“Bacteria can grow in distilled water,” said Dr. Charles Gerba, a professor with the department of Soil, Water and Environmental Science at the University of Arizona. “Most people don’t know that. No matter how crisp or clear the water, bacteria can grow in it.”

Bacteria can use carbon from the air, and the plasticizers that make plastic flexible, to survive, Gerba said.

Introduce more diverse nutrients and bacteria are in for a feast.

When you take a drink, reflux can occur. This is also known as “back-washing.”

“That’s a source of nutrient material from your mouth back into the reservoir bottle,” said Richard Holley, professor and head of the department of Food Science at the University of Manitoba. “That can stick to the walls and serve as a starting material for low numbers of bacteria.”

Even small numbers of harmful bacterium can cause gastrointestinal upset, and while it is possible to get very ill by drinking from a dirty water bottle, you may only get a little diarrhea, Holley said.

Hygenic handling
While harmful bacteria can be transferred from our mouths, the culprits can also come from our hands.

“To some extent you can say, ‘Well OK, if only I use my water bottle then at least it’s only my bacteria,’ except of course if your hands have been touching other people,” said Dr. Allison McGeer, a microbiologist and infectious disease consultant at Toronto’s Mount Sinai Hospital.

You wash your hands on a regular basis, but you should also be washing your bottle, McGeer said.

“If you don’t wash it [bottle], but you wash your hands, then you kind of wasted washing your hands,” she said.

Connor Dotson, a 14-year-old soccer player with the Milton Dragons, drinks from a reusable water container because he believes single-use plastic bottles are bad for the environment. There is also a more practical reason for his choice.

“Once I go onto the field I normally just leave it [bottle] on the bench,” he said. But if he was using a regular water bottle, “It could easily get mixed up with somebody else’s.”

Reusable bottles are easier to identify than the generic single-use ones. Connor’s bottle makes it less likely his teammates will grab it and take a swig.

“The worst water bottles are the sports bottles.”

Water-bottle bacteria may do little more than have you running to the rest-room frequently, but it can also spread the flu, said McGeer.

Yet, she warned, there’s a potentially more dangerous bacteria that could easily be transmitted via water bottles. You can contract MRSA.

Methicillin resistant staphylococcus aureus, a superbug, is an antibiotic-resistant bacteria most known for being picked up in hospitals, but is can also be acquired in the community.

Choosing the right bottle
As people become more germ-conscious they are gravitating toward products promising a fresher drinking experience.

The Bobble water bottle, available at trendy American Apparel clothing stores, is designed with a replaceable pop-up spout with an attached carbon filter. The bottles cost about $15 and are meant for 300 refills, or two months of use.

“Carbon filters are actually really good places for bacteria to grow,” said McGeer.

While the cartridges remove things that change taste, they don’t actually remove bacteria, she said, and since the filters aren’t really washable, the bacteria level in the water is likely worse than not using a filter at all.

You don’t need a fancy water bottle. Reusable water bottles can be reasonably priced and are even available for $1 at discount stores. This is also preferable over refilling one-time use bottles.

According to the FAQs about bottled water on Health Canada’s website, single-use bottles shouldn’t be reused as there is a risk for bacteria to grow if not cleaned properly.

Health Canada suggests wide-necked, reusable bottles as they are easier to wash with hot soapy water between uses.

“The worst water bottles are the sports bottles,” said Gerba. “The ones where you push it shut with your finger and you can pop it open again. Those tend to get contaminated more with fecal bacteria if you don’t wash your hands completely.”

Coliform bacteria, or fecal bacteria, is found more often in those types of bottles than any other reusable bottles, said Gerba.

They are also harder to clean.

“The more you reuse it the more bacteria you tend to get in them,” he said. “I’d avoid the push down button type if I could.”

Protect Your Hearing

Tania MacWilliam
Health & Wellness

Oct. 20, 2011

*Link to original article here

Thursday is Halloween pub night at Sheridan’s Marquee, but before you dance the night away, you better make sure you’ve brought protection.

