As people age, their bodies change in many ways that affect the ways their cells and organ systems function. These changes occur little by little, progress over time, and are different for every man and woman. We all lose height as we age, and by the time we reach 80 years old, our height may have decreased by two inches (five centimeters). Changes in posture, in the growth of our spine’s vertebrae, and joint changes all contribute to our loss of height. With aging, the hair follicles produce less melanin, the pigment that gives hair its color.
Hair becomes lighter, gray, and eventually turns white. The nails also change with aging: they grow slower, may become dull and brittle, and may become yellowed and opaque. With aging, the outer skin layer (epidermis) thins and the number of pigment-containing cells (called melanocytes) decreases, but the remaining melanocytes increase in size. Aging skin thus appears thinner, more pale, and translucent. Changes in the connective tissue reduce the skin’s strength and elasticity, resulting in a wrinkly, leathery skin.
Germs are everywhere! Most germs spread through the air, invading our homes, pets, and family, and sometimes they make us sick. Besides your bathroom toilet and the kitchen sink, everyday items like shopping-carts, restaurant menus, computer keyboards, and the shower curtain contain germs. These items contain bacteria, mold, and rhinoviruses (instigators of the common cold) that can lead to sickness. In fact, cold and flu viruses can survive for 18 hours on hard surfaces.
Common household items can be swabbed with a disinfectant wipe easily before use in order to prevent germs from spreading. Washing your hands with soap and water, using a hand sanitizer, and avoiding touching your face with your hands after using these items also helps keep germs away from you. To eliminate dust mites—those little critters that live in your bed sheets and feed on dead skin cells—don’t make your bed for a while. Studies have found that dust mites need humidity levels above 50 percent to survive and cannot live in the arid conditions of an unmade bed.
A popular summer-camp rhyme is “Leaves of three, let it be.” Poison ivy, the threeleaved plant that grows wild in all regions of the United States, is aggravating to the skin, though not lethal if swallowed unless you are very allergic. After brushing up against the poison ivy plant, a red rash usually develops.
Rubbing the rash will not spread poison ivy to other parts of the body (or to another person) unless urushiol oil—the sticky, resin-like substance that causes the rash—has been left on your hands. Other plants that usually irritate the skin upon contact include cowhage, poison oak, poison sumac, rengas tree, and trumpet vine.
In the United States you are considered a grown-up when you reach the age of 18. You are no longer legally connected with your parents, and you are entitled to the rights—and expected to fulfill the duties—of an adult American citizen. (You may vote and be called for military service, for instance.)
There is a good chance, though, that when you are 18 your body has not yet reached full maturity. Many people continue to grow for a few more years. Most are fully grown—at least in height—by the time they are 20 years old, though boys may keep on growing until they are 23.
Absolutely! Strong, healthy teeth help you speak clearly, chew harder vegetables and meats, and help you look your best. Brushing your teeth helps prevent plaque, a clear film that sticks to your teeth. The sticky film acts like a magnet for bacteria and sugar. Bacteria eats the sugar on your teeth, breaking it down into acids that deteriorate tooth enamel, causing holes called cavities. Plaque also causes the gum disease gingivitis, which make your gums red, swollen, and sore. At around age six, you lose your baby teeth and a larger set of teeth begin to surface. Eventually, 32 new teeth will line your growing jaws, the last coming in around the age of 18.
These permanent teeth will perform all of your eating tasks for the rest of your life, so they are worth taking care of! Your four front teeth (on top and bottom) are sharp incisors that cut and tear off food when you bite, along with your four pointed canine teeth. The flat-topped bicuspids (premolars) and molars near the back of your mouth crush and chew your food.
The fastest growing hairs on the human body are men’s beard hairs. If the average male never trimmed his beard, it would grow to almost 30 feet (9 meters) long in his lifetime.
In early England, one man would challenge another to a duel by slapping his face with a glove. The challenge was a serious matter of honour, and if the slapped man did not accept it, he would be branded a coward. Having a chip on your shoulder was kind of an early Wild West equivalent of the glove slap, though generally less mortal in nature.
Boys and men would place a woodchip on their shoulder, challenging anyone who dared knock it off to a fistfight. So, if a man had a “chip on his shoulder,” he was clearly in an aggressive mood and spoiling for a fight.
Babies grow in their mother’s uterus, a special organ that houses the baby until it is born. At the start of pregnancy, a mother’s egg is fertilized, which makes a new cell. The cell divides quickly into many more cells. At about one week, this tiny mass, called an embryo, sticks to the wall of the uterus, and begins to grow. From the moment of conception, 46 chromosomes and tens of thousands of genes combine to determine a baby’s physical characteristics—the sex, facial features, body type, and color of hair, eyes, and skin. At the eighth week, the embryo is called a fetus.
By the end of the twelfth week, the fetus is completely formed and is able to make a fist, can turn his or her head, and can squint and frown. Until the baby is ready to come out, it grows inside its mother’s uterus. When the baby is ready to be born, at about 40 weeks, the mother starts to feel labor contractions. The uterus squeezes and pushes the baby out of the uterus and into the world.
James Spangler, a janitor at an Ohio department store who suffered from asthma, invented his “electric suction-sweeper,” in 1907 as way of picking up the dust and debris that triggered his health condition. His invention was the first practical domestic vacuum cleaner. It used an electric fan to generate suction, rotating brushes to loosen dirt, a pillowcase for a filter, and a broomstick for a handle.
Because it was heavy and hard to handle, Spangler sold the rights of his invention to his relative, William Hoover, whose redesign of the appliance coincided with the development of the small, high-speed universal motor, in which the same current (either AC or DC) passes through the appliance’s rotor and stator. This gave the vacuum cleaner more horsepower, higher airflow and suction, better engine cooling, and more portability than was possible with the larger, heavier induction motor. Hoover’s model has since been refined, but the mechanics of his vacuum cleaner are still used in vacuum cleaners today.
The head louse is a tiny, wingless insect that lives in human hairs and feeds on very small amounts of blood drawn from the scalp. Although they may sound kind of disgusting, lice appear often on young children in common settings, such as school. Lice aren’t dangerous and they don’t spread disease, but they are contagious and can be very annoying. Their bites may cause the scalp to become itchy and inflamed, and scratching may lead to skin irritation. They can be hard to get rid of, and take lots of work to make them go away and stay away.
Usually, using special medicated shampoos and thoroughly cleaning sheets, carpets, clothing, and personal products, like combs and brushes, gets rid of the pesky insects. Kids should try to avoid head-to-head contact at school (both in classrooms and on the playground) and while playing at home with other children. They also shouldn’t share combs, brushes, hats, scarves, bandanas, ribbons, barrettes, towels, helmets, or other personal care items with anyone else, whether they may have lice or not.