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This is the Ask UHELP article answered this week.  Note: Ask UHELP is in Operation during the normal school year excluding summer.  New questions maybe asked during our off season and will be answered at the earliest possible convenience.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Mental Health

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Depression

S.A.D. #1

S.A.D. #2

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Tattoos & Piercings

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Tattoo #1

Tattoo #2

Tattoo #3

Belly Button Piercings

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  • This Weeks Article

    Dear UHELP,

    How exactly does the “Plan B” pill work?  How do I go about getting it if I suddenly need to?

    ~Wanting to be Prepared

     

    Dear Wanting to be Prepared,

    The Plan B pill is a form of emergency contraception most commonly known as the morning after pill.  Plan B is not an abortion pill, although many people often confuse Plan B with RU-486.  Plan B consists simply of progesterone hormones given either in two, single dose pills, or one pill containing two full doses.  Progesterone is a hormone that prevents ovulation (unless ovulation has already occurred) and thickens cervical mucus, making it harder for sperm to swim up and fertilize an egg.  It is important to remember that although Plan B can be effective a maximum of five days after unprotected sex, it is most effective within 72 hours.  Side effects may include spotting and/or light bleeding.  In addition to obtaining Plan B from your regular physician, you can also get Plan B at any nearby Planned Parenthood (Madison: 206.328.7700 or U-District: 206.632.2498).  Plan B is also available from providers at Hall Health, and the cost is very reasonable for students.  Established patients may come to see the Women's clinic triage nurse for Plan B, without having to have a physical exam.  Finally, you can obtain Plan B at a number of pharmacies in Washington State without seeing a clinician (1-888-NOT-2-LATE).  For further information visit: www.hallhealthcenter.org and click on Women’s Clinic, and then Health Information.

    ~UHELP

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  • Safe Love of Valentines Day                           

    Dear UHELP,

    Valentines Day is coming up and my boyfriend has chosen to be abstinent. We have talked about his sexual boundaries and we both agree that we are not ready to have sex. We want to be a bit sensual to make the day special, but what is there to do besides having sex? Thanks,

    ~Hot 4Valentine

     

    Dear Hot 4 Valentine,

    There are plenty of ways all year long to be sweet, sensual, sexual, and safe without intercourse. The first thing to keep in mind is that Valentine’s Day is for expressing how you feel about your loved one, so it is time for some fun! You can always do something intimate and romantic, like taking walks along the beach, holding hands, watching a romantic movie, giving back rubs—the list is endless!

    Maybe you’d like to make a nice dinner and snuggle on the couch afterwards. It’s always a good idea to set the mood with some good music. I highly recommend the City of Angels sound track, Norah Jones, John Mayer, Josh Groban, or Portus Head’s “Dummy” if the mushy stuff is not for you.

    Then once you are in a dimly lit private environment soft kisses on the erogenous zones will get things going good. Erogenous zones or “g-spots” are areas of the body in which light touches get one excited, such as the nape of the neck, ears, angle of waist, and even nipples on both sexes. Sometimes kissing one zone while caressing another will triple the effect. Try out a flower or other soft objects for touching. Keep in mind the talk you had on boundaries because at this point things can start to get hot.

    This may lead to some making-out which for some people is a comfortable place to stop. If not and you want a safe way to orgasm, mutual masturbation can be a safe and effective method. Mutual masturbation is when both partners are masturbating next to one another at the same time. If you want to perform manual sex (a hand job) on your partner make sure your hands are washed with soap and water and you are free of skin breaks because STD’s can be passed through cuts in the skin. If you want some advice on masturbation or other techniques “Sex for Dummies” is a good place to start. Also, Toys in Babeland holds monthly work shops on such matters. Have a good time, be safe, and remember your boundaries.

    Happy Valentines Day,
    ~UHELP

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  • STD Testing

    Dear UHELP,

    I have never been tested for STDs, but have been told that since I am sexually active, it is a good idea. Is there a place I can go for free?

    ~Anonymous

     

    Dear Anonymous,

    Planned Parenthood and the Harborview STD clinic both provide sliding scale fees for STD testing. However, with Planned Parenthood, there is a program called “Take Charge,” where if you qualify based on income, you can receive check ups and birth control. Because it is a pregnancy prevention program, you must be interested in birth control, so females and males alike would have to speak to someone regarding pregnancy prevention. There is a Planned Parenthood located in the U-District at 4500 9th AVE, and the phone number is 206-632-2498. Harborview STD clinic’s sliding scale can go all the way down to zero dollars, again depending on income, but no proof of income is required. Harborview is located at 325 9th AVE. Walk-ins and appointments are available by calling either 206-731-2271 or 206-731-3590. It moves pretty quickly in the mornings, but it is recommended to call first if you plan on going in the afternoon. Finally, there is also Gay City Health Project Wellness Center, located at 1513 Broadway on Capital Hill. It focuses on the needs of gay and bisexual men. Testing is free, but donations are gladly accepted. To make an appointment, call 206-860-6969. For more information on STDs and testing, contact Seattle and King County’s STD/HIV Hotline at 206-205-STDS.
    ~UHELP

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  • Sexual Assault

    Dear UHELP,

    Where can a person go for help if they have been sexually assaulted?

    ~Anonymous

     

    Dear Anonymous,

    The first thing a person can do in a situation like this is to get to a safe place, where they are no longer at risk from their attacker. Then a person should seek immediate medical help at an emergency room, such as the UW Medical Center or Harborview Medical Center. Harborview’s Center for Sexual Assault and Trauma has a rape kit, which is a series of tests done on rape victims to collect evidence. One has the right to refuse any part of the rape kit testing if uncomfortable, but its purpose is to collect as much physical evidence as possible. In order to maximize the accuracy of the test results, do not shower, urinate, bathe, douche or throw away the clothing worn during the incident. One can get tested for STDs and also have a urine sample taken for comprehensive drug testing. The evidence can be stored while the person makes a decision about pressing charges. To report an incident, call the police by dialing 911 or 9-911 from on campus.

    Another great resource on campus for those who have been assaulted, or who are interested in getting more information is the Sexual Assault and Relationship Violence Information Service (SARIS): 206-685-HELP (206-685-4357). It is a free, confidential and safe starting point from which all students can get more information. SARIS resource specialists can provide information to the victim, their friends and family about options and services, including medical assistance, legal options and counseling among others. One can also report assault or relationship violence anonymously to SARIS, which means they do not need to give any personal, identifiable information to report an incident to get help.

    For more information, please contact:

    King County Sexual Assault Resource Center: 1-800-825-7273

    Crisis Clinic 24 hour crisis line: 206-461-3222

    ~UHELP

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  • HPV #1            

    Dear UHELP,

    My sister and her husband have been faithfully married for ten years. She has what looks like to me HPV. Her husband broke out with a wart on his lip and one on his thumb about two weeks after she noticed the bumps on her genitals. My question is can someone come in contact with HPV other than sexually and spread it to their partner? If so, what are the other causes? And if not, how can it be explained that she is showing symptoms ten years later?

    ~Stumped Sister

     

    Dear Stumped Sister,

    Thank you for taking the time to stay informed on health issues. We believe it is important to ask the questions that are of great concern to you or to others you may know.

    First of all, while we are here to provide information and resources to you, we strongly recommend that if you have any medical questions or concerns, that you see a physician.

    HPV, otherwise known as the Human Papilloma Virus, is the name of the group of viruses that infect the skin. There are more than 80 different strains of HPV. Certain strains cause warts on the hands or feet, and other types can cause warts or abnormal cell changes on the genitals. To answer your first question, HPV is spread by direct skin-to-skin contact during vaginal, anal or oral sex with someone who has an active infection.

    Warts on the other parts of the body are caused by different types of HPV. People don't get genital warts by coming in contact with warts on the hands or the feet. Once infected with genital HPV, an individual may never show symptoms. Warts may be difficult to see, and sometimes it's hard to tell the difference between a wart and normal bumps or pimples. A doctor or nurse will need to check more closely. Another possible reason an individual may not show symptoms of genital warts after infection, would be due to the suppression of the virus by their immune system. After treatment and the removal of warts, the virus may remain in the skin nearby. If the immune system is suppressing the virus, it may lay dormant for months and even several years. Due to the increasing numbers infected with HPV every year it places risk on all those who are sexually active.

    Certain strains of HPV also put women at more risk for certain types of cervical cancer. Like any other sexually active women, a woman with genital warts should get pap tests on a regular basis. The pap tests can find abnormal cells that are on the surface of the cervix that may eventually become cancer if not monitored or treated. Cervical cancer almost always can be stopped before it occurs by finding abnormal cells early.

    The important thing to remember is that when someone finds out they have HPV, they may feel very upset. They may feel ashamed, less attractive, or less interested in sex. They may feel angry at their sexual partner(s), even though it is usually not possible to know exactly when or from whom the virus was spread. Just remember that symptoms of genital HPV can be managed, and cervical cancer associated with genital HPV can be prevented through regular Pap tests. For those infected with HPV, it may be comforting to know that you are not alone. It is estimated that tens of millions of Americans have HPV.

    ~UHELP

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  • HPV #2

    Dear UHELP,

    Is the HPV (warts) found on fingers and feet considered an STD?

    ~Anonymous

     

    Dear Anonymous,

    No, there are many types of HPV (Human Papilloma Virus) and those that infect the genitals and surrounding areas may be transmitted through sexual behavior. Therefore, those strands that infect other parts of the body such as the fingers or feet are not a sexually transmitted disease. You cannot get genital HPV by touching a wart on your finger or foot, and they cannot be spread interchangeably.

    What is HPV?

    HPV can be any of multiple strains of papillomaviruses that cause warts, especially on the hands, feet, and genitals. There are approximately 100 strands of HPV and about 30 of them can be transmitted sexually.

    How can it spread?

    HPV of the genital warts strand is spread very easily from skin to skin contact during sex. This may be vaginal or anal sex (and very rarely oral sex). This virus spreads most often when outbreaks occur on the carrier's skin. This means that if there are warts on the surrounding areas of one's genitals, a condom alone does not protect against transmission. It is also important to keep in mind that these warts can be so small they are difficult to detect. Additionally, if they are inside of a woman's vagina they are very rarely noticeable without a clinical exam.

    How common is it?

    HPV is the most common STD in the United States. In fact in this country alone there are about 5.5 million new cases each year. Because the ability to see any signs of an outbreak is difficult and unreliable, it is important to protect both you and your sexual partner by using a condom or other skin barrier, such as a dental damn, until you have both been tested. If you have been diagnosed with HPV, there is no need to panic. You are not alone. Approximately 50 percent of sexually active men and women acquire HPV at some point in their lifetime. Although there is no cure for HPV, there are many treatments available control the virus and decrease the possibility of outbreaks. The most important thing is to be tested, and receive treatment if you are diagnosed. Untreated cases of HPV can lead to further health problems, such as cervical cancer and pregnancy complications.

    ~UHELP

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  • STD Testing 2

    Dear UHELP,

    I've had unprotected sex and went to my doctor to get tested. Besides HIV, the only tests that they offered were for gonorrhea and chlamydia, and I tested negative, thankfully. How do I know if I'm free of all the other STD's that are out there? Is lack of symptoms sufficient to say that I'm STD-free?

    ~Wanting STD Tests

     

    Dear Wanting STD Tests,

    You have already made some excellent decisions in dealing with this issue. The fact that you have already visited a health care provider to get tested is positive step. While the nature of the sex engaged in (vaginal, oral, anal) and the symptoms experienced may help narrow down the possible STDs you may have contracted during an unprotected sexual encounter, diagnosis of a STD should only be determined by a health care provider. Similarly, the only way to be certain that you are STD-free is to get tested by a medical professional. You have already done this and as a result, know that you do not have HIV, gonorrhea, or Chlamydia.

    Not all STDs are contracted in the same manner. More specifically, many STDs are transferred by exchange of bodily fluids (ex. semen, vaginal fluid), while others do not require fluid exchange and can be spread simply by direct skin-to-skin contact at the infected site. Because different STDs have different modes of transmission, it is important to consider what behaviors you actually engaged in to assess your risk of contracting a specific STD from an infected partner.

    Furthermore, in regards to your question about symptoms, it is definitely not the case that a lack of symptoms suggests that you are STD-free. Many STDs including Chlamydia, Gonorrhea, and HIV in its early stages often exist without symptoms in most people, especially women. I assume that your doctor tested you for these three for this very reason, as you claim to be experiencing no symptoms. On the other hand, there are additional STDs that less commonly exhibit no symptoms. These include Genital herpes, Bacterial Vaginosis, Hepatitis, Human Papillomavirus (HPV), and Syphilis. The only way to be certain that you have not contracted any of these STDs is to be tested for each of these individually.

    Below I have provided a table for you listing some of the most common STDs and how they are commonly tested. If you are indeed infected with one of these other STDs and are not tested, when and if symptoms develop, they may be confused with symptoms of other diseases. STDs are most successfully treated when diagnosed early. A STD left untreated may lead to lifelong or fatal consequences. In addition, even if you have no symptoms of a STD, you can still pass the infection on to another person. This is why it is so important to get tested.

    Because you are feeling uneasy about the lack of comprehensive STD testing provided to you already, the best thing for you to do would be to revisit your doctor to reassess your situation and discuss whether further testing is appropriate. In the future, to protect yourself from contracting STDs, the following measures suggested by Planned Parenthood can be taken:

    1. Abstain from having sex

    2. Practice "safer sex" by protecting yourself with a condom every time you engage in vaginal, anal, or oral sex. Make sure you know how to use a condom correctly as improper use of a condom can result in breaking or tearing during intercourse.

    3. Be aware that many other forms of birth control (birth control pills, shots, implants, patch, and diaphragm) do not protect against many STDs. Make sure to use a condom to protect yourself against STDs.

    4. Limit your number of sexual partners.

    5. Avoid sharing needles or drug injection equipment.

    6. Learn how to talk with your partner about STDs and using condoms.

    7. When you are sexually active, especially if you have more than one partner, get regular exams for STDs from a health care provider.

    8. Learn the common symptoms of STDs. Seek medical help right away if you think you may have an STD.

    9. Don't douche as it removes normal bacteria in the vagina that protects you from infection, thereby increasing your risk for getting some STDs.

    STD

    How is it diagnosed?

     

     

    Bacterial Vaginosis

    Pelvic exam, examination of vaginal fluid, and/or microscopic examination of vaginal tissue

     

     

    Chlamydia

    Examination of tissue samples or urine. Often chlamydia is confused with gonorrhea

     

     

    Cytomegal Ovirus (CMV)

    Blood test

     

     

    Gonorrhea

    Microscopic examination of urethral or vaginal discharges; cultures taken from the cervix, throat, urethra, or rectum; urine tests

     

     

    Hepatitis

    Blood test

     

     

    Herpes

    Culture of fluid sample taken from the sores or by blood test. Can be confused with syphilis, chancroid, and other STIs

     

     

    Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV)

    Blood, urine, and saliva tests can detect HIV antibodies. AIDS diagnosis is based on a variety of conditions and "opportunistic" infections related to HIV infection.

     

     

    Human Papilloma Virus (HPV)

    Microscopic examination of tissue or fluid samples; clinical evaluation of warts during physical or gynecological exam; Special magnifiers Ń colposcopes - can detect genital HPVs that cannot be seen with the naked eye during pelvic exams; Pap tests may reveal precancerous conditions caused by genital HPVs - early treatment prevents cancer of the cervix

     

     

    Molluscum Contagiosum

    Microscopic examination of tissue taken from the sore

     

     

    Pelvic Inflammatory Disease (PID)

    Pelvic exam; microscopic examination and/or culture of vaginal and cervical secretions; laparoscopy - an optical instrument is inserted through a small cut in the navel to look at the reproductive organs

     

     

    Pubic Lice

    Seen with the naked eye or with a magnifying glass, pubic lice look like tiny crabs. They attach themselves and their eggs to pubic hair, underarm hair, eyelashes, and eyebrows. Eggs are white and are deposited in small clumps near the hair roots.

     

     

    Scabies

    Although people can diagnose themselves, diagnosis is often difficult. Microscopic examination of a skin scraping or biopsy by a clinician may be necessary.

     

     

    Syphilis

    Microscopic examination of fluid from sores; blood tests; examination of spinal fluid

     

     

    Trichomoniasis

    Microscopic examination of vaginal discharge

     

     

    Urinary Tract

    Infections Consult your clinician to confirm diagnosis and treatment.

     

     

    For more information on this topic, including resources and comprehensive listings of common STDs and their related symptoms, please visit the following websites: http://www.plannedparenthood.org/sti/stis2.html#_1 http://www.4woman.gov/faq/stdsgen.htm#4

    Another great resource is the Center for Disease Control National STD Hotline, where experts can answer questions directly related to transmission, prevention, and treatment of sexually transmitted diseases and infections. (800) 227-8922.

    ~UHELP

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  • Oral Sex & Semen

    Dear UHELP,

    Can I get STDs from swallowing semen (from oral sex)? Also, will I gain weight from swallowing too much semen?

    ~Curious About Semen

     

    Dear Curious About Semen,

    First of all, thank you for the great questions. It is important to stay informed about these topics to keep yourself safe and healthy.

    1. To answer your first question: yes, it is possible for STDs to be transmitted through semen via oral sex. In fact, both the giving and receiving partner are at risk for infection via oral sex. Although the risk is much lower than vaginal or anal intercourse, oral sex puts one at risk for gonorrhea, syphilis, chancroid, herpes, hepatitis B, cytomegalovirus and HPV. HIV and chlamydia can also be transmitted during oral sex, although very rarely. Many STDs are transmitted via mucus membranes or cuts and abrasions on the skin but infections transmitted directly by semen include gonorrhea, syphilis, chlamydia, and HIV. You can easily avoid this risk by using condoms on a penis, or dental dams to cover vulva or the anus during oral sex.

    2. To answer your second question: no, you will not gain weight from semen. Semen is composed of sperm and supporting fluid from the seminal vesicles, prostate gland, and Cowper's gland. More specifically, semen contains citric acid, amino acids (protein), fructose (sugar), enzymes, phosphorylcholine, prostaglandin, potassium, calcium, magnesium, nitrogen, vitamin B12, and zinc. Although there are many components in semen the volume of an ejaculation is so small that there is no nutritional impact. In fact, the volume of the average ejaculation is merely 1 teaspoon. Therefore, the average ejaculation contains merely 1-2 calories.

    ~UHELP

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  • Oral Sex 2

    Dear UHELP,

    Do you happen to know the percentage of single women who perform fellatio? I have seen the article on anal sex stating that 5 to 10 percent of women enjoy it. I agree with that number, although I would imagine that the percentage enjoying fellatio is much higher.

    ~Wondering About Fallatio

     

    Dear Wondering About Fallatio,

    In response to your question, I cannot seem to find an actual statistic, or percentage, but I can assure you that oral sex is quite common in relationships. If you are in a relationship and having a disagreement in which one of the partners is willing to perform oral sex and the other is not, communication is the answer. It might be helpful to talk about it at a time when you are both relaxed, and comfortable; not in the middle of the action. This is important because in the heat of the moment we are liable to make decisions that we might later regret and because this can be an uncomfortable topic.

    Maybe understanding why your partner is reserved about this aspect of your sexual relationship can help resolve the concerns and ease the strain on your relationship. It is possible that this person has never performed oral sex and is unsure about it, even a bit fearful. If after talking about it, your partner is open to the idea of it, but still unsure, you can take little steps to work up to it. You can try kissing the penis, or around it. It is likely that as a couple you can work on this activity and both really enjoy it.

    Also keep in mind that a variety of condoms come in a variety of flavors (mint, strawberry, banana, etc). These can help to make your partner more comfortable, as well as to prevent the transmission of STDs. There is also flavored lubrication, which would be more intimate than the condom barrier. Maybe not having to taste or feel the ejaculation would make a partner more excited about performing. Thanks for your question and remember that the key is communication.

    ~UHELP

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  • Sex For Your Health

    Dear UHELP,

    I've heard you talk a lot about safe sex - wear condoms and use two methods of birth control - but how does sex play a role in healthy living outside of just being physically safe when you have sex?

    ~Anonymous

     

    Dear Anonymous,

    Talking about health is a tricky thing. For starters, what the heck is it? Are you healthy when you eat right or workout regularly, when you're happy and self-confident, when you're one but not the other? Obviously that's a question you ultimately need to answer for yourself, but here in our UHELP program we envision a healthy person as someone who recognizes the importance of at least the following five health-related categories: physical, mental, emotional, spiritual and cultural well-being. Even with this description it's still hard to get your head around what it means to be healthy. It's just too abstract a concept. So let's get down to your question and try to get our heads around the idea.