Uh, bring ear plugs.

Loud music in night clubs and at rock concerts has been measured between 110 and 115 decibels – the same as a power saw and sandblaster, respectively. As little as one minute of unprotected exposure at that level can be damaging to your hearing.

Normal conversation is around 60 decibels and does not pose any risk.

“There is something called ‘the dose,’” said Marshall Chasin, an audiologist and researcher. “That is, we can be [safely] exposed to 85 decibels for 40 hours a week.”

For each three decibel increment, exposure time is cut in half: 88 decibels = 20 hours a week, 91 decibels = 10 hours a week, 94 decibels = five hours a week, and so on.

If you are going to be exposed to more than that 85 decibels for 40 hours a week he recommends wearing hearing protection.

Wearing ear plugs can increase the time you can be exposed to higher decibel levels. To help you choose the right pair, most are labelled with their added decibel protection.

“Give your ears a little bit of a rest.”

Noise exposure at work
John Kotsiopoulos is head of security at Sneaky Dee’s concert venue in Toronto and has worked in night clubs for more than 20 years. He now has noise-induced hearing loss, bad enough that he has difficulty hearing regular conversation.

Maintaining communication among security is a key part of the job. Ear plugs from a couple of decades ago muffled safe sound levels which meant having to remove them to engage in conversation.

“Back then it was kinda hard when you had the ear plugs in and you had the old-style mics, they were just like a little speaker on your shoulder,” said the 38-year-old. “So if you had the ear plugs in you could barely hear them talking to you. You were more or less waiting for a vibration and you were reaching for the ear plugs.”

When he first started out in club security he would be stationed near the speakers. Now he secures the outside queue, and while his hearing is no longer being harmed, the effects from previous damage make it harder for him to do his job.

“It’s part of my job to hear when people are talking,” he said. “You know, they try to hand off IDs to each other and they’re whispering back and forth.”

Jeremy Pestell, a Sheridan Community and Justice Services graduate, has been working in around loud music for the last three years and feels his hearing has deteriorated as a result.

He works security at the Davis and Trafalgar Campus pubs as well as nightclub security on weekends.

Even though he notices some hearing loss, he isn’t too concerned with the possibility of losing his hearing entirely.

“Here [Marquee] it’s not normally too bad, because I have an ear piece for communication between staff,” said the 20-year-old. “So that blocks out one ear. I do find that my left ear is worse than my right.”

When working concert security, he is often posted right beside the speakers. To counter any potential damage from close exposure, he tries to avoid loud music in his leisure time.

Along with working concert, night club and Sheridan pub security, Pestell is also exposed to constant noise from equipment while working in the Trafalgar Campus’ kitchen, where he is head cook. Besides appliance noise, there is a lot of yelling.

He doesn’t really wear ear plugs because he finds they hinder communication with patrons and staff, especially in the kitchen.

“Security guards at a rock concert or bartenders at a bar can wear hearing protection that will take the sound level to a non-damaging level but still allow them to hear their patrons,” said Chasin.

Keeping music in your life
Technological advancements have led to better hearing protection. Custom-fitted specialty ear plugs can be costly, but lower cost, ready-fit options are available.

The average person probably won’t wear ear plugs regularly, but this doesn’t mean you have to stop listening to loud music. Just moderate your exposure. And yes, you can still blast your iPod.

“There’s nothing wrong with using your MP3 player, as long as you do it in moderation,” said Chasin. “The rule of thumb is the 80:90 rule: Eighty per cent volume for 90 minutes a day is your maximum.”

So if you’re listening to your favourite song, turn up the volume and enjoy it thoroughly.

“Just turn it back down to 80 per cent or less on the volume control wheel when it’s over.”

The same goes for concert and nightclub frequenters.

“There’s nothing inherently wrong with going to a rock concert,” Chasin said.

Going to a pub on Friday nights won’t hurt you if you’re only there for an hour or two without protection. Just don’t do other things that week that are particularly noisy. Have someone else mow the lawn on Saturday morning.

