To all you eager freshmen out there: By now you’ve surely had at least a few fingers wagged at you, warning you against the havoc your new college lifestyle could soon be wreaking on your health. Although you’re probably well aware of the dreaded Freshman 15, STI scares, various drinking disasters, as well as the many Top Ramen dinners that often accompany college life, your higher education does not have to age you decades, nor do you need to adopt lower health standards. That’s why we’ve called upon the esteemed Dr. Edwin Feliciano and Dr. Mary Ferris, both of whom work at the UCSB Health Center, to answer some medical questions you forgot to ask at orientation:
Q: I’ve heard that in Southern California you can get sick from
swimming in the ocean after a big storm because of harmful runoff into
the ocean … is that true?
A: Unfortunately our beautiful beaches can experience a temporary surge of harmful bacteria from runoff after major storms, but Santa Barbara has an active monitoring program to tell us when we need to avoid ocean exposure and to post warning signs, which you can find at www.sbcphd.org/ehs/ocean.htm or through the Ocean Water Quality Hotline (805) 681-4949. If you do have contact with contaminated ocean water, the problems to watch out for are rashes, fevers, ear infections, vomiting and diarrhea, so we do advise surfers and swimmers to particularly avoid ocean areas near major drainage entry points immediately after storms, and to seek medical attention if you do have exposure and these things develop soon thereafter.
Q: Are there any complications that result from the morning-after
pill, where can I get it and is it bad to take it more than once?
A: The “morning-after pill” or emergency contraception (EC) is considered very safe with minimal side effects, and the benefit of preventing pregnancy far outweighs any minor effects. EC contains just one naturally occurring female hormone (progestin), while birth control pills contain both progestin and estrogen. EC can be taken more than once, but using EC for long term birth control is not as effective as other forms such as the “pill”, IUDs, vaginal ring, etc. and can get a bit expensive. If you are 17 or older, both females and males can purchase EC from any pharmacy without a prescription. Student Health sells it at a discounted price of $18.15 (If you are not yet 17, you need a prescription. A newer EC called “Ella” requires a prescription no matter how old you are). We recommend having a package of EC on hand for emergencies which may occur when pharmacies are closed, since the sooner you take EC the more effective it will be. Please feel free to come to Student Health for appointments or urgent care for any questions or to discuss your birth control options. We also have pregnancy tests available anytime we’re open without appointments needed, and there is no appointment or lab charge for students covered by UC SHIP insurance. A great website for more information about EC is http://ec.princeton.edu/emergency-contraception.html.
Q: Should I bring any medicine with me to college? How accessible is
everything at the Health Center?
A: It’s a great idea to bring any medicines you commonly take and a “first aid kit” for minor injuries, but you can also purchase these items at discounted prices in the Pharmacy at Student Health which is open daily (Monday, Tuesday, Friday — 8 a.m.-4:30 p.m, Wednesday — 9 a.m.-4:30 p.m, Thursday — 8 a.m.-7 p.m). Things you might need in the middle of the night could be pain pills like Acetaminophen (Tylenol) or Ibuprofen (Advil) or Band-Aids. Prescriptions can also be filled from either the Student Health clinicians or your doctors at home. For more information including how to transfer existing prescriptions, go to http://studenthealth.sa.ucsb.edu/prescriptions.aspx.
Q: Does chasing shots with water help minimize a hangover because
you’re rehydrating in the midst of your dehydrating debauchery? What are some other ways to minimize a hangover?
A: UCSB students don’t disappoint. I expected an alcohol-related question in the first issue of The Doc is In, and you delivered. I am going to keep this explanation simple for you: the more you drink, the more your system has to work to flush it all out. Let’s call that saturation of your system — that’s simple chemistry. Consequently, at the end of all that work, your system will experience alteration of cell and organ functions, as well as depletion of many necessary substances it requires to operate properly, thus a hangover ensues.
Your friends are going to share with you a thousand ideas that work for hangovers: eat fatty foods, use aspirin or Tylenol, drink Gatorade, take a Zantac, an Alka-Seltzer, a Chaser, a PreToxx, and even the “hair of the dog” method. I am sorry to burst your bubble, but none of that stuff works. I could go on and on, but let’s get to the point. The only strategy that decreases the chance of a hangover is simply drinking less!
Q: I’ve heard sleep can be an issue for freshman. How much sleep does
a college-aged person really need and what are some ways I can make
sure I get enough Zzzs?
A: The importance of a good night sleep often goes unrecognized. We have a 24-hour day/night cycle known as the “circadian rhythm.” Maintaining a stable circadian rhythm ensures adequate quantity and good quality of sleep — or simply put, a healthy sleep pattern. In turn, a healthy sleep pattern leads to improved energy and motivation, stable mood, better concentration and a strong immune system. There are many factors that can affect your circadian rhythm. Among them, stress, caffeine, nicotine and alcohol use are common in the college setting.
In college, it is tempting to pull all-nighters, party into the morning hours, overuse coffee and other stimulants which decrease the need for sleep. The truth, however, is that there is no such thing as skipping a night of sleep. Catching up during the day doesn’t work either. Your body just wasn’t made to sleep during the day and be awake at night.
The cumulative effects of not sleeping have a detrimental effect on any individual, at any age. Those predisposed to mental health conditions suffer the consequences since this lack of sleep may exacerbate their illnesses (worsening depression and anxiety, or triggering manic episodes and even psychosis).
I hear you, “it’s impossible for me to sleep 8-9 hours every night with all the academic demands at UCSB, the Deadmau5 or Tiesto concerts at the Bowl, not to mention Fiesta, Halloween, the now-dying Floatopia and the substandard replacement for it: Deltopia.” Anyway, I think you should give it a shot. Below are recommendations from experts on sleep disorders. You will notice that the recommendations are simple and easy to follow. One more detail — they don’t include using sleeping pills as a remedy. Sleep medications are only for temporary use as a way to help people restore a healthy sleep cycle when in combination with the following recommendations:
1. Establish a routine bedtime and waking time, such as midnight and 8 a.m.
2. Avoid watching TV, eating and discussing emotional issues in bed. (So in other words, don’t get married.) The bed should be used for sleep (and sex) only.
3. Limit stimulating activities, such as working on the computer, in the late evening.
4. Minimize noise, light and temperature extremes during sleep.
6. Relax before bed — take a warm shower or listen to relaxing music.
8. Avoid taking naps in the middle of the day, and go to bed when you are tired at night.
9. Expose yourself to light in the morning when you wake up.
10. Avoid caffeine and nicotine. If you use any of these, discontinue them at least four to six hours before bedtime. (If you are smoking, you should stop. No intelligent person smokes anymore.)
11. Avoid alcohol. It may help you fall asleep, but when the levels decrease in your system, it will cause you to wake up, and you will have a difficult time going back to sleep.
13. Exercise is always encouraged, but not if done close to bedtime.
Dr. Edwin Feliciano is a psychiatrist and Behavioral Health Services Director at UCSB’s Student Health.
Dr. Mary Ferris is a primary care physician and the UCSB Student Health Director.
Got mysterious bumps down there? Wondering why your Freebirds habit (extra queso, please) always turns you into a human gas station? Send all your health-related questions to Opinion@dailynexus.com. Anonymity is respected.