    Everyone has to deal with sex. Whether you have chosen abstinence, are in a long-term relationship or have decided to do some experimenting, sex is a highly publicized, often-talked-about fact of life. Sex is also recognized as a notable health issue. Despite this, when you say the two words "health" and "sex" what comes to mind? Do you instantly think of how sex affects your emotional well-being or your self-identity? Probably not. Instead, American society tends to emphasize the physical health concerns associated with sex: sexually transmitted diseases, pregnancy and the importance of self-protection in particular. Of course, these issues are significant and well worth emphasizing, but at the same time it's important not to forget the big picture. In order to make healthy choices regarding sex, you have to recognize the mental, emotional and spiritual effects it may have on your life.

    Take for example the recent popularization of tantric sex. Although the definitions of what constitutes tantric sex vary, it is generally defined as a set of techniques for improving people's sex lives found originally in Hindu texts titled the Tantras, which were written around 300 A.D. Advocates of tantric sex suggest its strength lies in its recognition of the close ties between human sexuality and spiritual and emotional well-being. As a recent article on WebMD emphasizes, tantric practices aren't just about the physical act of having sex. "Tantric sex is ultimately supposed to be a way to spiritual enlightenment, not an end in itself," the author writes. Thus, practitioners of tantric sex, including such celebrities as Tom Hanks and Sting, claim that tantric sex is about making a connection with your partner and reaching new levels of spiritual awareness.

    OK, so you're probably wondering how we got from trying to define health to a discussion of tantric sex. Good question. Basically we, as your peers and health educators, want to emphasize just how all-encompassing and multi-faceted the issue of health really is. In particular, we wanted to point out that sex, as a concrete example of a health issue, is much more than a simple physical act. And, consequently, that your decision to have or not have sex needs to take into account the possible emotional, spiritual and cultural ramifications that may occur. Make sure to ask not only "Are we using protection?" but also "Have my partner and I invested the necessary emotional commitment for this?" and "How does sex fit in with my religious or spiritual beliefs?" Once you've started asking these questions, you're well on your way to a healthy lifestyle so good luck and have fun!

    ~UHELP

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  • Rimming

    Dear UHELP,

    So my boyfriend wants me to give him a rim job, and I'm kind of grossed out. I've heard something about dental dams as a way to make this a bit more appealing. What exactly are they and how would I use one?

    ~Grossed Out Girlfriend

     

    Dear Grossed Out Girlfriend,

    First, before answering your question about the mechanics of a dental dam, I want to remind you to make sure that you feel comfortable with any sexual acts that you are performing. It is important to know your own boundaries and communicate these with your partner so that you both feel safe. If something really grosses you out or makes you uncomfortable, you don't have to do it even if someone else wants you to. With that said, once you have decided to grant your partner's wish, using a dental dam is a good way to enhance your own pleasure as well as protecting you from potential STDs or other fecal/oral diseases.

    What is a dental dam? Dental dams are square sheets of thin latex, which act as a barrier between the vagina or anus and the mouth during oral sex. When stretched across a vaginal or anal opening, they prevent the exchange of bodily fluids to and from the mouth. Used correctly, dental dams help reduce the risk of transmission of sexually transmitted diseases (STDs). Dental dams aren’t lubricated, and they come in plain or various tasty flavors. Water-based lubricants can be used on the side placed against the vagina/anus to enhance pleasure for the recipient. Remember, dental dams are latex, so just like condoms, DO NOT use oil-based lubricants since they weaken latex barriers to break and can cause them to break. Dental dams run from 50 cents to around $3 per dam, depending on size, color, flavor, etc. Too expensive? Buying a multi-pack is cheaper.

    How to use a dental dam:

    1. Be careful when handling the dental dam as they can rip when you open the package and are easily torn by sharp nails, jewelry, etc. Since they act as a barrier between bodily fluids, you don't want any holes in them!
    2. Wash off any powdery talc on the dental dam. Air dry, or pat with a towel.
    3. Put some water-based lubricant such as K-Y jelly®, or WET® on the dental dam and then place it over the vagina or anus. (Ooh la la, this increases sensation for your partner.)
    4. Make sure the dental dam doesn't flip over during oral sex - you should use only one side of it! Don't use the same dental dam for oral sex on both partners! Don't reuse the dental dams - they are not sterile after washing and could still transmit STDs!

    How to make your own Dental DamÉuse an un-lubricated condom or saran wrap! It’s easy as 1, 2, 3.

    Making a barrier from a condom

    1. Choose an un-lubricated condom
    2. Cut of the tip of the condom and throw it away
    3. Cut the condom lengthwise and now you have a dental dam

    An advantage of using a "condom-dam" is that the latex is thinner and thus offers increased sensation. Unfortunately, the size of the barrier is smaller, so less area of the body is covered.

    Use plastic wrap! This is an inexpensive option which transmits heat well (good for sensation). It can be used by with people who have latex allergies, but since it is not latex and has not been tested for this kind of usage you should not rely on this as an STD prevention method

    ~UHELP

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  • Safe Sex & Anal Cancer

    Dear UHELP,

    I have a concern about anal sex. My partner and I have been in a relationship for almost two years. For the most part (as far as I know) we have been in a monogamous relationship. We have broken up a couple of times but I have not had sex with anyone and I do not think he has either. We do not use condoms when we have vaginal sex and likewise, we do not use condoms with anal sex. He does not cum in me through vaginal but he does cum in me through anal. What are the consequences? Could I get cancer or something? Is this a good idea or a bad idea? Should I go to the doctor?

    ~Concerned About My Sexual Health

     

    Dear Concerned About My Sexual Health,

    Thank you for your question. First of all, it's important that both you and your partner agree that anal sex is something you would like to make part of your sexual relationship. If you are not enjoying anal sex, it's important to let your partner know. With that said, if practiced properly, anal sex can be safe and pleasurable for both partners. Here are a few things you should consider to ensure your protection.

    Okay, let's start with STDs. STDs can be spread by semen and blood (i.e. a cut in the vagina or rectum). Since you are not using condoms, it is important to make sure that both you and your partner are STD free, even if you believe you have been in a monogamous relationship. If you are unsure of your STD status (remember, some STDs do not show symptoms), use a lubricated latex condom until you have both visited your doctors for an STD test.

    Pregnancy must also be considered. There is very little risk of getting pregnant from anal sex, but the presence of semen in the vicinity of the vagina could possibly result in pregnancy, but this is highly unlikely. However, using the withdrawal method without a condom during vaginal sex is only 81-96% effective (some sperm may be present prior to ejaculation). If pregnancy is a concern, you may want to talk to your doctor about more effective alternative forms of birth control.

    As far as cancer is concerned, a number of research studies have discovered anal intercourse may be a risk factor for anal cancer, but there are other more prominent risk factors which include infection with multiple strains of human papillomavirus (genital warts), constant irritation, or chronic inflammatory changes. If you are concerned about this, it is a good idea to discuss this with your doctor.

    It is also important to make sure that you never have oral or vaginal sex after anal sex without thoroughly washing the penis with soap and water. The anus itself is clean, containing natural, healthy bacteria. However, the bacterial flora present in your anus may cause infection or irritation in your mouth or vagina.

    Finally, if both you and your partner are STD free, then semen itself is not harmful to your rectum. Make sure you breathe deeply and relax to allow the anal sphincter muscles to stretch, and use plenty of lubricant to reduce friction and the possibility of tearing your anal tissue. If you have considered all of the above, it will only be necessary to see your doctor if you experience a tear or bleeding in your anal tissue.

    ~UHELP

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  • Anal Sex

    Dear UHELP,

    Hello, I love your website. I have two somewhat-related questions. First, my partner and I both enjoy anal sex regularly, and we don't use any protection. Frankly, we love the sensation of releasing myself into her. Is this a safe and okay thing to do? Neither of us has an STD or any other diseases. Second, my partner was wondering if semen is, in general, fairly high in calories?

    Anonymous

     

    Dear Anonymous,

    As for your first question, what you're describing generally has no side effects, provided that you're sure neither of you has a transmissible disease. However, there are several things to keep in mind. First, remember that unprotected anal sex is generally the riskiest behavior for STD transmission. If there are any cuts or abrasions in the anal wall, it puts you at risk for transmission. If you have any doubt at all about whether you or your partner has a communicable disease, you should use a condom for anal sex. Second, risk of pregnancy through anal sex is extremely, extremely low, if not nil. Finally, because the anus isn't bacteria-free, unprotected anal sex puts you at risk for getting a urinary tract infection (UTI) (men) or bladder infection (women). You can read more about the symptoms of a UTI in one of our previous Ask UHELP columns: http://www.thedaily.washington.edu/phe/020416phe.lasso

    As for your second question, semen isn't high in calories! Each teaspoon of ejaculate has about 5-7 calories (source: "Nutritional value in a serving of semen," Columbia University's Health Question and Answer Internet Service). However, there are still good reasons for avoiding swallowing semen during oral sex, especially because of the risk of getting an STD. Gonorrhea and syphilis can be transmitted through oral sex. If someone has herpes in the genital area, it is possible to be transmitted orally, although it is not common. There is some risk of transmission of HIV through oral sex, but it is much lower than vaginal or anal sex. For safety, you may wish to consider using a flavored condom during oral sex.

    ~UHELP

     

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  • HPV #3

    Dear UHELP,

    I'm a 21-year-old female. A little over a year ago, I was diagnosed with Human Papilloma Virus (HPV). I recently broke up with the guy who gave it to me and am now single and scared to death of dating again. The thought of having to tell a guy about my incurable, contagious STD makes me never want to go on a date again. Should I search for a similarly infected male? Any advice on how and when to tell a potential boyfriend?

    ~Scared About Dating

     

    Dear Scared About Dating,

    First, you really shouldn't feel ashamed that you've contracted HPV. This is one of the most common sexually transmitted diseases on campus, in addition to chlamydia, herpes, and gonorrhea. In fact, around half of your friends probably have it too, but they just don't know. A 1998 study estimated that 43 percent of female college students will become infected with HPV at some time during their college years (source: Ho, et al. "Natural History of Cervicovaginal Papillomavirus Infection in Young Women." N Engl J Med 1998;338(7):423-8.). That's almost half of female college students, and that number's even more sobering when you realize that the study included women who are not sexually active. It's likely that half of all sexually active female college students will contract HPV. So you're definitely not alone, and you shouldn't feel abnormal, weird, or uncomfortable. You're normal.

    (For more information on the prevalence of HPV, see the Centers for Disease Control publication titled "Tracking the Hidden Epidemics: Trends in STDs in the United States -- 2000.")

    Just to review, in most cases, HPV has no symptoms at all. A few strains of HPV may lead to genital warts. If you have warts, you should see a doctor, since they can be successfully treated. On the other hand, there is currently no medical treatment for the underlying HPV infection. Because HPV is the single most important risk factor for cervical cancer (as well as a risk factor for penile and anal cancer), you should make sure to get a pelvic exam every year. Now for the good news! Your body may rid itself of the disease over time. In fact, 91% of infections become undetectable within two years (source: Ho, ibid.).

    There's not a lot you can do to prevent transmission of HPV, which is partly why it's so common. The HPV virus is spread by skin-to-skin contact, and the disease is just as infectious if warts are not present. According to the CDC, recent research has shown that condoms cannot protect against infection by HPV. Condoms are still recommended, however, as they may prevent the transmission of other sexually transmitted diseases that may coexist with HPV. Also, if you have vaginal HPV, for safety you should avoid having anal sex right after having vaginal sex, because you risk transferring the infection.

    The best thing for you to do is just be honest with potential sexual partners about having HPV. In most cases, you're not going to scare a guy away. If he's had more than a couple prior sexual partners, it's likely that he's already been exposed to the disease before. Show him this article if you need to! Finally, good luck on your dating adventures! If you need more information, you're welcome to come by Hall Health room 213 anytime and talk to one of the friendly Peer Health Educators; that's what we're here for.

    ~UHELP

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  • Painful Sex

    Dear UHELP,

    My boyfriend has a large penis, and sometimes it feels like he's hitting something inside of me. This hurts! What can we do about it?

    ~Anonymous

     

    Dear Anonymous,

    Unfortunately, painful sex is not that uncommon. In fact, the National Health and Social Life Survey reported painful sex occurring in 15% of women. However, don't think this is something that you have to live with. Sex should be pleasurable for each partner, and it's important to work with your boyfriend to ensure mutual enjoyment.

    It sounds like your boyfriend's penis is hitting your cervix. The cervix constitutes the lower portion of your uterus allowing sperm to enter and menstrual blood & secretions to exit. Since it is full of nerves, stimulation of the cervix is extremely pleasurable to many women and can even bring about orgasm in a few. However, for some, like yourself, pain and discomfort may be the result.

    In addition, if you are experiencing this pain during menstruation or ovulation, your discomfort may be due to the increased sensitivity of your pelvic organs. They swell slightly during your menstrual cycle making deep penetration of the penis uncomfortable.

    To alleviate your pain, steer clear of positions that allow deep penetration. Woman-on-top positions will allow you to control the depth of penetration and prevent his penis from reaching your cervix. Furthermore, by straightening your legs during intercourse, shallower penile penetration will occur. As a bonus, you may even experience greater clitoral stimulation in these positions.

    Also, be sure to allow adequate time for arousal to occur. When you become aroused, your vagina becomes wet, and longer and wider at the top. Unless you are properly aroused, the penis may thrust against your cervix, uterus, or ovaries during intercourse, causing pain. If these simple changes don't help, see a doctor to seek further advice. In addition, even if these changes do alleviate your pain, make sure you mention this to your doctor on your next visit, since the pain might be related to other medical conditions, such as a tipped uterus.

    Finally, if you haven't already, it is essential that you communicate your concerns to partner. Your boyfriend may think that your moans of pain are moans of pleasure, and if you don't explain your discomfort to him, he will likely continue what he's been doing. Let him know both what you like and what you don't like, and ask him to divulge the same information to you. By keeping in touch with the needs of your partner, your sexual relationship will benefit immensely.

    Good luck!

    ~UHELP

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  • Morning After Pill

    Dear UHELP,

    My friend was telling me about something called the "Morning After Pill" that you can take after sex to prevent pregnancy. What is it and how does it work? How can I get it?

    ~Anonymous

     

    Dear Anonymous,

    The "Morning After Pill" is the common term for Emergency Contraceptive Pills (ECP's) that can be taken by women after engaging in unprotected sex. This includes women who use no birth control, who have a condom slip or break, whose diaphragm slips out of place, or who are late starting a new pack of birth control pills or missed several pills in a row. Intercourse during your most fertile days can result in pregnancy up to 30% of the time. ECP's contain hormones that can, if taken within 72 hours of sexual intercourse, decrease the chances of pregnancy by approximately 75% or more. It is important to note that ECP's cannot protect against sexually transmitted diseases and are not recommended as a regular form of birth control.

    How do they work?
    ECP's are taken orally and most contain doses of the hormones estrogen and progestin. The hormone doses can inhibit ovulation (meaning the woman does not release any eggs that month), alter transport of the sperm which prohibits fertilization, or can alter the lining of the uterus thereby stopping the fertilized egg from implanting. If a fertilized egg is already implanted in the uterus, ECP's will not terminate the pregnancy.

    Are ECP's safe and what side effects do they have?
    ECP's, like other drugs, are regulated by the government and are considered a safe form of birth control. Yet ECP's are not miracle drugs and unpleasant side effects are possible. Nausea is reported in 30-50% of women and vomiting in 15-25%. Breast tenderness, fatigue, irregular bleeding, abdominal pain, headaches, and dizziness may also occur. Yet, it is important to note that in a recent study of 235 women it was found that the overwhelming majority-91%-were satisfied with the method, and 97% would recommend it to friends and family (Harvey et al, 1999).

    Where can one go to get emergency contraception?
    The answer to this question depends, at least partially, on where you live. You can always obtain a prescription from a physician whether it be at a small clinic or emergency room, but it is important to note that most Catholic hospitals will not prescribe ECP's due to ethical and religious views. Luckily for UW students, Washington State has a program that allows pharmacists to prescribe ECP's. This means that you can go to a local pharmacy and obtain ECP's without having to see a doctor first. To find a pharmacy near you with these services you can check out http://ec.princeton.edu/providers/index.html. Also, Hall Health Primary Care Center provides emergency contraception and you can call the WomenÕs Clinic at 685-1031 for more information.

    Just remember, the sooner you can get the emergency contraception, the better since its effectiveness decreases the longer you wait!

    ~UHELP

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  • Female Condoms

    Dear UHELP,

    What is the deal with Reality, the female condom? How effective is it?

    ~Curious About Condoms

     

    Dear Curious About Condoms,

    Reality is a soft, loose-fitting polyurethane sheath that lines the vagina. It has a soft ring at each end. The ring at the closed end is used to put the device inside the vagina and to hold it in place during sex. The other ring stays outside the vagina and partly covers the labia.

    Reality has many benefits to both women and men as a form of protection from sexually transmitted infections (STIs) and pregnancy. The polyurethane construction makes it a perfect alternative for those women and men with latex allergies. The fact that it is made of polyurethane also means it is ok to use an oil-based lubricant, which you should never do if using a latex condom. Reality is not made with nonoxynol-9 which many women and men can be allergic or sensitive to. However, if you would like to use a lubricant with nonoxynonl-9 in it, you are more than welcome to do so, as it will not harm the performance of Reality. Another great benefit of Reality is that it can be inserted right before intercourse or up to 8 hours beforehand, meaning no more cooling off while searching for a latex condom when you're both feeling the heat rising.

    The only thing "wrong" with Reality is that many of us haven't had that much practice or experience with it, so the first couple of times using it will probably feel a little awkward. Lubrication is the key to Reality's good performance. Though the female condom comes lubricated, keeping it lubricated on the inside and outside during intercourse is your responsibility; otherwise it will not stay in place and it will have a tendency to come out.

    This product is a great alternative to the male condom. It has many features that the male condom lacks, and has many other great benefits. Everyone is encouraged to look at www.femalehealth.com for more information about this product available to both women and men.

    ~UHELP

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  • Male Condoms

    Dear UHELP,

    How effective is the male condom, really?

    ~Anonymous

     

    Dear Anonymous,

    If condoms are used consistently and correctly they are nearly 100 percent effective. Pay attention to the expiration date on the condom package, only use water-based lubricants (vaseline and other oil-based substances will cause breakage), open the package with your hands and not your teeth, and keep them off the dashboard of your car or other warm places.

    Condoms are effective for preventing against STDs such as HIV, chlamydia, and gonorrhea, which can be transmitted through body fluids such as semen and vaginal secretions.

    Condoms are also effective in preventing transmission of STDs through anal sex.

    Condoms are less effective for STDs transmitted by skin-to-skin contact, such as human papillomavirus (HPV), which causes genital warts and cervical cancer.

    There is no one definitive study about condom effectiveness for all STDs. Several studies have demonstrated that condoms can protect against the transmission of chlamydia, gonorrhea, and trichomoniasis, and may protect against genital herpes and syphilis. However, since not all studies have demonstrated protective effects, the body of evidence is considered inconclusive.

    In fact, in July 2001, the National Institutes of Health released a report on the efficacy of male latex condom use in preventing the transmission of sexually transmitted diseases. This report resulted from a meeting of 28 experts convened at the NIH by the National Institute on Allergy & Infectious Diseases in conjunction with the US Centers for Disease Control. The report reiterates that condoms are highly effective in preventing transmission of HIV and can reduce the transmission of other sexually transmitted diseases. However, some stories in the media have incorrectly concluded that the NIH report found condoms to be ineffective and that there is 'no such thing as safer sex.'

    This does not mean condoms are ineffective, it simply indicates that more research is needed in this area. Condoms definitely make sex safer, as opposed to using nothing at all. In fact, the only 100% effective ways to prevent against transmission of STDs are sexual abstinence or sex with a single partner in a mutually monogamous, committed relationship.

    Check out these sources:

    http://www.metrokc.gov/health/
    http://www.nih.gov

    ~UHELP

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  • Freshman 15

    Dear UHELP,

    I'm a new student on campus and I'm really worried about gaining the Freshman Fifteen. Do you have any suggestions to help me prevent weight gain?

    ~Worried Freshman

     

    Dear Worried Freshman,

    You have a very good question! Many freshmen come to college very worried about gaining the dreaded Freshman Fifteen. However, although weight gain is common among college students, there are simple things that you can do to prevent adding these unwanted pounds. You have taken the first step in prevention by seeking information.