“Give your ears a little bit of a rest.”


The Dangers Of Restless Nights

Tania MacWilliam
Health & Wellness

Oct. 6, 2011

*Link to original article here

If you aren’t getting the recommended eight hours of slumber each night, you are among the millions of Canadians facing sleep deprivation.

An estimated 3.3 million Canadians reported not getting enough shut-eye, with nearly 600,000 averaging less than five hours a night, according to the most recent Canadian community health survey, conducted by Statistics Canada.

“If you don’t get enough sleep, one of the obvious things is unintentionally falling asleep during the day or nodding off or falling asleep while driving,” said Dr. Bob Nosal, Halton Region’s medical officer of health.

With mid-terms less than two weeks away, many college students will be pulling all-nighters and the result could be difficulty concentrating, he said. So cramming before a test may be counterproductive.

If not being well rested has you nodding off in class, you aren’t benefiting from the lecture, he said. This will leave you unprepared for your tests and can be detrimental to your success.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control released a study in September that associated lack of sleep with increased alcohol and drug use, as well as heightened sexual activity and suicidal thoughts in American teens.

Those concerns don’t stop in adulthood and certainly not at the border. In fact, the Statistics Canada health survey showed similar associations.

“The studies from the CDC and the association of all those different points, they’re interesting,” said Nosal. It doesn’t necessarily mean lack of sleep causes these behaviours, he said.

Effects of sleep loss
There have also been links between lack of sleep and the prevalence of high blood pressure and diabetes, Nosal said in a telephone interview. But he cautions these are just associations, and one does not necessarily cause the other.

Still, insufficient sleep can carry other deadly consequences. Safe driving requires attention to detail, something Nosal says is compromised without adequate nighttime rest.

Missing your ZZZs can put a damper on your education in another way – it can make you sick.

“You’re more susceptible to infections, especially things like viruses and bacteria, flus and colds,” said Tracy O’Donnell, charge nurse at Sheridan’s Davis Campus. “Not only are you too tired to come to school but now you’re too sick to come to school. So you can miss out on a lot of your classes.”

If you’ve passed your test and head out for a celebratory drink, you risk losing sleep another way. Alcohol can interfere with your nighttime siesta.

“You might pass out or go to bed but you’re not actually going into REM sleep, or deep sleep, when you’re under the influence of alcohol or other drugs,” she said. “So you’re not getting a proper rest.”

Most times, the night doesn’t end after last call. Heading out to a late-night munch-fest after the party’s over can hamper your sleep, she said, especially partaking in greasy food, which can give you indigestion.

You wake up the next morning and realize you have a three-hour lecture to sit through. There’s something you should know before you pop the tab on your favourite energy drink. Sensitivity to ingredients like caffeine can keep you up all night.

“A lot of times these days students are trying to take energy boosting drinks so they can function throughout the day and study late into the night,” she said. “It’s just going to mess with their sleep.”

It’s not only the drinks marketed as energy boosters that keep the sandman away.

“Caffeine, just regular caffeine,” she said. “Coke and Pepsi and tea and coffee. Some people if they have a drink of coffee after three o’clock [in the afternoon], it’s going to keep them awake all night.”

What you can do
If getting a good night’s rest has become a concern, it might be wise to seek professional help, said Quynn Morehouse, a counsellor at Sheridan’s Davis Campus.

“Professionals are there to assess and figure out what’s the best way to proceed,” she said. “Depending on the severity and how long it’s been going on, a course of counselling or therapy can be very beneficial.”

There are some simple ways to get to the land of Wynken, Blynken and Nod. For example, create a routine, said O’Donnell. She recommends going to bed at the same time each night, and waking up at the same time each morning.

She also favours progressive relaxation techniques, which can help you relax before bed. Nurses at Sheridan’s health services can help you learn how.

White noise might also help you fall asleep and stay asleep, by drowning out street noise or a snoring bedmate.

If you’ve tried it all and still feel like a zombie, you might need medical intervention, especially if you’re considering trying to self-medicate, suggests O’Donnell.

