Navigating Health Risks in the Military

There are many different health risks faced by those serving our country, happily there are effective ways to treat and prevent most of these issues. Those in the service and their families often worry about the potential long-term effects of their time in the military. Some veterans suffer mental and physical challenges long after they leave the service. When service members and their families are aware of these issues, they can take steps to prevent them.

Mental health issues can be severe and are often underreported by military men and women. There is a stigma associated with having a mental health condition, for many years these very real and serious health problems have been viewed as a sign of weakness or character flaw. This prevents both civilians and military personnel from seeking help or even recognizing the signs of a mental health issue. To help recognize the signs of a mental health issue like depression, anxiety, or Post Traumatic Stress, regular visits with a counselor, therapist, or family counselor can be extremely helpful. According to the Center for the Study of Traumatic Stress, access to a mental health professional can help military members identify thought patterns and feelings that indicate or can lead to a mental health disorder.

Infectious diseases are another potential risk when service members live in close quarters with one another. Proper sanitation and hygiene are instrumental in preventing these diseases, and military regulations are usually intended to help prevent them from spreading. Personnel should make every attempt to follow these regulations to the letter, and avoid cutting corners. Proper hand washing, and effectively covering a cough or sneeze, can help prevent the spread of airborne viruses like influenza.

Traumatic Brain Injury is one of the most common types of injury suffered by military personnel in the field. This type of injury is suffered during a severe jolt of blow to the head. Most TBI is mild and referred to as a concussion. While service members cannot prevent every accident or blast injury, they can help themselves recover fully by being honest about their symptoms and making sure they recover adequately before resuming normal activities. The biggest threat to a recovering TBI is another blow to the head, and service members with this type of injury should avoid contact sports while recovering.

Exposure to hazardous or toxic materials is a health hazard that is often not recognized until after the incident. Sometimes the full effects of these exposures are not evident for many years. While it is too late to prevent cases of mesothelioma from asbestos exposure decades ago (what is mesothelioma?), or the effects of Agent Orange, the military is working hard to prevent similar exposure injuries from happening to today's service members.

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