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Flu season is here. Here's what to do if you get it.
Cold vs. flu, and when to see the doctor
When you're feeling under the weather, it can be challenging to distinguish between the cold and the flu. One of the key differences is that the common cold typically presents milder symptoms and tends to run its course faster than the flu – usually around five days.
What a cold feels like
The common cold is characterized by:
- Runny nose
- Scratchy throat
- Early-stage fatigue
If your cold is accompanied by wheezing, shortness of breath, vomiting, or a persistent sore throat that lingers for more than a week and is intensely painful, or if it interferes with swallowing or breathing, it's advisable to talk to a doctor. Similarly, suppose your cold worsens after several days or seems to improve briefly before taking a turn for the worse. In that case, you might be dealing with a sinus infection, which can initially mimic cold or allergy symptoms.
The flu, on the other hand...
In contrast, the flu typically hits harder and faster, with more severe symptoms. Many individuals with the flu experience:
- Fever of 101 degrees Fahrenheit or higher
- Sore throat
- Body aches
If your symptoms are severe, include nausea and vomiting, prevent you from keeping liquids down, or if the fever persists beyond five days, it's prudent to seek medical attention. If you develop flu symptoms, wait 24 hours after being fever-free before returning to classes and other public spaces. This helps reduce the risk of spreading the virus to others.
Your flu shot questions answered
Each year, many individuals grapple with whether to receive the flu vaccine. The University Health Center addresses frequently asked questions about the flu shot.
Does the flu vaccine work?
The yearly influenza vaccine stands as the most effective defense against this illness. While it can't guarantee absolute immunity from the flu, it significantly reduces the severity of the virus if contracted.
I had the flu shot last year. Why do I need it again?
Annual vaccination is necessary because the flu virus evolves rapidly, and the protection provided by the previous year's vaccine diminishes over time. Even if you received a flu shot last year, it's essential to get another one this year.
What are the benefits for me?
Receiving your yearly influenza immunization substantially lowers your risk of experiencing severe complications from the flu. Roughly 10% to 15% of those contracting the flu develop secondary infections like bronchitis, sinusitis or ear infections. Preventing the flu also averts these additional health issues. Last year, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported over 700,000 hospitalizations due to influenza-related illnesses.
I'm young and healthy, so why should I get the flu shot?
When you obtain your annual influenza vaccination, you safeguard yourself and protect your loved ones and fellow students on campus at higher risk of serious complications. Infants, older adults, and individuals with weakened immune systems face more significant risks from the flu, including pneumonia and fatalities.
What if I can't afford the flu vaccine?
Flu shots are free for students. The University Health Center offers free drop-in flu shot clinics throughout October and early November. If you can’t make it to a clinic, schedule an appointment with us.
Can I receive the flu shot if I am immunocompromised?
If your immune system is compromised due to conditions like HIV, organ transplantation or pregnancy, you can still receive the inactivated flu shot.
What if the flu shot makes me feel sick?
While the flu shot cannot cause the flu, some individuals may experience mild muscle aches or a low-grade fever for a day or two following vaccination. However, these symptoms are minor compared to the flu, which can lead to high fever and severe muscle pains.
To learn more about how students can get a free flu shot, visit Flu Shots | University Health Center (unl.edu).
Flu season is here – what to do if you get the flu
With sweater weather fast approaching, the cooler weather signals that flu season is just around the corner. The duration of this flu season can vary. However, it typically begins in November and persists well into March or even early April.
What are the symptoms of the flu?
Influenza, commonly known as the flu, is a contagious respiratory virus that affects the nose, throat and lungs. The most prevalent flu symptoms include:
- Body aches
- Upper respiratory symptoms, including a cough, congestion or sore throat
A person is considered contagious when they exhibit symptoms. However, they can transmit the flu even before symptoms become apparent.
What do I do if I start showing symptoms?
If you start experiencing flu-like symptoms, preventing the spread of illness and taking care of your health is important. Here are some steps that the University Health Center recommends you should consider:
- Isolate yourself: Stay home from work, classes and public places on campus as much as possible to prevent spreading the virus to others. You should isolate yourself until you are symptom-free for at least 24 hours without using fever-reducing medications.
- Rest and hydration: Get plenty of rest to help your body recover. Adequate sleep is crucial for healing. Likewise, drink fluids like water, herbal tea and clear broths to stay hydrated. Dehydration can worsen your symptoms.
- Over-the-counter medications: OTC medications may help alleviate some flu symptoms. Common options include acetaminophen or ibuprofen for reducing fever and pain and cough medicines for cough relief, both available at the University Health Center Pharmacy. Follow the dosing instructions on the medication label and consult a health care professional if you have any doubts or underlying health conditions.
- Consult a health care professional: If your symptoms are severe or you have underlying health conditions that the flu could exacerbate, you should contact a UHC health care provider. They can guide whether antiviral medications are necessary or if you need further medical evaluation.
- Practice good respiratory hygiene: Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue or your elbow when you cough or sneeze to prevent the spread of germs.
- Hand hygiene: Wash your hands frequently with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, especially after coughing, sneezing or touching your face.
- Wear a mask: If you need to be around others or live with others, wearing a mask can help prevent the spread of the virus to them.
- Monitor symptoms: Keep track of your symptoms and seek medical attention if they worsen or you have difficulty breathing, persistent chest pain, confusion, bluish lips or face or other severe symptoms.
- Follow health care guidance: If you test positive for the flu, follow any guidance or treatment recommendations provided by your health care provider.
- Prevention for others: Inform close contacts, especially those at higher risk (e.g., elderly individuals or people with chronic conditions), that you have the flu so they can take necessary precautions.
Remember that the flu can be contagious, so taking these steps helps you recover and protect others from getting sick. If your symptoms are severe or you have concerns about your health, don't hesitate to seek medical advice. Additionally, getting an annual flu vaccine can significantly reduce your risk of getting the flu in the first place.
What about the flu vaccine?
Each year, flu vaccines are developed based on predictions concerning the flu strains likely to circulate in the upcoming flu season. While these vaccines are highly effective, they are not always an exact match.
Complete protection is achieved two weeks after vaccination. Receiving the vaccine diminishes the likelihood of contracting the flu, reduces symptom severity, and minimizes the risk of transmitting the virus to others.
The University Health Center offers free flu shot clinics for students, and flu shot appointments are available for UNL students and faculty members. Find more information here - Flu Shots | University Health Center (unl.edu).
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Everything you need to know about COVID-19 booster shots
Last updated: Nov. 30, 2022
By now, you’ve probably heard the buzz about COVID-19 booster vaccines. So how can you know if getting a booster is right for you?
The University Health Center answers students’ most common questions about booster shots so that you can make an informed decision:
Why do people need a booster?
Studies show that after getting vaccinated against COVID-19, protection against the virus may decrease over time and be less able to protect against the Delta variant.
Who is eligible?
As the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced on Friday, Nov. 19, people age 18 years and older who received Pfizer-BioNTech, Moderna COVID-19 or Johnson & Johnson vaccines may now get a booster.
If you received the Pfizer or Moderna vaccines, you may get a booster after at least six months from when you completed your primary COVID-19 vaccination series. You should get a booster at least two months after your shot if you received the Johnson & Johnson
What does it cost?
The booster doses are free of charge to anyone who meets the eligibility criteria.
Where can I get my booster?
At this time, the University Health Center does not offer COVID-19 booster doses.
You can find off-campus locations that offer the booster by searching vaccines.gov, texting your ZIP code to 438829 or calling 1-800-232-0233.
Do I have to get the same vaccine as my original type?
You may choose which vaccine you receive as a booster dose. Some people may have a preference for the vaccine type they originally received. Others may prefer to get a different booster. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) allows this type of mix and match dosing for booster shots.
Does this change who is considered fully vaccinated?
The definition of fully vaccinated has not changed. If you have completed your two-dose Pfizer or Moderna series or the one-dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine, you are still considered fully vaccinated.
Learn more about COVID-19 booster shots by visiting the CDC website.
Get your COVID-19 bivalent booster on campus
Last updated: Oct. 7, 2022
Updated COVID-19 boosters are now available to students, faculty, staff and their dependents ages 18 and up at the University Health Center Pharmacy.
You must schedule an appointment with the pharmacy by calling 402.472.7457. Appointments are available Monday through Friday from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m.
Parental permission is required for minors to receive their vaccination. If you are 18, you must bring a completed Power of Attorney form with you; if you already have a form on file with the health center, you do not need to bring another copy. If you are 17 or younger or unable to complete a Power of Attorney form, we are unable to provide vaccination.
The updated booster dose is bivalent – meaning it offers protection against the latest omicron variants BA.4 and BA.5, plus the original COVID-19 strain. These strains currently account for most COVID-19 cases in the United States. A booster that protects against these later variants should slow the spread of COVID-19 this fall.
Who can get an updated (bivalent) booster?
It doesn’t matter how many doses or boosters you’ve had. As long as you’ve completed a primary COVID-19 series (two doses of Pfizer, Moderna or Novavax or one dose of Johnson & Johnson), you can get one bivalent booster. It should be two months or longer after your last COVID-19 vaccine or booster to get your bivalent booster.
Can I get the updated bivalent booster with the flu shot? Yes.
For the best protection, get both the updated COVID-19 booster and the flu shot this fall. Like last year, you can get the COVID-19 booster the same day as your flu shot. However, COVID-19 boosters are only available in the pharmacy and flu shots are only available in the medical clinic by appointment or at student drop-in clinics.
Are the boosters safe? Available evidence says yes.
Over 262 million people in the U.S. have had at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccines. The COVID-19 vaccines have been rigorously tested and studied since early 2020. Worldwide, over 2 billion doses of these vaccines have been given since late 2020.
The data we have on the bivalent BA.4/BA.5 fall boosters is from studies of human serum and mice. Because they are slight variations on the previous monovalent mRNA vaccines (for which we have large amounts of safety data), the FDA has determined that we do not need extensive human clinical trials to ensure safety. This is the same process we follow for the influenza (flu) vaccine every year. The flu vaccine is updated yearly based on which strains are likely to be the most widespread. After the platform is thoroughly tested in human clinical trials for initial product approval, the flu shot variant is updated each year. The annual flu vaccine updates do not require additional human testing. If we did wait for human testing each year, we would not get protection from the vaccines while the flu spreads unchecked.
The FDA and CDC authorized the same approach for the COVID-19 updated booster. The COVID-19 vaccine platform remains the same, but the specific code is updated to match variants BA.4 and BA.5.
Should I get vaccinated if I’ve had COVID-19? Yes.
COVID-19 vaccines are recommended if you’ve had COVID-19. During omicron, reinfections increased. Reinfections have increased even more with BA.5. Studies show that the best protection against reinfection, hospitalization, and death comes from previous infection and up-to-date vaccination.
If you’ve recently had COVID-19, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and most experts recommend a dose of vaccine one to four weeks after resolution of symptoms (if you are eligible).
University Health Center rolls out online scheduling
Your convenience and well-being are always top priorities at the University Health Center. Our new online scheduling platform is now live to better serve your needs.
Key features of online scheduling:
- 24/7 accessibility: Book your appointments anytime, anywhere. No need to worry about calling during business hours.
- User-friendly: Our interface ensures a seamless booking experience for patients.
- Real-time availability: View real-time availability of our health care providers and choose the time slot that suits you best.
- Appointment Reminders: As with all appointments, you’ll receive timely reminders about your upcoming appointments through email or SMS.
- Secure and private: Your personal and medical information will always remain confidential and secure at the health center.
How to get started:
- Visit our website on your phone or laptop and click the "Schedule Online” button in the top banner.
- Confirm that you are a currently enrolled UNL student scheduling for an acute illness or injury appointment.
- View the available time slots and pick one that fits your schedule.
- Fill in your contact information and any relevant details.
- Review your details and confirm your appointment.
Scheduling online is a convenient option that gives you more control over your health care journey.
Online scheduling is only available for current students with illness or injury. To schedule a physical or gynecological exam or to address other medical concerns, please call 402.472.5000.
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The last days of the semester are crazy busy. While you finish the group projects and study for final exams, you're trying to organize your personal stuff before departing campus for summer, too.
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Are headaches triggered by weather changes?
One day it’s snowing and 10 degrees. The next, it’s sunny and 70 degrees.
Drastic changes in weather mean oncoming migraines or headaches for some and can act as an early warning. But is there a correlation? Does the change in pressure impact headaches or other neurological conditions?
The answer is yes, according to Nebraska Medicine health care provider Elizabeth Hartman, MD, general neurology.
How weather changes affect headaches
The most common weather-related trigger is rapid changes in barometric pressure with storms. Barometric pressure, or the weight of the air, falls when the weather is humid and rises when it’s dry. When the barometric pressure changes, it can create pressure between the sinuses resulting in a chemical imbalance and headache. A shift in weather can worsen an existing headache or migraine.
For some, weather changes or weather-related triggers can also cause an imbalance in brain chemicals, such as serotonin, prompting a migraine. Other weather-related triggers include dry air, high humidity, wind, and sun glare. Bright sunlight or cloudy days and extreme temperatures can also be triggers.
In addition to weather changes, hormones impact headaches, especially in women. Estrogen fluctuations can cause headaches in women, referred to as menstrual migraines. These can occur around the onset of a period and may not respond as well to medications. For many women, migraines improve during pregnancy and substantially after menopause.
Migraines also run in families. Having one parent who suffers from migraines will increase someone’s chance of getting them by 50%.
There are over 150 types of headaches, and all of them are treatable. Tension headaches are the most common and range from mild to moderate. Migraines occur in at least 1 in 10 people and can disrupt daily activities, sometimes worsening with light or sound.
Patients with migraines who feel triggered by the weather should talk to their doctor about their symptoms. Severe headache pain that doesn’t respond to over-the-counter medications requires a prescription.
Medication for migraines or headaches should be taken at the onset of symptoms. Patients can lessen the effects by:
- Drinking enough water
- Getting enough sleep
- Eating healthy foods
- Monitoring weather changes
- Avoiding triggers if possible
Keeping a headache or migraine journal can also help you see correlations between weather fluctuations and headache symptoms.
If you need help managing your headaches or migraines, schedule an appointment with the University Heath Center medical clinic by calling 402.472.5000.
Concussion symptom red flags and when to seek care
The brain consists of several networks that work together to produce our daily thoughts, behaviors and actions.
Those networks slow down when you experience a concussion, impacting daily function.While most people recover within a few weeks, some can experience life-threatening symptoms.
Typical concussion symptoms
Symptoms of a mild or typical “run of the mill” acute concussion include:
- Confusion or trouble focusing
- Sensitivity to light or noise
- Foggy or not feeling right
- Memory loss right around when the impact happened
- Loss of balance
- Loss of coordination
- Looking dazed or stunned
- Behavior and mood changes
Unlike false claims that it takes years to recover from a concussion, the brain can heal relatively quickly. Research suggests that recovery typically takes only two to three weeks for college-age people, although everyone is different and recovers at their own pace.
Repeat concussions can impact recovery time along with:
- Mood disorders or depression
- Neurodevelopmental disorders, such as attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder or ADHD
- Sleep problems and disorders
- Stress or anxiety
The sooner a concussion is treated, the faster the recovery. Research also shows that receiving care from someone with specialized training in concussions improves outcomes.
Concussion red flags and when to seek care
While most concussions don’t require a trip to the emergency room, some situations need immediate care. Call 9-1-1 or go to the emergency room if you experience the following red flags. They could be signs of something more serious.
- Loss of consciousness
- Headache that persists or gets worse
- Repeated vomiting
- Slurred speech
- Numbness or weakness in the arms or legs
- Unusual behavior
- Inability to recognize people or places
- Inability to be awakened
If a person appears “different” after an injury, even if you can’t put your finger on what it is, it’s wise to get them checked out by a professional, says Dr. Higgins.
The University Health Center Concussion Clinic helps diagnose and treat concussions. For more information or to schedule an appointment, call 402.472.5000. Concussion Clinic visits are not covered by student fees, but charges can be submitted to private insurance. Learn more about cost and billing.
Are greens powders actually beneficial? Our dietitian weighs in
There has been a rise in popularity across social media for greens powders, but are they good for you?
Greens powders are a dietary supplement that aims to help people reach their daily intake of vitamins and minerals. The University Health Center registered dietitian Sarah Keegan, MS, RDN, LMNT, CDCES, outlines the basics of greens powders to help you decide whether or not to include them in your diet.
What are you getting out of greens powders?
It’s hard to know what you’re getting from greens powders because they don’t always list all the vitamins and minerals. The recommended serving of most greens powder is once a day, and you only get two grams of fiber from that serving. If you follow the recommendation of eating five servings of whole fruits and vegetables a day, you’ll increase your fiber intake to 15 grams. Fiber is essential in aiding digestion and heart health and keeping you feeling full.
Focus on a balanced diet within your means
Greens powders may seem like a quick way to get vitamins and nutrients, but frozen fruits and vegetables are more affordable. Green powders average around $40 for 30 servings, which is about $1.33 per serving. You can get a 12-ounce bag of frozen mixed vegetables for 99 cents which equate to four servings. That’s about 25 cents per serving, making frozen vegetables the cheaper option.
Frozen fruits and vegetables have just as many nutrients as fresh produce, and sometimes even more because they’re frozen at their prime. They’re also quick to prepare and have a longer shelf life than fresh foods.
Greens powders should be a supplement to your diet, not a replacement for nutrients from whole foods. Try to eat as well as you can with the time and money you have, and add a multivitamin to ensure you’re getting the vitamins and minerals your body needs.
Evaluate how you feel
Essentially, greens powders won’t hurt you but don’t expect them to give you everything your body needs. If you choose to supplement your diet with greens powders, take the time to evaluate how you feel before and after taking it. Is it helping your digestion and energy levels like the labels claim? If you do not a change, it might not be worth spending your money on them.
If you need help navigating healthy eating, schedule a telehealth nutrition counseling visit with the University Health Center registered dietitian. The first visit is at no cost if you pay student fees. Follow-up visits can be submitted to private insurance. Call 402.472.5000 to schedule an appointment.
You asked, we answered: Do I need antibiotics to treat strep throat?
Do I need antibiotics to treat strep throat?
Answered by Heather Eberspacher, MD:
It depends on if you actually have strep throat. It’s common for people to confuse strep throat with other sore throat infections.