    One of the most important components of preventing weight gain is staying active. Many students who were on a sports team in high school, stop playing sports in college. It is important to maintain at least the same level of physical activity that you had in high school. Think about it: if you consume the same amount of food as you did during high school, but are less active, you will gain weight. Here are some ways you can stay active:

    Naturally, your diet is also a very important component in maintaining your weight. The best thing you can do is really make an effort to eat a well-balanced diet. Eat fruits or vegetables at every meal, replace white breads with high-fiber, complex carbohydrates, and remember your three servings of dairy to keep your bones strong. Also, watch out for these hidden calories:

    • Alcoholic drinks are surprisingly high in calories. A single shot of 100 proof hard alcohol has 82 calories. Those calories will double when you add some juice or soda to your beverage. Likewise, a single 12 oz. Budweiser beer packs in 146 calories. So, drink in moderation.
    • Coffee: While your standard cup of black coffee weighs in at a mere 5 calories/cup, the calorie content climbs quickly once you add in some cream and sugar. Mochas, Frappacinos, and other sugary coffee drinks can be a nice wake-me-up in the morning, but they also pack in the calories.
    • Late-night snacks. With fast-food joints open late at night, it is easy to chow down on junk food when you are up late studying. Instead, grab some carrot sticks, fresh fruit, or peanut butter and crackers. These quick healthy snacks will keep your energy levels up without weighing you down with fat and sugar.

    Most importantly, listen to your body. When you are feeling sluggish, go outside and get some exercise and enjoy the endorphin rush. Also, make sure you eat your food slowly -- allow time for your body to let you know when it is full.

    ~UHELP

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  • Food Pyramid & Serving Sizes

    Dear UHELP,

    I'm trying to eat a little healthier in order to lose weight. I remember learning about the food pyramid in middle school. I understand the idea that I'm supposed to eat a certain number of servings of various foods a day, but one thing still confuses me: what is a serving? Are Food pyramid servings the same as the serving sizes listed in the "Nutrition Facts" printed on food packages?

    ~Confused Eater

     

    Dear Confused Eater,

    This is a great question! The Food Guide Pyramid, as it is officially called, can be a great tool for eating right and losing weight, but it only works if you understand just what a serving size is supposed to be. It is a real guide meant to help manage calorie consumption, similar to popular diets such as Atkins, South Beach, The Zone and others. Unlike some of those other diets, however, the food pyramid is safe, backed by solid science, and endorsed by virtually all professional nutritionists.

    The food pyramid, which is endorsed by the American Dietetic Association, divides food into six categories, offering suggestions for how much of each category one should eat each day. The guide recommends eating 6-11 servings of breads, cereals, rice, and pasta; 3-5 servings of vegetables; 2-4 servings of fruit; 2-3 servings of milk, yogurt and cheese; 2-3 servings of meat, poultry, fish, beans, eggs, and nuts; and as little as possible of butter, fats, and candy.

    Even though the Guide gives a range of suggested servings for each food group, not everyone is supposed to eat the same amount in each range. The American Dietetic Association's specific serving guidelines for various types of people are as follows:

    • Less active women, older adults: 6 bread, 3 vegetable, 2 fruit, 2 milk, 2 meat
    • Teen girls, active women, less active men: 9 bread, 4 vegetable, 3 fruit, 2 milk, 2 meat
    • Teen boys, active men: 11 bread, 5 vegetable, 4 fruit, 2 milk, 3 meat.
    • The milk recommendations listed above are increased to 3 servings for pregnant women, teenagers and young adults up to age 24.

    Okay, so back to your question: how much food counts as a serving? A lot less than you probably think! The USDA nutritionists who designed the Guide give some of the following examples as typical servings from each group:

    Bread group: 1 slice of bread; 1/2 cup cooked rice, pasta, or cereal; 3-4 plain crackers; 1 small pancake; 1/2 donut.

    Vegetable group: 1/2 cup of most vegetables; 1 cup of leafy vegetables (lettuce, spinach); 3/4 cup vegetable juice; 1/2 cup scalloped potatoes; 10 french fries.

    Fruit group: 1 small piece of fruit; 1 melon wedge; 1/2 cup canned fruit; 1/4 cup dried fruit.

    Milk group: 1 cup milk or yogurt; 1.5 ounces natural cheese; 2 ounces processed cheese; 2 cups cottage cheese; 1.5 cups of ice cream.

    Meat group: between 2.5 to 3 ounces of cooked lean meat (less for fatty meats); 1/2 cup cooked beans; 1 egg; 1/3 cup nuts.

    You're probably thinking: Those serving sizes seem incredibly small! Who eats only one slice of bread or 3-4 plain crackers? Most people could easily eat 6 small pancakes just for breakfast - for a less active woman, that would be all the bread products she could eat in one day! Food portion sizes were selected according to one basic idea: on average, one serving of a given food should work out to roughly 100 calories.

    Such serving sizes are how the food pyramid helps you maintain a healthy weight. If you follow the guide's recommendations, you'll end up eating close to the ideal number of calories that you're supposed to. For instance, nutritionists recommend that active women eat about 2200 calories a day, which is about 20 servings. At an average of 100 calories per serving, this works out to 2000 calories, which is very close to the suggested 2200 calorie diet (there is a little extra 200 calorie "breathing room" for things not counted by the guide like butter, sugar, and candy).

    The answer to the second part of your question ("are food pyramid servings the same as the serving sizes listed in the "nutrition facts" printed on food packages?") unfortunately is no. This can be really confusing for people because both the food pyramid and nutrition facts use the word "servings" and both come from the government, so people naturally think they would be consistent. They're not. Serving sizes listed in Nutrition Facts on the side of a food product are required to reflect the amount that a typical person would eat in one sitting. Manufacturers have some wiggle room in deciding what a typical person would eat, for instance a can of prepared pasta may indicate that there are two servings per can in nutrition facts, even though most adults would eat the whole can. In contrast, serving sizes for the food pyramid are not based on what a typical person would eat - they're chosen with a specific caloric target in mind.

    Luckily, there is a simple rule of thumb you can use to take nutrition facts serving information from a package of food and figure out roughly how many food pyramid servings that food would be. Just divide the "calories" number in the nutrition facts box by 100. This gives you a pretty good idea of how many food pyramid servings the nutrition facts "serving size" corresponds to.

    Let's consider an actual example: a bag of Safeway brand plain bagels. The official USDA food pyramid guidelines tell us that a small bagel is 2 servings of bread products and a puffy bakery-style bagel is 4 servings. When we pick up the bag of Safeway plain bagels, however, it's hard to tell by looking at them if they count as small or large. They do look sort of puffy, and they don't have a quarter-sized hole in the middle like most small bagels do, but at the same time they don't look as large as some bakery-style bagels. The nutrition facts information on the side of the bag says "serving size: 1 bagel" and "amount per serving-calories: 300." Using our simple rule of thumb, we divide 300 by 100 and get 3. This tells us that each bagel is roughly 3 Food pyramid servings. In retrospect, this simple estimate makes sense, because the bagels don't look small (that would have been 2 servings), but they don't look very large and puffy either (that would have been 4 servings). While the simple rule described here is not always completely accurate, it often works surprisingly well and can be very helpful in estimating food pyramid serving sizes.

    Best of luck following the food pyramid! With a little knowledge, it can be a wonderful resource for eating a nutritious diet and maintaining a healthy weight.

    ~UHELP

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  • Healthy Beer?

    Dear UHELP,

    Research shows that wine can be healthy for you. What about beer?

    ~Beer Drinker

     

    Dear Beer Drinker,

    This is an excellent question. Let me start off by reminding you that the key to alcohol and health is moderation. Moderate drinking can be defined as one drink a day for women and up to two drinks a day for men (one drink being a 12-ounce beer, five-ounce glass of wine or 1.5 ounces of 80 proof alcohol). A 2003 study at Texas Southwestern Medical School reports that binge drinking -- the consumption of six or more drinks in one day -- offers no benefits and actually puts drinkers at increased risk for obesity, cancers, liver failure and stroke.

    Now for the good news! Thanks to the malt found in beer, there is some nutritional value to drinking beer. Malt adds carbohydrates, protein compounds, minerals and trace elements and vitamins to beer, according to the British Medical Journal in 2002. Also:

    • Although beer is low in proteins, it contains all essential and many nonessential amino acids.
    • Beer contains more than 30 minerals and trace elements, including magnesium, phosphorus, potassium, zinc, iron and copper.
    • The hops in beer contain B-vitamins as well as small amounts of vitamins A, D, and E.

    The British Medical Journal in 2002 further explains the benefits of vitamins and minerals found in beer. B-vitamins found in hops improve your ability to concentrate, support the production of red blood cells, have a positive effect on your blood circulation and stimulate your metabolism. Minerals and trace elements in beer have a positive effect on nerve function, muscle strength, electrolyte usage and enzyme activation. Iron and copper help blood production; phosphorus supports metabolism, and magnesium strengthens the heart muscle. Zinc is necessary for your pancreas' production of insulin.

    Keep in mind the health benefits of drinking beer are only present with moderate drinking. Doubling the amount of beer you drink will not double the nutritional values of the beer. Also keep in mind that beer is not intended to be a dietary supplement or nutritional replacement. Eric Rimm, an associate professor of epidemiology and nutrition at Harvard's School of Public Health, best summarizes this concept when he stated in 2001, "True, beer has B-vitamins, but a single beer provides perhaps 2 to 6 percent of the recommended daily requirement (RDA); but to think that you can get your RDA requirements from beer is inappropriate." So, if you would like to drink beer, do so in moderation and benefit from the small amounts of nutritional values!

    ~UHELP

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  • Healthy Bread

    Dear UHELP,

    I love bread! With the Atkins, South Beach and other low carbohydrate diet fads I've really been reconsidering the amount of bread I eat but I'm not willing to give it up completely. When I go to the grocery store I never know which kind of bread is the best bet health-wise: multi-grain, rye, pumpernickel, cracked wheat, stoned wheat, whole wheat, white. The options are endless!

    ~Bread Lover

     

    Dear Bread Lover,

    First, don't feel guilty about eating bread! According to the FDA food pyramid, carbohydrates (bread, pasta, rice) should make up 6 to 10 portions of your daily nutritional intake. Bread is a healthy, low-fat part of any well-balanced meal. But you are definitely right, there are a lot of different kinds of bread on the market and making the right choices can be tricky.

    OK, let's start with white bread which usually lists 'refined white flour' as its first ingredient. Refined white flour is basically processed whole wheat flour which can be absorbed more quickly by your body because it lacks fiber and bran. Since white bread can be absorbed faster it causes your blood sugar to rise rapidly and accelerates the conversion of calories to fat. So rather than throwing a loaf of white bread into your grocery cart you may want to look for breads made with whole wheat flour. The key word here is whole. So, what exactly is a whole grain? A grain that has all parts of the original kernel intact, meaning it contains the fiber-rich bran, the nutrient rich germ, and the starchy endosperm, is considered 'whole'. Basically, whole wheat flour is healthier because it contains higher amounts of vitamins, minerals, and fiber than refined grains.

    Here comes the tricky part. Which breads are made from whole wheat flour? First, don't be fooled by the color of the bread. Just because a grain product is dark doesn't necessarily mean it is a whole grain. Sometimes molasses or caramel coloring is added to breads so they're dark colored but still made primarily from refined white flour. The rule of thumb for picking a healthy bread is looking at the list of ingredients. The first ingredient should be one of the following: brown rice, bulgur, graham flour, whole-grain corn, oatmeal, popcorn, pearl barley, whole oats, whole rye, or whole wheat. Be careful: without the operative word whole, as in 'whole wheat', you may be buying items made from processed flours! You can also check the nutritional label for fiber content: if it has more than 2 grams of fiber per serving it counts as a whole wheat product.

    Let's finish by going through some of the specific kinds of bread on your list. Pumpernickel, although dark in color, is probably your least likely choice since most of these loaves have very few advantages over your regular loaf of white. The multi-grain and cracked or stoned wheat breads are tricky. Many of the so-called 'wheat' breads often contain 75% white flour so don't be fooled! Always check the label for whole wheat and high fiber content! If you're in a rush and really don't feel like checking out the labels you're best bet is products that specifically advertise themselves as 'whole wheat' breads.

    ~UHELP

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  • Type II Diabetes

    Dear UHELP

    Diabetes runs in my family. I have an aunt who says that eating candy will put me at even greater risk for diabetes. Thing is, I love sweet, sugary candy! Am I really increasing the chance I'll get diabetes?

    ~Sweet Tooth

     

    Dear Sweet Tooth,

    The type of diabetes that you are worried about developing is type 2 diabetes. Type 2 diabetes is much more common than type 1 diabetes. Type 2 results from insulin resistance that interferes with the body's ability to use insulin properly. This type of diabetes often develops in middle aged adults, but can develop at a younger age. In contrast, type 1 diabetes is the result of the body's failure to produce insulin. This type of diabetes in often diagnosed during childhood. There is also a condition called Ņpre-diabetesÓ in which a person's blood glucose levels are higher than what is considered normal, but they are not at the level that technically classifies them as having type 2 diabetes. People with pre-diabetes are at an increased risk of developing diabetes.

    The general consensus in regards to your question is that eating sugary candy is not going to increase your risk of becoming diabetic if you balance these sweets with a healthy diet. According to Dr. Eugene Barrett, director of the University of Virginia's Diabetes Center, "Regarding sweets, if taken moderately and if you maintain your normal weight they do not pose an added risk for developing diabetes. However, if you are eating a sufficient amount of chocolate that you become overweight, then your risk does rise. Regular exercise and maintaining a normal weight are the two most important factors for preventing diabetes."

    There are several factors that must be evaluated to determine the degree of risk you are at for diabetes. Having a family history of diabetes does not necessarily predetermine that you will become diabetic, but it does mean that your risk is significantly higher than those without a family history of diabetes. Other factors to look at in determining your risk level include:

    Age: Many people develop type 2 diabetes during middle-age
    Weight: Being overweight is strongly linked to developing type 2 diabetes, especially when excess weight is carried around the middle
    Family history: Having a parent, brother, or sister with diabetes could mean you are more susceptible
    Family background: Diabetes is found to be more common in Native Americans, Latinos, Asian Americans, African Americans, and Pacific Islanders
    Blood pressure: High blood pressure (140/90 or higher) is linked to diabetes
    Cholesterol: High cholesterol is also linked to diabetes
    Sedentary lifestyle: A sedentary lifestyle can cause weight gain, or make it difficult to maintain a healthy weight. Exercise is one of the most important things you can do to prevent the onset of diabetes
    Having a baby: Having a baby that weighed more than 9 pounds can be a risk factor

    From this list, you can see that exercise plays a key role in preventing diabetes. Getting enough exercise helps maintain a healthy weight and helps keep your blood pressure and cholesterol under control. Eating a low-fat diet that is high in whole grains, fruits, and vegetables, in conjunction with exercise is the best way to prevent acquiring diabetes. Therefore, as long as you are balancing your sugary snacks with healthy foods and watching your weight, you are not increasing your risk of diabetes.

    If you are interested in a simple way of determining your basic risk for diabetes, you can go to the homepage for American Diabetes Association at www.diabetes.org to take their online ŅDiabetes Risk TestÓ. For more information call 1-800-DIABETES.

    ~UHELP

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  • Water For Your Health

    Dear UHELP,

    What's the deal with water? Everyone tells me I need to drink at least 8 cups a day. Is this true and do I need to drink more water if I have a cup of coffee in the morning?

    ~Water Wonderer

     

    Dear Water Wonderer,

    Have you ever noticed how many UW students walk around campus swigging from water bottles? Just walking from Padelford to Odegaard I saw 19 people drinking water out of Nalgene bottles! 19! So what's the deal with water? Believe it or not the human body is about 60 percent water. We need water to regulate body temperature, to complete various biological processes, and to help flush waste out of our kidneys as urine. It's clear that water is important for health: in a 1999 study published in The New England Journal of Medicine, researchers found that the more liquids men consumed, the lower their risk of bladder cancer. Men who drank more than 10 8-ounce servings of fluids had a 49% lower incidence of the disease than those who drank only half that much!

    So how much water do you need? I think most of us are familiar with the old adage of "8 cups of water a day" but is this really necessary? Although making a conscious effort to stay hydrated throughout the day is very important, there is debate as to whether 8 8-ounce glasses of water a day is truly necessary. One study of the elderly showed that "people who drank less than four glasses of water a day were no more likely to show signs of dehydration than those who drank six or more" (July 2000 Journal of Gerontology. Robert Lindeman, MD). It is important to recognize that your water needs vary depending on your level of physical activity, how hot it is outside, and what else you've been drinking. Remember to listen to your body: if you're thirsty get something to drink! Carrying a water bottle, like so many other UW students, is useful because it means water is always accessible. You don't necessarily need to adhere to the eight cups a day rule but try to be aware of how much water you're consuming.

    What about caffeine? People often say that Coke and coffee are diuretics, or are substances that cause an individual to urinate more often, and lead to dehydration. Does this mean you should severely limit caffeine intake or drink more water to make up for the dehydrating effects of the caffeine? Not necessarily. One study by a University of Nebraska researcher Ann Grandjean looked at how different combinations of water, coffee, and caffeinated colas affect hydration levels. During one phase of the experiment, the only fluid the volunteers consumed was water. During another, 75% of their intake was caffeinated. "Using almost every test ever devised to measure dehydration, we found no difference at all," says Grandjean (October 2000 Journal of the American College of Nutrition). So go ahead and have a cup of joe in the morning or a coke at lunch. As long as you moderate your caffeine intake you don't need to worry about it causing dehydration.

    So it seems like all those water bottle toting UDUB students have got the right idea! Water is good for you, and although you don't necessarily need to be obsessed with downing 8 cups a day, it is important to stay hydrated. Just remember that water flushes out your system so it might be a good idea to swing by the restroom before that grueling two hour lecture!

    ~UHELP

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  • Antioxidants

    Dear UHELP,

    What are antioxidants, and what do they do in my body?

    ~Curious Eater

     

    Dear Curious Eater,

    Food labels, evening news reports, infomercials, magazine headlines...everywhere we look, health benefits of antioxidants are being widely touted. These promises cover health areas such as anti-aging, clearer skin and cancer prevention. The jury is still out on whether or not these claims are fully supported by scientific research. But while we are waiting for a verdict, antioxidants are definitely worth paying attention to. Let us start with a few definitions.

    Free Radicals -- (aka the "bad" guys): Try to think back on some of your old chemistry and biochemistry classes. In order to produce energy, your body consumes oxygen. During this process, oxygen can react with body compounds to produce highly unstable molecules called free radicals. Environmental factors, such as air pollution, tobacco smoke and asbestos can also create free radicals. These free radicals are atoms or molecules with at least one unpaired valence electron, causing it to be more reactive. In order to regain stability, a free radical steals an electron from another compound through a process called oxidation. This second compound becomes unstable and responds by stealing an electron from another compound, resulting in a chain reaction. Free radicals can damage our body’s ability to transport substances in and out of cells, disrupt cell structures and alter DNA sequences. Over a long period, widespread destruction could contribute to problems such as cancer, diabetes or kidney disease. This is where antioxidants come into play.

    Antioxidants -- (aka our little "heroes") : Antioxidants exist as vitamins, minerals and other compounds in foods which help prevent the process of oxidation. Some examples of antioxidants include: Vitamin E and C, beta-carotene, lycopene, flavonoids and polyUHELPnols. These antioxidants can interact directly with free radicals before they can cause harm in the body or help "clean up" and make repairs after damage has occurred. If there is an increase in free radicals, some believe an increased amount of antioxidants is needed to neutralize and help protect the body against free radical damage. Studies suggest that people who eat more fresh fruits and vegetables that are loaded with antioxidants have a lower risk for some types of cancer. If you consume a wide variety of fresh fruits and vegetables in generous quantities each daily, you are likely to maximize your amount of antioxidants. A few of these choices could include citrus fruits, apricots, broccoli, cantaloupe, pumpkin and spinach. There are clinical studies of antioxidant supplements underway, but so far they have not conclusively shown a reduction in cancer risk from vitamin supplements that have been separated out. Reports about antioxidant benefits seem to be conflicting or under supported, but this is a major area of nutrition and medical research that deserves our continued attention. As consumers and people taking responsibility for our own health and diet choices, it is important to continue seeking health information with a critical eye. A few informative websites recommended are:

    ~UHELP

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  • Tattoo #1

    Dear UHELP,

    My friend just got a cool tattoo, and now I'm thinking about getting one, too. Is there anything you recommend I consider before making this decision?

