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Healthy Body

Teeth

Your teeth are really important to your general health and wellbeing. If you take care of them, they'll stay strong and healthy, they will help you chew food, speak clearly, and they help you look your best.

Keep your teeth healthy!

Brush them at least twice a day with toothpaste and change your toothbrush regularly.

Visit the dentist for a check-up once every 6-9 months. If you don't want to go on your own, ask someone to go with you to keep you company.

Dental treatment is free if you are under 18, aged 18 and in full-time education, are pregnant, or have had a baby in the 12 months before treatment starts

If your teeth are a bit crooked it's worth putting up with a brace. Usually you won't have to wear it longer than about 18 months and think how great you'll look when it comes off

Try not to eat too many sugary foods as they can cause teeth decay meaning you might need fillings or other dental treatment.

If you don't take care of your teeth, cavities and unhealthy gums will make your mouth really sore, eating meals will be difficult and you won't feel like smiling.

Remember, once they’re gone they are gone and will never grow back – so take care of them and remember to visit the dentist if you think anything is wrong.

Getting spots

Skin has natural oils in it to keep it supple and waterproof. As you get older the glands that produce this oil start to work harder which can make your skin feel greasy resulting in spots or acne. Try not to worry about this – around 80% of us get acne, at some stage and in differing degrees. Most people experience spots in their teens, anywhere from the face to the neck, back or chest, but many are affected in their twenties and thirties.

Hair

Everyone's hair is different and you'll get to know what feels right for you. It's worth shopping around to find a shampoo and conditioner that suits your hair. Try to shampoo and condition your hair at least once a week. You might notice that your hair gets greasier as you reach puberty. This is normal - it just means that you might have to wash it more often that you used to for a while.

Black people may not need to wash their hair as frequently as white people but it’s important to keep your hair moisturised especially when combing and styling your hair to avoid it breaking. If you are black, your hair may need more moisture so it's important to use conditioners to replace the natural oils. If you have very tight curls you may find it easier to manage your hair if you comb it when its damp or wet. Using ‘leave in conditioners’ sprays (you can add water to make then last longer) and putting oil on your hair once or twice a week can prevent dryness.

Problems with hair

Dandruff

Loads of people get dandruff and it's completely manageable, just ask at your local pharmacy which shampoo you should use.

Head lice or nits

These can occur at any time at any age and doesn't mean that you or your head is dirty. In fact, head lice prefer clean hair. They can't jump, fly or swim but are spread by walking from one head to another. They can be treated with special shampoo and a nit comb - ask your local pharmacist which one to use.

Ears and eyes

Your eyesight and hearing should be tested regularly as part of your general health care. But if you think you have a problem with anything, make an appointment for a check-up with either an optician or a doctor as soon as you can.

Remember eye tests are free until you are 16, and if you are in full-time education, they are free until you are 18. However, many high street opticians do free eye tests so check your local high street.

Luckily it's not too hard to look after your ears and eyes, just try to stick by the following and you should stay healthy:

Always remove any make-up from eyes at night as this can irritate your eyes and even cause an infection

Try to keep your ears clean but don't use cotton buds as these will push wax further into your eyes.

Use a wet flannel or cotton wool instead

Don't play really loud music, especially when using headphones, as this can permanently damage your hearing

Sleep

Everyone finds it hard to sleep occasionally but some people suffer more from others. You might be having trouble sleeping because:

  • You're ill
  • You're worried or stressed out
  • You're kept up by noise or bad dreams
  • You've taken drugs, been smoking or have drunk too much caffeine
  • You're really excited about something
  • You're sleeping somewhere new
  • You're uncomfortable or too hot or cold
  • You're hungry

 

Here are some things that can help:

  • Stop playing with your phone about an hour before you aim to go to sleep. The bright light keeps your brain alert and means you can struggle to sleep
  • Talk to someone about what's worrying you or make a list of your worries and ideas of how you could tackle them. This can make things seem a bit more manageable
  • Get a regular sleep pattern - go to bed and get up at the same times every day
  • Try to wind down before you go to bed. Try reading a book, listening to music or having a hot bath. Whatever it takes for you to relax
  • Exercise during the day. This makes your body tired which should help you sleep. But try not to exercise just before you go to bed as you might find it hard to settle
  • Have a hot drink like hot milk before you go to bed. DON'T drink anything with caffeine in such as tea or coffee as this will keep you up. If you're hungry, have a snack
  • If you've been having bad dreams, talk to someone about them. This can help you to understand why you might be having them
  • If you're worried about being unable to sleep or find yourself really sleepy during the day, talk to your doctor or nurse

Mental Health

One in four people will have mental health problems in their life – and talking about the mental health problems has become so much more common nowadays.

Some mental health problems, like physical health problems, are more common than others.

If you start to feel sad most of the time and feel like it's taking over your life, you could be suffering from depression.

What is depression?

People with depression can feel hopelessly sad. This can manifest itself in losing or gaining weight, having no energy, feeling unmotivated, being unable to sleep and a feeling of worthlessness. This can feel like a black cloud that won't go away.

We give up on things that we used to enjoy like seeing friends, playing sport and instead turn to things like drink and drugs.

Other signs

  • Feeling sad for weeks on end
  • Feeling no interest in hobbies or seeing people
  • No confidence
  • Feeling useless or not good enough
  • Feel like everything is pointless
  • Feeling irritable, frustrated or angry

Depression can be treated so don't feel like you have to live with it - get some support

The best thing to do is to go and see your GP - they help people that are suffering from stress and depression every day and will be impressed that you've noticed something's wrong and are asking for help. They might prescribe you some medication or refer you to a counsellor or therapist.

Also try doing some of these:

  • Talking to someone you trust about how you feel such as a friend or family member.
  • Eat a balanced diet with lots of fresh fruit and vegetables. Green veg especially are great at tackling depression
  • Do some exercise - regular exercise can have the same effect as taking antidepressant medication.
  • Alcohol, drugs and cigarettes can mess up your head - so cut them out


And don't ever feel ashamed of feeling depressed. Admitting it and getting help is brave and will be the first step to getting your life back on track.

Anxiety

Everyone gets anxious sometimes. It's what we feel when we're frightened of something, such as exams. That feeling of your heart beating faster and breathing speeding up as you think of what you have to do. This is normal and a little anxiety is actually good for us as it gets us motivated and helps us to avoid dangerous situations. But when does anxiety become a problem?

  • If you get this feeling a lot of the time
  • If you feel cut off from reality
  • When you feel anxious about things that other people don't worry about
  • You avoid situations that make you anxious
  • You feel tired, irritable and/or forgetful
  • You have trouble concentrating and sleeping

If you think that this sounds like you, you could be suffering from too much anxiety and this can take over your life. This could be triggered from a past event that's been difficult, like illness or death of a loved one.

You can learn to deal with your anxiety, try doing these:

  • Try breathing deeply when you feel anxious
  • Do a detox - no more caffeine, alcohol, cigarettes or drugs
  • Do some exercise
  • Try to focus on the positive things in your life like what you're good at

Understand that worrying gets us nowhere and things are never usually as bad as we imagine Talk to someone about how you're feeling such as a counsellor. Ask you GP about ones in your area. Counsellors are fantastic at explaining why we're feeling the way we do and making us feel better.

Sometimes people, especially those who have suffered in their own life, feel angry. It's completely normal to feel angry sometimes. But it's how we deal with that anger that's important

Being unable to control anger is dangerous and can result in heart attacks, strokes, high cholesterol levels, getting punched in the face, and it puts you at great risk of a brush with the law.

So why do people feel anger?

There are loads of different reasons - everybody gets stressed out and angry about different things.

What can I do to keep my anger under control?

Recognise when you're starting to feel angry or days when you feel particularly on edge or ready for a fight. Learn to deal with it by doing something chilled that you enjoy like listening to music or reading a magazine

Do some exercise - getting those legs pumping with a few laps around the park will get your heart rate up which is a great stress buster

Give up the alcohol, cigarettes and drugs as these can make us more edgy

Learn to accept the things that make you angry. Force yourself to move away from a situation that you know will land you in trouble

Self-harm is when people deliberately hurt themselves. The most common ways of doing this are cutting, scratching or pricking to draw blood, burning, picking at old wounds, punching or head-banging a wall.