Viral infections cause about 80% of sore throats, but strep throat is caused by bacteria called group A streptococcus or group A strep. Strep throat only accounts for about 15% of all sore throats in adults. A viral sore throat is usually accompanied by a cough, sneeze, runny nose or hoarse voice. Bacterial strep can make swallowing painful and often comes with a high fever.
Common signs and symptoms of strep throat include:
- Throat pain or painful swallowing
- Red and swollen tonsils, sometimes with white patches or pus
- Tiny red spots on the roof of the mouth
- Swollen, tender lymph nodes in your neck
- Nausea or vomiting
- Body aches
The only way to know if your illness is strep throat or something else is to get tested at a doctor’s office with a quick throat swab.
- Negative results: Your doctor may recommend pain medication and general fluids to manage your symptoms
- Positive results: Your doctor will likely recommend antibiotics to ensure the infection doesn’t turn into something more serious
Left untreated, strep throat can cause:
- Kidney damage – caused by the immune system’s response to fight off strep throat
- Scarlet fever – symptoms include a bright red rash, sore throat and high fever
- Rheumatic fever – a condition that causes painful joints, rash and heart problems
- Pneumonia – symptoms vary from mild fever and cough to difficulty breathing and sepsis
While there is no vaccine to prevent strep throat, there are steps you can take to protect yourself and others:
- Frequently wash your hands
- Cover your mouth when you cough or sneeze
- Avoid sharing utensils and drinking glasses
- Avoid kissing anyone while you are contagious
If you have a sore throat that persists for several days or does not get better with over-the-counter medicine, it’s a good idea to see a medical professional in person or through a telehealth visit. Call 402.472.5000 to schedule a visit to the University Health Center.
Is apple cider vinegar good for your skin and hair?
Apple cider vinegar, called ACV on social media, is again gaining traction as a miracle wellness drink.
Trending online as a potential tool for better skin and shiny hair, people are purchasing large jugs to make their own DIY beauty products. Similar to the rice water hair treatment trend, it can be challenging to know if so-called natural beauty tricks are the magic solution the influencers claim.
Is apple cider vinegar safe to use on your skin? Is it good for your hair? What if you have a skin condition? The University Health Center weighs in.
What is apple cider vinegar?
ACV is apple juice that has been fermented several times. Apples are crushed and mixed with yeast or another carbohydrate in the first round. Over time, natural bacteria ferment the juice, converting the alcohol into acetic acid. Once this process is finished, you have ACV in pasteurized and filtered form or raw, unfiltered form. The raw form has cloudy sediment made up of settled bacteria and yeast.
The apple cider vinegar claim
ACV is not a new discovery. People have used ACV for centuries, claiming it helps everything from calming acid reflux and treating a cough to using it as a weight loss aid or beauty product.
Although ACV-infused beauty products are popping up on retail shelves, the use of ACV has yet to be studied extensively. There's simply not much science behind the trend. It’s not a magic topical and not something the health center necessarily recommends. It may be OK to try in moderation for those who are healthy and don’t have a skin condition.
How to use ACV on hair or skin
ACV is acidic and strong, so it's necessary to dilute the product. Take precautions so you don't strip your hair, irritate your scalp or damage your skin. Start by adding a half tablespoon to every eight ounces of water. Depending on how your hair and skin react, you may gradually increase the strength over time. Don't overdo it; too much can cause skin problems, hair brassiness and even skin burns.
ACV advocates claim potential benefits
Benefits for the hair may include:
- Cleansing hair of product and oil buildup
- Restoring shine and protecting color
- Adding volume, relieving itch and dandruff
- Encouraging hair growth
ACV is generally recommended for those with oily and acne-prone skin. It can be applied as a toner, spot treatment or facial cleanser. Benefits for the skin may include:
- Balancing skin pH
- Reducing hyperpigmentation
- Stimulating circulation
Steer clear if you have a medical skin condition
If you have a skin condition, reach out for professional help. Often, a medical condition requires a prescription-strength treatment. In these cases, using ACV may cause more harm than good and should be avoided.
Tips for using apple cider vinegar
- Do not use it if you have a skin condition. Stop using it if you experience irritation
- Make sure you trust the website you're using as a how-to reference
- ACV may not be as effective in the winter. You may need it less often to counteract the dryness of winter weather
- Keep moisturizing your skin to keep it protected
- ACV may make your skin more sensitive to the sun. Be sure to continue to use sunscreen throughout the winter
- Never use ACV straight. Always dilute it and do a skin patch test before applying it to larger areas
If you need help with your skin, schedule an appointment with the University Health Center dermatologist. A doctor’s referral is required and can be obtained by visiting with a health center medical provider. Call 402.472.5000 to schedule.
Health benefits of an anti-inflammatory diet: 10 foods to eat and 6 to avoid
Inflammation is a process that helps the body fight things that could cause harm, like infections and injuries. It’s a healing process that is completely normal and healthy.
However, too much inflammation over time keeps the body in a constant state of alert and can begin to negatively impact organs and tissues. Chronic inflammation is even linked to serious health problems like cancer, heart disease, asthma and others.
Making lifestyle changes is one way to help fight chronic inflammation, especially by eating an anti-inflammatory diet.
6 foods to avoid
Unfortunately, many foods considered part of the traditional western diet can cause inflammation. When following an anti-inflammatory diet, avoid eating:
- Foods high in saturated fats (including red meat, cheese and foods made with saturated fats and oils)
- Full-fat dairy (such as cheese and whole milk)
- Refined grains (foods made with white flour, like cakes, cookies, bread and pasta)
- Processed sugars (foods made with cane sugar or corn syrup, including candy, cookies, cakes, soda and fruit juice)
- Processed foods (fast food and packaged convenience foods, like cookies, chips and microwave dinners)
- Foods that are high in sodium (including many soups and snack foods)
Remember, you may not immediately notice the health effects of avoiding these foods. Stay consistent and persistent to experience the maximum benefits.
10 foods that fight inflammation
Some anti-inflammatory foods, herbs and spices offer benefits similar to nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs like ibuprofen. Other foods have been shown to reduce chronic inflammation over the long term, so you’ll want to keep these dietary changes for months and years.
- Wild-caught fish
- Spices like turmeric
- Unprocessed olive oil
- Vegetables (aim for a rainbow of colors on your plate)
- Seeds and nuts
- Whole, unprocessed grains
Despite the fight against eating grains in U.S. culture, we shouldn’t leave them out of a healthy diet. Whole grains, especially when they’re of the ancient grain variety, have many health benefits, including being anti-inflammatory.
Can an anti-inflammatory diet benefit me in other ways, like losing weight?
An anti-inflammatory diet can help lower your blood pressure, boost your mental health and cognitive function, and relieve other chronic issues. You’ll also reduce your consumption of refined sugars and processed foods, often higher in calories. Eating more nutrient-rich foods makes you feel more satisfied while consuming far fewer calories, which can help you maintain a healthier weight.
Where can I get help creating an anti-inflammatory diet?
- Read books and online resources offering anti-inflammatory diet advice
- Work with the University Health Center registered dietitian to create an individualized eating plan
- Find a buddy to join you in your lifestyle change to help you stay motivated
- Take a gradual approach by adding one new anti-inflammatory food to your diet each week while eliminating food that causes inflammation
Want guidance on creating an anti-inflammatory diet plan?
Call 402.472.5000 to schedule a nutrition counseling appointment with the health center registered dietitian. The first visit is covered by student fees and return visits can be submitted to private insurance plans. Learn more.
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Are flu cases rising in Nebraska? What to expect for the 2023 season
Cases of influenza are rising in Nebraska and all over the country.
Before COVID-19, the flu season would typically peak in January or February. This season, flu cases started rising earlier than typical and continue to grow rapidly.
On an activity scale from "minimal" to "very high," Nebraska is in the "very high" category as of December 2022. See the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's interactive weekly influenza report by state.
Why are flu rates increasing?
Experts aren't entirely sure, but there is speculation that a lack of mask-wearing and social distancing may be partially to blame. Competitive interactions between different respiratory viruses are not well understood either. We’ve seen very mild flu seasons over the last several years while COVID-19 has circulated widely.
Are there different kinds of flu?
There are four types of influenza viruses: A, B, C and D. Type A and B are the viruses that cause the most human illnesses and are responsible for the seasonal flu.
What type of flu is going around this year?
The type A H3N2 virus is the predominant influenza strain so far, according to Mark Rupp, MD, Nebraska Medicine infectious diseases physician. Type A H3N2 tends to cause more severe illness than H1N1 or type B strains.
What kind of flu virus does this year's vaccine protect against?
This season's flu vaccine protects against the four (quadrivalent) influenza viruses that research indicates will be the most common:
- Influenza A (H1N1)
- Influenza A (H3N2)
- Two influenza B strains
Vaccination is crucial for those with obesity, a history of heart disease or stroke, diabetes, asthma or lung disease, immunosuppression or those who are pregnant. Learn how to get a free flu shot on campus.
Influenza, COVID-19 or RSV? How do I know which one I have?
Since the main symptoms are similar, including symptoms for the respiratory syncytial virus, known as RSV, it isn't easy to know what you're dealing with without testing. You can also be infected by more than one virus at a time. Because treatment is most effective within the first few days of symptom onset, call the University Health Center at 402.472.5000 so you can receive the best treatment option.
How can I reduce my risk?
Consider if an activity is worth the risk for you and others. Continue to take common sense precautions when preparing for gatherings, including:
- Wash hands often with soap and water
- Wear a mask when in public, indoors and when using public transportation
- Cover your nose and mouth with a tissue when sneezing or coughing
- Stay home when you are sick
- Avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth
What should I do if I feel sick?
If you have flu symptoms, stay home and keep your distance from others. Call the University Health Center at 402.472.5000 to make an appointment.
What birth control method is best? A look at hormone and hormone-free, plus risks and benefits
Choosing a birth control method is an important, personal decision.
With so many options, knowing what's best for your health and lifestyle can be confusing. What you choose at this point in your life may be different than what you need later on.
Because different types work differently, having an open conversation with your doctor will help you make an informed decision with your health in mind. To help bring some clarity, the University Health Center provides an overview of hormonal and nonhormonal birth control methods they offer, their risks and benefits.
Hormonal birth control methods
Birth control pills are not all the same. Their formulas and composition vary. The combination pill contains an estrogen and progestin combo. When used as directed, it is about 99% effective.
Progestin only minipill
The minipill only has progesterone and can be a good option for women who can't take estrogen, like women with a history of deep vein thrombosis or those who are breastfeeding. Used as directed, the minipill is 99% effective.
The transdermal contraceptive patch releases combination hormones, is over 99% effective and works the same way as birth control pills. The patch is replaced once a week and worn for three weeks, with no patch on the fourth week.
Progesterone intrauterine device
Once placed in the uterus by a medical professional, a progesterone IUD provides long-lasting birth control. Mirena®, for example, is one IUD option that is available at the health center and approved for preventing pregnancy up to seven years. It also treats heavy periods for up to five years. Over 99% effective, it can be removed by your doctor anytime. The health center also offers Kyleena®, Liletta® and Skyla® brands. Some women who don't qualify for the use of birth control pills or injections may be able to use an IUD.
The vaginal ring is sometimes referred to by one of the common brand names, NuvaRing® is a hormone combination like the combo pill. It's worn for three weeks and replaced every fourth week. There are monthly and yearly options available. The ring is 96% to 99% effective when used correctly.
The progestin injection is sometimes commonly referred to by the brand name, Depo-Provera®. The injection releases progestin into the buttocks or arm and is 96% effective. Shots must be taken every 12 weeks to remain fully protected.
Also known by the brand name Nexplanon®, the implant releases progestin. It is a single, thin rod inserted under the skin of the upper arm. Implants are 99.95% effective and must be replaced every three years.
Risks and benefits of hormonal birth control methods
- Pregnancy prevention if taken as directed, without intercourse interruption
- Some relief of period pain, heavy periods and menstrual headaches
- Fewer skin breakouts and mood changes
- A decrease in circulating testosterone in women with polycystic ovarian syndrome, or PCOS, when taking a combo hormonal pill
- More flexibility with hormonal combo methods to manipulate the time of your period and perhaps skipping a period
- No protection against sexually transmitted infections (STIs) or HIV
- May be affected by certain medicines
- May delay the return of regular menstrual cycles
- May cause irregular periods or spotting
- May cause weight gain, breast tenderness, headaches or irritability
Nonhormonal birth control
Paragard® is the brand name for this hormone-free, copper IUD that is over 99% effective. Once inserted by a doctor, it provides pregnancy prevention for 10 years. The copper IUD may also be placed right after childbirth, removed anytime, and used in women with certain medical conditions.
There is only one vaginal gel (brand name Phexxi®) on the market. It is a relatively new, on-demand birth control method. It prevents pregnancy by taking advantage of the vagina's natural acidity and sperm's vulnerability to acidic environments. A prefilled applicator is inserted immediately before or up to one hour before vaginal intercourse. When used as directed, Phexxi® is 93% effective.
- Gel can be combined with other birth control methods but is not recommended for use with vaginal rings
- Side effects may include burning, itching, discomfort or pain
- There is a slight risk of bladder inflammation, kidney infection or urinary tract infection
- Gel is not recommended for people with a history of recurrent UTIs or urinary tract abnormalities
Barrier methods are the least effective overall. Pregnancy prevention is highly dependent on correct usage if spermicide is used and if more than one method is used together. These include external or internal condoms (90% effective), diaphragms (80% to 95% effective), cervical caps (86% effective) and sponges (76% effective). To be the most effective, barrier methods must be used properly, fit well, and be used with a spermicide. Most importantly, external condoms are the only method that helps to prevent STIs.
Regular checkups and screenings are necessary for every phase of life. When considering what birth control method may be right for you, your doctor will most likely:
- Perform an exam and review your health history
- Discuss any health risks that may rule out certain options
- Have a conversation about all your options, along with the risks and benefits
- Discuss how long you desire birth control, family planning goals and what may fit your lifestyle
Ready to discuss what birth control options may be right for you? Call 402.472.5000 to make an appointment at the University Health Center.
10 tips to beat the winter blues (plus the difference between SAD and reoccurring low mood)
If you’ve noticed that you’re persistently unhappy when the days get shorter, you’re not alone.
As the weather turns cold and gloomy, we tend to spend less time outside and reduce our exposure to light. This change can affect the body’s natural clock (circadian rhythm) and cause you to continue producing the sleep hormone melatonin, which lowers your mood and energy.
This phenomenon is sometimes referred to as seasonal affective disorder, or SAD, a major depressive disorder that reoccurs in a seasonal pattern. However, having the winter blues does not necessarily mean clinical depression. More often, people use the term SAD to mean subclinical depressive symptoms that occur in the fall or winter.
“For people who experience a few symptoms in the winter, such as low energy or mildly lower mood, they would be good candidates for implementing lifestyle changes first,” says University Health Center psychiatrist Stephanie Sutton, MD. “Other people may have underlying depression that can exacerbate in the late fall or winter. Those patients may need intervention earlier.”
The winter blues often mimic a major depressive episode. Common symptoms include:
- Losing enjoyment in things that used to be fun
- Withdrawing from people
- Oversleeping an hour or more every day
- Appetite changes, especially craving foods that are high in carbohydrates
- Tiredness or low energy
- Difficulty thinking, concentrating or making decisions
If you experience mild seasonal symptoms, Dr. Sutton recommends trying these lifestyle changes to feel better:
- Spend time outside each day to get fresh air, even if only for a few minutes.
- Open your blinds or window shades to let in more sun.
- Plan activities with friends or family to stay socially connected.
- Get good sleep at night, but try not to oversleep, which can make symptoms worse.
- Eat a healthy diet full of fresh produce, lean protein and complex carbohydrates.
- Identify a hobby or activity you enjoy and make time on your calendar each week to do it.
- Try a new winter activity, like skiing, ice skating or sledding.
- Practice mindfulness through meditation, journaling or breathing exercises.
- Continue or establish an exercise routine.
- Try light therapy with a light lamp, which can be purchased online.
If symptoms feel like they are interfering with your daily life or have continued despite lifestyle interventions, meet with a counselor or a psychiatrist for further evaluation. To schedule an appointment with the health center psychiatry team, call 402.472.5000.
The kissing disease: How contagious is mono, what are the treatments and other common questions
Mononucleosis, often referred to as “mono” or the “kissing disease” is a common viral infection that affects teenagers and young adults, including college students.
The infection is often caused by the Epstein-Barr virus, or EBV, which infects about 95% of people. Not all cases of EBV will turn into mono, but some will, especially for those not exposed to the virus as a child.
The University Health Center sees dozens of cases of mono every semester. So, what do you need to know about this infection to stay safe and recover quickly? Health center provider Malik Ahmic, APRN, answers these and other common questions.
Is mono contagious?
Yes, the viruses that cause mono are very contagious. They spread by saliva, which is why the infection is often called the kissing disease. However, kissing isn’t the only way you’ll get mono. Things like sharing utensils or drinks and sexual intercourse can spread mono.
You can spread the virus up to 18 months from having initial symptoms. For this reason and because most people will be exposed to the viruses that cause mono at some point in their life, there’s nothing you can do to prevent getting it. If anything, it’s best to get it out of the way early in life, Ahmic says.
However, that doesn’t mean you should abandon all prevention measures. Continue to wash your hands often using soap and warm water, cover your mouth when you cough or sneeze and don’t share drinks. This will help prevent other more serious infections from spreading, like influenza, COVID-19 and more.
What does mono feel like?
Some of the common symptoms of mono include:
- Sore throat
- A fever of 100.4 or higher
- Day or night sweats
- Chills and body aches
- Trouble swallowing food
- Decreased appetite
Often times, Ahmic sees students come in with a sore throat and swollen lymph nodes thinking they have strep throat when they, in fact, have mono. Because symptoms can often be similar to other contagious illnesses, it’s best to see a medical professional to get the correct diagnosis.
How is mono diagnosed?
A doctor may be able to diagnose solely based on symptoms and through a thorough exam. Sometimes they will order a blood test. If the test shows an elevated monocyte count and the person presents with common mono symptoms, they will be diagnosed with mono.
I have mono. Now what?