    ~Tattoo Considerer

     

    Dear Tattoo Considerer,

    First of all, it's important to recognize that tattoos should be considered as permanent. Laser removal is possible, but it's also expensive and runs the risk of permanent scarring. Figure out whether or not body art is right for you. The decision should be yours, and not influenced by pressure from friends. Also, its best to make the decision while sober, and not on an impulse or whim. If you have any doubts, maybe you should reconsider or spend more time thinking about your decision.

    If you do decide to get a tattoo, make sure you choose a design that is right for you. Try using a temporary tattoo or markers to determine the right size, design, and area. Locations over bones and joints are usually the most painful, such as ankles, ribs, and the sternum. Will the design you choose still appeal to you 20 years from now? Will you be proud of it and allowed to have it at your workplace?

    Take the time to choose your artist and studio. Ask the artist about their training, experience, whether or not they belong to a professional body artist's association, samples of their work, and for references. If your friends have tattoos, ask them about their experiences. To reduce the risk of infection, such as HIV or hepatitis B, make sure the artist and studio practice good health and safety standards. Is the studio clean and well established? Does the artist use disposable needles and sterilized equipment? Are new containers of ink used each time, and opened in front of the client? Does the artist thoroughly wash their hands before and after tattooing? During the procedure, does the artist wear gloves? Does the studio provide specific instructions on how to take care of your new tattoo and how to recognize an infection? These are just a few questions you can consider asking! A good studio should be willing to thoroughly answer your questions. You are buying a service, and have the right to be picky!

    Good luck with your decision! You can also stop by the Wellness Resource Center, room 213, in Hall Health Primary Care Center and pick up some brochures about body art.

    ~UHELP

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  • Tattoo #2

    Dear UHELP,

    I've always wanted to get a tattoo of a butterfly on the small of my back. My friends think I should go for it, but my parents are discouraging me. I'm just worried it's going to hurt. Is tattooing safe? What should I look for at the tattoo parlor to know that it's clean and safe?

    ~Anonymous

     

    Dear Anonymous,

    Tattooing has been used throughout history to decorate the body, show status, or mark a spiritual journey. Native peoples of Japan, the Americas, and the South Pacific have used body art since ancient times. However, the proud and longstanding history of the tattoo might not stand the test of time in your mind or on your body.

    First of all, let's address the obvious: tattooing is permanent. If you want it removed you are going to need extremely painful and expensive surgery to remove it (we'll talk more about this later). And, the thing almost all people suffer from after getting a tattoo isn't a blood borne disease; it's regret. So before you get a tattoo, think thoroughly about your decision. One of the things you can do to ensure that your tattoo has staying power is to get a temporary tattoo. Wear the same decal in the same location for an extended period and ask your self these questions:

    - Is my tattoo readily visible? Is it concealed by clothing?
    - Will my tattoo's visibility affect my ability to get a job or a certain kind of job? What kind of policies does my employer have about body art?
    - What is the meaning of my tattoo? Does it represent a meaningful event or person in my life? How will I feel about having this tattoo in 5 years? 10 years? For the rest of my life?
    - Are there times I wished that I didn't have this tattoo?
    - Who am I getting this tattoo for? Myself? Someone else?

    Make sure that these decals contain FDA approved color additives. Temporary tattoos and henna often contain chemicals that are prohibited or restricted from skin products. This is especially important, if you have sensitive skin. For more information go to the FDA website and click on "Cosmetics" under the Program Areas section @ http://www.cfsan.fda.gov/

    So, you've gone through this process and you're still sure that you want this tattoo. Now it's time to find a reputable tattoo parlor. Call your local health department for a recommendation or for any complaints about a particular studio. Even when you find a studio that appears professional, clean and safe, you'll still need to ask a few questions:

    - Do they use new needles on every person? You should watch the artist take your needle out of its sealed packaging.
    - Do they use an autoclave to sterilize their non-disposable tools? An autoclave is a machine that uses high pressure steam to kill bacteria and microorganisms that might still be on the equipment from the last usage.
    - Is the artist a licensed practitioner? If so, they should be able to provide certification and prove that it's current.
    - Are "universal precautions" taken? These are procedures for dealing with bodily fluids that are defined by the Occupational Safety & Health Administration (OSHA). These include proper hand washing, use of gloves, etc. To learn more about these practices, go to the "Blood borne pathogens" link on the OSHA website @ http://www.osha.gov/

    If a studio doesn't follow these precautions they are putting their customers at a greater risk for blood borne diseases, such as HIV and hepatitis B. These risks are so great that the American Association of Blood Banks (AABB) may defer blood donations from people who have been tattooed up to 1 year after the application. For more information about the AABB and its donation process go to the "All About Blood" link @ http://www.aabb.org/

    As for the specific artist, make sure he or she can show past work and demonstrate their technical ability. Meet the professional face-to-face. You might have several consultations, before you actually receive your tattoo. They will take this opportunity to discuss the design, the location, size, price, possible alternatives, risks, and preparation for application. You should discuss your skin texture, tone, color, sensitivity and how this may affect the uptake of certain pigments.

    Studios often have machines that will reproduce your art work or a pre-made design on to a piece of film to be applied to your body. This way, you can visualize the actual image and its placement. Studios may hesitate to do this, aside from an application appointment, because they anticipate that you might take this to their competitor. However, make sure that the artist is approachable and that you can convey what you want without feeling pressured or rushed.

    Once you have your tattoo, you'll need to take care of it. Do not rub or scratch a new tattoo; this may aggravate the skin and obscure fine detail. Scabbing is normal, although not everyone will scab. The tattooed skin is more fragile than the surrounding skin and needs to be protected from excessive exposure to sun. Applying an SPF 30 sunscreen to the tattooed area is very important. You might also want to put it on the rest of your body to protect it as well!

    If at some point you decide to remove your tattoo, you'll have several options although with most procedures variations in scarring and color will occur. How obvious these may be depend on the size, location, the individual's healing process, how the tattoo was applied, and length of time it has been on the skin. A tattoo done by a more experienced artist, may be easier to remove because the pigments are evenly injected in the same level of the skin. A tattoo that has been on the skin longer may be more difficult to remove than a newer one. Your options may include excision (surgical removal of the dyed skin), dermabrasion (chemical freeze of the upper layer of skin, which is then sanded off), or laser (light breaks up pigments in the skin, which are then removed through the body's immune response) removal. For more information about these and other cosmetic procedures go to the Contemporary Health Communications website @ http://www.patient-info.com/home.htm which provides health brochures for physicians to give patients when considering cosmetic surgery.

    ~UHELP

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  • Tattoo #3

    Dear UHELP

    I've been thinking about getting a tattoo for a while, but I'd like more information. I know that I need to find a place that uses sterile equipment, but what else? Also, what are possible side effects after getting one?

    ~Needle Fever Sufferer

     

    Dear Needle Fever Sufferer,

    Deciding to get a tattoo can be a difficult and multilayered task. First, it is good to know what kind of tattoo you would like. You will have this piece of art work on your body for a long time. We encourage not putting the name of a significant other on your body as relationships are dynamic and tend to change throughout our lives. To make sure you will like the tattoo you may try a temporary tattoo.

    Second, figure out where you want the tattoo, taking pain into account. Least painful are the fleshy parts of the legs and arms. Chest and back areas are more painful. The most painful areas are over bone and joints where there are more nerves. Third, find an artist and studio. You want to first check out the studio, making sure that it is an established business with a clean environment. Be sure they use sterilized instruments and new containers of ink each time. Also make sure the artist wears gloves and his/her gloves are changed every time a non-sterile surface is touched. Finally you want to make sure that they will give you instructions on how to take care of your body art.

    After you’ve made sure it’s the right studio, ask about the artists. You may ask to see a book of art samples or interview a potential artist about their training and experience. Also ask a potential artist what other education they have related to the practice. Look for an artist that has knowledge of anatomy and physiology, CPR training, and prevention of blood borne diseases. Two reputable studios in Seattle are Slave to the Needle, located at 508 NW 65th Street, 206.789.2618 and Laughing Buddha with two locations on The Ave at 4517 University Way NE or on Capitol Hill at 219 Broadway Ave East.

    It takes 2-3 weeks for a tattoo to heal. Because tattoos and body art puncture or cut the skin, there is a chance of infection. Don’t pick at the skin or at scabs that form after a tattoo even if it itches. This can postpone healing and increase chance of infection. Keep your tattoo out of the sun or use sunscreen as sunlight will make a tattoo fade over time. Chlorine in pools and hot tubs will also bleach out tattoos. Finally, moisturize your skin. See your healthcare provider if you have yellow or green discharge from the tattoo, continuous oozing or bleeding or heat or red streaks originating from and moving away from the art. I hope this answers all of your questions. Good luck!

    ~UHELP

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  • Belly Button Piercing

    Dear UHELP,

    I got my belly button professionally pierced about 3 months ago. I really like it and have been careful about keeping it clean but it’s still red and pussing occasionally. Do you think it’s infected? Should I take it out?

    ~Belly Button Blues

     

    Dear Belly Button Blues,

    So your belly button is bothering you? If it’s any comfort, you probably aren’t the only UDUB student walking around campus worrying about whether someone or something is about to bump into your midsection! Navel (belly button) piercings are one of the most popular body piercings and, surprisingly, one of the most difficult to heal. Most body piercers warn that belly buttons can easily take 6 months to a year to completely heal.

    Let's tackle your questions one at a time. Is it infected? Obviously you would have to be examined by a doctor to make an absolute decision but, from your description, it is quite possible that you don't have an infection. Bacterial infections usually progress from redness and occasional discharge to increased pain and changes in the amount and thickness of any discharge. The infected discharge is usually thick and yellow, green, or gray and may have an unusual odor. If your navel piercing fits this description it is probably time to go visit the doctor. A good tip, if you do decide to go see the doctor, is to not take out the jewelry beforehand since this could cause the wound to heal improperly. Just remember that if you feel uncomfortable with your piercing don't be afraid to make an appointment with your doctor since navel rings aren't necessarily right for everyone

    On the other hand, if your belly button is moderately red and the discharge hasn't increased or changed much, you probably don't have an infection. Instead, you have an open wound which your body is trying its darndest to heal and there are several things you can do to help the healing process:

    #1. Check to make sure your piercer used an appropriate piece of jewelry-Your jewelry material should be surgical-grade stainless steel or solid 14-karat yellow gold. Another important factor is the grade, or size, of your hoop or barbell. Typically initial navel piercings use a 14 gauge piece of jewelry. If you have any questions about your piece of jewelry feel free to return to your original piercer. If he/she is a true professional they will be more than happy to answer any of your questions.

    Cleaning-Hopefully a no-brainer! Keep the area clean! Wear clean clothes, wash your bed sheets often and keep to the cleaning routine suggested to you by your piercer. A typical cleaning routine goes something like this:

    1. Wash your hands with antibacterial soap.
    2. Wet the piercing with plain water.
    3. Put a few drops of antibacterial soap on the piercing and work them into a lather with a cotton bud.
    4. Try to loosen any crusted discharge and float it off the jewelry and your skin with the cotton bud.
    5. Leave the antibacterial soap on the piercing for two minutes while rotating the jewelry back and forth, allowing the disinfectant to penetrate the piercing.
    6. Rinse with water and air dry thoroughly.

    Also of proven effectiveness is soaking the navel in saline solution. This takes 10 -15 minutes but is well worth the effort.

    The step-by-step procedure is:

    1. Put 50ml of Saline solution in a small glass tumbler (ideally contact lens sterile saline solution, or alternatively a pinch of salt in a glass of cooled boiled water).
    2. Holding the glass upright, bend over the glass and press the rim around your piercing.
    3. Lie down on your back and hold the glass against your navel for 10 to 15 minutes. Read, listen to music...
    4. Stand, bend over, and release the glass.
    5. Afterwards, dry thoroughly with a clean tissue or cotton bud

    Vitamin C and zinc have been shown to speed up healing and making sure to eat right and get enough sleep in order to boost your immune system.

    If you are doing all this you are definitely on your way to a healthy belly button!

    ~UHELP

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  • Missed Periods

    Dear UHELP,

    My girlfriend has missed her period and has failed 3 pregnancy tests over the past two weeks. She is not extremely athletic.  Any ideas?

    ~Worried Boyfriend

     

    Dear Worried Boyfriend,

    There can be many reasons for a missed period besides pregnancy. Women that are very athletic and have low body fat may develop amenorrhea, an absence of their menstrual cycle. However, you already ruled that out yourself. Sickness is another factor to consider, as well as anxiety or stress. Related anxiety of missing her period may be aggravating the situation. Your girlfriend should be checked out by a physician who can narrow down the causes, as well as perform a blood test for pregnancy. For more questions or information, you could contact Hall Health Primary Care Center’s Women’s Clinic consulting nurse here on campus at 206-221-2491.

    ~UHELP

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  • PMS

    Dear UHELP,

    I was wondering what causes PMS. My girlfriend tends to be pretty moody sometimes and I was curious as to whether she may have PMS and if so, is there anything for me to do to help her?

    ~Concerned Boyfriend

     

    Dear Concerned Boyfriend,

    Premenstrual Syndrome, also known as PMS, is the term that refers to a number of different symptoms that can occur in women anywhere from two weeks before their period until the first day of their menstrual cycle. The cause of PMS has not been determined, however hormone levels in a womanÕs body can be quite varied during the course of a month, and these hormone fluctuations may play some role in PMS. Other factors having to do with individual lifestyles, such as the amount of physical exercise, amount of stress, and a womanÕs diet may also contribute to the severity of PMS. Symptoms of PMS occur in approximately 40% of menstruating women, however symptoms and severity vary.

    PMS can have a whole range of symptoms, both physically and emotionally. Some common symptoms include mood swings, bloating, headaches, changes in appetite, depression, crying, anxiety, back pain, and changes in sleeping habits. Symptoms are different for all women.

    In order to determine whether or not your girlfriend actually suffers from PMS, she would need to evaluate a few things: first, if she has PMS, symptoms will be most severe in the week or two weeks before her period begins, then symptoms will go away when her period has started. Generally, the week after a womanÕs period she is symptom free, and the symptoms come and go in accordance with her cycle. Second, she should pay attention to what kinds of symptoms she is having, and consider the severity of them. There is no test to diagnose PMS. Still, if symptoms are severe, other tests can be done to rule out any other possible medical conditions. If she feels that she is suffering an extreme case with severe symptoms, she should see a health care provider.

    The good news is that there are many things a woman can do on her own to help deal with PMS. It can be helpful for a woman to keep track of when her menstrual cycle is approaching in order to try and minimize stressful situations in her life at times when PMS is a problem. Also, avoiding caffeine and cutting down on processed foods high in salt is a good idea to reduce water retention and bloating. In turn it can be helpful to eat more foods containing magnesium (cashews, almonds, carrots, and wheat bran) and B-6 vitamins (soy beans, green leafy vegetables, peanuts, and bananas). Getting daily exercise may also help reduce PMS, as exercise is a good stress reliever.

    As far as how to help your girlfriend, probably the best thing you can do is to be understanding and supportive. Letting her know that you are there for her and that you want to help may be the best way to help her. Talk to her about PMS, but make sure to be sensitive and not accusatory. She is most likely aware of whether or not it is something she suffers from. If you find out from her that PMS is a problem, just let her know that you support her.

    ~UHELP

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  • Natural Tampons

    Dear UHELP,

    I'm worried about using tampons because I'm afraid of getting Toxic Shock Syndrome, and I've heard that the bleach used on a lot of mainstream tampons and pads can cause cancer. Do I have any other options?

    ~Natural Tampon Girl

     

    Dear Natural Tampon Girl,

    I'm glad to hear that you are thinking about your health - it's important to understand how the products you are using may affect your body. There are many feminine hygiene products available on the market today. If you examine your options carefully, I'm sure you will find something that will work for you.

    To start, let's talk about exactly what Toxic Shock Syndrome is. TSS is caused by the release of toxins into the bloodstream from an overgrowth of Staphylococcus aureus bacteria. The toxin leads to a quick drop in blood pressure throughout your body, which denies your body of oxygen. Symptoms of TSS include a fever over 102* F, vomiting/diarrhea, skin rash, dizziness, and pale/clammy skin. If you experience any of these symptoms, consult you physician immediately.

    Although TSS is a serious condition, there are some simple things you can do to prevent TSS if you would like to continue to use tampons. Make sure you read the directions in your tampon package, use clean hands to handle and insert your tampon, change your tampon every 8 hours (and not too frequently), rotate between tampons and pads throughout the day, and use tampons with a lower absorbency (high-absorbency tampons carry a higher risk of TSS). If you would rather not risk it, pads or other non-conventional products such as the "diva cup" (online at www.divacup.com) may be a better option for you.

    Your concern about bleach is also valid. Most tampons and pads go through a chlorine bleaching process, creating dioxin as a byproduct. Whether or not dioxin is truly a carcinogen is still up for debate. Nonetheless, there are certainly many other non-mainstream options that you may want to try out. These include natural tampons and pads available at many local natural food stores, such as the PCC and Whole Foods, or even reusable cloth pads (online at http://www.thekeeperstore.com/pads/). Good luck exploring all of these options!

    ~UHELP

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  • Pelvic Exams

    Dear UHELP,

    I'm 21 but still a virgin. Do I still need an annual pelvic exam? Will it hurt?

    ~Worried About a Pap

     

    Dear Worried About a Pap,

    Okay, well first off, what exactly is a pelvic exam, some might wonder? A pelvic exam is when a medical professional looks at and feels the size and shape of the external (vulva) and internal (vagina, uterus, ovaries and fallopian tubes) reproductive organs. This exam helps to make sure that your reproductive organs are healthy. Many medical conditions such as infections or cancers, which could become serious if left untreated, can be detected by your health care provider during this check-up. Also, during this time, your provider will probably talk to you about breast self exams (see our previous article on breast cancer).

    Many clinicians do recommend that you have your first pelvic exam when you become sexually active or reach the age of 18 years. A good guideline would be to say that if you are a virgin, it is important to have a pelvic exam if you have not begun to menstruate around the same time as other young women your own age, or if you have had problems with bleeding, pain or discharge. If you do not fall into that category, the best thing would be to talk to your health care provider or someone at a Women's Clinic in Hall Health Primary Care Center where you can go over your history and decide if it would be beneficial or not to get the exam.

    As for pelvic exams being painful, good news- they're not! A lot of women describe the experience as a sensation of crowding or fullness in the vagina. Some do say that it is a little uncomfortable, especially if they're tense, however, there should be no pain. You will feel touching with gloved fingers on the outside of your genitals. During part of the exam you will feel two fingers in your vagina and the other hand on the abdomen gently pressing the tissue between the two hands. In another part of the exam, the clinician will insert an instrument called a speculum into the vagina to help perform any tests and allow easier access to the internal organs.

    One of those tests that will be performed, in addition to optional STD testing, is a Pap test or Pap smear, which is a screening test that helps to detect cellular changes in the cervix (the opening to the womb at the end of the vagina). To perform this test, the clinician takes a sample of cells by wiping or scraping a small wooden stick (similar to a tongue depressor) over the cervix. The cells are then put on a glass slide and examined by laboratory personnel to look for changes that might warrant further investigation. During the Pap smear you will probably feel the swab being wiped across the cervix. This can feel somewhat scratchy, but it should not be painful.

    Also, just so you know, it is normal to feel uncomfortable, embarrassed, or even scared about going to a gynecologist for the first time. Many women say that the worst part of the exam is that it feels undignified to have to expose one's genitals to a stranger. However, try to remember your clinician is highly trained and has probably performed hundreds or thousands of exams. It is their job to make sure that you are healthy. To make it easier on yourself, try to relax as much as possible. The reaction of many women to having fingers or a speculum placed in the vagina is to close the legs or squeeze the vaginal muscles. While this reaction may be instinctive, tensing the muscles often will make you more uncomfortable. Take slow, deep breaths and try to distract your mind to help you relax.

    For more information on women's reproductive health, come visit Hall Health Center. The Women's Clinic in on the basement level and the Wellness Resource Center is in room 213.

    ~UHELP

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  • Self Breast Exams

    Dear UHELP,

    I am 21 years old and I rarely think about breast cancer. Every October during awareness month I read women's horror stories and was wondering how early should I start to check myself? I have no history of breast cancer in my family, but I don't want to be uneducated and think that it can't happen to me. Any advice?

