Back in high school, being sick would’ve been my savior from another forgotten statistics quiz, but in reality, waking up with a stuffy nose or a high fever can be worse than solving those dreaded probability questions. If you’re one of the many college students today who struggle to manage a career, education and (God forbid!) a social life, then health issues are probably the last thing on your agenda. Even so, before you cozy up to that bottle of Tylenol PM, it might be useful to check if those symptoms might be more than an excuse to skip class.
Ever thought you could get sick from kissing? Well, you can! So, before you pucker up, be cautious of a little disease called mononucleosis. Mononucleosis, or ‘mono,’ is a common infection notoriously dubbed ‘the kissing disease.’ This infection is caused by exposure to either the Epstein-Barr virus or the cytomegalo virus and usually spreads through an exchange with infected saliva.
Though signs may not always be noticeable until four to six weeks later, once you have it, it stays dormant in your body forever. Symptoms imitate a variety of common illnesses such as fever, fatigue, weakness, sore throat or swollen lymph nodes.
There is no way to prevent exposure other than to be aware of your surroundings. Taking antibiotics will not kill the virus and the best remedy is simply adequate liquid intake and extensive bed rest.
A more serious infection to watch out for is meningococcal meningitis, a bacterial infection of the membrane tissues of the brain and spinal cord caused by N. Mertingitidis. The American College Health Association reports that ‘approximately 100 to 125 cases of meningococcal disease occur on college campuses each year, and five to 15 students will die as a result.’
Also, according to the Center for Disease and Control, freshmen who live in dorms have a 6.33 times higher risk of exposure. As if the freshmen 15 weren’t enough! Symptoms include fever, nausea, vomiting or lethargy and the disease can result in hearing loss or permanent brain injuries. Prevention is easy with a routine vaccination and treatment is possible with an immediate visit to the doctor for antibiotics.
While college students are at a higher risk for catching mononucleosis and meningitis, sexually transmitted diseases are also an impending concern for college students.
If you’re like me and go through life being bombarded by overwhelming statistics on sexually transmitted diseases, then you might be more ignorant of the real dangers of STDs than you know. Yes, everyone has heard of HIV, syphilis and gonorrhea, but do you know what HPV is or that at least 50 percent of sexually active men and women have had contact with it at some point of their lives?
Though you may not know it, you’ve probably already heard of the human papilloma virus through bathroom jokes about genital warts. Genital HPV is a strain of viruses that leads to high risks for cervical cancer or milder infections like genital warts. HPV is spread through sexual contact by directly rubbing infected skin onto the genital skin of your partner. The most common HPV, genital warts, are cauliflower-shaped bumps that appear on the skin of the vagina, anus or on the penis. Though warts can be easily treated through applying prescription medicine from your doctor, symptoms and signs may not always be obvious. In fact, an HPV-infected person may not know they are infected because there are no clear visible signs.
Another STD that can sneak up on you unnoticed is chlamydia. Similar to genital warts, symptoms for chlamydia are silent. Even if symptoms like abnormal vagina discharges or urinal burning do occur, they don’t usually show until one to three weeks after exposure. Chlamydia is a bacterial infection that usually damages women’s reproductive organs and results in irreversible infertility.
According to Amanda Rodriguez, a coordinator for the UC Irvine Student Health Education Center, ‘Women are less likely to notice symptoms than men because it is less physically apparent. That’s why it is crucial for them to ask for screenings during regular visits to their ob-gyn.’
As with all STDs, the best way to prevent infection is abstinence, but since this isn’t the land of Oz, a good preventative measure against most STDs is a condom. Male or female condoms, when used correctly, can highly reduce the risk of STD contraction through anal, oral or vaginal intercourse. Frequent testing and discussions with your partner can also help prevent the spread of disease.
If by now I have successfully instilled the fear of kissing, sex and sleeping in your dorm rooms tonight, then despair not because there are many resources at UCI and on the Web that are out there to help. Two places to start are the Student Health Center located near Middle Earth and the UCI Health Education Center next to Cornerstone Caf