Because mono is a viral infection and not a bacterial infection, antibiotics are not usually prescribed. You may be prescribed a steroid for five to seven days to help your body kickstart its recovery if significant swelling and inflammation are present. There are no antiviral medications for mono.
Ahmic says the best way to recover from mono is by getting plenty of rest and increasing your fluid intake. When possible, drink water over juice, coffee and soda to help you stay hydrated. Try to increase your sleep overnight and take naps when you can to give your body a chance to heal. “Don’t fight the fatigue,” he says.
If you have other symptoms like a fever or sore throat, take acetaminophen or ibuprofen consistently and continuously until you feel better. If symptoms are really bothering you, alternate between acetaminophen and ibuprofen every three hours. For example, take acetaminophen and 9 a.m., ibuprofen at noon, acetaminophen at 3 p.m., etc.
Be patient and gentle with yourself during your recovery. Most people will feel better after one to two weeks, but sometimes it can affect you for up to four weeks. Because mono can enlarge the spleen, avoiding contact sports for four weeks is recommended. Additionally, mono affects your liver. Because of this, it is strongly encouraged to avoid alcohol intake for four weeks.
Need to see a doctor for your symptoms? Call 402.472.5000 to schedule an appointment.
8 magnesium deficiency symptoms (and 9 high magnesium foods)
Magnesium is being touted as a miracle supplement.
If you do a quick search online, you will see it has been said to lower stress, help with sleep, lose weight, lower blood pressure and blood sugar, treat depression and anxiety, strengthen bones and increase testosterone levels.
So does it deserve all of this attention? And should you be taking a magnesium supplement?
Role of magnesium in your body
Magnesium is an essential mineral in our diet. It is found in every cell in your body. It plays a critical role in hundreds of biochemical reactions that support many body functions, like protein creation, muscle and nerve function, converting food into energy and metabolism.
Magnesium helps your body in many ways, including:
- Working with calcium to strengthen your bones
- Playing a role in brain function, which regulates mood and depression
- Decreasing the incidence of migraines
- Increasing your body’s efficiency in breaking down sugars, resulting in better weight management
- Balancing hormones that regulate circadian rhythm and the ability to sleep better
- Improving digestion
- Increasing skin hydration and improving the appearance of your skin and more
How to get enough magnesium in your diet
Healthy individuals should be able to get enough magnesium from their diet and shouldn’t require a magnesium supplement.
Eating the following foods will likely provide you with the recommended daily allowance of magnesium:
- Whole grains
- Green leafy vegetables
For example, just one ounce of almonds or cashews will give you 20% of the recommended daily allowance. Taking a multivitamin will provide you with about 120 mg of magnesium, which can help make up for any deficiency.
Schedule a nutrition counseling appointment with the University Health Center registered dietitian for tips on boosting your magnesium or other vitamin levels through food. Call 402.472.5000 to schedule an appointment. Student fees cover the first nutrition counseling visit, and return visits can be billed to private insurance.
Signs of low magnesium
Low magnesium usually does not cause symptoms until your levels drop dramatically. Chronically low levels can increase your risk of high blood pressure, Type 2 diabetes and osteoporosis.
Very low magnesium levels may cause:
- Nighttime leg cramps
- Numbness or tingling in the legs or hands
- General body weakness
- Heart palpitations
If you are concerned that your magnesium levels may be low, it is important to talk to your doctor.
Should I take a magnesium supplement?
While low-dose supplements will probably not hurt you, getting too much magnesium from supplements can lead to toxicity. Excessive supplemental magnesium can cause nausea, abdominal cramping and diarrhea, flushing of the face and lethargy. Magnesium supplements can also interact negatively with some antibiotics and medications like diuretics and heart medications.
Your magnesium level is not typically included in a standard blood draw. If you want your magnesium level checked, your doctor will need to request an additional test to check your levels.
Who needs to take a magnesium supplement?
Individuals who may need a supplement include those with:
- Documented magnesium deficiency
- Type 2 diabetes
- Atrial fibrillation
- Having had bariatric surgery
- Taking acid-reducing medications such as proton-pump inhibitors
If you focus on eating a well-balanced diet, you should get the magnesium your body needs. Remember, if you decide to take a magnesium supplement, this will not guarantee any of the health benefits listed above.
If you would like to talk to a doctor about your magnesium levels or other vitamin deficiencies, call 402.472.5000 to schedule an appointment at the University Health Center.
You asked, we answered: Is bleeding after sex normal
Is bleeding after sex normal?
Answered by University Health Center provider Joelle Vogltance, MSN, APRN
It depends. If it happens once or twice, it is probably not something to worry about. If it happens often, or if the bleeding is heavy or lasts for several days, it is not normal and should be evaluated by a medical professional.
Bleeding after sex can occur for many reasons, including:
- Having rough intercourse
- Having a well-endowed partner
- Benign anatomic differences in the vagina, cervix or uterus
- Sexually transmitted infections
- Bacterial infection (bacterial vaginosis or yeast infection)
- Having intercourse for the first time
- Insufficient arousal or not using enough lubricant
If you experience frequent bleeding after sex and are concerned, it is a good idea to get evaluated by a health care professional. We can perform a pelvic exam, order STI testing and provide other care based on your needs. Even if you only have bleeding after sex once, but are worried about it, come in to get checked out for peace of mind. Remember to be open and honest with your provider during your visit. We will ask you questions about your sex life that may feel personal. We aren’t trying to pry. This information helps us understand your unique situation and gives us insight into what could be causing the bleeding.
Call 402.472.5000 to schedule an appointment and learn more about our sexual and reproductive health services.
4 ways to tweak your New Year’s nutrition goals for better results
How are your New Year’s resolutions going?
If you’re like many people, the challenges of everyday life might be wearing down your resolve and making you reevaluate the goals you set. That’s OK! Now is the perfect time to press pause, make sure your goals are realistic and attainable, and make tweaks.
If you set resolutions around healthier eating or weight management, the University Heath Center registered dietitian Sarah Keegan, MS, RDN, LMNT, CDCES, shares four ways to help you adjust your goals for better results:
Turn your big nutrition goal into several small goals
This makes your goal easier to attain and can keep you motivated and accountable long-term. For example, if your goal is to lose 20 pounds this year, set mini goals focused on losing 1.5 to 2 pounds each month.
Focus on building a healthy lifestyle instead of meeting a target weight goal
Although it’s OK to want to lose weight, don’t become too restrictive. This can negatively impact your physical and mental health and makes it harder to maintain your results. Instead, focus on improving your energy levels and nourishing your body. Skip calorie counting and try keeping a food journal. Log what you eat and compare that to how your body feels at that moment.
Flip negative goals into positive goals
Focusing on the foods or behaviors you want to eliminate from your diet can backfire, causing you to fixate on what you can’t have and create negative feelings toward your goal. Instead, swap them to focus on the healthy foods or behaviors you will increase. For example, if your goal is to eat fewer sweets, focus instead on incorporating a fruit or vegetable into every meal. If you want to drink less caffeine, focus on increasing your daily water intake instead.
Talk to a registered dietitian before starting a new diet
There are lots of trending diets out there. Some are healthy, and some are not. Often, it depends on your situation and how the benefits and risks outweigh one another. Before trying Keto, Paleo, Whole30, intermittent fasting or other trending diets, schedule an appointment with a registered dietitian. They can help guide you on your journey and make sure you are staying healthy and reaching your goals.
Student fees cover the cost of your first nutrition counseling visit at the University Health Center. Follow-up visits can be submitted to private insurance. Call 402.472.5000 to schedule an appointment.
Nebraska U hosts hiring fair for custodial, dining positions
7 winter wellness tips to help you stay healthy
There are several ways you can boost your immune system and avoid getting sick this winter. The University Health Center shares a few simple tips to stay well.
1. Limit the spread of germs
Remember to cover your mouth and nose when you cough or sneeze. If you don’t have a tissue, cough or sneeze into your upper sleeve or elbow. Wash your hands regularly using soap and warm water and scrub for at least 20 seconds. If you can’t wash your hands, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer. Learn more tips to stay germ-free.
2. Stay hydrated
Drinking enough water each day boosts your immune system and helps you fight viruses. Aim to drink enough water to equal two-thirds of your body weight in ounces every day. View more hydration tips.
3. Up your vitamin D intake
Low vitamin D levels can make you susceptible to illnesses and negatively affect your mental health. Boost your levels by getting in the sunshine and eating foods high in vitamin D, like mushrooms and salmon.
4. Manage dry skin
Cold air and low humidity can cause dry, itchy skin. Protect your skin by wearing lip balm, using a humidifier in your room, limiting your time in the shower or bath and immediately applying lotion after you dry off. Watch this webinar to learn more tips for healthy skin.
5. Stay rested
A lack of sleep can lower your immune system. Maintaining a consistent sleep schedule and getting seven to nine hours of sleep per night lets your body recover and protect against sickness. See these sleep resources for more information.
6. Get vaccinated
Immunizations are an important strategy to help prevent the spread of COVID-19 and flu on campus. Annual flu shots are free for students at the health center by appointment. COVID-19 bivalent boosters are available by appointment in the health center pharmacy.
7. See a provider when you’re sick
If you have COVID-19 or flu symptoms, call your health care provider to get tested or for expert advice to help you recover. Call 402.472.5000 to schedule an appointment at the University Health Center.
Vaginal odor: what’s normal and what’s not
Everyone has body odor – it’s a fact of life.
But for people with vagina odor “down below,“ it can sometimes be embarrassing and concerning. Are these odors normal and can they be prevented or eliminated?
What causes the vagina to smell?
In most cases, vaginal scents are very normal, and odor alone is not a symptom of a problem. The vagina and the area around it (groin skin, vulvar, etc.) contain healthy bacteria that are a part of our microbiome and include sweat glands. These can produce an odor that varies for each person.
If you are a heavy sweater, you may have stronger smells at times. The odor may vary during the menstrual period, during pregnancy or after sex.
The wrong ways to reduce vaginal odor
Sometimes to reduce the smell, you can make matters worse by:
Over washing or scrubbing the area
Using soaps that can be irritating like antibacterial or scented soaps
Using scented deodorant sprays “down there”
These types of practices can disrupt the natural vaginal flora (bacteria that live in the vagina) that keep it healthy and inhibit other organisms. When there is an imbalance of these organisms and an overgrowth of unhealthy bacteria, you may notice a more potent odor. But even that may not indicate there is a problem.
When a strong or unusual odor is accompanied by other symptoms such as irritation, itching, burning or pain, you may have other issues going on and should consider seeking medical advice.
For example, trichomoniasis is a sexually transmitted infection (STI) that has a mild odor, produces a green and frothy discharge, and may also cause irritation and pain with intercourse. Risk factors include having multiple sex partners and failure to use safe protection. Trichomoniasis should be treated to avoid long-term problems.
Bacterial vaginitis (BV) can produce a fishy odor that is also accompanied by increased vaginal discharge, irritation, burning and sometimes itching. It is caused by an overgrowth of anaerobic bacteria that disrupts the balance of healthy bacteria that live within the vagina. This condition can be triggered by having new or multiple sex partners, douching or smoking – though many people with a vagina have no particular risk factors for developing BV. It is treatable with antibiotics and some may need longer courses of treatment if the condition recurs.
A yeast infection may be associated with a sweeter, beer-like odor. It is typically accompanied by a thicker, clumpier discharge and may include itching, irritation and rawness or skin breakdown. The condition can be triggered by antibiotic use (which can eliminate the good bacteria that normally colonize the vagina), poorly controlled diabetes and sometimes certain menstrual products. Treatment with an antifungal medication is the standard treatment.
Healthy tips to reduce vaginal odor
While all vaginal odors cannot be prevented, you may be able to reduce the potency by trying some simple and healthy techniques and avoiding practices that disrupt the natural balance of bacteria:
Wear breathable undergarments. Lycra and spandex undergarments and yoga pants are not very breathable and can trap organisms around the vulva area, producing more odor. Consider wearing more breathable cotton undergarments or not wearing anything at all at night while sleeping
Avoid the use of perfumes, powders, deodorant sprays or other scented products in the vaginal area
Wash gently and do not use antibacterial soaps and scented soaps
If it is necessary to wash more than once during a day due to activity or exercise, remember to wash gently. Don’t overuse soap in your vulvar and vaginal area and in some cases, you may even want to consider just rinsing with water
Try to avoid wearing wet or damp undergarments for long periods of time, which can promote the buildup of bacteria
Shower off after being in a lake, river or chlorinated pool
Avoid wearing panty liners or pads when not absolutely necessary, as these trap more moisture next to the skin
Changes in odor may be related to changes in diet or personal hygiene. If you start noticing a change in odor, think about the products you are using or what you’re doing differently. You may be able to resolve the issue simply by making some slight modifications in your practices.
Concerned about your vaginal health? We can help. Call 402.472.5000 to schedule an appointment with a University Health Center reproductive health care provider.
You Asked, We Answered: What are the differences between genital herpes and an ingrown hair?
What is the difference in symptoms and appearance of genital herpes versus ingrown hair?
Answered by Kay Elting, APRN
This can be a tricky question and confusing at times, so let’s try to break it down. Both can start with redness, itching or burning sensations and can occur almost anywhere on the body. If this is in an area that you shave or have hair removal, it can be from a hair follicle that becomes inflamed, and this can be from bacteria, fungus or a virus. When this develops in the genital area, it can be more concerning, especially if you have had a new partner or did not use protection.
Typically,ingrown hair can come from an infected hair follicle. It may be reddened, raised, warm to the touch or look like pimples on the skin and you may notice a hair at the center of the area. This can be common from shaving or products used to shave – soap or cream. We advise using a clean washcloth with warm water to apply to the area several times daily and do not shave until healed or you could irritate the skin more or spread the infection.
Herpes lesions can occur anywhere on your body and may take longer to heal. You may also have other symptoms like a fever, fatigue, swollen lymph nodes and in general not feeling well. These areas may be reddened, itchy or painful also, but may appear more like a scratch or open area. Once you have a herpes virus, this stays with you for the remainder of your life. Herpes can be treated and managed with medications but cannot be “cured.” Many people can have herpes and may never express symptoms or even know they have it. The best advice I can give is to always use protection when with a new partner in the form of condoms or dental dams. Having unprotected sex increases your risk for herpes and many other sexually transmitted infections (STIs).
If you are experiencing any pain or burning in the genital area, we encourage you to come to the health center for an examination and discuss your symptoms with a provider. Testing can be completed to determine the cause of your symptoms, and treatment ordered if needed.
Fact-check: Erectile dysfunction, swollen testicles and sperm count after COVID-19 vaccination or infection
One of the most repeated myths of COVID-19 vaccination concerns fertility. Do the COVID-19 vaccines cause swollen testicles, erectile dysfunction (ED) and lower sperm count? No, but COVID-19 infection can cause each of these issues.
Nebraska Medicine Urologist Chris Deibert, MD, who treats ED and other men's health conditions, walks through the research on this issue.
After COVID-19 infection
Many people with testicles will experience testicular swelling or swelling of the epididymis after symptomatic COVID-19 infection. A recent review estimates that "10% to 22% of men with acute COVID-19 infection develop orchitis or epididymo-orchitis." Orchitis is the medical term for testicular swelling or inflammation. COVID-19 isn't the first infection to cause swollen testicles. A lot of infections can cause testicular swelling, including E. coli bacteria, gonorrhea, chlamydia and mumps.
Except for unconfirmed reports on social media, there's no evidence that the COVID-19 vaccination is linked to testicular swelling. It's important to treat personal stories differently than scientific research. Dr. Deibert says he hasn't seen any evidence locally or nationally linking swollen testicles and COVID-19 vaccination. If you're curious about how mRNA vaccination works, find out how long spike proteins last in the body.
After COVID-19 infection
A small, self-reported survey of Italian men suggests a link between ED and COVID-19 infection. This study found that reported ED was higher in COVID-19 positive people. People reporting erectile dysfunction with prior COVID-19 infection was 28% while those with no COVID-19 infection was 9%.
It appears that the virus can go to all parts of the body when someone is symptomatically ill. Dead virus has been found in erectile tissues after severe, acute infection, but it's not totally clear if or how the virus causes erection issues.
Researchers found viral particles in penis biopsies, taken from two people who previously had COVID-19. Both had "normal erectile function" before their COVID-19 infections. See the images here. The researchers did not find viral particles in penis biopsies of two other people with no history of COVID-19 infection.
Dr. Deibert has not seen any patients who developed erectile issues after vaccination alone, and he hasn’t heard any reports of that happening. After reviewing research databases, the American Society for Reproductive Medicine says, "No evidence of any connection between COVID-19 vaccines and male infertility was found, but there were 50 reviews, 17 commentaries/letters to editors and nine original articles on how COVID-19 disease could possibly impact male fertility."
After COVID-19 infection
COVID-19 infection can lower sperm counts, at least temporarily. A small study compared the median sperm counts of COVID-19-positive men with sperm counts of COVID-19-negative men. The median sperm count of those without infection was 21.5 million and with infection was 12.5 million.
There is some reassuring data that the vaccine doesn't change sperm count.
A small, peer-reviewed study measured 45 people's sperm counts before and after COVID-19 mRNA vaccination. The study reported that there were "no significant decreases in any sperm parameter among this small cohort of healthy men" after two doses of either Moderna or Pfizer vaccines.
In summary, COVID-19 vaccines do not affect men’s fertility, but COVID-19 infection does. To sum up what we know so far:
- COVID-19 vaccines are not linked to swollen testicles, erectile dysfunction or lower sperm counts
- Billions of COVID-19 vaccines have been given worldwide. If a link between fertility and vaccination exists, where is the clinical evidence?
- COVID-19 infection can cause swollen testicles, erectile dysfunction and lower sperm counts
5 strategies to help you manage finals week stress
It’s no secret that finals can be a stressful time for most students. Add the stress of a pandemic, and it can feel downright overwhelming.
If this describes what you’re feeling, you are not alone.
Although it’s not a cure-all, there are some steps you can take to help you manage your stress as you prepare for finals week. The psychiatric professionals at the University Health Center help students with these concerns all the time. Here are five of their tried-and-true tips you can apply to your life to help you have a successful finals week:
1. Take a break and get active
Exercise is a natural form of antidepressant. It releases endorphins that help promote a positive mood, increases focus and helps reduce stress. Pick a physical activity you enjoy – whether it’s going for a walk, hitting the gym, practicing yoga or something else – and make time to do it several times a week leading up to finals. Set an alarm on your phone as a reminder or add it to your calendar and stick with it.