    ~Conscientious About My Breast Health

     

    Dear Conscientious About My Breast Health,

    Sounds like you're already taking a step in the correct direction! One of the most important ways we can maintain our health is to take an active role in caring for our bodies. Breast cancer is the second most common cancer among women. The American Cancer Society (ACA) estimates that 203,500 new cases of invasive breast cancer will be diagnosed among women in the United States in 2002. Being female, obese, having personal or family history of cancer and being over age 50 are all risk factors. Although you have no family members who have developed breast cancer, the ACA reports that the majority of women diagnosed with breast cancer have no close relatives (mother, sister or daughter) with the disease, and most women with a family history will not develop breast cancer.

    According to the ACA, women 20 and older should perform a breast self-examination (BSE) every month (please see guidelines at the bottom of the article). Regular exams help women become familiar with how their breasts normally feel and to more easily and readily detect changes. If a lump is detected, a woman should see her health care provider as soon as possible for an evaluation. The best time for breast self examination is about a week after your period ends, when your breasts are not tender or swollen. If you are not having regular periods, do BSE on the same day every month. Once you become comfortable with the procedure it will only take you a few minutes.

    In addition to monthly breast self exams, you should receive a clinical exam from your doctor every three years and should, of course, discuss any questions or concerns you may have with them. After you reach age 40 your health care provider will help you plan a schedule for mammograms.

    Conducting a breast self examination:

    • Lie down with a pillow under your right shoulder and place your right arm behind your head.
    • Use the finger pads of the three middle fingers on your left hand to feel for lumps in the right breast.
    • Press firmly enough to know how your breast feels. A firm ridge in the lower curve of each breast is normal. If you're not sure how hard to press, talk with your doctor or nurse.
    • Move around the breast in a circular, up and down line, or wedge pattern. Be sure to do it the same way every time, check the entire breast area, and remember how your breast feels from month to month.
    • Repeat the exam on your left breast, using the finger pads of the right hand. (Move the pillow to under your left shoulder.)
    • If you find any changes, see your doctor right away.
    • Repeat the examination of both breasts while standing, with your one arm behind your head. The upright position makes it easier to check the upper and outer part of the breasts (toward your armpit). This is where about half of breast cancers are found. You may want to do the standing part of the BSE while you are in the shower. Some breast changes can be felt more easily when your skin is wet and soapy.
    ~UHELP

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  • Osteoporosis

    Dear UHELP,

    I just found out that osteoporosis runs in my family. Should I be worried and is there anything I can do about it?

    ~Wants Strong Bones

     

    Dear Wants Strong Bones,

    Unfortunately, osteoporosis, a disease which causes bones to become thin and break easily as a result of low bone mass, often runs in families. It affects 1 in 2 women and 1 in 5 men in the United States and cannot be cured. Osteoporosis begins as osteopenia, which is mild bone loss, and can progress into osteoporosis, which is very painful and generally indicates a high risk for fractures. The good news is that it can be prevented.

    By the time we're about 30 years old, our bones have reached their peak strength. Until that point, we can continue to increase our bone density by eating a diet rich in calcium and vitamin D, weight bearing exercises, and avoiding smoking.

    Vitamin D is produced naturally by the body with exposure to about 5 minutes of sunlight a day, but since that much sun isn't always available in Seattle, it's important to get enough vitamin D in the food we eat. Examples of foods with vitamin D include: cheese, butter, margarine, cream, fortified milk (all milk in the United States is fortified with Vitamin D), fish, oysters, and fortified cereals. Vitamin D also helps the body absorb calcium.

    One study indicates that only about 10% of girls aged 9-17 are getting adequate intakes of calcium in their diet. Adults over the age of 19 should try to take about 1,000 milligrams of calcium a day Š an 8 oz glass of milk, a cup of yogurt or 8 oz of calcium-fortified orange juice each have about 300 mg of calcium.

    Examples of weight bearing exercises include walking, hiking, jogging, stair climbing, tennis, dancing and of course weight lifting. The optimal goal is to do these activities for 30 minutes to an hour, four times per week, but anything is better than nothing.

    Another factor that college-aged women should be concerned about is a lack of estrogen in the body related to absence of menstrual periods. This may be caused by too much exercise, an eating disorder like anorexia nervosa, or by using birth control like Depo-Provera over a long period of time.

    Be sure to ask your doctor if you have questions about your risk factors or about being tested. It is not always something that our health care providers think of when dealing with younger people because the risk of osteoporosis increases greatly with age. Take charge of your own health!

    - Check out http://www.youngwomenshealth.org/calciuminfo.html for a great list of calcium-rich foods.

    - The National Osteoporosis Foundation also has more information: http://www.nof.org/.

    ~UHELP

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  • Energy Drinks and Alcohol

    Dear UHELP,

    A lot of my friends have recently been slamming energy drinks before drinking, but I've heard that the combination between energy drinks and alcohol can cause heart problems. Is this true? What is happening to your body when you mix the two together?

    ~Red Bull Worrier

     

    Dear Red Bull Worrier,

    Excellent question. The newest rage among college students is mixing energy drinks and alcohol together which can be a potentially harmful combination. Energy drinks - usually a mixture of caffeine, taurine, carbohydrates, B-complex vitamins and gluconolactone - have become very popular in recent years. Although several studies support the widespread belief that energy drinks may enhance mood and/or improve cognitive and physical performance, very little research has investigated their purported ability to delay the depressant effects of alcohol on the central nervous system, thereby prolonging its excitatory effects.

    Energy drinks, such as Red Bull, Whoopass, Venom and Adrenaline Rush contain high doses of caffeine. When these stimulants are mixed together with alcohol, which is a depressant, many harmful effects may occur to your body, to your cardiovascular system in particular. In fact, mixing powerful stimulants contained in some energy drinks with depressants in alcohol can cause heart palpitations and arrthymias, or even cardiopulmonary or cardiovascular failures. At this point, much more research needs to be completed to fully understand the mechanisms of these effects. You should be very cautious of drinking energy drinks if you suffer from caffeine sensitivity, especially if you are planning to mix with alcohol. If you decide to drink alcohol, please remember to drink responsibly, meaning sip your drink slowly, drink lots of water and be safe, and don't drive if you have been drinking!

    ~UHELP

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  • Hangover Pills

    Dear UHELP,

    I've seen the ads on TV about the new hangover prevention pill called Chaser and RU-21. They guarantee that you can drink as much as you want and still not get a hangover. The ads look convincing, but does it really work? What's the best way to prevent a hangover?

    ~Anonymous

     

    Dear Anonymous,

    Though we often joke about them, hangovers aren't funny. Characterized by headache, exhaustion and nausea, hangovers are truly painful. They are also a major cause of absenteeism and poor school performance. The key here is to always remain skeptical of companies that claim their product is a cure-all for hangovers.

    Manufacturers of RU-21 and Chaser claim two different chemical reactions prevent hangovers in different ways. When alcohol is consumed, it is quickly absorbed into the bloodstream across the stomach lining. Once in your cells, ethyl alcohol is broken down into acetaldehyde. Acetaldehyde is extremely toxic. An enzyme called aldehyde dehydrogenase, which our bodies naturally produce, catalyzes acetaldehyde into acetic acid (which is relatively harmless to our bodies) and finally into water and carbon dioxide. Because our body has a finite amount of enzyme, the time our body requires to metabolize alcohol is metered. When we consume too much alcohol, we create a backlog of acetylaldehyde. This is thought to be the agent that contributes to the pain of hangovers.

    RU-21 claims to balance alcohol metabolism by slowing the conversion of ethanol oxidation into acetaldehyde and hastening the conversion of acetylaldehyde already in the blood into acetic acid, thus preventing a hangover. RU-21 contains succinic acid, fumaric acid, l-glutamine, ascorbic acid and dextrose. RU-21 recommends that you take one to two tablets before drinking, depending on body weight, food consumed and the amount of alcohol consumed. Up to six tablets can be taken without ill-effects.

    Chaser claims to absorb the chemicals in alcohol that cause the inflammation and pain we associate with hangovers. The company calls the chemicals "congeners," and they are the byproducts of the fermentation process. Chaser consists of a mixture of calcium carbonate and activated charcoal, which they say attracts "congeners" and keeps them in the digestive tract rather than passing into your bloodstream. Chaser recommends that you take two pills for every 3 hours of consumption for up to six drinks.

    Both of these pills are classified as a dietary supplement, which puts the maker's claims outside the scrutiny of the FDA for prescription and "over-the-counter" drugs. None of the claims have been certified. However, both are Generally Recognized As Safe (GRAS) by the FDA.

    Under the Dietary Supplement Health and Education Act of 1994 (DSHEA), the dietary supplement manufacturer is responsible for ensuring that a dietary supplement is safe before it is marketed. FDA is responsible for taking action against any unsafe dietary supplement product after it reaches the market. Generally, manufacturers do not need to register with FDA nor get FDA approval before producing or selling dietary supplements. Manufacturers must make sure that product label information is truthful and not misleading.

    The ultimate catch to these pills is that they may encourage binge drinking. These pills do not prevent intoxication; they merely claim to prevent hangovers. People may believe that they won't become drunk, may safely drive a car, or perform normally the next day without any adverse effects. This simply has not been proven, and people should not rely on products that have not been shown to perform through clinical trials.

    The simple truth is that the only proven cure for a hangover is time. Drinking a lot of water and other fluids, replacing electrolytes, and taking pain relievers can be effective ways to curb the headaches and control nausea. If you really want to avoid it all together, drink moderately, don't drink on an empty stomach, or abstain altogether. If you do have them often enough that you're looking for a hangover pill, recognize them for what they are--a health risk. Frequent hangovers are a sign of an alcohol problem. Don't hesitate to get help from a physician or other qualified counselor.

    ~UHELP

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  • Asians and Alcohol

    Dear UHELP,

    I'm from an Asian family, and when I drink alcohol my face turns red and I tend to get pretty sick. Why is this? Can I get my body used to it by drinking more often?

    ~Red-Faced Drinker

     

    Dear Red-Faced Drinker,

    You are not alone in your alcohol-induced symptoms. Roughly half of all people of east-Asian descent (including Chinese, Japanese, and Korean) lack an enzyme necessary for the efficient metabolism of alcohol. For readers who like biology stuff, this enzyme is known as the low-Km aldehyde dehydrogenase isoenzyme, or in short, ADH. The absence of this enzyme is the culprit for your flushed cheeks and feelings of sickness in response to alcohol use. Without this enzyme, the byproduct of alcohol (the toxic aldehyde dehydrogenase) cannot be removed from the bloodstream nearly as well as it is in people who do have the enzyme. The aldehyde accumulates in a personÕs system as a result because it cannot be broken down as quickly.

    A person with this condition is likely to experience toxic effects such as flushing, rapid heartbeat, headache, nausea, drowsiness, swelling and skin itchiness. In addition, it is easier to get drunk upon consumption of even just a few alcoholic beverages.

    While this condition can be seen as an inconvenience, epidemiological studies have shown that because of these adverse side effects, people of Asian descent tend to consume less alcohol, and therefore rates of alcohol use and incidence of alcoholism are lower than those of other ethnic groups.

    Though more research must be done, it has been suggested by some that individuals who suffer from ADH deficiency may also be at higher risk for other alcohol-related conditions such as liver disease, asthma, and cancer of the esophagus. With this in mind, drinking more often will not help you build up a tolerance to alcohol, rather, it would simply cause you to experience the adverse effects more frequently. It may actually be to your benefit to be very sensitive in regards to how many drinks you consume at a time. It is also a good idea to check with your doctor for a recommendation on how many drinks your body can safely tolerate.

    ~UHELP

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  • Gynecomastia and Pot

    Dear UHELP,

    I'm a 20-year-old guy, and I smoke my fair share of pot. I heard a rumor that if I keep smoking pot, I'll get man-boobs. Is this true?

    ~Worried Pot Smoker

     

    Dear Worried Pot Smoker,

    The rumor you heard is essentially true. Though it doesn't happen to everyone, excessive male breast enlargement--medically known as gynecomastia--is a fairly common potential side effect of heavy marijuana use. * That mellowness you feel when you smoke pot is partially caused by a reduction in circulating levels of your male sex hormones, also known as androgens. This can lead to breast enlargement, weight gain, and decreased penis size.

    These side effects are most common in males younger than age 20, because the body's growth and development is very sensitive to hormonal fluctuations during puberty. ** Heavy regular marijuana use later in life can cause male breast enlargement too, but it is somewhat less likely. Also, for female readers, it's worth mentioning that marijuana use doesn't have the same effect in women. Smoking pot won't increase a woman's breast size.

    If you're already suffering from male breast enlargement, you should see a doctor. You are not alone-- many people (not just pot smokers) have this problem, and there are effective hormonal and surgical treatments.

    ~UHELP

     

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  • Ecstasy

    Dear UHELP,

    My girlfriend is hassling me about my Ecstasy use. She claims it causes permanent brain damage, even after only a few hits. Is this true?

    ~Anonymous

     

    Dear Anonymous,

    While long-term effects are somewhat unknown, a Johns Hopkins University study showed that ecstasy, or MDMA, harms the neurons that release serotonin, a brain chemical that plays an important role in neuron communication, as well as in regulating memory and other functions. Loss of serotonin neurons may last for many years and possibly can be permanent. Since ecstasy is a neurotoxin, this loss can occur after as little as one use.

    When the brain undergoes serotonin neurotoxicity, induced by Ecstasy, memory impairment and the loss in the ability to reason verbally and sustain attention may result. Researchers are continuing to examine the effects of chronic Ecstasy use on the memory and other functions in which serotonin has been implicated, such as mood, impulse control, learning, and sleep cycles. Since serotonin regulates mood, people may need lifetime treatment for depression after as few as ten hits.

    In a related study, using brain imaging, researchers found that heavy Ecstasy users have regions of the brain that show inactivity, where normally receptor sites for the neurotransmitter serotonin are working. Compared to nonusers, these heavy Ecstasy users had significant impairments in visual and verbal memory. The more Ecstasy the people used, the greater difficulty they had in recalling what they had seen and heard during memory testing.

    Along with these more long-term effects, the immediate effects can be lethal as well. Since Ecstasy is an amphetamine, tolerance develops quickly and overdose is possible. Hyperthermia, or dangerously high body temperature, can cause heatstroke, heat exhaustion, and dehydration. The euphoria that Ecstasy induces can make it easy to ignore bodily distress signals and a large number of deaths have been attributed to the side effects of Ecstasy use. Some of these deaths have even been first time users.

    While Ecstasy is not as addictive as some "harder" drugs, such as LSD or heroin, it is by no means safe. The long and short-term effects could prove to be deadly.

    ~UHELP

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  • Diet Pills

    Dear UHELP,

    My roommate has started taking diet pills to help her study because she says they contain ephedra. She says its like speed, and it helps her concentrate. Is this safe?

    ~Worried Roomie

     

    Dear Worried Roomie,

    No, this is not safe. Many diet pills contain Ephedra, also known as Ephedrine and Ma Huang, which is a stimulant derived from a shrub-like plant found mainly in Central Asia. It is an amphetamine-like stimulant that is widely used in diet pills for weight loss, but it is also used in products as an energy booster, and as a way to increase athletic performance. This drug has definitely chemical similarities to traditional amphetamines such as speed, Ritalin, and Adderall. It is dangerous because ephedra causes a dangerous rise in blood pressure, as well as a dangerous increase in heart rate, which for people with heart problems, could prove fatal.

    Along with these, many other adverse side effects have been reported to The Food and Drug Administration in the last 10 years. The complaints range from adverse effects such as hypertension (elevated blood pressure), heart palpitations (rapid heart rate), neuropathy (nerve damage), myopathy (muscle injury), psychosis, stroke, memory loss, tremors, and seizures. Ephedrine is also known to rapidly increase body temperature, while at the same time disabling the body to cool down efficiently. This can cause dehydration before the person is even aware that they are overheated, due to the drugs effects on the body.

    Ephedrine is sold under a number of brand names such as Metabolife, Diet Fuel, Metabolift, Diet Pep, Ripped Fuel, and Chinease Ma Hunang. These drugs have the potential to be dangerous because the FDA does not oversee the safety of many such herbal supplements, due to a 1994 Federal Law. This law made it okay for dietary supplements to be free of FDA regulations. Therefore, there is very little regulation as to what is in different herbal supplements found in health food stores. There are currently many lawsuits pending which involve cases of death from use of ephedrine in dietary supplements.

    Aside from the adverse effects that ephedrine (combined with caffeine) can have on your body, one must also be aware of the potential for health risks that can occur when ephedrine is mixed with any number of other drugs, be they antibiotics or medications. Interactions between different drugs in the body's system can often interfere with, or potentiate the effects of other herbs and drugs. Possible interactions could include exaggerated effects of one or both of the drugs, as well as increased side effects. The bottom line is that there is a risk involved in combining the drug ephedrine with any other drugs.

    Ephedrine has also been reported to disrupt healthy sleep patterns, by causing such problems as insomnia, headaches, and increased anxiety. Getting enough sleep is a constant challenge for college students, so taking a drug to stay awake studying can have very adverse effects on a person's sleep schedule. For these reasons, it would be best to advise your roommate about the potential risk factors that are involved with taking the drug ephedrine, and help her come up with other ways to study effectively.

    ~UHELP

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  • Coffee

    Dear UHELP,

    I love coffee, but am I addicted to it?

    ~Coffee Drinker

     

    Dear Coffee Drinker,

    Caffeine is highly addictive. Many people discover they are addicted to caffeine after they go for one or two days without coffee and get a splitting headache. Withdrawal symptoms are common and even people who use only moderate amounts of caffeine - about two and a half cups daily Š can experience these symptoms. According to the International Food Information Council, symptoms include headaches, short-term depression, fatigue and irritability. Heavy caffeine users tend to experience withdrawal effects after as little as two hours.

    Caffeine is one of the two most widely used psychoactive drugs on earth (the other being alcohol). "Psychoactive" means that it has an effect on your psychological functioning, in addition to a number of physical effects. It speeds you up just to slow you down again. It's a drug, but it's so cheap and easily available that people often forget the real medical reactions to it and indulge in the stimulant. People who regularly consume large amounts of coffee (more than five cups a day) often find their system has adapted to this amount, so that their "tolerance" to the substance increases; the result is that they must increase their intake to have any stimulating effect.

    Since caffeine is a stimulant and speeds up the body's heart and blood rates, it also acts as a diuretic, which speeds up digestion and excretion. Drinks like coffee and sodas increase the volume of urine excreted and act as laxatives. A single coffee cup, especially if it is drip coffee, may hold more than 450 milligrams of caffeine.

    Caffeine also comes in many forms including soda, diet pills (which speed up the blood rate and curb appetite) and over the counter pills, which are a serious health concern, especially for college students, who often use pills to stay awake while studying for exams or writing papers. According to the FDA, caffeine pills are more addictive than coffee or soda and are more likely to induce an overdose.

    Students who want to cut back on their caffeine intake have several healthy options. Starting the day with a cold shower, keeping a strict regime of regular physical exercise, and a well-balanced diet can provide the energy that many caffeine addicts need. Decaffeinated coffee and herbal teas can also satisfy the craving for stimulant-based drinks.

    ~UHELP

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  • Quitting Smoking

    Dear UHELP,

    Why is it so tough to quit smoking?

    ~Trying to Quit

     

    Dear Trying to Quit,

    It's all in the addictive power of the nicotine that is found in cigarettes. When most people first start smoking their sensitivity to nicotine is high, which means they will have low tolerance for the effects of nicotine. They can smoke a few cigarettes, feel satisfied and not have to smoke any more. Then, of course, over time, as this person smokes, they become more tolerant to the effects of nicotine. It will take more and more cigarettes to get the same feeling of satisfaction which develops into a 'habit' or addiction.

    When quitting smoking, a person may go through a series of changes, and each stage depends on having passed through the previous one.

    Stage 1: Pre-contemplation- there is not intention to change behavior but they are aware of the consequences. ("I know smoking can cause lung cancer.")

    Stage 2: Contemplation- person recognizes that their behavior places them at risk, has thought about changing, but is not committed to making that change. ("I know I should stop smoking but I don't know if I'm ready to commit to quitting yet.")

    Stage 3: Preparation- person intends to change risky behavior in the very near future, and is actively preparing. ("Today I am going to stop smoking between every class break and maybe just smoke between a couple.")

    Stage 4: Action- person has changed a risky behavior recently, and the change has been in effect for less than six months. ("I am very proud of myself for not smoking for the past six months.")

    Stage 5: Maintenance- the behavior change has been maintained for six months or more, and the person is relatively comfortable with the change. ("I don't need to smoke anymore, it is not a part of my life now and I feel more in control of my life.")

