Your Good Health: Unvaccinated hairdresser cause for concern

dr_keith_roach_with_bkg.jpgDear Dr. Roach: My hairdresser is being evasive about whether she has been vaccinated for COVID. She does not wear a mask. I am vaccinated, and I want everyone else to be as well, to avoid more harmful strains of the disease. I’m 67 and have underlying conditions. Should I find a new hairdresser?

Anon.

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Being fully vaccinated means you have a high degree of protection from COVID-19, but there is no vaccine (or really any treatment in medicine) that is 100% effective. There are many cases of people getting COVID-19 after vaccination, and although it is usually a milder case, there are a very few people who require hospitalization despite vaccination. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recently noted that more than 99% of hospitalizations and deaths from COVID-19 now are among people who are unvaccinated.

The CDC has also recommended that people who have been vaccinated may resume the activities they did before the pandemic, but that advice may not apply to people with underlying health conditions. The World Health Organization, on the other hand, still recommends mask-wearing for fully vaccinated people.

The decision to wear a mask depends on your personal risk, on whether you are a caretaker for people who might be at increased risk and on the degree of disease prevalence in your community. As I write this, COVID-19 rates are going up in most areas of the country. This means more caution is warranted. If you were to contract COVID-19, you might have no symptoms or such mild symptoms that you could potentially infect other people without knowing it.

A hairdresser is quite close to you for an extended period, and new variants of the virus (such as delta) are much more contagious. The decision is yours, but my advice would be to use a hairdresser that is vaccinated. Her unwillingness to tell you her vaccination status for sure, nor to use a mask is a red flag, and given your increased risk, I think it prudent to find a vaccinated hairdresser.

Dear Dr. Roach: I read your recent column on how to find veins for getting blood. I have infusions every three weeks and have very thin veins that roll. I’m also 74 years old. There are a couple of tricks the nurses use for me:

1. As you mentioned, heat. They wrap both lower arms in those heated blankets the infusion center has on hand and let them warm for 10-15 minutes.

2. They will set a tourniquet both above and below the area they’ll try to enter. One just above the wrist, and one below the elbow.

3. They also have a little vein reader machine. Like looking at bones on an X-ray, this shows the blood vessels, where the valves are, etc., in real time.

I hope this helps the letter writer.

E.C.

I appreciate the advice from E.C. I have seen the “vein reader machine,” which uses near-infrared light and lasers to identify blood vessels. I wish we had had those when I was a medical house officer.

Dr. Roach regrets that he is unable to answer individual letters, but will incorporate them in the column whenever possible. Readers may email questions to ToYourGoodHealth@med.cornell.edu

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