2. Make meals a priority
Increasing evidence suggests that the gut and brain are connected and that eating can affect your mood. Don’t skip meals, especially as finals week approaches. Try to eat a balanced diet at each meal, including fruits, vegetables and proteins, and limit sugars. If lack of money or resources is a concern, the Husker Pantry can help.
3. Prioritize your goals and take them one at a time
Focusing on everything you have to accomplish before finals week can be overwhelming. Instead, break down big projects or test preparation activities into bite-sized to-do items. Write them down in a list and check them off as you go. This will help you reach your goals and boost your confidence as you conquer your list one item at a time.
4. Get some fresh air and sunlight.
Humans have an ancestral connection to the great outdoors. If we don’t nourish that bond, it can create stress. Nature captures our attention and can calm our nerves. If you don’t have much time in your schedule to get outside, utilize your walk back to your dorm, apartment or vehicle as an opportunity to soak in the sun and fresh air. As you walk, take your time, move slowly, breathe deeply and observe your surroundings.
5. Get support from a professional
Sometimes, self-care isn’t enough to help you manage your stress, and that’s OK. If you need extra help, there are on-campus resources that can assist you.
- Counseling and Psychological Services offer talk therapy at no cost for students in a comprehensive short-term counseling model. Call 402.472.7450 to schedule an appointment
- If you think you could benefit from medication for ongoing mental health concerns, contact the University Health Center psychiatry team by calling 402.472.5000
Health center expands acute care medical services to faculty and staff
UNL faculty, staff and their dependents who are 19 years or older are now eligible to receive medical care for acute needs at the University Health Center.
Enrollment in the UNL health insurance plan is not required to receive care, but dependents must be enrolled in the same insurance plan as a faculty or staff member to be eligible for treatment.
Care is available on a same-day basis Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Both in-person and telehealth visits are available depending on the concern.
Appointments are required and must be made by calling 402.472.5000. Walk-ins are not accepted at this time due to the pandemic.
See the table below for examples of acute and nonacute concerns:
Acute Concerns (Eligible for Care)
Nonacute or Routine Concerns (Ineligible for Care)
COVID-19, flu, common cold and other upper respiratory illness symptoms (telehealth only)
Routine care for ongoing concerns (Ex: high blood pressure, diabetes)
Abdominal pain, vomiting, diarrhea
Annual gynecological exams and birth control prescriptions
Eye pain and irritation (Ex: pink eye)
Ear pain and pressure
Injury (Ex: sprain, strain, laceration)
Urinary tract infections, sexually transmitted infections and other genital concerns
UNL faculty and staff and their adult dependents are also eligible to use the following University Health Center services:
To learn more about faculty and staff services, visit https://health.unl.edu/faculty-staff-services.
Frequently Asked Questions
Is there a discount for faculty and staff?
Nebraska Medicine is a Tier 1 option for those enrolled in the university’s health insurance plan, which could mean lower out-of-pocket costs compared to other community options. Services are billed at the community rate. Please consult your plan for more information.
Are my children eligible to receive care?
At this time, we can only offer acute care services to children who are 19 years and older and are enrolled in your health insurance plan. However, children 16 and older are eligible to receive care at the Dental Clinic.
Is it safe to visit?
Yes. Click here to learn more about how we’re keeping you safe. If you would prefer not to visit in person, telehealth may be available depending on your concern.
PCOS: What it is and why it increases the risk of COVID-19
Some people with a uterus and ovaries have polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS) and don't even know it.
PCOS is the most common cause of infertility due to ovulatory abnormalities. Nebraska Medicine University Health Center health care provider, Lindsay O’Meara, PA-C, says it can be tricky to uncover, because two people with PCOS can have vastly different symptoms and experiences.
Common symptoms that may point to PCOS include:
- Excessive hair growth (hirsutism) on chin and upper lip
- Thinning hair and hair loss from the head (frontal and vertex, mainly)
- Irregular periods or no periods at all
- Insulin resistance or diabetes
- Mood disorders (increased anxiety and depression)
- Sleep apnea
Several PCOS symptoms are caused by increased levels of hormones called androgens. Androgen hormones are present in both people assigned female and male at birth but are generally higher in males.
The link between COVID-19 and PCOS
PCOS has strong ties to conditions that put people at higher risk for severe COVID-19, like obesity, diabetes and heart disease. Learn more about comorbidities.
One U.K. study found that women with PCOS have a 51% increased risk for COVID-19 infection, compared to others their age who did not have PCOS.
But the researchers wanted to know if overlapping comorbidities, or something about PCOS itself, was the reason for the increased risk.
After adjusting for risk factors – like age, BMI, hypertension and cardiovascular disease – a person with PCOS still had a 28% higher risk of COVID-19 infection, according to the study.
Why exactly PCOS and COVID-19 can be linked is still a mystery. We know PCOS is associated with chronic inflammation and increased cytokines. Likewise, an inflammatory overreaction called a "cytokine storm" can cause long-lasting damage in COVID-19 patients.
Additionally, hormonal imbalance is a key PCOS feature. It's possible that excess androgens and insulin resistance are affecting the immune system's ability to fight off viral infections like COVID-19. More research is needed to understand how having PCOS can affect outcomes like COVID-19 infection and disease severity.
While researchers continue to tease out the underlying causes of worse COVID-19 illness, it's a good idea to stay safe in the meantime. A COVID-19 vaccine is a safe, effective way to prevent severe outcomes, like hospitalization and death.
How to treat PCOS
There's no way to "cure" PCOS, but treatments and lifestyle changes can manage the symptoms. For example, hormonal birth control pills, topical creams and oral medications may help reduce abnormal hair growth.
If you want to get pregnant, PCOS can lower fertility, although some people with PCOS can get pregnant without medical assistance. Medications can help here, so see your doctor if you're trying to conceive.
If you suspect you have PCOS or would like to talk to a doctor about it to learn more, call 402.472.5000 to schedule a gynecological appointment at the University Health Center.
You Asked, We Answered: Is showering every day bad for you? And other hygiene questions
I know it’s important to shower, but is there such thing as showering too often or not enough? Should you always use soap? Do I have to wash my hair very often? If you have other hygiene tips, I’d love to hear them.
Nebraska Medicine University Health Center provider Szuhua Lambdin, APRN: You ask some great questions. Let’s break things down a bit.
How often should you shower?
It depends. For specific skin conditions, it is possible to shower too often or not enough. For instance, people who have dry skin conditions like eczema do not need to shower daily. And technique matters on dry skin, too. Instead of enthusiastic (and abrasive) scrubbing that can worsen dry skin, try gentle lathering with your hands. Skip loofahs, washcloths and exfoliating products.
However, if your skin is on the oily side, you should shower more often. If you deal with acne you should shower and wash your face daily or a couple of times a day. This will help with breakouts.
It also depends on your personal preference. If you feel better with a daily showering routine, go for it. If you would rather skip some days, that’s OK, but never go more than two or three days without washing your body with soap.
Do you need to use soap when you shower?
Yes, use soap on your groin, your armpits and your feet. These are areas that are prone to bacteria and can get smelly. Any other areas are likely good with water.
How often should you wash your hair?
When it comes to washing your hair, that is very individual. Some people need to wash their hair daily or it becomes too greasy, whereas some only wash their hair once every two weeks. When you need to wash your hair is driven by genetics, as well as the texture and thickness of your hair. For example, African American hair usually needs less frequent washing.
Other hygiene tips
The length and temperature of your shower can affect your skin as well. Don’t shower in too hot of water, and keep showers to about 10 minutes. Otherwise, you can dry out your skin.
Always put moisturizing cream (not lotion) on immediately after stepping out of the shower. This helps to lock in the moisture and rehydrate your skin. Some of the best brands are Cerave, Cetaphil and Aveeno, but there are many great ones.
You can’t train your skin or hair to be less oily or need less showering. There are instances where people have hormones that are out of alignment and, once their hormones get under control, we see improvement in their hair and skin. Otherwise, it’s hard to “train your skin.”
5 well-being trends for the new year
If there’s anything we’ve learned over the past two years, it’s that we don’t want to take our health for granted.
If your goal is to prioritize your well-being in 2022, the University Health Center shares five easy and attainable health trends for the new year. Pick one or two and give them a try to live a healthier, richer lifestyle.
1. Sleep tracking
Improving your sleep begins with awareness of your sleep habits. Start taking note of what time you went to bed, when you woke up the next morning, the quality of sleep you had, etc. You can use a wearable smart device that automatically documents your sleep habits or simply journal about your observances.
If you notice your sleep isn’t very restful, take steps to boost your sleep hygiene, like using aromatherapy oils before bed, limiting late-night TikTok or social media scrolling, adding meditation to your bedtime routine, etc. Check out this resource page for more sleep tips.
2. Starting a mood diary
Get in tune with your emotions and improve your mental health by journaling about your mood. Take time daily – even if just a few minutes – to jot down how you feel and why. This habit can reduce your feelings of anxiety and depression and alert you to any lingering negative feelings that you might want to share with a loved one or a mental health professional, like those at Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPS).
If you need some inspiration to get started, select a notebook or journal with an inspiring design. Start small and slowly build on your observations over time. Challenge a friend to adopt this new habit with you; schedule a lunch or coffee date with them to discuss how the process is going for each of you and what you are learning about yourselves.
3. Improving gut health
Eating right can positively affect your mood, concentration, sleep habits, energy levels and much more. Avoid the trendy diets and instead focus on adjusting your nutrition to promote better gut health. Start by eating more whole foods like lean proteins, fresh fruits and veggies. When you can, limit or remove processed foods, which can disrupt healthy gut bacteria. Take a daily probiotic to strengthen your digestive system.
4. Improving your skin health
Wintertime is a great opportunity to perfect your skin care routine. The dry, cold air can wreak havoc on your skin, especially your face, hands and any other spots that are commonly exposed when you go outside.
Start by finding the right moisturizer for your skin. Build on that healthy habit by adding sunscreen into your daily routine, even when it’s cold and cloudy outside. Notice how what you eat affects your skin, especially if any breakouts begin to occur.
Learn more about healthy skin habits and the latest skin care trends by attending this 30-minute webinar hosted by Heather Eberspacher, MD, from the University Health Center on Jan. 26 at 5:30 p.m.
5. Taking vitamins to boost your immune system
Although the best source of vitamins comes from eating whole foods, there are times when you may need to supplement to get certain vitamin levels where they need to be. For example, many people are deficient in iron, vitamin D, magnesium and vitamin B12 and often need to add one or more of these supplements to their diet. If you’re curious about what vitamins you need, talk to your doctor. They can discuss any symptoms you have that may indicate low vitamin levels and run tests if needed. Never add supplements to your diet without talking to a medical professional first.
Learn all about vitamins by watching this webinar recording featuring Sarah Wallingford, PA-C, from the University Health Center.
7 tips for choosing the perfect shoes for your feet
Wearing good shoes can help you feel your best and prevent injuries. Shoe choice can affect your whole body, not just your feet.
Kelsey Gaston, licensed physical therapist at the University Health Center, shares advice on how to find a proper shoe:
1. Choose a shoe with a firm foundation
Shoes ground the body like the foundation of a house. If a house is built on a mushy, soft foundation, the house will become wobbly and off-kilter. The same will happen to your body if you choose a shoe with a squishy base. Test a shoe’s foundation by gently bending it at the toe. If it folds in half, that’s a sign it’s too soft. If it bends somewhat but stays mostly rigid, it has good support.
2. Make sure it has arch support
Certain trendy shoes like Vans, Chucks and others have a flat sole, which can cause pain over time. Shoes with arches provide support across the bottom of your foot, giving you greater balance and stability.
It’s better to choose a shoe with a built-in arch rather than adding an insert. If you must buy an insert, avoid purchasing off the shelf from a big-box store. Visit a specialty store instead, like the Lincoln Running Company, where they can fit your foot for the proper insole.
3. Go for laces
Generally, shoes that lace up are preferred over slip-ons because they provide better support and hold your foot in place to the sole of a shoe. Birkenstocks sandals, for example, have an arch but won’t protect your feet as well as a tennis shoe or running shoe.
4. Buy for your foot type and comfort level
Don’t buy a shoe simply because it’s your favorite color, it’s on sale or a friend suggested it. Choose one that is most comfortable for you.
Start by having your foot measured by a professional at a shoe store to determine the size and width you need. Get remeasured at least once every few years because your foot size and shape can change over time.
Next, try on different brands and styles to find one that feels most comfortable to you. Don’t let brand loyalty keep you from exploring your options.
As a guideline, avoid shoes that have a narrow toe box and don’t provide at least a finger-width gap between your big toe and the shoe’s edge. Remember to stand up and walk around in the shoes to see what they feel like when your foot lies flat.
5. Replace old, worn shoes
Shoes don’t last forever. Upgrade when the texture on the bottom of your shoes begins to wear around the heels or balls of your feet. When you toss your old shoes, use this as an opportunity to try on new brands and styles. In some cases, your tried-and-true favorite is still the right shoe for you or maybe you will find a new favorite. Keep an open mind.
6. Be intentional about high heels
It’s no secret that heels cause stress on the body, especially when worn over long periods of time. When possible, pick flats over heels. If you choose to wear heels, have a friend drop you off at the venue or park close by so you don’t have to walk long distances in your shoes. Better yet, wear walking shoes to the venue and switch into your heels before you go in.
7. Get help when you have pain
Improper shoes can cause pain not only in the feet but also in the calves, shins, knees, hips and lower back. If you notice this pain, upgrade to a properly fitted, comfortable new tennis shoe or athletic shoe first. If you’re still experiencing pain, it may be time to see a physical therapist.
The University Health Center physical therapy team helps students manage a variety of pains and strains related to everyday student life. If you think you could benefit from their services, talk to a doctor at the health center or elsewhere to get a physical therapy order. Once you have the order in hand, call 402.472.5000 to schedule a physical therapy appointment. Visit the website to learn more about their services and get tips for staying well.
8 surprising long COVID symptoms
As of today, there's no one treatment for long COVID-19.
It's a complicated illness that can affect multiple areas of the body. Many symptoms can come and go. What's more, one person's long COVID-19 course can look very different from another's.
Here are some common long COVID-19 symptoms:
1. Mood disorders
The COVID-19 illness itself or its effect on the body can cause mental health illness. People have developed depression and anxiety after their COVID-19 infection. For others, their preexisting mood disorder can get worse. Some ICU survivors also experience post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
2. Sleep issues
COVID-19 survivors may experience insomnia. Some may have difficulty falling asleep or staying asleep. Others experience new-onset nightmares. Sleep apnea can be seen as well, sometimes due to weight gain from the prolonged illness.
3. Breathing problems
Breathing is normally an unconscious process – something you do without thinking. Shortness of breath means you're consciously thinking about breathing and having difficulty doing so. Patients can experience shortness of breath after exertion or even at rest. A persistent cough is also a common post COVID-19 symptom.
4. Brain dysfunction, including brain fog
Brain fog (or trouble concentrating) is a common long COVID-19 symptom and may persist for weeks or longer. Symptoms can include inattention, cognitive troubles, fatigue, behavioral troubles, and other neurological symptoms. Less frequently, long COVID-19 can cause chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS).
5. Heart issues
Long after someone's original infection, they may experience chest tightness or chest pain. Heart issues can also contribute to the post COVID-19 symptoms of lightheadedness, dizziness and vertigo.
Myocarditis or heart inflammation can be seen after COVID-19 infection. Importantly, myocarditis caused by the virus tends to be much more severe than myocarditis caused by the mRNA vaccines (Pfizer and Moderna). Viral myocarditis is also far more common than vaccine myocarditis.
COVID-19 survivors can also develop a cardiovascular condition called postural orthostatic tachycardia syndrome (POTS). A person with this syndrome has an unusually high heart rate after minimal activity, like standing up.
6. Loss of taste or smell
One alarming symptom of post-COVID syndrome is the loss of taste and smell. The vast majority of people recover their sense of smell in two or three weeks. For a smaller percentage of patients, it may take months.
7. Hair loss
You normally lose hair in small amounts every day. But during an infection, your hair follicles get overstimulated. Then, all at once, many of the hair follicles go to a resting or shedding phase. Hair loss can also happen with other types of infections when fevers are present.
8. Skin rashes
Viruses can affect any part of the body where blood flows, so it's not surprising that it would affect the skin, which has the most blood vessels. Skin rashes can include small bumps, discolored areas or blisters.
What is long COVID?
Some people recover from COVID-19 quickly, while others have unusual symptoms that last for months. Long COVID-19 is defined as having new or continued symptoms that persist more than 30 days after the original infection.
At this point, the cause of long COVID-19 isn't clear. There are several working theories to explain why long COVID-19 happens. It's an area of ongoing research.
Several names for the condition also exist. Long COVID-19 can also be called:
- Chronic COVID-19
- Long-hauler syndrome
- Post-acute sequelae of COVID-19 (PASC)
- Post-acute COVID-19
- Post COVID-19 syndrome or Post COVID-19
If you experience COVID-19 symptoms or notice that symptoms linger after the initial infection, the University Health Center can help. Call 402.472.5000 to schedule an appointment.
Rice water for hair: Is it the miracle social media claims?
Popular TikTok beauty influencers are singing the praises of rice water hair treatments to achieve smoother, shinier and stronger hair. Could the secret to growing long luxurious locks be as easy as reaching into your pantry?
The rice water claim
The alternative treatment has recently attracted a lot of attention online, but women in China, Japan, and Southeast Asia have used rice water on their hair for centuries. The thinking is that the starchy water from rice is rich in vitamins and minerals, including vitamins E and B, amino acids, antioxidants and inositol (touted as a hair rejuvenator).
The claim? Rice water may be useful for all hair types and help grow floor-length, silky hair. It may promote elasticity, increase volume, tame frizz, protect hair from damage and cure dandruff.
The rice water method
Take a cup of uncooked rice, rinse it, add two or three cups of water and soak for 30 minutes. Strain the rice water into a bowl and presto – you have a home hair elixir. Some claim you can boil it, while others believe there are benefits to fermenting the rice water, claiming the process boosts the antioxidant levels.