    Researchers used to believe that once a person gave up smoking, their tolerance to nicotine declined, but recent studies have shown this is not the case and instead, tolerance has stayed the same. So if a person lights up even years after quitting smoking, it is easier to renew the habit than when they first began to smoke. Once a person becomes dependent on nicotine, it is permanent. If you are someone who is trying to quit smoking and is having a tough time of stopping your old habit, the reason may be due to your tolerance level to nicotine.

    Quitting smoking is difficult. If you need more information or assistance with this goal, here are some resources:

    ~UHELP

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  • Depression

    Dear UHELP,

    My roommate has been worrying me lately. She rarely leaves the room, skips most of her classes and seems to just generally be "down." I think she might be depressed. Is this common among college students? Is there anything I can do to help? Are there any resources on campus?

    ~Worried Roomie

     

    Dear Worried Roomie,

    I first would like to commend you for having the courage to take the first step toward helping your roommate by asking us for advice. The worst thing you can do in these situations is to do nothing!

    Unfortunately, depression is rather common among college students. In fact, one out of every five college students experiences some sort of mental illness each year. Many mental health and emotional problems manifest during transitional periods in one life, including the transition from high school to college. This makes college students particularly susceptible to depression and other forms of mental illness. Fortunately, 80 to 90 percent of students who get help can return to a functional college life. What is alarming, however, is that more than two-thirds of college-aged individuals never tell anyone about their problems.

    That said, the best thing you can do as a roommate is talk to your roommate about your concerns as soon as possible. This will help get the issue out in the open. Be supportive by using "I" rather than "You" statements to explain specific things about her behavior that concern you. For example, say, "I am worried about your apathetic attitude towards schoolwork lately," instead of, "You have been skipping every class and stay in bed way too much." Give advice by providing specific options. Here are some options available at or near UW:

    1. Hall Health Center Mental Health Clinic: http://www.hallhealthcenter.com/, click on Mental Health To make an appointment with a counselor: (206) 543-5030 Group Therapy: 543-5030 Crisis Intervention: 583-1551

    2. Student Counseling Center: 401 Schmitz Hall: 543-1240 http://depts.washington.edu/scc

    3. King County Crisis Clinic: 24-Hour Crisis Line: 206.461.3222 (Toll Free: 866.4CRISIS (866.427.4747))

    It is important for you to be patient and provide support to your roommate. Your roommate may refuse to listen to you and deny there is a problem. In this case, it may necessary for you to contact her friends, parents, or RA. Remember, you can only do so much, so don't be afraid to get support for yourself during this process.

    ~UHELP

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  • S.A.D. #1

    Dear UHELP,

    The cold, long winter months always seem to be making me tired, cranky, and a little depressed. Is there anything that I can do to try to lift my mood despite the grayness outside?

    ~Cold and Cranky

     

    Dear Cold and Cranky

    If you feel that you're getting the "winter blues" when the days get shorter and grayer and your "winter blues" seem to go away as spring comes along, you may be experiencing what is called Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD). This may be happening because your body is having a hard time adjusting to the shorter hours of light during the day. The "winter blues" seem to be more pronounced in January and February because the days are usually the shortest during those months.

    What Are the Symptoms?

    • Symptoms of depression occur regularly during the fall or winter months (changes in sleeping and eating habits; persistent sad, anxious or "empty" mood; loss of pleasure in activities once enjoyed).
    • Depression subsides in the spring and summer months.
    • Symptoms have occurred in the past two years, with no non-seasonal
    • Seasonal episodes substantially outnumber non-seasonal depression episodes.
    • The individual craves sugary or starchy foods.

    What Causes SAD?

    Melatonin, a sleep-related hormone secreted by the pineal gland in the brain, has been linked to SAD. This hormone is believed to cause symptoms of depression and is produced at increased levels when it is dark. So when the days are shorter and darker, the production of this hormone increases.

    Is Treatment Available?

    Yes! People don't need to wait for spring to overcome SAD. For mild symptoms, spending time outdoors during the day or arranging homes and workplaces to receive more sunlight may be helpful. Regular exercise - particularly if done outdoors - may help because exercise can relieve depression. One study found that an hour's walk in winter sunlight was as effective as two and a half hours under bright artificial light. For more severe symptoms, a light treatment called phototherapy might help.

    Phototherapy has been shown to suppress the brain's secretion of melatonin. Although research hasn't proven that this treatment has an antidepressant effect, it has helped many people. The device most often used today is a light box that emits very bright light through a filter. SAD patients sit in front of the light box for a few minutes every day while they work or do other activities. If phototherapy doesn't work, an antidepressant drug may help reduce or eliminate SAD symptoms, but there may be unwanted side effects to consider. The counseling center in Schmitz Hall has one of these devices. Call 543-1240 for more information.

    In all cases, people who think they may have SAD should discuss their symptoms with a doctor or mental health professional.

    Check out these resources:

    Understanding how Bright Light Affects Circadian Rhythm Disorders:
    http://www.naturalemporium.com/biological_clock.html

    Learn about Light Therapy:
    http://store.yahoo.com/naturalemporium/learabligthe.html

    Facts about Seasonal Affective Disorder
    http://www.nmha.org/infoctr/factsheets/27.cfm

    ~UHELP

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  • S.A.D. #2

    Dear UHELP,

    Every time I take classes during the Winter Quarter, I feel saddened more when I don't do well in my classes than when I take them during other quarters. Are these helpless emotions an early indication for developing depression?

    ~Winter Blues

     

    Dear Winter Blues,

    Depression can be a serious matter when feelings of sadness or helplessness are experienced on an almost daily basis. However, feeling down only during this time after a minor setback or experience with failure is not a just cause for being diagnosed with depression. If your depressed moods are most commonly felt during the winter months and subsides by the time spring hits, then you could be experiencing a type of depression known as the "winter blues," or more commonly, Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD).

    A diagnosis of SAD is made by a professional when a pattern of depression and remission occurs for at least two consecutive years and when the episodes occur at the same time each year, beginning around the fall/winter seasons and subsiding completely during the spring/summer months between May to August.

    We all experience sadness and other unpleasant feelings in our lifetime. But when you start to notice a pattern, where over the course of the illness you consistently feel depressed more during the winter, then this should be a cause for concern as potentially SAD. Although the specific causes of Seasonal Affective Disorder are unknown, some researchers point to the lack of sunlight and shortened hours of daylight during the winter months as a strong link.

    Also, working in a darkened room or indoors without windows can also be a potential cause. Some may also believe that during the winter, there is a disturbance with the body's natural biological clock (due to the sun setting so early), or with problems associated with the brain chemical serotonin. This disturbance with our body's biological clock is felt by most people to a degree.

    Imagine getting up for school before the sun has risen and by the time you get out of class and are on your way home, it's pitch black. This can certainly make the body feel like it is later than it really is. Plus, research shows that we all feel happier emotions when the sun is shining, whether diagnosed with depression or not. But again, if these episodes are recurrent for at least two years, it is an indication that these moods will occur again and again.

    While there is no cure, there are effective treatments to manage your depressed moods during these months. These treatments include anti-depressants, counseling, light therapy, or a mixture of all three.

    For more information about resources here on the UW campus, visit the mental health clinic at Hall Health, the student counseling center in Schmitz, or the Wellness Resource Center in room 213 at Hall Health for brochures and appropriate resources.

    ~UHELP

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  • Sleep #1

    Dear UHELP,

    My friends and I were wondering how much sleep the average college student should be getting. Our sleep schedules have been thrown off by studying for midterms and we all seem to need different hours of sleep to be functioning in the morning. How much sleep should we be getting and how can we make sure that we get a good night’s sleep?

    ~Anonymous

     

    Dear Anonymous,

    Sleep seems to be one of the first things shoved aside when we get busy, but most of us know that getting a good night’s sleep is important to meet the demands of the upcoming day. According to a recent national survey, 44% of college students reported getting enough sleep to feel rested in the morning 3-5 days a week. Each person needs a different amount of sleep to feel ready to face their day, but most adults need 6-9 hours. If you find yourself sleeping considerably longer on weekends you are likely not getting enough sleep during the week.

    That said, it isn't realistic to assume that college students will drop their social plans or schoolwork to prioritize for sleep, and that really isn’t necessary anyway. Improving the quality of your sleep is more important than pure quantity. Ideally we should only sleep as much as needed to feel rested the next day.

    Here are some tips for improving the quality of the sleep you do get:

    • Don't nap if you're having problems sleeping at night Š the temptation can be strong, but sleeping during the day for long periods of time will continue to disrupt your sleep cycle. A short nap during the day may be helpful, but try to keep it to less than an hour.
    • Stick to a regular schedule as much as possible
    • Exercise regularly Š ideally not immediately prior to sleeping
    • Take care of planning for the next day before you get into bed Š worrying in bed can distract you from sleeping for hours
    • Don't go to sleep too full or hungry Š an active or grumbling digestive system interferes with your ability to settle down and sleep through the night
    • Don't eat, study or watch TV in bed Š make your bed a place for sleeping only, making your bed daily helps reinforce this idea
    • Develop a sleep ritual Š it is easier to transition to sleep if you have the same pattern of getting ready for bed each night
    • Avoid stimulants in the evening Š caffeine and nicotine are particularly problematic
    • Drink in moderation Š alcohol can make it difficult to fall asleep or stay asleep and sleep has a tendency to leave you feeling less rested in the morning.

    Happy sleeping!

    ~UHELP

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  • Sleep #2

    Dear UHELP,

    If I have a midterm the next morning, is it better to get a good night’s sleep or cram and study all night?

    ~Exam Crammer

     

    Dear Exam Crammer,

    Though many studies have been conducted to question why the body needs sleep, a solid and consistent answer has yet to surface. However, what science has proven is that people function more efficiently following a good night’s sleep, sometimes even just an hour of slumber makes a difference. There are various theories about the importance of a good night’s rest; one concept is that sleep benefits and restores the brain, allowing it to review information collected while we are awake.

    Another great resource on campus for those who have been assaulted, or who are interested in getting more information is the Sexual Assault and Relationship Violence Information Service (SARIS): 206-685-HELP (206-685-4357). It is a free, confidential and safe starting point from which all students can get more information. SARIS resource specialists can provide information to the victim, their friends and family about options and services, including medical assistance, legal options and counseling among others. One can also report assault or relationship violence anonymously to SARIS, which means they do not need to give any personal, identifiable information to report an incident to get help.

    Staying up all night to cram for a test is probably not the wisest decision, because you could just be wasting your time. The more hours you are awake, the more your body tanks. If you have been up for 16 hours, your capability to retain information is significantly reduced, which basically means your brain is beginning to check out. By the 18-hour mark, your reaction time slows from a quarter of a second to half a second. If you are yawning and rereading the same paragraph, you are probably not as awake as you think. Once you have been up for 20 hours, your reaction time is the same as someone who has a blood-alcohol level of 0.08. Like the rest of your body, the brain runs on glucose; after being awake for 24 hours, the brain’s ability to use glucose considerably drops. And, keep in mind that getting just a few hours of REM (rapid eye movement) sleep, will allow your brain to sort through all of the material you are studying so that you can recall the information more clearly the next day. So, instead of pulling an “all-nighter,” try to sleep just a few hours so your brain can sift through all of your test material.

    So what do all these statistics mean? Go to bed, try to get a few good hours of sleep, and next time, don’t wait until the night before to cram for your midterm.

    ~UHELP

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  • Flu Shot

    Dear UHELP,

    Flu season is on the news every year, but I don't know much about it. Lots of people I know have never gotten a single flu shot and they are still fine. Is it really that big of a deal?

    ~Anonymous

     

    Dear Anonymous,

    Flu is caused by the influenza virus. It is contagious and can be spread by sneezing, coughing and direct hand contact. The flu virus is considered epidemic because it is easily spread from person to person and it can cause mild to severe illness depending on the person's health conditions. The typical symptoms include fever, chills, lost of appetite and energy, aching, sore throat, dry cough, and nausea. These symptoms can be prolonged and may lead to death for individuals at high risk for secondary infections, such as the elderly, babies, pregnant women, and people with certain health conditions (see below for these conditions). For healthy people, a fever usually lasts for a few days and then goes away. Some body fatigue may last for several more days. For these mild flu symptoms, one should simply get plenty of rest, drink lots of water and avoid using alcohol and tobacco. Symptoms should be clear within a week.

    There are ways to prevent the flu virus. Simply washing your hands with soap and water and keeping your immune system healthy with a balanced diet, plenty of rest, and adequate fluid intake will help prevent the flu. Also, flu vaccination is the primary means of prevention and it is 70-90 percent effective. The vaccination works by encouraging the body's immune system to develop immunity to the virus. This takes about two weeks after the shot for your body to build immunity. Because the flu virus changes each year, it is recommended that those at high risk to receive flu shots annually. Prescription antiviral medications (amantadine, rimantadine, and oseltamivir) are available as alternatives to flu vaccination. These are prescription medications and a physician should be consulted before use.

    ~UHELP

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  • Transfer Students and Studying

    Dear UHELP,

    I have a friend who is a new transfer student this quarter from BCC and is having a difficult time adjusting to the rigorous course work. She is an older student, and due to this is a bit shy about trying to form study groups with the young crowd on campus. She is attending the study centers and has a newly employed a math tutor. Are there any other options for help?

    ~Concerned Friend

     

    Dear Concerned Friend,

    It is true that the University of Washington can be intimidating since the level and quality of work expected from students is a big change from not only high school, but also community colleges. Your friend is doing the right thing by attending the study centers. The math study center in the Communications building has fantastic tutors that really know what they are talking about. There is also free tutoring available in the Instructional Center located at 1307 N.E. 40th Street (543-4240). I have heard great things about the help that is offered there - many of the tutors have either been TA's or have had other first-hand experiencing at teaching the material.

    Counseling may also help your friend. The Student Counseling Center in room 401 Schmitz Hall as well as the Undergraduate Advising Center in room 171 Mary Gates Hall will provide counselors that can offer advice on how to manage time and create a game-plan for the courses required for your career goals. The Office of Minority Affairs, located at 1410 N.E. Campus Parkway (543-7132), will also provide counseling and advising. The office will also provide an advisor who can help give your friend pointers on how to manage any type of specific difficulties.

    Attending the professor or TA office hours is also a very good idea. They can offer one-on-one help for specific questions that you might have on the material that is being covered in class. Tell your friend that it is important to not be afraid to ask for help. TAs offer clarifications and provide a means by which to fully understand class lectures and homework. They enjoy helping, it is, after all, their job. At office hours it is easy to meet other students that might have the same questions as you, and perhaps organize a study group. The great thing about UW is the fact that students are often very friendly, and one shouldn't hesitate to ask classmates for help - they can often be your most valuable resource.

    Also, relaxation is important. Stress makes everything seem so much more difficult. I know that telling a stressed person to relax is equivalent to telling a scared person to not be scared, but being relaxed does help academic performance. When you are happy, and not constantly dreading the start of every day, then everything - including homework and studying - just seems easier to handle. Exercising for 30 minutes a day is a great way to physically relieve stress. Reading a "fun" book for 30 minutes in between reading those dull textbooks will also help. Personally, I enjoy making lists of all the things I have to do, and dividing up my duties according to the time that I have for each one. Having a set schedule that you can simply follow will make all the work seem less overwhelming. I wish your friend luck for the remainder of the school year!

    ~UHELP

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  • Bruising

    Dear UHELP,

    I bruise really easily, and I don’t know why. It’s coming up on shorts season and I don’t want my legs to look like a third grader who falls down on the playground all the time. Why is this happening, and is there anything I can do about it?

    ~Bruise Like a Peach

     

    Dear Bruise Like a Peach,

    Bruising is a normal bodily function that occurs after some kind of trauma to soft tissue, but it can be a sign of a host of different underlying diseases if it happens often and for no apparent reason. Your bruising is most likely not a sign of serious illness, as there are a number of innocuous causes, but it’s something you should mention to your doctor the next time you go in for a check up just to make sure.

    Bruises are the result of some kind of impact between your body and a hard surface around you that results in an area that is discolored, swollen, and often sore to the touch. Capillaries in the area have burst from the force of the impact, and blood flows out into the surrounding tissue. The harder you are hit the bigger the bruise will be, as I’m sure you have noticed. Bruising can also occur when there has been no obvious physical impact to the body. Strenuous exercise can cause muscle fibers to tear slightly and capillaries there break to form bruises.

    There are a number of reasons why some people might bruise more easily than others. Nutritional deficiencies, especially of Vitamin C or flavonoids, could be to blame, as well as the use of blood thinning drugs like aspirin or ibuprofen, or being old, as aging causes collagen fibers in the skin to break down and there is less cushion to protect the capillary beds under the skin. More serious possible causes are liver disease, leukemia, or some hereditary blood diseases such as hemophilia.

    In order to minimize the severity of a bruise, put an ice pack on the area as soon as possible and elevate the injury site, to minimize the amount of blood that flows out of the blood vessels. The next day, apply a warm compress to the site to help break up the blood clot that has formed and promote reabsorption of the blood and faster healing. There are number of other “alternative” remedies for helping bruises heal as well. Herbal extracts like arnica, witch hazel, comfrey can help bruises heal faster and are available at many health food stores in the form of gels or tinctures. It’s also important to consider what you are ingesting - if you are prone to bruising make sure you are getting lots of Vitamin C in your diet (it helps strengthen the collagen fibers in your body, providing better support to blood vessels and thus reducing the severity of bruising), and limit your intake of blood thinning pain relievers like aspirin and ibuprofen.

    Again, if you are concerned about the frequency or severity of your bruising mention it to your doctor in order to rule out any serious underlying conditions, but keep in mind these tips to help minimize your bruising on your own.

    ~UHELP

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  • Smelly Belly Button

    Dear UHELP,

    My belly button smells - why?

    ~Smelly Belly

     

    Dear Smelly Belly,

    If you think about your belly button, it's a small enclosed space: much like the spaces between your toes. And, like the skin on the rest of your body, it contains sweat glands. These features allow easy accumulation of sweat (not to mention lint) and can lead to a foul odor. This can, easily, be ameliorated by regular washing.

    In a more clinical, less hygienic sense, the smell could come from a variety of sources. Irritations inside the navel easily become infected (for the same reasons as above - sweat and oil can pool there and bacteria can use the break in the skin from the irritation as a source of entry). A variety of bacteria, most notably Pseudomonas, can give off odors. If this is the case, a visit to your doctor - or to Hall Health - can be your ticket to a rosy-scented navel.

    ~UHELP

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  • Acne

    Dear UHELP,

    Does acne stop after puberty? Please?

    ~Sick of Acne

     

    Dear Sick of Acne,

    To qualify the following, the dermatologist that nicely helped me with this article - Gina Sybert, M.D. - explained that no one really understands why pimples come and go and the levels go up and down, beyond a basic "oil gets into your pores, bacteria use the oil for metabolism, and produce products that elicit an inflammatory (hence redness) and immune response (hence pus)." That said, there are a few things that we do know:

    • The hormones that convert androgens into the oily bacteria-food are produced in the pituitary glands and in the testicles (leading to higher incidence of acne in adolescent males).
    • After puberty, the hormone levels in our bodies settle down and both the prevalence and intensity of acne decrease, but they do not, alas, decay to zero.
    • About 25% of people will continue to have (or in some cases, see the first appearance of) acne after puberty, though it is rare for any person to go through their post-pubescent life and never see another pimple.
    • To reduce the incidence of pimples, washing our faces once or twice daily is beneficial. Any kind of soap will do, but a moisturizing wash may be best for sensitive skin. If this fails to quell the storm of hormones, visiting a dermatologist for acne medication is a good option. And, last, it often helps to remember that everyone has pimples and they're just a part of us: in short, don't worry about it!

    ~UHELP

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  • Hearing Loss

    Dear UHELP,

    I wear headphones while I'm studying. I sometimes need to turn up the volume a lot to drown out background noise or my roommate. Can I damage my hearing? How would I know?

    ~Anonymous

     

    Dear Anonymous,

    I know the feeling -- headphones are pretty much a necessity if you want to get any work done in some of the noisier places on campus, especially Odegaard. Most people find it tough to concentrate when people are chatting around them, playing bass-heavy music, eating noisy foods, or (the worst!) having loud sex in the neighboring dorm room.

    It’s often tempting to turn the volume up high enough so that you can’t hear anything else around you, but you need to be careful, because it’s extremely easy to listen at dangerous volumes this way. To understand why, first you need a little background information about sound. Typically, we measure sound loudness in units called decibels, or dB. A completely silent room has a volume of 0dB, and an average conversation between two people has a volume of about 60dB. A moderately noisy social environment like the Odegaard library measures about 70 to 80dB.

