Q: Why should I get a flu shot? People always tell me it actually gives you the flu!

A: You smart college students should know that a killed, sterilized tiny particle of influenza virus in the flu shot, for the purpose of stimulating your immune response, cannot cause the flu! It’s your choice: Don’t get the shot and risk five to seven days of vomiting, headaches and fever interfering with your college career, or get a simple shot (free for UC SHIP students) and get that edge over your (less intelligent) classmates! Flu shot clinics at Student Health are every Tuesday and Friday afternoon with no appointment needed, as well as this Wednesday at the UCEN from 11 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. (find the full schedule at https://studenthealth.sa.ucsb.edu/flushotclinics.aspx). You need to get a new flu shot every year during the fall because the influenza virus mutates and changes worldwide and a new antivirus mix is created annually to best protect you.


Q: We find the occasional cockroach in our I.V. kitchen.  How serious is the presence of these insects?  Do they transmit any serious diseases or is the only real problem our subpar hygiene habits?

A: The “occasional” roach is probably not something to worry about. But if they become regular visitors to your kitchen area, etc., then it is time to take matters into your own hands. If you keep areas dry and devoid of food particles, then the insects might be persuaded to go elsewhere. They are, however, quite hardy — they can go two weeks without water and a month between feeds!

The insects themselves are not so much the issue. Rather, it is the fact that they may carry bacteria and viruses that can threaten human health. Also, if you have folks with allergies and/or asthma living in your place, roach allergens can cause their asthma and allergies to flare up. You might ask the ever-so-attentive I.V. landlord to spray your place for roaches (good luck with that one!).


Q: I think I may be borderline albino.  How necessary is it for me to wear sunscreen in my day-to-day life?  Also, I have some worrisome moles — could they be budding skin cancers?

A: YES, sunscreen (at least SPF 30 to 50) is advisable. Pale skin has less melanocytes (pigment-containing cells) and is less able to protect itself from the sun’s rays, which damage the skin and can lead to skin cancer. As for the moles, if they are increasing in size rapidly, developing irregular borders, spontaneously bleeding, multicolored or large (greater than the diameter of a pencil eraser), then they may well need to be biopsied (i.e. a piece of them taken and sent to a pathologist) to prove they are not developing skin cancers. See a physician or nurse practitioner who can look at your skin pigmentation and examine the moles in question.


Q: Sometimes, I’ll be having a grand time in the sack when penetration suddenly goes from pleasurable to painful. What’s going on and how can I shift back to pleasure?

A: One of the top causes of sexual discomfort is anxiety. At UCSB Health & Wellness, we say “Anxiety is the opposite of orgasm!” The best way to calm nerves and make sex a pleasurable experience for both partners is communication. Tell your partner when something doesn’t feel good, and give them a few pointers on what he or she can do to increase positive sensation for you.

A common cause of pain during sex for women happens when the penis is inserted deeply into the vagina and bumps against the cervix. This problem can also be solved via communication! Tell your partner to slow down or make more shallow movements to avoid contact with this sensitive area. The majority of nerve endings in the vaginal canal reside in the outer one-third.

The root of your discomfort could also be a lubrication problem. Using silicone or water-based lubricant can reduce irritation and increase pleasure for both partners. This is especially true for anal sex, since the anus does not self-lubricate.

These are tips that are generally found to increase pleasure, but if you are still experiencing pain, there could be something else going on. In that case, it might be more beneficial to you to have a conversation with a medical professional.


Q: Since coming to UCSB last year, my skin is no longer the fresh, dewy splendor it was in high school, especially around exam time. What can I do to regain my former youthful glow?

A: Believe it or not, it’s probably all related to stress, and you can make changes to improve this. Changes in skin health and appearance are very dependent on lifestyle choices. College exams equal stress, and with the quarter system, they come around often! When you are under stress, hormones and chemical reactions in the body affect your ability to fight inflammation and bacteria. Increases in cortisol (a stress hormone) can actually damage skin cells over time. Stress also occurs following excess alcohol intake or any kind of drug use.

Since you don’t want to grow old before your time, try these tips:

Rest properly. Try to get the right amount of sleep at a consistent time. Don’t expect to come home from parties at all hours of the night and maintain your dewy splendor. Not possible! And certainly don’t go to bed without washing your makeup off.

Hydrate. That means water! It helps detoxify your skin and give you that youthful suppleness you seek.

Find time to exercise. Yoga, jogging, cardio kickboxing — it doesn’t matter; get that blood moving to transport the crud out and provide for that well-oxygenated rosy glow.

Consume a colorful and balanced diet. Try some antioxidant “super foods” to fight free radicals (think berries, beans, nuts). Visit the farmer’s markets or places like Lazy Acres as a fun, healthy field trip with friends.

Avoid smoking, excess alcohol and tanning beds. All wreak havoc on your skin. Make it your goal to be 50 and look 30.

Sun protection. Slather up everyday! Lobsters aren’t sexy. Peeling is not sexy. Freckly spots on your back in your 30s … not sexy (and scary, for that matter).  There are plenty of good sunscreens on the market that are affordable, non-comedogenic and that don’t give you that slimy feel. Grab at least an SPF 30 and apply daily.

Enjoy a good, authentic laugh! It’s amazing what laughter can do for your body!

Get a facial or give yourself one as a treat for working so hard this term. It’s a quick fix until you’ve mastered all these other tips.

Remember, it takes time for skin cells to regenerate. So, expect results in about four weeks.

Now, if you find faster ways to regain that youthful glow, be sure to relay the info to Nurse Holly at Student Health. I’d love to know!


Until next time, this week’s “Doc Is In” contributors — Mary Ferris, M.D.; Kevin Cook, M.D.; Sydney Lott, Health & Wellness Educator; and Holly Smith, R.N. — would like to leave you with some of the fundamentals of health advice: Wash your hands, cough in your elbow and avoid the ill-appearing.