How do you use it? Start by washing your hair with shampoo and rinsing. Pour the rice water over your hair and massage it into your hair and scalp. Leave on for up to 20 minutes then rinse thoroughly with warm water.
Is rice water hair treatment safe?
For any treatment plan, it’s important to consider the risks and the benefits, according to Matthew Stephany, MD, Nebraska Medicine medical director of General Dermatology. Countless products claim results without therapeutic trials or a body of proof that a product does what it claims. While there are very few risks to using a product like rice water for hair, there is also not likely to be any significant benefit.
Using rice water is considered a natural home remedy, but those with certain skin conditions should use caution.
- Eczema or atopic dermatitis – This is a condition in which the skin is unable to maintain an adequate moisture barrier, which then leads to inflammation and itching. This does not guarantee a person with this condition will have a reaction to rice water, but it should be approached in a more strategic manner in which they could test a small area on the scalp for a reaction before lathering the entire scalp.
- Any hair loss or alopecia – Use caution if considering rice water as the initial treatment for any hair loss (alopecia). There are several different types of hair loss and some have FDA-approved medications. If a person is experiencing significant hair loss, Dr. Stephany recommends seeing a health care provider.
Is there really a difference between natural or synthetic products?
Debates rage on between so-called natural hair products and synthetic hair products. Despite the controversy and passion each side possesses, very few solid scientific studies validate one side or the other.
Stephany’s advice: If using a product makes your skin, hair or nails feel better, that's what matters as long as it's not putting your health at risk. Remember that natural products can cause as much of a problem for your skin as synthetic products. For example, poison ivy is a natural product but not recommended for anyone to use for skin care. On the other hand, petroleum jelly is a synthetic material great for wound healing and is highly unlikely to cause any sort of allergic reaction or irritation on the skin.
The rice water verdict
A miracle cure? Probably not. But if you're free of troublesome skin conditions, scalp inflammation, or sensitive skin that may be irritated, most likely it won't hurt to give it a try. You may even find it helpful. Still, the benefits of rice water remain unproven. More research is needed (beyond studies tied to commercial interests) to validate anecdotal evidence.
You Asked, We Answered: How effective are birth control and condoms?
If I cum inside a girl while she's on the birth control pill, can she get pregnant?
Answer by family medicine physician Heather Eberspacher, MD:
The pill is a tiny oral medication a woman can take at the same time each day to prevent pregnancy. Also called an oral contraceptive, the pill can help make periods more regular and less heavy. Some birth control pills can also help clear up acne.
If your partner uses the pill perfectly, it's 99% effective. But nobody's perfect, so the actual effectiveness is closer to 93% effective. That means about 7 people out of 100 pill users get pregnant each year.
Ways to increase birth control pill effectiveness:
- Take the pill at around the same time every day
- If you accidentally miss a day, take your missed pill as soon as you can. Then take the next pill at your normal time
- Know which drugs limit the pill's effectiveness
I always emphasize that you are never locked into one birth control option. If one method doesn't work for you, you can try something else. We offer many birth control options to Huskers at the University Health Center.
If you want to combine two different birth control options – like the pill and a condom – you'll have a much lower risk of unplanned pregnancy. Condoms have the added benefit of protecting you against sexually transmitted infections like HIV, gonorrhea and chlamydia.
Do condoms work?
When used correctly and consistently, condoms are another form of birth control. There are two types of condoms:
- External (male) condoms are worn over the penis during sex. External condoms are 98% effective when used correctly and consistently. Before you put on your condom, make sure to get any air out of the tip.
- Internal (female) condoms are used in the vagina or anus during sex. Internal condoms are 95% effective when used correctly and consistently. Be sure the internal condom doesn't get twisted. The thin, outer ring should remain outside the vagina or anus during intercourse.
Ways to increase condom effectiveness:
- Choose the right size of condom. Too small of a condom can lead to tears, which will allow semen to escape. Too large of an external condom may slide off the penis
- Latex condoms provide the best protection against HIV. If you or your partner has a latex allergy, plastic or synthetic rubber condoms are good alternatives
- Use water-based or silicone-based lubricants with condoms. Oil-based lubricants can cause condoms to tear, which can cause pregnancy
- Don't use an external (male) condom with an internal (female) condom because it can cause tearing
- Use a condom just once, then dispose of it in the trash. Reusing condoms can cause unplanned pregnancy
- Don't use condoms that are expired, torn or damaged
Free condoms are available at the University Health Center medical clinic during business hours. The university also offers free safer sex kits sponsored by the LGBTQA+ Resource and Women’s Centers.
4 home remedies for an upset stomach (plus 6 things to avoid)
An upset stomach is a nonmedical term describing a range of gastrointestinal symptoms like gas, bloating, indigestion, heartburn, nausea, vomiting, constipation or diarrhea.
Next time you’re feeling any of these symptoms, try these home remedies from Nebraska Medicine gastroenterologist Sarah Malik, MBBS, to feel better.
For centuries, peppermint oil has been used to treat gastrointestinal ailments. Peppermint oil possesses antimicrobial, anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, immunomodulating and anesthetic activities, all of which may help gut disorders. Peppermint oil can relax painful muscle contractions along your food pipe.
Eucalyptus oil, found in vapor rub
Vapor rub contains ingredients that can provide a soothing effect if rubbed on the belly. It contains eucalyptus oil, which fights against bacteria, improves your immune system and reduces inflammation. It also contains menthol, camphor oil and nutmeg oil, which have been used to relieve pain.
Herbal medicines are also effective for nausea. People have used ginger root to soothe troubled stomachs for the past 2,000 years. Various preclinical and clinical studies also support ginger's helpful properties. Try ginger tea with lemon for a relaxing, comforting drink.
Sports drinks and noncaffeinated sodas
Vomiting and diarrhea with upset stomach can cause dehydration. Sports drinks with electrolytes are the best way to prevent dehydration. If you're having trouble keeping liquids down, try sucking on ice chips and taking small sips of water. You can also drink noncaffeinated sodas, such as Sprite, 7UP or ginger ale.
Take care to avoid caffeinated sodas, since caffeine can make your upset stomach worse. The carbonation from sodas inflates the stomach while increasing its internal pressure. Combining higher pressure and caffeine's effects makes acid reflux more likely.
Certain foods make an upset stomach worse
Some people with chronic stomach discomfort are more sensitive to certain foods:
- Caffeinated sodas: Soft drinks can worsen acid reflux symptoms due to caffeine content and carbonation.
- Dairy: Patients with lactose intolerance should avoid dairy products.
- Spicy foods: Too much spicy food can upset your stomach, leading to constipation or diarrhea.
- Fried foods: Fried foods are high in saturated fats, which take much longer to break down in the stomach and slow down digestion.
- Alcohol: Drinking an excessive amount of alcohol irritates your gut, which can cause stomach pain, nausea and vomiting.
- Pain relievers: Ibuprofen, aspirin and antibiotics can increase feelings of nausea.
People with irritable bowel syndrome may want to avoid certain foods that increase flatulence, especially beans, legumes, onions, celery, asparagus, cauliflower, raisins, apricots, prunes, Brussels sprouts, wheat, pretzels and bagels.
7 tips to avoid indigestion for a sensitive stomach
Here are some tips to help you avoid indigestion or upset stomach.
- Eat slowly and ensure you are properly chewing your food.
- Consume smaller, more frequent meals.
- Drink plenty of fluids throughout the day.
- Avoid late-night meals or snacks.
- Ensure your diet consists of soluble fiber.
- Identify specific triggers and remove them from your diet.
- Maintain a bland diet without excessive use of spices.
When to see your doctor for stomach pain
Stomach pain comes in various forms and might range from intermittent pain to dull abdominal aching, stabbing pains that remain constant.
Alarming signs that suggest a more serious condition include:
- Chronic or severe abdominal pain that makes it difficult to do normal activities
- Evidence of gastrointestinal bleeding (vomiting up blood, blood in stool)
- Iron deficiency anemia
- Loss of appetite
- Unexplained weight loss
- Difficulty or painful swallowing
- Persistent vomiting
- Severe, ongoing diarrhea that lasts for more than two days
- Nighttime diarrhea that keeps you from sleeping
People who experience frequent stomach issues may have something more going on than just sensitivity. The best thing is to come in for screening, so your health care provider can rule out conditions such as peptic ulcer disease, gastritis, celiac disease, inflammatory bowel disease or irritable bowel syndrome. Call 402.472.5000 to schedule a University Health Center appointment.
10 tips for staying hydrated this summer
You may have heard that everyone should drink eight glasses of water a day. Although that advice is reasonable, it does not consider everyone’s individual needs, like their health, activity level, environment and other factors.
Up to 60% of our bodies are made of water. We lose water constantly through our skin, urine, waste and sweat – even when we breathe. Water intake has many benefits, including:
- Regulating internal body temperature
- Metabolizing food and regulating hunger
- Lubricating joints
- Flushing bodily waste
- Producing adequate saliva
If you don’t drink enough water, you can become dehydrated, which can lead to impaired kidney function, unbalanced electrolytes and other complications.
How much water should a person drink in a day?
About 20% of our daily fluid intake comes from the food we eat and the rest from the liquids we drink.
The amount of water intake you need depends on the sex you were assigned at birth. According to the U.S. National Academies of Science, Engineering and Medicine, men should drink 3.7 liters (about 16 cups) and women 2.7 liters (about 11 cups) of fluid per day. You need to drink even more water if you exercise, sweat or have an illness (diarrhea, vomiting, fever).
Although rare, it is possible to drink too much water. An excess of water can be lethal, especially to those with heart disease or electrolyte abnormality. The best bet is to clear with your physician what level of water intake is most appropriate for your body and activity level.
Tips for staying hydrated
- Drink a glass of water first thing in the morning. This gets your metabolism running and gives you an energy boost. Avoid drinking water right before bed if you struggle with nocturnal urination or heartburn.
- Invest in a fun or fancy water bottle. A good water bottle can serve as a visual reminder to drink more water throughout the day. Certain bottles have marked measurements for tracking intake or have words of encouragement printed on the side as water levels go down.
- Use alarms or notifications to your advantage. Set alarms or notifications on your smart devices as reminders throughout the day. For a mental boost, set your Alexa or Google device to remind you along with verbal, positive encouragements.
- Focus on your body's signals. Be mindful of whether your body is thirsty or hungry. Sometimes we overeat because we mistake thirst for hunger.
- Drink a glass of water before each meal. It will help you stay hydrated, help your body digest food better and help you feel full faster.
- Add calorie-free flavoring. Try fruit or vegetable infusions in your water to make it more appealing. Prepare a jug in the refrigerator to infuse overnight to make filling your water bottle in the morning easier. Pick up a water bottle that has a built-in infusion basket for flavor on the go.
- Check the color of your urine. Some people check the color of their urine throughout the day to ensure it is clear or light-colored. Dark yellow urine may be a sign of dehydration for some.
- Swap high sugar drinks for sparkling water or seltzer. Not only will you cut back on unnecessary sugar, but you'll be adding to your water intake.
- Set a daily goal. A simple daily goal can help you stay motivated and work towards maintaining a healthy habit.
- Make it a challenge. Ask your friends to join you in a healthy competition to see who meets their daily goals regularly.
9 vitamin D deficiency symptoms (and 10 high vitamin D foods)
Vitamin D is a fat-soluble vitamin essential for health. It keeps your bones strong, can improve your mental health and helps you sleep.
According to the National Institutes of Health, almost 1 in 4 U.S. adults are considered low in vitamin D. Symptoms depend on how severe the deficiency is and the person.
Vitamin D deficiency has become more common over the past several years. The University Health Center occasionally screens for this condition in patients struggling with fatigue, depressive symptoms and bone issues.
Health center provider Sarah Wallingford, PA, shares what vitamin D deficiency looks like – and three ways to overcome it.
Symptoms when vitamin D is low
Most people with vitamin D deficiency are asymptomatic. However, if you're exhausted, your bones hurt, you have muscle weakness or mood changes, that's an indication that something may be abnormal with your body.
Symptoms of vitamin D deficiency may include:
- Not sleeping well
- Bone pain or achiness
- Depression or feelings of sadness
- Hair loss
- Muscle weakness
- Loss of appetite
- Getting sick more easily
- Pale skin
If these symptoms sound familiar, it’s time to see a medical professional. They may do a blood test to check your vitamin D levels to see if they are within normal range.
Get vitamin D from food
5 foods naturally high in vitamin D:
- Fatty fish like salmon, trout, tuna and mackerel
- Canned fish like herring and sardines
- Egg yolks
- Beef liver
- Fish liver
5 vitamin D fortified foods:
- Breakfast cereals
- Almond milk
- Soy milk
- Orange juice
Since there aren't a lot of naturally occurring vitamin D foods, many products are enriched with vitamin D. Always check the nutrition label to ensure there's vitamin D added.
Get vitamin D from sunlight
When your skin is exposed to ultraviolet rays from the sun, your body creates vitamin D.
Make time daily to get out in the sun. If you don’t have classes, work or commitments scheduled that require you to go outside for the day, set aside a few minutes to take a quick walk, even if it’s just around your residence hall or the block. Remember to wear sunscreen, even on cloudy, gloomy days.
If you don’t get regular sunlight, you may need to increase your dietary intake or take a vitamin D supplement.
Take a vitamin D supplement
Most people should be taking a vitamin D supplement, Wallingford says.
Vitamin D has two main forms: D2 and D3. You can absorb both types in your body. Still, studies have shown that vitamin D3 raises your levels more effectively than vitamin D2. For this reason, Wallingford recommends over-the-counter supplements that contain vitamin D3 or taking a cod liver oil supplement. Vitamin D3 supplements can be purchased at the University Health Center pharmacy.
The recommended dietary allowance of vitamin D for young adults is 600 international units. A doctor may prescribe a prescription-strength dose of vitamin D if your levels are severely low.
Are vitamin D supplements safe?
Yes. A vitamin D supplement doesn't cause many adverse effects at recommended doses. What you don't use, your body usually urinates out, so it's difficult to overdose on vitamin D unless you are taking massive doses.
Extremely high vitamin D levels are harmful and can cause nausea, vomiting, confusion, excessive thirst and kidney stones. Vitamin D supplements can interact with certain medications, so check with your doctor before starting one.
Who is more at risk for vitamin D deficiency?
People with darker skin are much better protected from UV rays but also need to spend more time in the sun than people with lighter skin to produce the same amount of vitamin D. Non-Hispanic Black people generally have higher rates of vitamin D deficiency. The darker your skin, the less vitamin D you make from sunlight exposure. People who are obese, those with osteoporosis, and people with malabsorption disorders like celiac disease or inflammatory bowel disease are also at risk for vitamin D deficiency.
If you are concerned you have low vitamin D levels and would like to talk to a doctor about it, schedule an appointment at the University Health Center by calling 402.472.5000.
You asked, we answered: How to choose a multivitamin
There are a lot of multivitamin options out there. What should I look for in choosing the right one for me?
Answered by Aaron Kassebaum, PharmD, pharmacist:
Most over-the-counter multivitamins have very similar ingredients and daily values of the different nutrients, so it’s hard to go wrong with any of them. Ultimately, it depends on your preferences.
Brand name vs. generic
There isn’t much difference between brand-name multivitamins and their generic versions other than cost. I would choose generic if you are looking to save money.
Gender- or age-specific
It is OK to choose a vitamin labeled for your particular age or gender if that is important to you. But a general multivitamin is just as effective. The one exception is if you are pregnant, in which case a prenatal vitamin is preferable. This is because it includes more folic acid than the standard multivitamin.
Gummy vs. pill
Gummy vitamins are made of gelatin, which is tasteless. Sugar is added to make gummies taste super-sweet. Certain gummies contain almost 20% of your daily sugar intake. If you can tolerate the pill version, that’s generally the healthiest option because of the high sugar content in gummies.
Eating a balanced diet
Multivitamins are a great supplement to your diet, but they should never be a substitute for a healthy, balanced diet. It’s best to get your nutrients from whole foods like lean meats, fruits and vegetables when possible.
Get your vitamins at the University Health Center Pharmacy
The pharmacy offers a variety of over-the-counter vitamin options for your needs. We sell generic versions to help you save money. Visit us during business hours to shop our selection.
The facts on ‘proffee’: Can protein powder plus coffee help you lose weight?
The trend of proffee, or adding protein powder to your morning cup of coffee, is gaining momentum.
It seems innocent enough – just mix and sip. But is this on-the-go breakfast healthy for you?
Nebraska Medicine registered dietitian Kimmie Sharp, MMN, RDN, LMNT, LD, says yes, protein coffee is an easy, low-calorie, filling meal. Here’s how to make protein coffee and what to look for in a protein powder.
Can protein help you lose weight?
Evidence supports that adequate protein intake helps with weight loss. Adding protein powder to your coffee is an excellent way to cut extra sugar and calories from creamers.
Don't go too crazy with coffee – drinking two pots in one day is not good for you. But a cup or two of coffee with protein powder is a great choice.
Protein in the morning removes the sense of physical hunger you feel after waking up. Protein will keep you going for a few hours, while something like plain toast will make you hungry sooner.
Other good sources of protein:
- Skim milk
- Soy milk
- Cottage cheese
Protein coffee will break your fast
Following intermittent fasting, 16/8 method means you eat or drink calories in an eight-hour window each day. For the remaining 16 hours (including sleep time), you're fasting – not consuming calories.
You can drink black coffee (without creamer or sugar), black tea, green tea, matcha tea and water without breaking your fast.
However, mixing things containing calories with your coffee means it will no longer be calorie-free. Protein has calories. Adding protein powder to your coffee will break your fast.
If you're intermittent fasting, wait until your eating window to get your protein powder fix.
Is protein coffee a meal replacement?
You can use protein coffee as a meal replacement. It's a quick and easy way to fuel up for a busy morning. However, many powders lack essential vitamins, minerals or healthy fats. Some protein powders contain much more protein than you need, which could cause weight gain.
If your goal is to lose weight, a shake specifically formulated to replace a meal is a better option.
What is the best protein powder?
For a protein powder or a pre-made shake, look for 20 to 30 grams of protein per serving and 5 grams or less of sugar per serving.
Avoid brands that make crazy health claims, for example, that they help cure disease. Those aren't reputable.
How to make protein coffee
If you're adding a protein shake that's already a liquid, you can mix it with your hot or iced coffee.
