Gross Lab Headaches...

pseudomonas

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    Sure, gross anatomy cause a figurative headache, but the gross lab seems to be giving me the real thing.

    I'm a med student, finishing first year. From our first prolonged (>1hr) lab session back in September forward, I've been developing headaches that, by my guess, are associated with the formalin fumes of the cadavers.

    The first few sessions, my eyes were irritated, and my nose was runny, but I don't really get any immediate symptoms anymore... I do appreciate fresh air if I get a chance to step out.
    But after leaving the lab, or sometimes towards the end of a very long day there, I begin to feel fatigued, followed by the progressive development of a headache (feels like migraine or possibly sinus).

    Anyway, I'm just wondering if any of you guys have experienced formalin as a migraine/headache trigger, and how you dealt with it? Are there masks or anything I can wear to limit the fumes to my face?
    I already do the expected stuff like keeping my away from the cadaver, and letting it air before coming close. Most of the time I'm not even in the room... unfortunately our student radiology centre is within the gross lab. :thumbdown:

    Anatomy is not exactly optional, but the headaches are reasonably debilitating, and I'm not sure what to do in second year when some weeks 20-30hrs must be spent in the gross lab.

    Thanks!
     
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    Mr hawkings

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      Formalin fumes will push your liver enzymes way up. i dont know enough medicine (not started school yet) to know if that can cause what you are experiencing but you can check it out.
       

      Twitch

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        I hated the smell in the lab, but like everything else you'll adapt and it'll be over soon. It's unusual they stretch out your gross over the first two years. I thought most folks are done after MS1 with gross.
         

        MartianOddity

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          Oh, yes.

          During the first CNS gross anatomy labs I got a bit dizzy and had to sit down since that was the first time I got in contact with the formaline. But after that, I didn't experience it again.

          The formaline gave me headaches after prolonged lab sessions, it irritated the back of my throat, gave me an irritated and running nose and burned in my eyes the days I didn't wear contact lenses.

          I found no solution to this other than to keep my distance from the cadavers and to not stick my head too close to them.
          It's great that I'm done with gross anatomy since a year or so.

          Did you know that formaline is carcinogenic? I wouldn't like to stick around those fumes for too long.
           

          pseudomonas

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            I hated the smell in the lab, but like everything else you'll adapt and it'll be over soon. It's unusual they stretch out your gross over the first two years. I thought most folks are done after MS1 with gross.

            We work in system blocks: we learn the pathology, histology, anatomy, etc. at the same time as we're learning the physiology, pathophysiology, lab medicine, and clinical skills relevent to a particular system. Then go on to the next one :)
             

            DocPsychosis

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              So you use the same cadaver all year(s?) long? Ours was disintegrating by November; I'd hate to see what a 9-month old one is like.

              And yeah, those chemicals are pretty dangerous in heavy doses. One lab session we had to wear chemical fume detectors to make sure the ambient levels were acceptably low.
               

              Pemberley

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                In some schools it is possible to wear a gas mask, although (if you're female) everybody will assume you're pregnant. And those things can give you headaches of their own.

                I left every gross anatomy lab with a headache myself -- I also assumed it was the fumes until one day, when I had an obligation during the regular lab period, I went in early and worked by myself. It was blessedly quiet.

                I'd been jammed in with 200 people, all talking simultaneously, in a room composed entirely of hard surfaces, and it had never occurred to me that the noise might be making my head hurt! It might not hurt you to check whether earplugs or going in by yourself makes a difference.

                In case that doesn't work -- if it is the sinuses, one of my old anatomy profs recommended using flonase before hand. Never tried that one myself.

                Definitely ask the nicest of your profs. If there's a reason for anatomy lab to cause headaches, you're probably not the first student ever afflicted.
                 
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