All hail the hairdresser. Bless the barista. Depend on the dry-cleaner. Why? Not only do they make you feel and look good, together with other people we deal with on a regular basis, they can be our unlikely health heroes.
Clockwise from top: Public domain image; Copyright 2005 Frank C Muller; Copyright 2011 An-d
How many people would think a haircut could save your life? Well it could and research has found that hairdressers are in a unique position to identify scalp irregularities that would otherwise go unnoticed and unchecked. A survey found that close to 40 percent of hairdressers looked at customers' scalps for suspicious moles and lesions. At 22 years old, a regular customer had her hairdresser point out an abnormal nodule just behind the ear and suggested it should be checked out as it turned red when touched. It turned out to be melanoma and the early diagnosis saved the customer's life.
Another unlikely health hero is the optometrist. Not only will the optometrist have you seeing clearly, much can be learned about your general health when looking into your eyes. Conditions such as high blood pressure, high cholesterol, diabetes and risk of stroke can be picked up during a routine eye examination. Other conditions that can be identified by optometrists are brain tumors, thyroid problems and multiple sclerosis. By viewing the health of the blood vessels inside the eye, serious conditions can be diagnosed while they're still in the early stages. This was the case for a ten-year-old schoolgirl whose life was saved when, during a routine eye examination, the optometrist spotted swelling behind her optic nerve which showed a tumour the size of a golf ball pressing against her brain.
Finding the right shoes is often down to the shoe salesperson who can guide us to the perfect pair. But a new pair of shoes may be the least important thing you take away from the store. Shoe salespeople can often pick up on underlying health conditions when measuring and examining your feet. They are perfectly placed to pick up on common foot problems that can be referred to a podiatrist for treatment, alleviating bigger problems developing down the track. More serious conditions that can be detected include rheumatoid arthritis which shows up on the balls of your feet or tumours which are often overlooked or not noticed when they develop over time.
Clockwise from top: Copyright 2014 Army Medicine; Copyright 2008 Simon Law; Copyright 2013 Christopher Michel
Your friendly barista has the ability to not only get your morning off to a good start with a freshly brewed coffee, but also to recognise other conditions related to coffee intake. If you're having more than 3 coffees a day to get you over that tired feeling, it could be an indication of vitamin B12 deficiency and there is a serious risk of dehydration too. So, if your barista pauses when you order that third cappuccino of the day, take pause yourself and consider whether vitamin supplements may be the better pick-me-up.
If you find yourself visiting the dry-cleaner more often than usual to remove the embarrassing stains on your favourite dress caused by excessive sweating, don't ignore it. Whilst most cases of localized sweating are harmless (hands, feet or under the arms), if the sweating is more generalized (all over the body) it could be hyperthyroidism due to an underlying medical condition. In some cases, excessive sweating can be a warning sign of pregnancy, menopause, thyroid problems, diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis, heart failure, and infection. So, if your dry-cleaning bill has become as excessive as your sweating, think about getting a check-up with your GP to rule out any underlying issue.
Whilst vets are primarily responsible for dealing with the health issues of our animal friends, they are also able to identify health issues in humans and specifically those that are transmitted from animals. Roundworm, hookworm, hyatid tapeworm and ticks pose serious health risks as some of these can pass from pets to humans causing a range of health issues. In some cases, these can be deadly. If, during a visit to the vet to deal with your pet's problem, he or she suggests you check any itch or other issue with the GP, don't think he or she is barking up the wrong tree. It might be saving you from developing a serious health issue.
So, when next having your hair cut, ordering a coffee or visiting the vet, remember that they might just have your health in hand.