Adding protein powder to iced coffee is also simple. Just mix the two and you're set.
For hot coffee and protein powder, though, it's a bit trickier. Depending on the type of protein powder, it can thicken or get a bit clumpy if you add it to hot coffee. Instead, mix the protein powder with a little bit of warm water first. Then add your hot coffee to your mixture. A milk frother can help dissolve the powder more quickly.
No matter your coffee preference, it's safe and easy to try the proffee trend.
If you need help navigating healthy eating, schedule a telehealth nutrition counseling visit with the University Health Center registered dietitian. The first visit is at no cost if you pay student fees. Follow-up visits can be submitted to private insurance. Call 402.472.5000 to schedule an appointment.
Can COVID-19 cause high blood pressure? Plus 5 ways to reduce hypertension
High blood pressure, also called hypertension, is not uncommon in young adults.
About a quarter of people between 18 and 39 have high blood pressure, which puts them at risk for severe conditions like stroke or heart attack.
In most cases, the condition has no symptoms. So how can you know if you have high blood pressure? Get checked by a medical professional.
There are different blood pressure levels:
- Ideal: less than 120/80 mmHg
- Elevated: 120/80 to 129/80 mmHg
- High: 130/80 mmHg or higher
- Hypertensive crisis: 180/120 mmHg or higher
If blood pressure is high and left untreated, it can cause stroke, heart attack, heart failure, atrial fibrillation, vision problems and kidney failure.
Symptoms of extremely high blood pressure include:
- Shortness of breath
- Mental confusion
- Feeling like a heart attack
- Chest pain
If you experience these symptoms, call 911 or go to the nearest emergency room.
Is COVID-19 causing high blood pressure?
So far, research hasn't shown that COVID-19 causes higher blood pressure.
Someone seeing their doctor for COVID-19 may find out for the first time about their high blood pressure. But that doesn’t mean they are related. Since you can have high blood pressure – yet not have symptoms – you may find out about your hypertension during a visit to the doctor for a different concern.
Can high blood pressure be reversed?
Yes. There are two ways to lower high blood pressure: lifestyle changes and medications.
You can drop your blood pressure numbers by 5% to 10% with lifestyle changes. A slight decrease in systolic blood pressure, as little as 3 to 5 mmHg, significantly affects the risk of stroke and heart attacks. Small changes can make a big difference in your health.
5 ways to reduce your blood pressure
- Eat whole foods: Increase fruits, vegetables, whole-grain foods, fish, nuts and legumes in your diet. The MIND diet can help you lower blood pressure and lose weight.
- Exercise: Working out keeps your blood flowing. Aim for 30 minutes a day, five days a week.
- Lower stress: Constant psychological pressure may damage artery walls. Use self-care strategies like long walks, baths, therapy, journaling or yoga to relieve stress.
- Quit smoking: Nicotine raises blood pressure and thickens the blood, increasing the amount of plaque buildup in the arteries. When you kick the habit, your stroke risk drops immediately.
- Maintain a healthy weight: Losing as little as 10 pounds can greatly impact your blood pressure.
You also may need to manage blood pressure with medications.
Call 402.472.5000 to make an appointment with a University Health Center primary care provider to check your blood pressure and get a referral for a heart specialist if needed.
Autism Spectrum Disorder in adults
Difficulty maintaining eye contact. Sitting and standing in weird positions. Sensory issues. Repetitive movements. These are just a few symptoms of autism spectrum disorder, often known as autism or ASD, in adults.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, about 1% of the world – or 75,000,000 people – have ASD. Even more surprising, an estimated 5.4 million (or 2.2%) U.S. adults have ASD. That number may seem large, but ASD features a wide range of symptoms and levels of severity.
Although not everyone is diagnosed at an early age, early detection in childhood is key to improving outcomes later in life.
Below, we outline five common questions (and answers) about ASD in adults.
1. Can adults be diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder?
Adults can be diagnosed with ASD. Most symptoms typically present before age 18, but others may not fully manifest until later when social demands exceed individual capabilities.
2. What are the signs of ASD in adults?
Some adults with ASD exhibit symptoms that resemble attention deficit hyperactivity disorder or ADHD. Other symptoms may include:
- Difficulty interpreting what others are thinking or feeling
- Trouble interpreting facial expressions, body language or social cues
- Difficulty regulating emotions
- Trouble keeping up a conversation
- Inflection that does not reflect feelings
- Difficulty maintaining the natural give-and-take of a conversation
- Tendency to engage in repetitive or routine behaviors
- Only participating in a restricted range of activities
- Strict consistency to daily routines or outbursts when changes occur
- Exhibiting strong, special interests
3. How is autism diagnosed?
A multifactorial evaluation is the best tool for diagnosing ASD in adults. The evaluation should include an in-person evaluation and a thorough assessment of your developmental history from a parent or caregiver who knew you during your childhood. Sometimes it may be difficult to find an informant like this. If so, a spouse, partner, or close friend can help complete the necessary screenings by reporting on your current behavior.
If you're thinking about seeking an autism evaluation, online ASD assessments can provide a good starting point. However, most online rating scales do not have adequate reliability and validity to provide accurate diagnoses and don't consider your developmental history. Therefore, clinical expertise is required to correctly interpret your results and make a proper diagnosis.
4. Who can diagnose ASD in adults?
If you suspect ASD, you should talk to your primary care provider. Your doctor can refer you to a behavior health specialist, such as a licensed psychologist, who is authorized to complete psychological testing. While we don’t provide psychological testing at the University Health Center, we can refer you to psychologists in the community who do. It's important to find a health care provider with specific knowledge of ASD developmental disabilities and evaluation methods suited for adults, as they differ from those for children or adolescents. (Some clinicians with experience evaluating children and adolescents may not have experience evaluating adults.)
5. Is an autism diagnosis covered by insurance?
Although ASD evaluations are increasingly recognized as medical necessities, insurance coverage often differs among providers. Check with your insurance provider to see what they will cover.
The bottom line: ASD can manifest differently and is often a life-long condition. But, early diagnosis and treatment can make a significant difference.
If you are concerned you might have ASD and would like to talk to a health care provider about your symptoms for a possible referral; the University Health Center can help. Call 402.472.5000 to schedule an appointment. We do not provide autism assessments, but we can provide a referral to community resources that do.
4 ways to relieve stress ahead of finals
With only a few weeks until final exams, the stress of your classes can become overwhelming.
There are steps you can take to lower your stress levels as you prepare for finals week. Here are four tips from the psychiatric professionals at the University Health Center to help you manage your stress:
- Practice self-care: Take a break from studying and engage in activities you enjoy. Taking time to relax and recharge can help you reset and refocus on your studies.
- Boost your mood with food: Vitamins and minerals are needed to create certain hormones. Try to eat a balanced diet at each meal, including fruits, vegetables and proteins, and limit sugars to boost your mood and keep you energized.
- Get active: Physical activity releases endorphins that help promote a positive mood, increase focus, and help reduce stress. You don't need to go to the gym to get moving. Whether walking through campus or doing yoga in your room, just remember to pick an activity that you enjoy.
- Make positive self-talk and gratitude a part of your routine: Making a list of three to five positive statements or affirmations and reading them every day can help boost your mood and confidence. Reflecting every day on a few things you are thankful for can also help change your mindset to a more positive one and focus less on current stressors.
If you think you could benefit from medication for ongoing mental health concerns, contact the University Health Center psychiatry team by calling 402.472.5000 or visit our webpage to learn more: https://health.unl.edu/psychiatric-medication-management.
11 concussion signs and how to get treatment at the health center
No one plans to get a concussion, but they can happen anytime, anywhere – whether it’s a car accident, a sports-related injury, a fall down the stairs or something else.
A concussion is a mild traumatic brain injury, and most people recover if they get good care after a concussion. Students have access to the University Health Center Concussion Clinic if they need help diagnosing a concussion and treating symptoms.
The first step is to know the signs of a concussion. Here are 11 symptoms to watch for after a head injury:
- Difficulty concentrating
- Sensitivity to light/noise
- Not feeling right or in a fog
- Memory loss right around when the impact happened
- Loss of balance
- Loss of coordination
- Looking dazed or stunned
- Behavior and mood changes
These symptoms can be immediate or delayed. Each person will experience them differently.
If you suspect you have a concussion, call 402.472.5000 to schedule an appointment with the Concussion Clinic on campus, staffed by Neuropsychologist Kate Higgins, PsyD. Services are available on Tuesdays from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.
Most concussions do not require a trip to the emergency room. However, if you experience these red flags of a more serious injury, skip the health center and go straight to the hospital:
Loss of consciousness
Headache that persists or gets worse
Numbness or weakness in arms/legs
Inability to recognize people or places
Inability to be awakened
Will a concussion heal itself? Yes
The brain is good at healing itself after a concussion. It takes roughly two to four weeks to recover in most circumstances.
There is no magic recipe that can create a faster recovery, but there are several things Dr. Higgins recommends to help you get back on your feet after a head injury:
Light exercise, without putting yourself at risk of another hit to the head
Get enough sleep, which is critical to the healing process
Occupational or physical therapy to retrain systems in the brain
Reduce the amount of cognitive work in school or at your job
Let a doctor know if you are feeling any symptoms of anxiety or depression after an incident
Learn more at https://health.unl.edu/concussion-clinic.
University Health Center offers brownies for flu vaccinations
Tips to save you money in college
How to choose your contraception method
Contraception is more than just condoms and the pill. The University Health Center provides several options and resources for choosing the best method for your needs. Here’s what you need to know about birth control and the health center:
What birth control options does the health center have?
- Oral contraceptive pills (commonly known as “the pill”)
- Emergency contraception (like Plan B and Ella)
- External condoms
- Intrauterine device (IUD)
- The implant (Nexplanon)
- Injectable hormones (Depo Provera)
- The ring (NuvaRing)
How do I choose the right option?
The health center has partnered with the UNMC College of Nursing-Lincoln Division to offer a free educational eLearning module to help you explore your birth control options. Visit our webpage to take the module.
If, after taking the module, you still aren't sure which method is best for you and your lifestyle, don’t worry! Write down your questions and share them with your provider during your appointment.
How much will it cost?
We recommend contacting your health insurance provider for coverage information to determine how much your visit will cost. Patients are responsible for any charges not covered by insurance. If you do not have insurance, you can pay out of pocket at a discounted rate or visit https://getaccessgranted.com/ for local options.
How do I get contraception?
External condoms are available to pick up throughout the health center, including at the pharmacy, greeter desk and patient parking kiosk on the second level.
The University Health Center Pharmacy also has emergency contraception for sale. Certain methods like the pill, IUDs and implants need a prescription from a provider. Providers at the health center can also insert devices like IUDs and implants.
You can make an appointment to see a provider for contraception by calling 402.472.5000.
Sexually transmitted infections: Are they curable, when to get tested and other common questions
If you are having sex, it’s time to consider getting tested for sexually transmitted infections. It’s a perfectly normal part of health care designed to keep you safe and healthy.
If you have considered getting tested but still have questions, you are not alone. University Health Center medical experts answer these frequently asked questions:
How common are STIs?
They’re more common than you may think. One in two people will contract a sexually transmitted infection by age 25, according to the American Sexual Health Association. Chlamydia, genital herpes, gonorrhea, syphilis and human papillomavirus are more prevalent among college-aged people. Many of these are on the rise in the U.S., especially among younger people.
How can I get an STI?
You can get an STI when you have sexual contact with an infected person. This includes vaginal, anal and oral sex (receiving and giving) and mutual masturbation. Although the risk is low, it is possible to transmit certain STIs from skin-to-skin contact like kissing or cuddling.
How do I know if I have an STI?
STIs have a variety of symptoms or no symptoms at all. Many time, symptoms are ignored or misinterpreted as something unimportant. If you experience STI symptoms, these may include:
- Unexplained abdominal/pelvic or testicular pain
- Genital discharge
- Burning urination
- Genital rash, itching or sores
If left untreated, STIs can sometimes cause severe consequences like infertility, cancer and pelvic inflammatory disease . Talking with a doctor and having an examination followed by testing is a good idea if you have any questions or concerns.
Are STIs curable?
Some are, and some aren’t. For example, syphilis, gonorrhea, chlamydia and trichomoniasis are, hepatitis B, herpes simplex virus, HIV and HPV are not. However, all STIs can be treated, and the symptoms managed.
How often should I get tested?
Anyone sexually active should get tested annually for common STIs and HIV. You should also get tested if you are showing any of the signs or symptoms mentioned above, if you have a new partner(s) and if you share needles. Depending on your risk factors, your doctor may advise you to get tested more often for certain STIs.
Which STIs should I get tested for?
STIs are not like allergies; you can’t get a massive test for all STIs. These tests are specific to each infection. Talk to your doctor about which STI tests you need. Certain STIs are more common than others, so your provider may suggest you get tested regularly for them.
Remember to be honest and open with your provider about your sexual activity, including what type of sexual contact you participate in, as this determines where and how you should be tested. Your provider is here to help, not judge you. What you share will help your provider choose the most appropriate tests for your circumstances so that your testing will not cost more than necessary. Your risk factors will determine which tests are most important for you.
How can I get tested for STIs and/or HIV at the University Health Center?
Step 1: Call the University Health Center at 402.472.5000 and follow the options to speak to a nurse. Tell the nurse that you’d like to get tested. The nurse line is available Monday through Friday from 8:20 a.m. to 4:40 p.m.
Step 2: The nurse will ask you a few questions and put an order in for your testing at our laboratory.
Step 3: Walk into the lab at your convenience and check in at the health center front desk Monday through Friday between 8:20 a.m. and 4:40 p.m. Tell the medical receptionist that you’re checking in “for lab only.” Our staff will check you in and direct you to the lab, where you will complete your testing.
Step 4: Nursing staff will call you in a few business days with results and schedule follow-up as needed. Results will also be available in your One Chart | Patient portal in about two to three business days.
Who will know I got tested at the health center?
All lab services and clinic medical records are strictly confidential. This information is kept between you and your doctor. However, there are a few things you should know:
- Minors (students 18 and younger) do not need parental consent for STI testing or treatment. STI testing and treatment information will not be shared with parents of minors without the minor’s permission
- If you use health insurance to get tested, consider who else has access to that information (like a parent or partner if you share health insurance). Please tell the medical receptionist at check-in if you do not want to submit your charge to insurance
- Positive results for some STIs, like HIV or syphilis, may be shared with state or city health departments for tracking purposes. Still, laws prevent health departments from sharing your test results with your family, friends or employer
If you have further questions or concerns, talk to your doctor.
How much does it cost?
Student fees cover the cost of doctor-ordered chlamydia, gonorrhea, and HIV tests for currently enrolled UNL students who pay University Program and Facilities Fees. Other tests will have a charge. In some cases, these costs may be eligible to be covered by grant funds; talk to nursing staff to learn if this option is available for you. Charges can also be submitted to insurance or paid out of pocket at a discount. Financial assistance is available to those who qualify. For pricing information, call the health center at 402.472.5000 and press the Billing and Insurance option.
What if I test positive?
First, remember to breathe. Side effects and health outcomes of many STIs can be treated, and many STIs are curable. Different treatment methods are used for different STIs. For some STIs, there are several treatment options. Your provider will tell you more about this after your test.
How do I tell my partner(s) I have an STI?
Some conversations seem really hard to have. Telling someone you have an STI may be one of them. But it’s not just about you; your partner(s) needs to know so they can get tested and treated if necessary.
Everyone gets an STI from a person. Open communication prevents the spread of STIs, so talk to your partner(s). Many couples report this conversation actually brings them closer together.
Make a plan. As soon as you’re ready, bring it up with your partner(s). You could talk to someone else about it first and practice what you will say. You could also journal about it or practice speaking in a mirror. You could even write your partner(s) a letter. The main point is to communicate. Be there for them the way you hope they would be there for you.
How to stay safe
STIs are very common and can spread easily. So what can you do to stay safe? Here are seven tips:
- Use condoms and use them correctly.
- When possible, limit casual sex and always use condoms with new partners.
- Get tested between partners and after unprotected sex.
- Make informed choices about the level of risk you are comfortable taking with your sex life.
- Talk with your partner(s) about the potential risk of acquiring STIs.
- Get vaccinated for HPV, the most common STI.
- If you or your partner is infected with a curable STI, both of you should start treatment immediately to avoid reinfection.
Flu shots 101: How they work, potential side effects and more
Flu season is around the corner. The best way to protect yourself and others from getting sick is by getting your annual flu vaccine, which is now available at the University Health Center.
We know many have questions about the flu vaccine and wonder if it’s right for them. Before you get vaccinated, take a moment to expand your knowledge of common flu symptoms, possible side effects, vaccine recommendations and more.
Most common flu symptoms
When we talk about the flu (and the vaccine), we refer to the illness caused by the influenza virus. Influenza is a respiratory virus not to be confused with gastrointestinal bugs often called the “stomach flu.” The most common flu symptoms include:
- Body aches
- Upper respiratory symptoms that may include a cough, congestion or sore throat
A person is considered contagious when symptoms are present. Still, they can potentially spread the flu even before they notice symptoms.
Why vaccination is critical in 2022
As the COVID-19 pandemic transitions – especially as wearing masks and practicing social distancing are less utilized – there is a concern that the flu season will be more significant this year. Therefore, the University Health Center recommends getting vaccinated to protect yourself and our Husker community.
Each year, flu vaccines are created based on predictions of what flu strains may be present in the coming flu season. Like most vaccines, the flu shot does not provide 100% protection, but it is still very effective. Receiving the vaccine reduces your chance of getting the flu, the severity of symptoms, and the risk of spreading the virus to others.
Once you are vaccinated, you gain the total amount of protection after two weeks. Our recommendation is to get it sooner than later.
What if I’m allergic to eggs?
There is an egg-free vaccine available for those with an egg allergy, but it is not offered at the University Health Center. If your allergy is mild, you can safely receive the regular vaccine. If you have a severe allergy, talk to your doctor about receiving the egg-free version at an off-campus location.
How does the flu vaccine work?
The vaccine contains elements of the dead influenza virus so the immune system can respond to those specific proteins to make antibodies. When the immune system sees the virus in the future, it ramps up the antibody response to kill it quicker.
What if I always seem to get sick after getting the flu shot?
