Anemia, a condition that results from lack of iron in the blood, is the most common type of blood disorder, according to the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute. Common side effects include fatigue, dizziness, rapid heart rate and difficulty breathing, among others—which means that servicing back-to-back clients can prove difficult. “Long periods of sitting, on top of not being able to eat and drink often when busy, makes it difficult to get through the day,” says Ceirra Carlini-Smith, a nail artist at The Polish Room in Orlando, Florida, who suffers from anemia. Here, we explore the different types of anemia and how you can manage the symptoms in the salon.
What Is Anemia?
Blood contains four main components: plasma, red blood cells, white blood cells and platelets, making up 7 to 8 percent of a person’s total body weight—that’s anywhere from nine to 12 pints of blood. Humans have anywhere from 4.2 to 6.1 million red blood cells per microliter of blood, which help carry oxygen from the lungs to the rest of the organs in order to operate properly and efficiently. Red blood cells also aid in ridding the body of carbon dioxide and yielding healthy bodily function.
Anemia occurs when there’s not enough red blood cells in the body or when the red blood cells don’t function properly. “Iron deficiency is the most common cause of anemia,” says Janet Geissler, a Jacksonville, Florida-based medical laboratory scientist (ASCP) at Baptist Medical Center Beaches. This is often due to a loss of blood, but occasionally may be a result of poor iron absorption in the body. It’s not unusual for women who have heavy menstruation cycles to experience anemia. Additionally, pregnancy and childbirth require a large amount of iron, which can result in pregnancy-related anemia. However, most mild cases from pregnancy dissipate six to 12 months after childbirth. Chronic conditions, such as rheumatoid arthritis or other autoimmune diseases, as well as liver, kidney and thyroid disease also increase the risk of developing anemia.
Other types of anemia include vitamin-deficiency anemia, which comes from low levels of B12 or folic acid predominantly due to poor diet; aplastic anemia, a rare disorder where the bone marrow stops making enough blood cells; sickle cell anemia, which is a genetic type of the condition that causes red blood cells to become rigid and clog circulation; as well as other medical conditions like cancer, diabetes and Crohn’s disease.
Signs & Symptoms
The most common types of anemia trigger symptoms like lack of energy, pale skin, dizziness, rapid heart rate, brittle nails and even hair loss. However, most people aren’t aware that they have anemia until a blood test is performed. If you suspect that you may be anemic, the first step is to consult your physician, who will then run a blood test to help pinpoint the cause and determine the best practices to manage it. “Replenishing iron loss can reverse anemia,” explains Geissler, “but knowing the cause—poor diet, heavy bleeding or genetics, for example—is important to ensure that it’s not caused by an absorption issue.” If the result of the anemia is due to a chronic disease, then treating the underlying condition will likely improve anemia. Typically, patients are prescribed iron or other dietary supplements to combat the condition. In rare cases, like with aplastic anemia, treatment can include blood transfusions or a bone marrow transplant. Geissler notes that you should only take iron supplements if instructed by your doctor. “Because too much iron can be harmful to the body,” she says, “an iron deficiency should be diagnosed, and the dosage should be carefully monitored by your physician.”
Servicing back-to-back clients for long periods of time can be exhausting enough, but those experiencing anemia need more than a caffeine boost to get them through the day. Introducing a few healthy habits like eating balanced meals, frequent snacking, drinking plenty of water and taking supplements can help.
Geissler recommends eating iron-rich meals before and after work, incorporating foods like spinach, broccoli and quinoa to help replenish the body. Carlini-Smith makes sure to pack her lunch every day before work. “Knowing I have food on hand motivates me to at least take a few bites between clients, even if I don’t have time to sit and fully eat,” she says. Sacramento, California-based nail tech Avery Martin incorporated a few helpful changes into her daily routine to help combat her symptoms of lightheadedness and nausea: “I now always eat something in the morning before work—even though I am not a big breakfast person and don’t get hungry until the afternoon,” she says. Martin typically pairs grapefruit, overnight oats, a power bar or protein coffee shake with her morning orange juice. “This helps prevent a midday crash and dizziness.” It’s also a good idea to have snacks on hand to combat any oncoming symptoms. “Keeping quick, iron-rich snacks like dried apricots, raisins, cashews, almonds and dark chocolate near your station can help boost energy levels,”says Geissler.
It’s also important to maintain hydration in the body in addition to keeping your blood sugar levels from dropping. Have a large water bottle within eyeshot to remind yourself to take sips throughout the day. You can also hydrate and snack in one fell swoop by eating more water-dense fruits and veggies like watermelon, grapesand cucumbers.
Michelle Milazo, medical laboratory assistant at Baptist Medical Center Beaches in Jacksonville, Florida, also suggests taking the recommended daily dose of vitamin C, which helps the body absorb iron, whether it’s in the foods you’re eating or from your physician-recommended iron supplement.
If you’re a nail tech with anemia, it’s imperative that you keep the line of communication open with your salon’s management, team members and clients. “Politely ask and remind your clients and team members that you need a break,” says Jaina Tate Diaz, a nail artist at Bunnie’z Nail Bar Salon & Spa in Orlando, Florida, who was diagnosed with anemia at 8 years old. “You can’t play around with your breaks between clients.” Similarly, when Martin isn’t able to take a break between clients and is feeling especially unwell, she candidly reminds her clients that she is anemic, and she needs to take a break to drink water, eat and stretch because she’s feeling lightheaded.
It’s important to inform those around you of your needs and health concerns not only to create open communication in your work environment, but also to surround yourself with people who can support you, keep you accountable and remind you to take care of your health first.
Angelina Lewis is a freelance writer based in Jacksonville, FL.