    Now, here’s the problem: if you’re trying to use headphones to block out outside noise, the actual volume that you expose your ears to is the volume of the outside environment plus the volume (or, more technically, the “dynamic range”) of the music. In practical terms, you need to listen to music about 25 to 30dB louder than the outside environment for music to be intelligible. If you’re listening in a noisy part of Odegaard (say, 80dB), this means that you may actually be listening to your headphones at a volume of 100dB or more!

    According to the Federal Occupational Safety & Health Administration (OSHA), you risk hearing damage if you listen at a volume of 100dB for more than two hours in a single day. As the volume increases, the safe listening times drop pretty quickly. If you’re listening at 105dB, the risk of hearing damage sets in after listening for only one hour, according to OSHA guidelines. At 110dB, which is not crazily loud, especially if you’re listening to drown out a noisy environment, the maximum safe listening time is 30 minutes a day. (Many organizations, including Canadian and European occupational safety organizations, consider the OSHA guidelines to be fairly liberal and have even more stringent standards.)

    The bottom line: listening to music with headphones in order to drown out noise can be dangerous if you’re not careful. Try to listen at the lowest volume that you find comfortable, and avoid the tendency to keep turning up the volume every time something especially loud happens around you. Better yet, consider finding a quieter location around campus to study.

    Alternatively, you might consider using earplugs to block out noise. Many people think that the common kinds of foam or rubber earplugs sold at drugstores aren’t very effective, but usually that’s because the earplugs aren’t being used correctly. Believe it or not, there’s an art to properly inserting earplugs. Most people don’t do it right because they think the ear canal points straight into the head. Surprisingly, this isn’t true! The human ear canal actually points upwards at about a 45 degree angle. Check out the following ear diagram online: http://www.bartleby.com/107/illus907.html

    The proper way to insert an earplug is to roll it between your fingertips, pull back on your earlobe with your other hand, then insert the earplug at a 45 degree angle upwards. Finally, hold it in place for a few seconds until it expands. If you follow these instructions, you’ll be surprised at just how much outside noise those cheap drugstore earplugs can block out.

    If you’re absolutely addicted to music, another (more expensive) alternative to listening to music safely while drowning out noise is to use devices called “musician’s earplugs,” also known as “in-ear headphones” or “canalphones.” These are a combination earplug/earphone that musicians use to monitor the sound mix when they’re performing live on stage. Used properly, musician’s earplugs will drown out even the loudest outside noises -- your cell phone can be ringing in your shirt pocket and you won’t be able to hear it -- but the drawback is that they can be expensive.

    Whatever you decide, do try to be careful. Your hearing is precious and worth cherishing.

    ~UHELP

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  • Allergies

    Dear UHELP,

    I just moved out of the dorms and into a house with a bunch of other girls. One of them has a cat, and I think I'm somewhat allergic to it (my eyes water, I cough occasionally, etc.). Is there anything I can do about it? Should I move out?

    ~Allergy Sufferer

     

    Dear Allergy Sufferer,

    Before considering moving out there may be some alternative actions that you can take to try to avoid allergic reactions to your roommate’s cat. If you can't "allergy proof" your whole house, just try to concentrate on your bedroom. Most importantly you should try to keep the cat out of your room. Shut the door to your room when you're out. Try to keep your room clutter free and clean things frequently. Cat dander and the cat allergen can hang out in the air and accumulate on anything and everything. By vacuuming frequently, keeping your sheets clean, and the room clutter free this helps pick up some of the airborne stuff that you may be allergic too. Avoid holding the cat and if you do touch it, wash your hands immediately afterwards. Keep anything that has been near the cat away from your face as to avoid directly inhaling the allergens.

    A lot of the time allergies are cumulative. This means that if someone has an allergy to one thing, they may have it to others too and then they build up to causing an allergic reaction. So think about if there's anything else in your house that may be adding up to an allergic reaction. Dust, mold, mildew, feathers, perfumes, soaps, fabric softeners, and smoke are all common things that could be adding up along with the cat allergens to cause you some discomfort. Try eliminating these things from your house as well as cleaning up for the cat allergens.

    If you feel that you're still having allergic reactions to the cat you should consider seeing a doctor and if it's still a problem, then you should talk to your roommate about getting rid of her cat.

    ~UHELP

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  • Repetitive Stress Injury

    Dear UHELP,

    I play the piano, and sometimes after I finish playing, my wrists and fingers feel a little numb. A few times they've even started to hurt. Should I be worried about this?

    ~Numb Pianist

     

    Dear Numb Pianist,

    If you are continually telling yourself that those sore thumbs, aching forearms, and increasingly clumsy or numb hands are just part of being a serious musician, you could be suffering from something know as Repetitive Stress Injury (RSI). Instrumental musicians, as well as surgeons, manual laborers, and people that use the computer for prolonged periods of time can easily be targets of this type of injury.

    Repetitive Stress Injuries occur from repeated physical movements doing damage to tendons, nerves, muscles, and other soft body tissues. These injuries can develop into something more serious, such as Carpal Tunnel Syndrome, Tendinitis, Myofascial Pain Syndrome, Cubital Tunnel Syndrome, and Trigger Finger/Thumb.

    Listed are some common symptoms of RSI:

    • Tightness, discomfort, stiffness, soreness or burning in the hands, wrists, fingers, forearms, or elbows
    • Tingling, coldness, or numbness in the hands
    • Clumsiness or loss of strength and coordination in the hands
    • Pain that wakes you up at night
    • Pain in the upper back, shoulders, or neck associated with using the computer or
    • Facial pain, or clicking in the jaw

    RSI can be a serious and painful condition that is far easier to prevent than to cure once contracted. Prevention, or early acknowledgement, is the best way to lower your risks for a more serious problem and to start feeling better. In order to do this, you should take the following into consideration:

    • Pay attention to your body. Particularly changes in your body. Pain is your body's way of telling you it's over-worked. Don't disregard these signals; your body will thank you for it.
    • Do warm-ups. Just as athletes do warm-ups just before vigorous activity, musicians can also benefit greatly from these activities. Musicians put athletic demands on fine motor muscles and should also stretch and warm-up these areas before practicing and performing.
    • Stretch, take breaks, and relax. This should entail not only short minute breaks between pieces, but also longer breaks every hour. Repetitive motion and constant strain on muscles does not allow the body to flush away waste products and this can be traumatic to tissues over time. Give your body time to replenish itself.
    • Evaluate your technique. Continually check your posture to evaluate forces and pressures on the muscles that are in constant use. Reduce body usage that involves fixed, tense positions.
    • Seek medical help. If pain is constantly present for extended periods of time or is becoming worse, find a medical provider that can help. It is better to not play for a few months than to risk permanent damage.

    ~UHELP

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  • Circumcision

    Dear UHELP,

    I've been dating my girlfriend for a couple of years, and we're considering getting engaged. She's Jewish and I'm not, and her family would like me to convert to Judaism, which would mean that I'd have to get circumcised. To tell you the truth, I'm a little spooked about the whole idea. Is it painful? What does getting circumcised as an adult involve? What are the risks?

    ~Worried Boyfriend

     

    Dear Worried Boyfriend,

    Well, to be honest, yes it's going to hurt -- but that doesn't mean you should worry yourself senseless! Your physician will do his or her best to minimize pain during the procedure and afterwards, and you shouldn't hesitate to discuss your concerns beforehand. A little knowledge about what to expect will go a long way in making you feel more comfortable.

    First, a little background for those readers who might not have a foreskin. (Interestingly, although circumcision is done on about 60 percent of newborn males in the United States, it is only performed on an estimated one out of six male newborns worldwide!) At birth, the smooth, rounded tip of the penis, the glans penis, is partially covered by a retractable fold of skin, called the foreskin, or prepuce. It is this loose skin that is removed during male circumcision. Even though the majority of circumcisions are performed on babies or very young children, there are also adults that choose to undergo this process.

    The reasons for becoming circumcised as an adult vary. For both the Jewish and Muslim communities, circumcision has great religious significance. Cultural factors, such as tradition and personal preference can also play a role. There are also certain medical conditions, such as inflammation of the glans, stenosis (a fancy word for when the skin dries up and tightens so much that you can't retract the foreskin), or penile cancer, which may force you to get circumcised. Whatever your reasons, it is important to explore them and to have an understanding of the risks and benefits associated with circumcision.

    Adult circumcision is usually performed by a urologist, outside of a hospital. To prevent pain, usually anesthesia is used on the area. The actual procedure is fairly simple, though the two commonly used methods, the dorsal slit and sleeve techniques, have somewhat scary names! As with any surgical procedure, the most common complications are bleeding and infection.

    While petroleum jelly and gauze may be initially wrapped around the sutured area, you should remove the gauze 24 to 48 hours after. It is important to wear loose fitting briefs and to check periodically for bleeding or oozing from the wound. Mmmm.

    The healing process can take anywhere from four to six weeks, during which time intercourse and masturbation should be avoided. If necessary, one can receive a prescription for amyl nitrate as abortive therapy for erections that occur during the recovery period.

    Although circumcision has been practiced for thousands of year, the degree of risk and amount of benefit are still highly debated. Critics emphasize the disadvantages, including pain, irritation, risk of complications, and unpleasant changes in sensitivity during intercourse. Proponents cite issues of hygiene, decreased risk of developing cancer of the penis, and potential reduction in the spread of certain sexually transmitted diseases.

    Here are some websites containing further information and testimonials on adult male circumcision. Whatever your decision, make sure it's an informed one!

    ~UHELP

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  • Free Hall Health Services

    Dear UHELP,

    I don't really have a lot of money, and it's a pain to deal with my parents' health insurance company. I've heard that Hall Health offers some free medical services to students. What are they?

    ~Anonymous

     

    Dear Anonymous,

    The Student Activity Fee, which everyone pays along with their registration, covers a variety of free medical services at Hall Health. Many students on campus don't know about these services, so it's smart of you to take advantage of them! You are eligible for these services at no cost:

    • Unlimited visits with HHPCC (Hall Health Primary Care Center) Consulting Nurses: Students may meet with a consulting nurse throughout the quarter if they have any questions about their health. Call 206-221-2517 to speak to a nurse on the phone, or drop in and meet with one in person!
    • Advice about concerns for HIV & STD exposures: All students may receive a free medical consultation at Hall Health regarding HIV & STD exposure. You may also look for further information at the Wellness Resource Center.
    • Reproductive health counseling: Students may discuss a variety of reproductive health concerns with a Hall Health care provider.
    • Unlimited access to the Wellness Resource Center (WRC): The WRC is stocked with information covering everything from nutrition to STDs. All telephone calls (206-543-8006) and visits are kept confidential. Come visit the WRC -- it's located on the second floor of Hall Health in room 213 and staffed by Peer Health Educators (PHEs).
    • Blood pressure screening and consultation: This service is offered on a variety of days and times. Visit Hall Health's website (Hall Health Center ) and look for these times under health education.
    • Smoking cessation assistance: Contact Mark Shaw, 206-616-8476, for information about this great program.
    • One visit per quarter for acute illness/injury (this excludes routine physicals and annual women's exams): Call the patient service's center at 206-616-2495 to schedule an appointment.
    • One Crisis Intervention counseling session per full academic year: Call Hall Health at 206-685-1011 for more information.
    • After hours Consulting Nurse Service for urgent medical problems: Students may call 206-223-2500 to consult a nurse after normal clinic hours.

    Hall Health Primary Care Center is open Monday through Friday from 8:00 am to 5:00 pm, except Tuesdays when they are open from 9:00 am to 5:00 pm. If you need more information about Hall Health services, feel free to drop in or call them at 206-685-1011. They also have a helpful website: Hall Health Center

    ~UHELP

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  • Becoming A PHE

    Dear UHELP,

    What is peer health education and how can I get involved?

    ~Interested Student

     

    Dear Interested Student,

    If you enjoy educating others, learning about health, or simply being a leader on campus then being UHELP (UHELP) may be for you. The University Health Education Leadership Program is based out of the Wellness Resource Center (WRC) which is located on the second floor of Hall Health Primary Care Center. The WRC is a place where anyone can go to pick up health related information and resources, discuss health topics, or possibly to buy bike helmets or a condom rose.

    Keep your eyes open for posters scattered throughout campus next fall quarter. The posters will list the dates, times, and locations of several informational meetings. To become a UHELP involves completing an application and an interview and when accepted, participating in training during spring quarter. The spring training involves biweekly meetings on Tuesdays and Thursdays and can be taken for credit. There is also a week long training just before the beginning of fall quarter. If you want to be kept up to date on the recruitment process for next year simply send an email to uhelp@u.washington.edu indicating your interest.

    Having been UHELP for the past year, I have found the experience to be challenging yet rewarding. One will find that the program can be used to develop skills such as leadership, public speaking, interpersonal skills, and teamwork. Because the position is strictly 'volunteer' the experience can vary per individual. I have not been able to find any other volunteer position that allows one to truly define his or her role in a program or that allows the participant to become as actively involved in a program as Peer Health Education. Personally, I wished to develop public speaking abilities specifically and evolved from barely able to speak in front of a small group to feeling comfortable speaking in front of a large audience. On top of gaining transferable skills, one can also learn about health issues in a safe, comfortable, open, and friendly environment. So if you are interested in developing your skills on a personal level or simply finding your niche on campus with a great group of friends, I would recommend applying to become UHELP next year.

    ~UHELP

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  • Bike Safety

    Dear UHELP,

    What are some good tips to be safe on my bike?

    ~Safe Biker

     

    Dear Safe Biker,

    With the weather getting nicer and with it being Bike to Work Week last week, a lot more people are deciding to get on their bike and ride to work or school. Knowing a few safety tips about biking can be safer for you and other people.

    Here are some excellent safety recommendations:

    Always wear a helmet when riding! Accidents do happen, even to the most careful of people, so it's nice to have something there to protect you just in case. 75% of all fatal or permanent injuries in bike accidents are head injuries. Don't have a helmet and can't afford an expensive one? Well, the University Health Education Leadership Program happens to sell bike helmets at Hall Health! Just come in and see a friendly Peer Health Educator in Room 213 (The Wellness Resource Center) and we will properly fit you to a bike helmet. The helmets are only $10 with a U-PASS and they meet all the safety requirements.

    Be visible! Wear bright clothing so that other people are able to see you easier. If you're riding with traffic it is especially important to as visible as possible so that drivers can see you. Being visible also means riding with lights on at night. All states require a bicycle to have a white headlight at night and many states require to have a red taillight as well.

    Use a lock! Locks are a necessity to protect against getting your bike stolen and the police recommend a U-shaped lock as they are an effective deterrent to thieves.

    Warn others when passing. The law required cyclists to yield to a pedestrian giving audible warning of your presence. Use a bell or tell the person which side you are on. Typically bicyclists pass on the left.

    Follow posted signs.Posted stop signs, yield signs, pedestrian signs and speed limits must be obeyed.

    Register your bike It is always a good idea to register your bicycle with the police department in case your bicycle gets stolen.

    Check out http://www.washington.edu/upass/getting_here/biking.html for more information on biking.

    If you'd like to buy a bicycle helmet or bike lights, call 543-8006 or stop by the Wellness Resource Center in Hall Health Primary Care Center Room 213

    ~UHELP

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  • Finding A Doctor

    Dear UHELP,

    Now that I am living away from home, I need to find a doctor. How do I do this?

    ~Anonymous

     

    Dear Anonymous,

    Sooner or later most of us will need to seek medical care beyond an occasional trip to the ER. As a Licensed Practical Nurse and a fellow health care consumer, I have found the following to be helpful when attempting to choose a doctor.

    Terms to Know:

    • Primary Care Physicians (PCPs) include family practitioners/general practitioners, general internists, and pediatricians. Your PCP will manage most of your care. He/she will refer you to a specialist if more advanced care is needed.
    • Family practitioners/general practitioners specialize in general family care and are trained in wide variety of disciplines.
    • Internists are physicians who diagnose and "medically" treat (without surgery) disease in adults.
    • Pediatricians treat children from birth through the teens.

    Tips for finding a personal physician:

    Who do you know? Obtain referrals from your family, friends, other doctors or your local medical society. Calling a local hospital for the names of doctors on staff is another option.

    Are you covered? Check with your doctor's office to find out if they are covered by your health insurance plan or your health maintenance organization (HMO). Or ask your insurance company for a list of approved doctors. If you are uninsured, ask the office staff about payment options.

    Check them out! Research your doctor's credentials. Use the American Medical Directory, the Directory of American Specialists, or other professional directories at your local library. The term "board certified" might follow the doctor's name. This means that the doctor has completed training in his/her specific field and has passed all required tests. If you have a specific medical need, inquire as to how much experience and/or training the doctor has had in that area.

    Where in the world? Find out where your doctor's office is located and what hospitals the doctor uses or practices in.

    Are they open? Ask about the office hours. If you are busy with school and work all day, you might find evening or Saturday hours more suitable for your schedule.

    Get personal! Finally, schedule an initial visit with the physician. A very important factor in the success of your health care management is the physician's interpersonal skills and ability to effectively communicate. Your PCP should include you in the different aspects of your health care by explaining diagnoses, procedures, test results, medications and by answering your questions.

    ~UHELP

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  • Epilepsy

    Dear UHELP,

    I know someone who is epileptic. What should I do when he or she is having a seizure? What are some ways of managing epilepsy?

    ~Anonymous

     

    Dear Anonymous,

    Epilepsy is a disorder, which takes the form of recurring seizures. Seizures are sudden uncontrolled episodes of electrochemical activity in the brain. Brain cells normally communicate with each other in a coordinated way to control our conscious state and body movements. During a seizure this communication is temporarily disturbed. Seizures can look frightening but rarely cause damage to the brain. Once the seizure is over, the person gradually returns to a normal state.

    Here are things you can do to help someone having a seizure.

    • Remain with the person having the seizure, to protect and reassure him/her.
    • Do not restrain the person.
    • Note the time and length of the seizure.
    • Remove all dangerous objects.
    • Do not put anything in the person's mouth.
    • As consciousness returns, offer further reassurance
    • Get immediate help if the seizure continues for more than 5 minutes (earlier if you are unsure about the medical history and if it is possibly a first seizure).
    • If the person remains unconscious, get urgent medical assistance.

    An epileptic person can reduce their chances of having a seizure by taking the appropriate medication as prescribed and by maintaining a healthy and balanced lifestyle. For some people whose epilepsy is not controlled with medication, surgery may be an option. This involves extensive testing and consultation between the patient, doctors and other professionals to decide if surgery could be beneficial. Medication is required for some time after surgery.

    For more information on epilepsy, visit the following websites.

    www.aesnet.org
    www.epilepsynse.org.uk
    www.epinet.org.au

    ~UHELP

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  • Urinary Tract Infections

    Dear UHELP,

    How do I know I have a urinary tract infection (UTI)?

    ~Worried About Bladder Health

     

    Dear Worried About Bladder Health,

    Two of the hallmark -- and most annoying -- symptoms of a UTI are urgency and pain during urination. Other symptoms of a UTI are cloudy and/or bloody urine.

    A urinary tract infection is caused mainly by bacterial growth in the urethra that has spread to the bladder. UTIs are typically not dangerous if treated promptly. However, once these pesky little microorganisms are in your bladder, they can easily spread into your kidneys where they can do a lot more damage, not to mention a lot more pain. Once the infection has spread into your kidneys it can cause fevers, back pain, nausea and vomiting.

    The key to stopping these buggers from getting worse is early diagnosis, which means seeing your doctor as soon as the symptoms appear. They'll take a small urine sample and look under a microscope to find the culprit along with white blood cells that are trying to search and destroy the criminal bacteria.

    Once a firm diagnosis is confirmed treatments include antibiotics as a death sentence for the bacteria and nazopyridines, which relieves the pain and burning during urination. But beware: nazopyridines will turn your pee into a bright red/orange and can stain clothes indefinitely.

    So now you're probably thinking, how the heck did those buggers get up there in the first place? Well, recent studies have shown that there are two risk factors for UTI's:

    • When your immune system has been compromised with a cold or the flu
    • Increased sexual activity

    When you and your partner are getting a little hot and heavy, frisky and wild, it's a likely chance that bacteria can spread from either your anus or your partner's anus into your urethra without you knowing it. Women also have a greater chance of getting UTIs then men simply because their urethras are shorter and therefore easier for the bacteria to ascend into the bladder. Female urethras are about 2 inches while guys are typically 8 inches.