Why do people self-harm?

Most people who self-harm have experienced something upsetting in their lives like bullying or abuse, and may be feeling bad about themselves. They feel extreme emotions such as fear, anger, guilt, shame, helplessness, self-hatred, unhappiness, depression or despair which can build up over time and eventually become unbearable. Self-harm is the way they deal with these feelings as the physical pain brings relief from their emotions.

Getting help for self-harming

Don't let self-harm rule your life. Get help by talking to someone like one of the organisations below or your GP.

Try to spot when you're starting to feel the pressure to self-harm and try doing something else to relieve your emotions. Try getting outside, punching a punch bag or a pillow, squeezing an ice-cube or flicking elastic bands.

You can contact any of these organisations for advice or support around any mental health issue:

Mind

Loads of information and support about why you self-harm and how to seek help

Young Minds

Advice on emotional well-being, mental health and self-harm.
Call 0800 018 2138

National Self Harm Network

Organisation led by people who have suffered from self-harm who are committed to providing support and information for people who self-harm.

Harmless

Organisation that provides support and information about self-harm.

Eating Disorders

Eating disorders are serious mental illnesses. People suffering from eating disorders have negative attitudes towards food, causing them to change their eating habits and behaviour.

A person with an eating disorder may think about their weight and shape a lot, leading to unhealthy choices about food and this can be dangerous and have damaging results to their health. They may skip meals or cut down on the types of food they eat, or eat a lot and then starve themselves for a few days.

Lots of people experiment with food choices but if someone is eating, or not eating, to cope with emotions – like being bored or angry or sad – then it could become a problem.

If you need support with an eating disorder, or worry that a friend or family member has an eating disorder, you can call the b-eat helpline.

Never forget, you reading this, that you’re amazing.

Sex

Safe sex

Sex and contraception go hand in hand. Having one without the other can lead to life changing things that you may not be ready for like having a baby – or health issues such as sexually transmitted infections that can have negative effects that range from slight itching to death.

Condoms

Condoms act as a barrier, physically blocking a man's sperm from entering a woman's womb. They are also the only contraception that protect against both pregnancy and sexually transmitted infections.

The male condom is a thin sheath of latex rubber or polyurethane that fits over an erect penis. The female condom is made of polyurethane and loosely lines the girl's vagina. If used correctly and consistently, male condoms are 98% effective. This means that two out of 100 women using male condoms as contraception will become pregnant in one year.

Always buy condoms that have the CE mark on the packet. This means that they've been tested to the high European safety standards. Condoms that don't have the CE mark won't meet these standards, so don't use them.

The Pill

The Pill is the most popular form of contraception in the UK. It's taken either as a contraceptive method to prevent against pregnancy or to make periods easier to manage.

There are two types:

The combined pill

This contains two hormones: oestrogen and progestogen. It is the more effective of the two and makes a girl's periods lighter and more regular. It is usually taken for 21 days then have 7 days off (but not all pills are the same so follow your instructions).

The mini-pill

This is a progestogen-only pill. This is slightly less effective than the combined pill and it doesn't make periods easier. In fact, it can make them unreliable or disappear altogether. It is taken at the same time every day, with no break.

IUD (An intrauterine device)

An IUD is a small T-shaped plastic and copper device that’s inserted into a woman's womb. It works by preventing sperm from surviving in the cervix, womb or fallopian tubes. It may also prevent a fertilised egg from implanting in the womb. Depending on the type, an IUD can last from three to 10 years and between that time it is 99% effective. Once it's in place, you don't have to think about contraception every day or each time you have sex. It used to be called a coil.