You cannot get the flu from the flu shot, but you may experience mild side effects. It’s common to feel tenderness at the injection site or mild symptoms for a day or two afterward.
When you experience mild symptoms, remember that your immune system is doing what it is designed to do: reacting to a foreign antigen and triggering the production of antibodies that will fight the flu in the future.
Common side effects include:
- General fatigue
- Injection site pain
- Occasionally, a low-grade fever
Doctor’s advice? Think about the timing of your flu shot. Plan it around your life events just in case you feel a few side effects afterward.
Who shouldn’t get the flu shot?
Patients with a suppressed immune system should consult their doctor to discuss their best options. Those with a history of Guillain-Barre syndrome, certain autoimmune disorders and those who are sick should avoid getting the flu vaccine.
How can I get my flu shot on campus?
Flu shots are now available at the University Health Center. They are free for currently enrolled undergraduate and graduate UNL students. Students 18 and older may attend an upcoming drop-in flu vaccination clinic, and students of all ages can get vaccinated by appointment at the medical clinic by calling 402.472.5000. Learn more about drop-in vaccine clinics and other flu shot information.
How do I know if I have influenza or COVID-19?
The symptoms can be challenging to tell apart. If your symptoms last more than a day or two, perform an at-home COVID-19 test or call 402.472.5000 to get tested at the health center. If your symptoms include a fever and body aches, always reach out to a doctor.
If you get sick with the flu (even if you’ve been vaccinated), call your doctor within 24 to 48 hours. Tamiflu is still available as a treatment option and must start within the first few days of symptoms. Wait 24 hours after you are fever free before returning to school or work. Keep yourself and others healthy by practicing healthy habits to prevent flu and colds all season.
Nausea and diarrhea? How to tell if it’s COVID, the stomach flu or food poisoning
You wake up one morning with nausea and diarrhea. It gets worse throughout the day. You think you may have a stomach bug, but it's hard to know for sure. Maybe it's COVID-19 or even food poisoning?
Nausea and diarrhea can have many causes. Determining the exact cause early on is not always simple.
The University Health Center explains the differences between these three common problems that can cause gastrointestinal issues.
COVID-19-related diarrhea and nausea
Nausea, vomiting and diarrhea are less common symptoms of COVID-19. Still, when they do occur, they tend to be some of the first symptoms you will experience. Diarrhea caused by COVID-19 tends to be more watery, yellow or green in color. It may be accompanied by cramping and bloating. If you have COVID-19, you will likely develop other symptoms within a day or two, such as fever, cough, congestion and/or loss of taste and smell.
If it's COVID-19, how long am I contagious?
If you are diagnosed with COVID-19, you are usually contagious up to five days from the start of symptoms. If youstill have symptoms after five days, stay away from others until your symptoms are gone.
Stomach flu symptoms
What is often called the stomach flu actually isn't the flu at all. The actual name for the stomach flu is gastroenteritis.
Gastroenteritis can be caused by viral, bacterial or parasitic infections but is commonly caused by norovirus. These infections cause inflammation in the gastrointestinal tract, decreasing the body's ability to absorb and digest food. The food moves so quickly through the GI tract that the acids the body secretes to break down the food don't have time to do their job, resulting in diarrhea. While the stomach bug is often called the 24-hour flu, most viral GI symptoms last between 24 to 72 hours.
Is stomach flu contagious?
Gastroenteritis is contagious through fecal matter or saliva. To help reduce infecting others, close the toilet lid before flushing, clean the bathroom and toilet frequently and wash your hands thoroughly and often.
Food poisoning symptoms
Food poisoning may be suspected if you have eaten out or traveled recently. Food poisoning is caused by eating food contaminated by bacteria, viruses or parasites. Symptoms typically develop within 12 to 36 hours and can last up to 72 hours. Blood in the stool indicates that you may have food poisoning caused by bacteria and should be evaluated urgently.
Is food poisoning contagious?
Individuals experiencing food poisoning can be contagious through fecal matter or saliva for up to 48 hours. To reduce transmission to others, follow the same suggestions as gastroenteritis: Close the toilet lid before flushing, clean the bathroom and toilet frequently, and wash your hands thoroughly and often.
How to treat an upset stomach at home
There are several things you can do to help reduce the severity of symptoms, whether it’s caused by COVID-19, a GI virus or food poisoning:
- Use over-the-counter anti-diarrheal medications that will help slow down the motility of the GI tract and/or take over-the-counter medications that will help reduce gas and bloating. These medications are available at the health center pharmacy at a discounted rate
- Switch to a clear liquid diet such as juice, broth or popsicles or a bland diet with foods such as bread, rice or applesauce, depending on what your stomach can handle. Learn more about what to eat with an upset stomach
Diarrhea can cause you to lose a lot of water and electrolytes, which can lead to dehydration. That’s why it’s crucial to stay hydrated and drink lots of clear fluids.
When to get help from a doctor
In most cases, you can let GI issues run their course. However, if you become extremely dehydrated, develop sunken eyes, high fever or blood in your stools, you should make an appointment at the University Health Center by calling 402.472.5000 Monday through Friday, between 8 a.m. and 4:45 p.m. or Saturday between 9 a.m. and noon.
Kombucha: What is it, and what are its health benefits?
You may have seen kombucha in grocery stores, at certain restaurants, or being promoted by influencers on TikTok. Its popularity is growing.
Nebraska Medicine nutritional therapist Megan McLarney, RD, LMNT, CDE answers some common questions students have about kombucha and fact checks this trending fad.
What is kombucha?
Kombucha is an ancient food dating back to as early as 220 B.C. It is a fermented drink made with tea, sugar, bacteria and yeast. The resulting liquid contains vinegar, B vitamins, and a number of other chemical compounds. It is a fizzy, low-calorie beverage that comes in a variety of flavors. It's like a soda but also has a slight vinegar taste.
Kombucha can be found in the refrigerated section of most grocery stores. There are recipes online about how to make kombucha at home.
Some claim Kombucha can help prevent and manage serious health conditions, from blood pressure to cancer. Unfortunately, these claims aren't yet backed by scientific evidence. Valid medical studies of kombucha are limited. Some studies suggest that it may offer benefits similar to other probiotic foods like yogurt. These probiotic benefits include promoting a healthy immune system and relieving stomach and intestinal issues like diarrhea and constipation.
Is kombucha healthy?
Drinking kombucha is an easy, low-calorie way to add probiotics to your diet. It's also a good alternative for vegetarians or anyone who can't eat dairy.
Kombucha does contain small amounts of sugar and caffeine. As a fermented beverage, it also contains some alcohol. It's always important to read labels because the amounts of sugar, caffeine and alcohol in kombucha can vary. According to the Alcohol Tax and Trade Bureau, most store-bought kombucha will have around 0.5% alcohol by volume. By comparison, a typical beer will have about 5% ABV. This means you would have to drink at least 10 servings of kombucha to equal the alcohol content of a single beer.
Is drinking kombucha safe?
If you're drinking kombucha that someone else has made, remember that the alcohol content can vary greatly in homemade brews. There is also a risk of food poisoning, even with store-bought kombucha, because it does contain live, active bacteria cultures. That is why proper handling and storage are important.
In general, it's probably safer to drink kombucha that you get from a trusted source rather than try to make your own. If you want to try home brewing, learn from an experienced brewer. Don't just follow any recipe you find on social media.
Anyone at high risk for food-borne illness should avoid foods containing raw forms of bacteria, including kombucha. This would include anyone who is pregnant or breastfeeding. If you have a weakened immune system or have had a severe infection or surgery in your intestines, there is a higher risk that bacteria may pass through your gut and cause a blood or whole-body infection.
For that reason, probiotic foods like kombucha aren’t recommended if you have "leaky gut," colitis or celiac disease. Also, someone who has unmanaged HIV or has had a transplant involving their gut should be cautious. In those cases, the safest way to get probiotics is from cooked sources such as sauerkraut.
What's the best way to add kombucha to my diet?
If you have specific health or dietary concerns, work with your doctor and a dietitian to determine the best way to add probiotics to your diet.
If you've never tried kombucha, start with a small amount and see how you feel after drinking it for a few days. If you like it, you'll get plenty of probiotics by drinking between 8 and 16 ounces per day.
When it comes to probiotics, one type of food isn’t recommended over others. Eating a variety is important to avoid super dosing with just one type of bacteria, which could create an imbalance.
If you find that you don't like kombucha, there are plenty of other probiotic foods to try including: yogurt, kefir, aged cheeses, kimchi, pickles, tempeh and sauerkraut, to name a few.
If you're concerned about adding new foods to your diet, the best place to start is by speaking with a registered dietitian. Call 402.472.5000 to schedule a nutrition counseling visit at Nebraska Medicine University Health Center with Sarah Keegan, MS, RDN, LMNT, CDCES. Students who pay student fees get their first nutrition counseling visit at no additional cost.
You asked, we answered: Do I need testosterone therapy?
I think I might have low testosterone. Do I need testosterone therapy?
Answered by University Health Center provider Malik Ahmic, APRN:
Testosterone is a hormone typically prevalent in those assigned male at birth. The hormone maintains muscle mass and strength, fat distribution, bone mass, sperm production, and sex drive and potency.
Testosterone deficiency is defined as testosterone blood levels less than 300 nanograms per deciliter (ng/dL). A hormone decline can result in symptoms like low motivation, decreased stamina and energy, sexual dysfunction, depression, hot flashes, loss of muscle mass and/or mood swings.
The reality is that only about 5% to 7% of people with a penis and testicles will experience a clinically significant drop in testosterone levels that require treatment. This typically begins happening after age 40.
If you are concerned you have low testosterone, do not take over-the-counter testosterone boosters. They are not regulated, can cause harmful side effects, and simply don’t improve testosterone. Instead, the best thing you can do is consult with a doctor who can test your levels if needed. If your testosterone levels are low, they will talk to you about next steps, which may or may not include testosterone therapy.
Although testosterone therapy can be very effective at improving symptoms, it is not recommended for everyone. It can have side effects, including altered sexual function, infertility, and shrinking of the gonads. Therapy requires thorough evaluation and regular monitoring.
If you are a transgender or nonbinary person considering gender-affirming hormone therapy, we have a Transgender Care Clinic that can help you navigate your options.
To schedule an appointment at the University Health Center, call 402.472.5000.
You asked, we answered: What’s the difference between a UTI and a yeast infection?
What’s the difference between a UTI and a yeast infection?
Answered by University Health Center provider Lindsay O’Meara, PA-C:
Symptoms of a UTI and yeast infection are similar, but there are some subtle differences. Determining the exact cause of your symptoms and getting appropriate treatment are critical to prevent the condition from getting worse.
What is a UTI?
A urinary tract infection is an infection of the urinary system that can include the kidneys, ureters, bladder and urethra. It is caused when bacteria enter the urinary tract, often from intercourse or bacteria from the rectum. Unmanaged diabetes can also lead to UTIs.
Common UTI symptoms include:
- A burning sensation when urinating
- Urge to urinate more frequently or urgently
- Cloudy and strong-smelling urine
- Pelvic pain
- Red, pink or cola-colored urine
UTI treatment and prevention
Treatment to clear a UTI requires antibiotics prescribed by your health care provider.
To help reduce your risk for a UTI, take these steps:
- Drink cranberry juice. Although studies have not been conclusive that cranberry juice can prevent UTIs, it can't hurt to add this to your diet if you are prone to UTIs
- Drink lots of water. Drinking lots of water will help flush out bacteria from your urinary tract to prevent infections from setting in
- Urinate after intercourse to help flush out bacteria that may have entered the urinary tract during intercourse
- Avoid douching, scented soaps and deodorant sprays. These can interfere with the good bacteria that help keep bad bacteria from growing
- Evaluate your birth control method. Birth control such as diaphragms and unlubricated or spermicide-treated condoms can facilitate bacterial growth
What is a yeast infection?
A yeast infection is a fungal infection of the vagina and vulva that is often caused by a disruption of the normal balance of healthy bacteria in that area. It can be triggered by unmanaged diabetes, overuse of feminine products like douches, bubble baths, overwashing the vaginal area, or wearing tight-fitting, nonbreathable clothing. Some people are also more prone to yeast infections during their period.
Common yeast infection symptoms include:
- Burning and itching in the vagina and vulva
- Burning sensation while urinating or during intercourse
- Thick, white discharge that looks similar to cottage cheese
- Watery vaginal discharge
Yeast infection treatment and prevention
Over-the-counter anti-fungal medications for three to seven days will usually clear a yeast infection. These medications need to be inserted into the vaginal canal. A single-dose oral medication may also be prescribed.
If your yeast infection doesn't clear up with treatment, there's a chance you could have a sexually transmitted infection or bacterial infection that requires other treatment. This will require a visit with a medical professional who will complete an examination of the vagina and test the discharge.
To prevent yeast infections, avoid:
- Tight-fitting clothing
- Douching and use of scented feminine products
- Washing the vagina with soap. Use water only
- Time in hot tubs and very hot baths
- Using antibiotics when possible
- Wearing wet clothes, swimsuits, and workout attire too long
Can I treat my UTI or yeast infection myself?
There are over-the-counter creams you can use to help relieve itching and burning, but they will not make the infection go away. Learn about more home remedies for UTIs.
Treatment for yeast infections typically involves over-the-counter medications such as a vaginal insert or a pill. However, medical advice from a health care provider is recommended to ensure you are using the appropriate treatment.
9 events this week for Huskers to get involved
Can sunscreen cause cancer? How to avoid benzene
High levels of benzene, a cancer-causing chemical, were reportedly found in several sunscreens, leaving some questioning if sunscreen can do more harm than good.
It's important to note that these results are from one study (Valisure), which hasn't yet been validated. Strangely, they also detected benzene in blank test tubes (no sunscreen), leaving some to question if the testing methods contributed to the levels detected.
Toxicologists note that even if you applied the worst sunscreen on the Valisure list to your entire body, you'd be exposed to less than half the amount of benzene you breathe in normal city air in a day. Benzene is also very unstable, so it's unclear how much would be absorbed through the skin.
Don’t let this study convince you to skip sunscreen altogether. Although benzene is a potential risk, it pales in comparison to the known, real risk of UV radiation. Instead, take the time to check that your preferred sunscreen isn’t on the list of contaminated products.
Regular sunscreen use can make a real difference in your lifetime risk of developing skin cancer, especially for young people, according to Nebraska Medicine melanoma surgeon Joshua Mammen, MD, PhD. Preventing a cancer from ever appearing is certainly better than treating the cancer once you develop it.
How to protect yourself from the sun:
- Check Valisure's list to ensure your sunscreen is benzene free
- Choose a broad-spectrum sunscreen that is water resistant and has a sun protection factor of 30 or higher
- Avoid unnecessary chemicals by making sure your sunscreen is titanium dioxide or zinc oxide
- Wear sunscreen year-round
- Apply the sunscreen to all exposed areas (including the face, ears and lips) 15 minutes before going outside and reapply as needed throughout the day, at least every two hours
- Avoid being out in the sun between the peak hours of 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. when the sun's rays are the strongest
- Wear lightweight, protective clothing such as long sleeves and long pants, a wide-brimmed hat and sunglasses
You asked, we answered: I get really bad menstrual cramps, what can I do?
I get really bad menstrual cramps several days before, during and after my period. Is that normal? What causes this? What can I do to help reduce cramping?
Answered by Bethany Berg, PA-C, University Health Center health care provider:
Many women experience menstrual cramps. In some people, they are mildly annoying, and for other women, they can be debilitating and cause you to miss work, classes, etc. It can be caused by various medical conditions, including endometriosis, uterine fibroids and others. Typically, menstrual cramps without an underlying medical condition continue to improve as you get older and can improve after having children.
The most important part is to control the pain of the cramping. Taking ibuprofen or naproxen on the days leading up to your period and during can help with the pain. If the pain or cramping is worsening or affecting your daily responsibilities, you should consider talking to your health care provider about your periods. Hormonal birth control can also be used to help with cramping, and in some cases, surgery or consultation with a specialist may be needed as well.
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Monkeypox: What you need to know about this trending disease
Monkeypox is a very rare disease that’s normally linked to travel in West and Central Africa. It’s somewhat like the smallpox virus. It’s called monkeypox because it was first discovered in 1958 when colonies of monkeys kept for research developed a pox-like disease.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention are currently investigating clusters of monkeypox in several countries that don’t normally report monkeypox, including in the U.S.
How monkeypox spreads
People can get monkeypox from an infected animal, infected person, or by touching materials with the virus on them. The virus can also cross the placenta from a mother to her baby.
Examples of how it could spread from animals:
- A bite or scratch from an infected animal
- Handling wild game
- Using products made from infected animals
Examples of how it could spread from people:
- Direct contact with body fluids or sores on an infected person
- By touching materials that have touched an infected person’s body fluids or sores, like clothing or linens
- Secretions during prolonged, face-to-face contact, like a long conversation with a friend, or intimate contact, like kissing or cuddling with someone.
The illness usually begins with flu-like symptoms, including:
- Muscle aches
- Swollen lymph nodes
Within one to three days after the fever onset, patients begin developing a rash. The rash often starts on the face, and then spreads to other parts of the body. Eventually, the rash changes into skin lesions, then blisters, then pustules and finally, scabs, before falling off. The illness typically lasts two to four weeks.
Monkeypox can be serious. According to the CDC, in Africa, monkeypox has been shown to cause death in as many as 1 in 10 persons who contract the disease.
To prevent monkeypox, you can:
- Avoid contact with animals that could have the virus. Monkeypox has been observed in a wide variety of mammals, including monkeys, groundhogs, rats and squirrels
- Avoid contact with materials, such as bedding, that have been in contact with a sick person or animal
- Practice regular handwashing and hand sanitizing especially after contact with animals or someone who is sick
There is a vaccine available for monkeypox. The CDC announced on May 24 that the U.S. is releasing the monkeypox vaccine from the nation’s Strategic National Stockpile while the recent outbreak is investigated.
We don’t expect monkeypox to have widespread transmission in the U.S., so you do not need to ask your doctor for a monkeypox vaccine currently. However, if we do experience a monkeypox outbreak regionally, and the patients need hospitalized, the Nebraska Biocontainment Unit in Omaha, Nebraska, is prepared to care for patients with monkeypox.