    You can take these steps to prevent UTIs:

    • Use lubricated condoms with extra lube on the outside, but try to avoid the spermicide, which actually increases the incidence of UTIs in some women
    • Drink at least eight ounce of water a day. Avoid alcohol and caffeine
    • Empty your bladder as soon as possible when you feel the urge to urinate
    • Urinate after sex and drink a glass of water. This will cause you to urinate in a few hours which helps flush out bacteria
    • Practice good hygiene & wipe front to back after a bowel movement and urination

    So regardless of how you got it, the moral of the story is: When in doubt, get checked out!

    ~UHELP

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  • Meningitis

    Dear UHELP,

    What are meningitis and meningococcal septicemia? What precautions can I take against them?

    ~Anonymous

     

    Dear Anonymous,

    Meningitis is inflammation of the meninges, the lining surrounding the brain. It can be caused by many different organisms including bacteria, viruses and fungi. There are two types of meningitis: viral and bacterial. Viral meningitis is more common than the bacterial form, but generally less serious although it can be very debilitating. It can be caused by many different viruses. Some are spread between people by coughing or sneezing, or through poor hygiene. Others can be found in sewage-polluted water. The incubation period can be up to three weeks. In mild cases of viral meningitis, people may not even go to their doctor. Therefore it is difficult to say exactly how many cases there are of viral meningitis. The symptoms can be similar to the bacterial form and someone with a severe case of viral meningitis will need to be admitted to hospital for tests to find out which form they are suffering from. Diarrhea can also occur with mild viral meningitis.

    Bacterial meningitis is fairly uncommon, but it can be extremely serious. It is fatal in one in 10 cases and one in seven survivors are left with a serious disability, such as deafness or brain injury. Most cases in the UK and Ireland are caused by bacteria or viruses. While meningococcal disease is the main cause of bacterial meningitis, there are many other types which cause it including pneumococcal, Group B streptococcal and others.

    Meningococcal septicemia is a type of blood poisoning which is caused by the same bacteria that cause the most common form of bacterial meningitis. It is the more life-threatening form of the disease. The bacteria enter the bloodstream and multiply uncontrollably. With septicemia, the bacteria release toxins into the blood which break down the walls of the blood vessels allowing blood to leak out under the skin. This leaking causes marks on the skin - a rash of red or brownish pin prick spots which develop into purple bruises, blood blisters or blood spots. Septicemia can make you very ill because it also reduces the amount of blood reaching vital organs such as the liver and kidneys. Meningitis and meningococcal septicemia may not always be easy to spot at first, because the symptoms can be similar to those of flu. They may develop over one or two days, but sometimes develop in a matter of hours. The incubation period for bacterial meningitis is between 2 and 10 days and for viral meningitis it can be up to 3 weeks.

    Symptoms do not appear in any particular order and some may not appear at all. It is important to remember that other symptoms may occur. In adults and older children some possible symptoms include high temperature (fever possibly with cold hands and feet), vomiting, diarrhea, severe headache, neck stiffness (unable to touch the chin to the chest), dislike of bright lights, drowsiness, joint or muscle pains, and stomach cramps with septicaemia. Babies may also suffer from tense or bulging soft spot on the baby's head, blotchy skin, getting paler or turning blue, refusing to feed, irritable when picked up, and a stiff body with jerky movements.

    The risk of getting the main type of meningitis and septicemia, meningococcal disease, is very small, even if you have been in contact with someone who has the disease.

    The bacteria which cause meningitis and septicemia are very common. Most of us will carry them at some stage in our lives without developing any illness. Only a tiny proportion of the population will develop meningitis or septicemia if they come into contact with the bacteria. The bacteria survive for only a short period of time outside the body, so they cannot live long in the air and are not carried on household objects such as clothes, furniture or toys. This means that you must be in very close contact with someone before the bacteria can pass between you. Even though this happens quite regularly, it is unlikely you will develop meningitis or septicemia because most of us have natural resistance to the bacteria.

    There are vaccines that protect against meningitis and septicemia. Although most of these vaccines provide excellent protection, they can't prevent all strains of these diseases. Knowing the signs and symptoms of meningitis and septicemia is one of the best forms of defense against these diseases. Both diseases can be treated with powerful antibiotics. This treatment works best if it is given as soon as possible. That’s why it is important to know what to look out for and to get medical help quickly if you are concerned.

    ~UHELP

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  • Hepatitis A Vaccine

    Dear UHELP,

    I’ve already gotten my hepatitis B shots and now I'm hearing about the hepatitis A vaccine-- should I get that too?

    ~Anonymous

     

    Dear Anonymous,

    The Washington State Department of Health recommends the hepatitis A vaccine for anyone 2 years of age and older who are traveling or working in countries with high rates of hepatitis A. These include Central or South America, the Caribbean, Mexico, Asia (except Japan), Africa, and eastern or southern Europe. People who live in communities that have prolonged outbreaks of hepatitis A or high rates of hepatitis A should also get the vaccine. Also at risk are people who engage in anal or oral sex, use injection drugs, have chronic liver disease, and receive clotting factor concentrates.

    Transmission: The hepatitis A virus is usually transmitted through the fecal/oral route, i.e. not washing one's hands after using the bathroom and then eating a meal. It is also spread by close person to person contact or ingestion of contaminated food or water.

    Symptoms: Hepatitis A can cause mild "flu-like" illness, jaundice (yellow skin or eyes), severe stomach pain and diarrhea. Eventually, it leads to inflammation of the liver.

    Prevention: Hall Health Travel Clinic, along with other international travel medicine clinics, recommends that you get the first dose of Hepatitis A vaccine TWO weeks or more before departure for travel to a developing country for maximal benefit. Two doses of the HAV vaccine, given at least 6 months apart, are needed for lasting protection. HAV may be given at the same time as other vaccines.

    Other ways to prevent the spread of HAV include: washing hands with soap and water after using the toilet, engaging in safe sex, and using household bleach (10 parts water to 1 part bleach) to clean surfaces contaminated with feces.

    Hall Health Travel Clinic offers other immunizations as well as pre-travel counseling and health advice for people who are planning to travel out of the U.S. or Canada. Their homepage is: http://depts.washington.edu/hhtravel/

    You could also visit the National Immunization Programs website at:

    http://www.cdc.gov/nip, or CDCs hepatitis website at http://www.cdc.gov/ncidod/diseases/hepatitis/hepatitis.htm

    Getting the hepatitis A vaccine is much safer than getting the disease.

    ~UHELP

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  • Plan B

    Dear UHELP,

    How exactly does the “Plan B” pill work?  How do I go about getting it if I suddenly need to?

    ~Wanting to be Prepared

     

    Dear Wanting to be Prepared,

    The Plan B pill is a form of emergency contraception most commonly known as the morning after pill.  Plan B is not an abortion pill, although many people often confuse Plan B with RU-486.  Plan B consists simply of progesterone hormones given either in two, single dose pills, or one pill containing two full doses.  Progesterone is a hormone that prevents ovulation (unless ovulation has already occurred) and thickens cervical mucus, making it harder for sperm to swim up and fertilize an egg.  It is important to remember that although Plan B can be effective a maximum of five days after unprotected sex, it is most effective within 72 hours.  Side effects may include spotting and/or light bleeding.  In addition to obtaining Plan B from your regular physician, you can also get Plan B at any nearby Planned Parenthood (Madison: 206.328.7700 or U-District: 206.632.2498).  Plan B is also available from providers at Hall Health, and the cost is very reasonable for students.  Established patients may come to see the Women's clinic triage nurse for Plan B, without having to have a physical exam.  Finally, you can obtain Plan B at a number of pharmacies in Washington State without seeing a clinician (1-888-NOT-2-LATE).  For further information visit: www.hallhealthcenter.org and click on Women’s Clinic, and then Health Information.

    ~UHELP

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  • Atkin's Diet

    Dear UHELP,

                For the longest time I was convinced that the Atkin's Diet was really unhealthy.  I can even recall my biochemistry teacher talking about this. Your brain runs on glucose, which is produced when carbohydrates are broken down. Why then, if this is true, has there been such a surge in the food market to create all these new low-carb products? Everyone these days seems to be promoting it.... so what is the truth?  Is it unhealthy or not?

    ~Diet Skeptic

     

    Dear Diet Skeptic,

                First of all, the popularity of the Atkin’s Diet doesn’t mean it is healthy.  The Atkin’s Diet is just like any other fad diet.  In the ‘80’s and‘90s, the fat free diet was the rage – don’t you remember going to the supermarket and seeing the shelves lined with “fat free” items?

                As to the health benefits of the Atkin’s Diet, the jury is still out.  As you know, the Atkin’s diet severely restricts your carbohydrate intake, forcing your body to use fat as an energy source .  This stage is called ketosis because your body excretes ketones in your urine and breath.  Some studies have shown that dieters generally lose more weight on these low carb diets than low fat diets, and experience larger reductions in their blood fat and cholesterol levels.  However, after they go off of the diet, they generally gain more weight back and more quickly.

                Short term side effects include constipation, foul breath from the ketones, fatigue, or headache.  Additionally, the diet minimizes healthy, nutrient rich fruits and fiber-rich grains (fiber is important for bowel regularity and to prevent colon cancer. So, long-term use of such a diet without nutritional supplements (as recommended by Dr. Atkins), vitamin and mineral deficiencies may develop.  There does not appear to be any short term damage to your kidneys, bones, or heart.  Unfortunately, the diet has not been around long enough to determine the long term effects.  Some concerns are: 1) high levels of protein in the blood may put too much strain on the kidneys;  2) high intake of saturated fat may lead to heart disease; and 3) high level of of protein in an Atkins type diet may create a condition that pulls calcium out of your bones.            

                With this all said, it is important to consider that “diets” generally do not work in the long run.  In fact, they actually hurt your metabolism and body! When you deprive your body of calories during a diet, your metabolism slows down.  Then, you go off the diet and might begin eating the same or  more ( in response to having restricted yourself) calories as before your diet, but, since your metabolism has slowed down, you will gain weight.  So, you diet again and….get the picture?!  Ultimately, the best way to lose weight permanently is to make lifestyle changes.  Adopt a well-balanced diet with a variety of nutrients and moderate exercise, and stick with it.  If you have trouble sticking with it – ask for some help – from a trusted friend, counselor, etc.

    ~UHELP

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  • Going Vegan

    Dear UHELP,

    For health and political reasons, I have recently decided to become vegan.  However, I want to make this transition in a healthy way.  What supplements should I take?  How can I make sure I'm getting enough protein?

    ~Vegan Eater

     

    Dear Vegan Eater,

    Thank you for such a great question.  It is very important with any diet that you plan carefully to ensure you are eating a wide range of foods, which will provide you with the appropriate nutrients.  Because the vegan diet eliminates all animal products, there are some additional vitamins and minerals that you should be sure to include in your diet.   

    1. Vitamin B12: Vitamin B12 is only obtainable from animal products, and is important to reduce your risk of heart disease.  You can obtain Vitamin B12 from a supplement or from fortified food (such as soy milk).
    2. Calcium: Adequate calcium intake is very important to prevent osteoporosis.  Non-dairy sources of calcium include kale, broccoli, collard greens and other green leafy vegetables.  However, it difficult to eat enough of these greens to provide the recommended 1000 mg of Calcium daily.  Fortunately, most dairy alternatives, such as soy and rice milk, are fortified with calcium.
    3. Vitamin D:  Vitamin D is important to help your body absorb calcium.  Most dairy alternatives are also fortified with vitamin D in addition to calcium.
    4. Protein: You can find significant sources of protein in soy products, legumes, nuts, and whole grains.  It is recommended that adults consume .4 grams of protein per pound of body weight each day, which is approximately 50 grams for a 130 pound person (for reference, ½ cup tofu contains ~10 grams protein).  

    If possible, you may want to consider speaking with a dietician to ensure that you understand all of you nutritional needs as a vegan.  For more information about transitioning to veganism, visit http://www.veganhealth.org/shv/index_html#summaryofdailysuggestionsforveganadults.

    Some great vegan recipes are also available at www.vegweb.com.

    ~UHELP

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  • Semen

    Dear UHELP,

    “I have noticed that the consistency of my sperm is becoming thicker. Is this a result of an infection or sickness? If not what could I be doing that is causing this change? Is this normal or should I be worried?

    ~Anonymous

     

    Dear Anonymous,

    There are numerous factors that can affect semen consistency.  Before we get into those reasons, I’d like to get the more pressing concerns out of the way.  If you are experiencing painful urination, bloody or brown discoloration in the semen, or an unknown discharge from the penis, it is imperative that you seek medical attention.  Any of these symptoms could lend to a serious condition that, if left unchecked, could pose further complications.

     

    With that said, semen consistency varies among men.  The color, texture, and quantity can vary greatly.  Semen is designed to “gel” after ejaculation to improve chances of fertilization.  There are major factors such as diet and ejaculation frequency which lend to consistency.  A healthy diet rich in nutrients like vitamin C, vitamin E, zinc, and essential fatty acids promote a healthy prostate, and in turn, its production of seminal fluids.  If you have been ill recently, your diet as well as water intake may have been affected, all of which could change the consistency of your semen.  Try to exercise on a regular basis and hydrate yourself with plenty of water.  If you would like to look into the matter further, you might try seeing a urologist, who would be able to offer the most expertise.  But otherwise, just know that you’re experiencing a highly normal occurrence.

    ~UHELP

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  • Condom Club

    Dear UHELP,

                I have a question about the Condom Club.  What I know about it now is that we can get 50 condoms for $10 each quarter.  Are there any responsibilities as a club member?  Can we buy them anytime, even if winter quarter is almost ending?

    ~Anonymous

     

    Dear Anonymous

                Excellent question!  Students may join the Condom Club for $10 for 50 condoms.  There are no responsibilities as a member (except, of course, to practice safe sex!), and membership is anonymous.  As a member, you will receive a Condom Card with 10 punch slots on it.  You can come into the Wellness Resource Center (Hall Health Room 213) and receive 5 condoms each week or as needed.  We will punch your card once for every five condoms you receive.  So, if you buy a card at the end of the quarter, it will still have several punches left that you can use next quarter.  Or, if you don’t plan on using 5 condoms each week, you can buy just one card for a few quarters or the entire school year.  If you would like to join, please come to the Wellness Resource Center.   Peer Health Educators staff the center daily and will be there to help you sign up.    

    ~UHELP

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  • Amenorrhea

    Dear UHELP,

    My girlfriend has missed her period and has failed 3 pregnancy tests over the past two weeks.  She is not extremely athletic.  Any ideas? 

    ~Worried Boyfriend

     

    Dear Worried Boyfriend,

              There can be many reasons for a missed period besides pregnancy.  Women that are very athletic and have low body fat may develop amenorrhea, an absence of their menstrual cycle.  However, you already ruled that out yourself.  Sickness is another factor to consider, as well as anxiety or stress.  Related anxiety of missing her period may be aggravating the situation.  Your girlfriend should be checked out by a physician who can narrow down the causes, as well as perform a blood test for pregnancy.  For more questions or information, you could contact Hall Health Primary Care Center’s Women’s Clinic consulting nurse here on campus at 206-221-2491.

    ~UHELP

     

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  • STD Testing 3

    Dear UHELP,

    I have never been tested for STDs, but have been told that since I am sexually active, it is a good idea.  Is there a place I can go for free? 

    ~Anonymous

     

    Dear Anonymous,

              Planned Parenthood and the Harborview STD clinic both provide sliding scale fees for STD testing.  However, with Planned Parenthood, there is a program called “Take Charge,” where if you qualify based on income, you can receive check ups and birth control.  Because it is a pregnancy prevention program, you must be interested in birth control, so females and males alike would have to speak to someone regarding pregnancy prevention.  There is a Planned Parenthood located in the U-District at 4500 9th AVE, and the phone number is 206-632-2498.

              Harborview STD clinic’s sliding scale can go all the way down to zero dollars, again depending on income, but no proof of income is required.  Harborview is located at 325 9th AVE.  Walk-ins and appointments are available by calling either 206-731-2271 or 206-731-3590.  It moves pretty quickly in the mornings, but it is recommended to call first if you plan on going in the afternoon.

              Finally, there is also Gay City Health Project Wellness Center, located at 1513 Broadway on Capital Hill.  It focuses on the needs of gay and bisexual men.  Testing is free, but donations are gladly accepted.  To make an appointment, call 206-860-6969.

              For more information on STDs and testing, contact Seattle and King County’s STD/HIV Hotline at 206-205-STDS.

    ~UHELP

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  • Nalgene Bottles

    Dear UHELP,

     I hear that if I put my Nalgene bottle in the dishwasher it will poison my ovaries or have some negative effect on my health due to the protective coating coming off in the dishwasher.  Is this true? 

    ~Thirsty but too lazy to hand wash

     

    Dear Thirsty but too lazy to hand wash,

    Nalgene water bottles are common on many college campuses today. You see a range from the old fashioned gray ones to the new colorful fun- shaped models and highly decorated to “just the basics”.  Much of the hype surrounding the Nalgene bottle craze is due to the fact that they are marketed as ‘unbreakable’.  Let’s face it, this is a necessity around college campuses, especially when you are darting from one class to another.  The Nalgene bottle owes its durability and attractiveness to the material it is made of: Lexan polycarbonate resin (LPR). 

    LPR is ideal for water bottle construction because of its durability and because it does not hold any weird odors or add taste to any liquid it holds.  Some recent studies have suggested that polycarbonate plastics, including Lexan, may be the root of certain health-related issues including chromosomal disorders, endocrine disruption, and have unfavorable effects on prostate development, breast tissue development and sperm count in lab-tested rodents. These health risks are due to the bi-product bisphenol-A (BPA), which is a building block of polycarbonate plastics, hence is found in LPR.  This compound is what enables LPR to be strong, durable, lightweight, clear and resistant to heat and electricity.

    The Environmental Protection Agency lists BPA as a known endocrine disruptor.  An endocrine disruptor is a synthetic chemical, which mimics or blocks hormones, disrupting bodily functions.  BPA can leach out of the Nalgene bottles and pose risk to the consumer.  Luckily for us, many bottles do not randomly leach out BPA, and it is only a concern with use of harsh detergents, alcohol, or prolonged exposure to heat.

    Although many studies are inconclusive, results have suggested that every day use should not pose a serious health threat.  However, if you are worried about any health effects, there are measures you can take as a consumer. You can switch to the safer alternative of stainless steel containers- although they are not as attractive, you can be assured that they do not have BPA leakage. Or, if you are very careful, glass containers would also work.   Other safer alternative plastics include: #5 PP, #2 HDPE, #4 LDPE plastics, and these should be listed on the bottom of any water bottle you were to purchase. In fact, the opaque, softer Nalgene bottles are made of #2 HDPE plastic!  If you need any more information you may visit the Nalgene Bottle Website at http://www.nalgene-outdoor.com or Seattle King County Public Health Department at http://www.metrokc.gov/health. Good luck and happy drinking!

    ~UHELP

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  • Drinking Without Getting Drunk

    Dear UHELP,

    Whenever I hang out with a couple of my friends, I always get drunk.  I still want to hang out with them, and I don’t mind drinking, but how can I drink without getting drunk?

    ~Done Being Drunk

     

    Dear Done Being Drunk,

              As an individual drinks, his or her blood alcohol level increases, and with each level comes certain effects.  Many people start to report feelings of being drunk at a blood alcohol level of .06 (the legal intoxication level is .08).  Staying below .06, light and moderate drinkers begin to feel relaxed, and their inhibitions are slightly loosened.  In addition, they may begin to talk louder or faster than they normally would, and may act bolder than usual.  Women 100-180 pounds should limit their drinks to 1 per hour in order to remain in this zone, whereas women 200-240 pounds will remain in the range with 2 or less drinks per hour.  Men 100-140 pounds will stay in this desired zone with 1 drink per hour, 160-220 pounds 2 drinks per hour, and 240 pounds 3 drinks per hour.

              In addition, staggering your drinks by drinking water between each one will slow down the number of drinks you consume, as well as keep you hydrated and lessen the effects of a hangover.  Also, the best foods to eat before or during drinking are proteins and fats, because they take longer to digest.  This will give your liver more time to process the alcohol.  Finally, it may be helpful to set a limit before you go out and communicate it with your friends.  That way, you have created a buddy system where you can spot each other.  For more information or to find out your personal blood alcohol level according to your weight, stop by the Wellness Resource Center in Hall Health, Room 213.  I hope this helps, and as always, have fun!

    ~UHELP

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Last modified: 04/29/05.