“We really try to steer them away from self-medicating, even with over-the-counter sleeping pills,” she said. “It’s better to have an actual doctor maybe take a look at you and find out if there’s an underlying reason that you can’t sleep.”

Migraine Relief

Tania MacWilliam
Health & Wellness

Sept. 29, 2011

*Link to original article here

Imagine waking up in pain every day for more than 20 years.

Jennifer Hovestadt was hospitalized for her first migraine at the age of 14 where she spent four weeks undergoing testing and treatments. Every day since has been a struggle for the 36-year-old.

Making plans with her friends is not possible when her only focus is pain. Not only does pain affect her social life, but her livelihood.

“Sometimes I only work a couple of days a week,” she said. “Sometimes only a couple of hours in a week.”

It isn’t just a headache. Migraines are an often debilitating condition that can leave people reliant on medication for their entire lives. A 2010 Statistics Canada health report showed that among Canadians ages 12 to 44, 1.8 million reported suffering from chronic migraines.

Hovestadt has tried prescription medications, but nothing offered her relief.

“I have tried everything else,” she said. “I just take Tylenol 3. The other medications don’t work.”

What was worse was the side effects.

“I’ve put on so much weight from the other medications,” said the Cambridge resident.

Looking for relief
When prescription drugs, such as Zomig and Imitrex, no longer offer relief, many sufferers turn to acupuncture as an end-of-line treatment option.

Fed up with the effects of pain and medications, Hovestadt decided to attend a seminar at the Ontario Migraine Clinic in Georgetown.

Brendan Cleary, founder of clinic, initially opened Ah-Shi Acupuncture in 1997 and treated a number of ailments. Finding that his assessments worked exceptionally well with migraines, he opened the Ontario Migraine Clinic two years later.

Clients receive multiple treatments, spaced at about 90 minutes apart, reducing the need for frequent visits. This is especially helpful to those who travel great distances, says Cleary.

“I knew I couldn’t keep popping Tylenol for the rest of my life.”

As an acupuncture practitioner, Cleary has to work doubly hard at explaining assessments and treatments to prospective patients.

“Western medicine, it’s everywhere and we’re familiar with it, so we rarely question it,” said Cleary.

Peter Berardi was skeptical at first, but at the urging of family members who have witnessed his agony for decades, he decided to seek treatment from Cleary.

“I knew I couldn’t keep popping Tylenol for the rest of my life,” he said. “My liver wouldn’t take it.”

The Peterborough man has lived with migraines since he was a teenager. Simple pleasures, like going out to dinner with his wife, became unbearable.

“Someone would drop their fork or knife on the china plate,” he said. “It would be like someone banging cymbals up against my head.”

Committed to treatment, he travelled for his weekly appointments for about five months, even in snowstorms. Now 66, he no longer gets migraines.

Living a pain-free life is an obvious ideal, but if you experience a sudden migraine, there are people who understand and can help.

Getting help on campus
Tracy O’Donnell, the charge nurse at Sheridan College’s Davis Campus, knows all too well how migraines can affect people.

“They’re usually pretty bad,” she said. “By the time they get to us they’re in quite a lot of pain. A lot of the times they’re barfing, very sensitive to light, just having a really rough time.”

Students who are struck with migraine pain can visit Health Services for solace. There is a quiet rest area with a bed where students can recover.

“We do what we can to get them to feel better.”

Nurses are limited on what they can offer, she said. They can’t give out prescription medication, but if on site, the doctor can give injectable anti-nausea medication.

Migraine medication, such as Imitrex, is sometimes available in the college’s medicine cabinet for doctors to give in extreme cases, she said.

Doctors are usually on site about four days per week for scheduled appointments.

Headaches are a common ailment, but if you are experiencing persistent pain with visual disturbances or nausea, experts advise it might be a migraine. Seek medical attention and don’t worry about being perceived as a hypochondriac.

“I felt like, ‘OK, I’m not crazy,’ ” said Hovestadt. “When I say I have a headache every day, I’m not the only one.”