Contraceptive injection

The injection contains progestogen which thickens the mucus in a woman's cervix, which stops sperm reaching an egg. It also thins the lining of the womb so that an egg can't implant itself there. In some women, the injection stops ovulation (the release of an egg). The contraceptive injection protects you against pregnancy for eight weeks or 12 weeks, depending on the type you use. If used correctly it's more than 99% effective. The injection is a good alternative to the pill if you'd prefer not to take tablets every day

Contraceptive implant

This is a small (40mm), flexible tube containing progestogen. The implant is inserted under the skin of your upper arm and it lasts for three years, although you can have the implant removed at any time.

It stops the release of an egg from the ovary and is more than 99.9% effective. Like the injection, the implant is a good alternative to the pill if you'd prefer not to take tablets every day.

STIs

Sexually transmitted infections (STIs) are diseases passed on through bodily fluids during sex. They're all pretty nasty and can even cause lasting damage if left untreated. But most are completely treatable and curable with the right antibiotics or creams. But even better, they're all preventable if you use a condom when you have sex.

I think I have an STI - what should I do?

There is nothing embarrassing about going to your doctor, or to a sexual health clinic, if you think you’re at risk of having an STI.

It’s definitely not as embarrassing as potentially being in pain for weeks, having your sex life ruined, and having to tell people that they need to be checked out.

So get yourself checked out straight away at your doctors or sexual health clinic.

Don't put it off

The staff are all professionals and they've seen it all before.

They'll just think you're great for taking care of yourself. It's also completely confidential and you don't even have to give your real name if you don't want to. If you do have an STI, you'll get the treatment you need all free of charge. They're also there to give you more information about sex and how to protect yourself against STIs.

It's also important to tell anyone you've slept with that you may have given them an STI - they deserve to know. Don't assume they'll notice something is wrong as some STIs don't show any symptoms but can cause lasting damage if left untreated. So try to break the news to them as calmly as possible and tell them they need to go for tests.

If you're worried that you might have an STI find your nearest GUM clinic and get checked out

Sexuality and gender

Sexuality and gender are very different things. Sexuality is about the people, if any, that you want to be physically or emotionally intimate with, while gender is about how you identify as a person regardless of the physical body you have.

Am I gay?

Virtually everyone will have feelings for someone of the same sex at some stage in their life - it's a natural part of sexual development. But if you find that you have these feelings quite often, it could mean that you're gay or bisexual.

Heterosexuals or people who are 'straight' are people who only fancy members of the opposite sex, and homosexuals or 'gay' people only fancy members of the same sex. Women who fancy other women can also called lesbians, and bisexuals are attracted to both sexes.

Should I come out?

If you think you might be gay, don't rush into 'coming out'. Your sexuality is a very personal thing and you need to make sure you're comfortable with it before telling the world.

But there's no need to hide it. It's true that some people can't accept people having different sexual orientations from their own but this is THEIR mistake - not yours. Remember you are not doing anything wrong or immoral so don't be tempted to hide your sexuality. It is a part of yourself and like everyone else, you have the right to feel comfortable with who you are.

What about gender?

Our society has made two fixed options when it comes to gender: male or female, both descriptions are directly based on a person’s physical anatomy.

However, this ignores the fact that many people do not identify, feel comfortable with, their own body. Some woman may feel that they were born female but are actually male – and vice versa. This can sometimes be called transgender and that means someone who identifies and has the behaviour of someone of the opposite physical gender.

Find out more

It can help to talk to other people who are going through the same thing. You could think about joining a club or society run by gay people for gay people. This can be really helpful if you don't feel comfortable talking to your friends about it.

It can be difficult, even nowadays, to come out as gay, lesbian, bisexual, or transgender, so if you need support then here are some great organisations to contact:

 

Brook Advisory Clinics – Loads of information about sex and relationships including contraception, safe sex, sexually transmitted infections and more

NHS Choices – Need information about sex? Check out the NHS Choices website

Like it is – Loads of really useful information about growing up, sex and relationships

FPA – Straightforward information, advice and support about all aspects of sexual health, sex and relationships

Brook Advisory CentresFree and confidential info for under 25s Call 0808 802 1234

Lesbian and Gay Switchboard – Information, support and referral service anyone who needs to consider issues around their sexuality

Stonewall – Information and support about being gay 

Beaumont Society – Help and support for the transgender community