If you develop a flu-like illness, followed by a rash or skin lesions, please seek medical attention. Particularly if you’ve been recently traveling or have had close contact with someone who has a confirmed case of monkeypox.
4 common questions (and answers) about the penis
It’s no secret – your groin area is extremely sensitive.
If your groin is painful or uncomfortable, there’s no need to suffer. The key is to figure out what’s behind your symptoms.
We know it might feel embarrassing to bring up these issues with a doctor, but you’ll be glad you did when you get to the bottom of the irritation. Let’s address four common questions you may have for your doctor:
Why is my penis itchy?
There are many potential causes, including simple soap irritation, skin conditions like eczema or poor hygiene, bacterial infection, fungal infections or a sexually transmitted infection.
Prevention is a great place to start:
- Use gentle soaps and laundry detergents
- Shower in warm water instead of hot
- Keep the groin area dry
- Wear loose clothing
- Use adequate lubrication and protection during sexual activity
Visit a doctor if you experience itching, especially if it’s ongoing, severe or appears alongside other bothersome symptoms.
The skin on my penis is peeling. Should I be moisturizing?
Skin peeling can occur anywhere on the body, including the penis. This may result from friction, chafing, an allergic reaction, genital warts, scabies or even a skin condition like psoriasis or eczema. It may be the only symptom or be accompanied by itching, burning or redness. Peeling can also be caused by an STI, fungal infection or balanitis (inflammation of the head of the penis and foreskin, most commonly happens in people who are uncircumcised).
Doctors don’t recommend moisturizing the penis. Instead, consider applying a topical over-the-counter allergy ointment or antifungal cream. If the dryness or peeling may be caused by excessive friction (as in self contact), a pause in sexual activity until the penis heals is advised.
If peeling skin on the penis continues, see your doctor for an evaluation, especially if your symptoms include discharge, sores, bleeding or pain with urination.
Why does my penis hurt?
If you are experiencing ongoing or severe penis pain – whether during sexual intercourse, while urinating, after an injury or otherwise – schedule a visit with a University Health Center doctor. We have male physicians you can speak to you about this concern if you prefer. In some cases, you may be referred to a local urologist depending on your symptoms.
There can be various causes or conditions that cause pain, from mild to severe. Narrowing it down can be challenging without a proper exam. Talking with your doctor will help rule out potential concerns and provide you with the necessary treatment (and relief) sooner.
How do I make my penis stronger?
While there aren't exercises to strengthen the penis per se, maintaining a healthy body, regular exercise and good hygiene practices are excellent places to start. Achieving an ideal body weight, quitting tobacco use, maintaining good cholesterol, blood sugar and blood pressure levels can all improve erection quality according to medical data.
If erectile dysfunction is a concern, you have options. Talk to a University Health Center doctor to learn more.
Many men feel uncomfortable talking about these types of problems, but it's good to reach out to your doctor with your questions. Please don't put it off because you may be embarrassed. Rest assured, no topic is off-limits or weird.
Still have questions? We can help. Call 402.472.5000 to schedule an appointment with a doctor. If you prefer a male doctor, let the medical receptionist know at the time you call to schedule.
Plan B and Ella® morning after pills: How they work, common side effects and when each expires
With the uncertainty surrounding the recent Supreme Court decision to overturn Roe v. Wade, many people with a uterus are purchasing extra doses of emergency contraceptive pills, also known as morning after pills.
There are two types of emergency contraceptive pills:
- Available over the counter without a prescription
- Needs to be taken within 72 hours of unprotected sex
- Works by blocking ovulation with a high dose of progesterone
- Will only prevent pregnancy before ovulation has occurred
- Has a four-year shelf life
- Requires a prescription, which can be obtained by calling the University Health Center nurse line at 402.472.7477
- Needs to be taken within five days of unprotected sex
- Works by blocking your body’s use of progesterone, which either stops ovulation or prevents an egg from attaching in the uterus
- Will prevent pregnancy both before ovulation has occurred and a little later in the cycle after the luteinizing hormone surge (the change in hormones that initiates ovulation)
- Has a three-year shelf life
The University Health Center offers both emergency contraception options at the pharmacy during business hours.
If you need emergency contraceptive pills when the health center is closed, try bedsider.org. After typing in your ZIP code, the website lists online stores that will ship the pills to your door.
Plan B and Ella® side effects
Both pills can delay your period and make bleeding come a little sooner than you expected. They both can cause nausea. If you experience heavier than normal bleeding, schedule an appointment with a University Health Center doctor by calling 402.472.5000.
Can emergency contraceptive pills cause infertility or ectopic pregnancies?
No, there’s no evidence that emergency contraceptive pills like Plan B and Ella® cause infertility. And no, they do not cause or increase the risk for an ectopic pregnancy. They actually decrease the risk for an ectopic pregnancy by preventing pregnancy in the first place.
When to get help from a doctor
Schedule an appointment with a University Health Center doctor if you:
- Experience bleeding that is soaking a pad every hour, lasting for two hours or longer
- Have trouble keeping the pills down or feeling nauseous. A doctor can prescribe anti-nausea medication to help
If you experience severe abdominal pain, schedule an appointment with an OB-GYN or visit the nearest emergency room. This could be a sign of an ectopic pregnancy.
If you have not had a period within three weeks of taking Plan B or ella®, take a pregnancy test. Learn about the pregnancy test options available through the health center.
Have questions about your reproductive health?
If you would like to talk to a doctor about birth control or any other reproductive health topic, please call 402.472.5000 to schedule an appointment.
How IUDs work, and what to expect during and after insertion
Following the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling to overturn Roe v. Wade, many people with a uterus are considering getting an IUD. IUDs may be a good choice for those seeking a reliable, low-maintenance form of birth control.
There are two types of IUDs: copper and levonorgestrel (progesterone).
- Copper IUDs work by triggering a low level of inflammation in the uterus. The inflammation impairs sperm motility and egg implantation
- Levonorgestrel (progesterone) IUDs work by thickening the cervical mucous, which prevents sperm from entering the uterine cavity
There are three brands of levnorgestrel IUDs:
- Mirena or Liletta (the generic brand) – Lasts seven years, has the largest dose of progesterone
- Kyleena – Lasts five years, has less progesterone than Mirena or Liletta
- Skyla – Lasts three years, has the lowest dose of progesterone
The University Health Center has doctors that can insert IUDs on site by appointment.
Are IUDs painful to insert?
Yes, IUD insertion can be uncomfortable. Most doctors recommend patients take ibuprofen or acetaminophen before their appointment.
If pain control is a big concern of yours, or if you have experienced related trauma in the past, there are a couple options:
- An injection of numbing medication into the vagina or cervix
- Oral anti-anxiety and/or pain medication can be given after informed consent
If you are worried about pain, please have an open conversation with your health care provider so they can understand how best to help you.
IUD side effects
All IUDs can cause cramping and spotting during and after insertion, along with the following rare risks:
- Infection after insertion
- Uterine perforation
- IUD could come out or shift into the wrong place
Copper IUDs may cause heavier and more painful periods.
Levonorgestrel IUDs can cause unpredictable bleeding patterns, but the bleeding is typically much lighter. It is rare, but some people also report acne, hair changes, mood changes, bloating and nausea with this IUD.
All IUDs have less than a 1% risk of failure and are rapidly reversible.
Removal can be more challenging if the IUD’s strings are lost, but most doctors will still be able to remove these without issue.
Do IUDs cause weight gain, infertility or urinary tract infections?
IUDs have not been shown in large population studies to cause weight gain, but everyone reacts differently to hormones. If you think you might be gaining weight from an IUD, you should have a conversation with your doctor.
IUDs do not cause infertility, and people immediately return to their baseline fertility once an IUD is removed.
IUDs are not associated with UTIs.
Which IUD is best?
Copper IUDs are good for someone who still wants to have a period every month. People who have heavier, more painful periods before getting an IUD may want to avoid this type of IUD, because it may make their symptoms worse.
Levonorgestrel IUDs are good for people with heavier, more painful periods. They can decrease bleeding and pain, including pain due to endometriosis.
Some people don’t have a period with this type of IUD. Rates of amenorrhea (not having a period) are higher with Mirena and Liletta.
Levonorgestrel IUDs can decrease your risk of endometrial and possibly ovarian cancer.
If you have been sensitive to hormones in the past, you may want to consider Skyla, the IUD with the lowest dose of progesterone.
If you’re feeling confused, don’t worry. All the pros and cons of each type can be discussed with your doctor.
If you’d like to do some research before making an appointment, consider browsing on bedsider.org. The website lists all the available types of birth control, allows you to compare them side by side, and answers frequently asked questions about each.
Ready to talk to a doctor about an IUD?
Call 402.472.5000 to schedule an appointment with a University Health Center provider.
Is it allergies, COVID-19 or something else? What your mucus might mean
When you have a sinus issue, the mucus color and consistency can tell you a lot about what you’re experiencing.
Spoiler alert: The best way to find out if you have COVID-19 is to get tested. Call 402.472.5000 to schedule a test at the University Health Center. With that public service announcement out of the way, here are what different types of mucus might indicate.
Clear and watery: allergies or nonallergic rhinitis
Clear drainage tends to be associated with early onset of a cold, seasonal allergies or nonallergic rhinitis. If it's allergies, that tends to be accompanied by itchiness, watery eyes and sneezing.
Nonallergic rhinitis is a drippy nose that could have several causes, including exposure to irritants or hormone shifts.
But clear drippy drainage out of just one nostril could signal a serious condition called cerebrospinal fluid rhinorrhea. That raises the alarm for anyone who has experienced head trauma, for example after a car accident or skull fracture. If only one nostril is gushing watery discharge, seek medical attention right away.
Green and cloudy: viral or bacterial infection
Cloudy, discolored drainage – like green or yellow – usually means a viral or bacterial infection. If it's bacterial, you could see your doctor for an antibiotic or you might need to just give it some time. If it's a viral infection, antibiotics won't do you any good.
A lot of the symptoms of viral infections – fever, cough, headache, loss of smell – overlap for COVID-19 and other viral infections like the flu, respiratory syncytial virus and the common cold. That's why COVID-19 testing and seeing a doctor is so important. If you have symptoms, call 402.472.5000 to get tested at the University Health Center.
You can treat most infections with rest, hydration and symptom control.
Whether it's COVID-19 or another contagious illness, please stay home if you're sick. Don't go out in public or to work. Ask someone healthy to get you groceries or medicine or use at-home delivery.
Pink or red: nosebleed, often from dry nasal passages
Sometimes after (or during) an infection, your nasal discharge can turn pink, especially if you've been blowing your nose a lot. Usually, this isn't a big concern – a saline spray or a humidifier may help.
Black: external irritants, like smoke or pollution
Black drainage is uncommon, but it can happen. It can occur after spending time outside when there were a lot of fires or if you live in or travel to a city with a lot of pollution.
No matter the color or consistency of your mucus, it’s important to remember that many people suffer from sinus disease. Your sinus health is important to address and impacts your well-being and quality of life.
If you are dealing with ongoing sinus issues, schedule an appointment with the University Health Center medical clinic by calling 402.472.5000. Depending on your symptoms, a referral to an ear, nose and throat doctor may be provided.
Before leaving for summer, do these things
Is the slugging beauty trend beneficial for everyone?
If you keep an eye on internet beauty trends, you may have heard of a skin care routine called slugging.
Slugging refers to slathering your face in a thick, petroleum-based product before bedtime. The idea, which is believed to have originated in South Korea, is to seal in moisture and prevent hydration loss overnight.
When products made with petroleum-based ointments are applied to the face, it takes on a slimy, shiny appearance (similar to what a slug would leave behind). Fans of slugging believe it makes their facial skin softer, suppler and better hydrated, but the trend isn't exactly a new idea. Grandmothers used similar skin care routines generations ago.
The question remains: Should everyone be trying it? Is it safe for those with skin conditions?
Although it may help those who suffer from severe dryness or eczema, it may not do much for the average person, says Nebraska Medicine dermatologist Ronald Sulewski, MD. But if a person loves it and their skin is a good fit, go for it.
Is slugging safe if I have a skin condition?
The answer to this depends on what type of skin condition you may have.
Acne-prone skin or blackheads
Certain online videos claim slugging can help eliminate blackheads, but Dr. Sulewski disagrees. If you're prone to acne, don’t try it because it could make the condition worse. In addition, sweat glands can end up blocked with thick ointments and cause milia, a tiny pimple-like condition, especially in an acne-prone person.
You may be a good fit for slugging if you have conditions that make you prone to dry skin (like eczema and rosacea). Those with rosacea that have red, dry, and irritated skin could see benefits from slugging. Slugging is not a good idea for people with papulopustular rosacea, which is more like acne-prone skin.
Psoriasis isn't very common on the face but sometimes may occur around the hairline. Slugging may or may not be helpful, but it most likely won't cause harm.
As a sunburn treatment
One may think slathering a thick ointment over a sunburn would help rehydrate the skin, but a good quality facial cream is a better choice. Thicker ointments can trap the heat in, making someone with a sunburn even more uncomfortable, prolonging the burning sensation.
Other unknown skin concerns
If you suspect an issue with your facial skin, avoid slugging until you see a dermatologist to rule out an infection or other undiagnosed skin condition.
What if I want to try slugging but am not sure about it?
Start by checking with a dermatologist to make sure you do not have a skin condition that would be exacerbated by slugging. If you have very dry skin, you might be recommended to try easier methods to start, such as a cream that’s not as thick and goopy as petroleum-based ointments.
If your skin is a good candidate for slugging and you'd like to give it a try, be sure to start with a clean face and clean hands. Spread a thin layer either on the whole face or small parts of the face that are driest and place a towel on your pillowcase to keep it clean while you sleep.
Before trying a new skin care routine, it's wise to understand the dos and don'ts for at-home facials and the best skin care routine for any skin type.
Do you have a skin concern? Call 402.472.5000 to schedule an appointment with the University Health Center dermatologist. A doctor’s order is required for care.
Sugar in fruits: What matters for health
Some claim fruit isn't healthy due to its sugar content. But the truth is, fruit is good for you.
While fruit does contain naturally occurring sugar, there are many other health benefits of fruit such as vitamins, minerals, fiber and phytochemicals – plant-produced compounds with health benefits.
Fruit provides many health benefits, including:
- Immune support
- Cancer prevention
- Healthy skin
- Healthy heart
- Supports eyesight
- Supports healthy aging
- Improves gut health
- Lowers cholesterol
Natural versus added sugars
It's best to limit total daily added sugars whenever possible – like corn syrup, high fructose corn syrup, honey, agave and sucrose (table sugar). Whole fruit doesn't contain any added sugars. All the sugar in whole fruit found in the produce section of the grocery store is natural sugar.
Generally, fruit tends to have less total sugar content than processed foods like energy bars, breakfast cereal, coffee sweetener, fruit juices and canned fruits.
All fruits provide health benefits, so eat your favorites. You can also find a new fruit to try to increase your diet diversity.
Some fun fruits to try:
- Dragon fruit
- Passion fruit
According to the Dietary Guidelines for Americans and MyPlate, half of your plate should be fruits and vegetables. You should aim to get 2 cups equivalent of fruit each day. The American Institute for Cancer Research recommends a minimum of 3 to 5 cups of fruits and vegetables to limit your cancer risk and overall good health.
Fruit contains vitamins, minerals, fiber and phytochemicals which all have benefits for overall good health and limit cancer risk. You can talk with the University Health Center registered dietitian for more information on ways to include fruits in your diet.
Want to learn how to build a healthy diet? Get more tips like this by scheduling a nutrition counseling visit with the health center dietitian. The first visit is covered by student fees. Call 402.472.5000 to schedule.
You asked, we answered: Is it OK if I can’t retract my foreskin?
I have phimosis – I can't retract my foreskin entirely. I'm just able to peel it till I see the head of my penis. If I try to retract it more, it hurts, so I don't really try. I was able to retract it as a kid. About two years ago, my parents discovered it and helped me, but it was a painful, traumatizing experience. The last time I retracted it entirely was about a year and a half ago.
I'm able to pee normally and even cum normally. Are there exercises I can do to retract it entirely? Is there really a need to retract it? As I said, I'm somewhat traumatized, so I prefer to leave my foreskin there, but I'm not sure if this might have repercussions in the future.
Answered by Nebraska Medicine urologist Chris Deibert MD, MPH:
First of all, neither you nor your parents did anything wrong. We see this with some frequency. It's important that you speak to a doctor about this. The foreskin should be able to retract readily at all points in life after infancy. It should be able to retract to allow for full erections.
Unfortunately, there are no exercises I can recommend to help with this. There is a steroid cream that can be very helpful to relax the tissue and allow for better retraction. It does not work for everyone, but aside from circumcision, it's the only other reasonable option.
To make an appointment with a University Health Center provider and receive a urologist referral, call 402.472.5000.
Before leaving for summer, do these things
Tips to help your physical therapy journey
The University Health Center Physical Therapy team will work with you through every phase of your healing process. New to physical therapy? Here are some tips to help you through your journey.
- Before your appointment
- Make sure to dress comfortably in workout clothes such as sweatpants, shorts or leggings and a T-shirt. You can wear these clothes to your appointment or bring them with you to change into. Keep in mind that the physical therapist will need to look and touch the treatment area.
- Set a goal
- The physical therapy team wants to work with you toward your goals; not just goals that are essential to daily living such as putting on shoes and socks without pain, but also goals that you may have such as getting back to working out or playing sports without pain. Be open and honest with your therapist about what specific goals you have so that they can lay out the best plan to reach them.
- Do your homework
- To make the most of your physical therapy experience, and have the best chance at reaching your goals, it’s important to perform all home exercises, stretches, and other activities as advised by your physical therapist outside of your appointments. Physical therapy appointments are important to reassess, adjust, and progress your program but what you do outside of PT plays an incredibly vital role in your recovery and progress.
If you’re struggling with coming back from an injury or dealing with chronic pain, our physical therapy team can help you. Although physical therapy is not covered by student fees and will incur a charge, we can submit the cost to private insurance. Financial assistance is available to those who qualify. Visit our physical therapy webpage to learn more or make an appointment by calling 402-472-5000 – a written prescription is required to begin physical therapy at the University Health Center.
This Week: 5 events to see on Wednesday & Thursday
Tips for a safe and fun spring break
Many students choose to travel or head home for spring break. Here are a few tips to keep spring break memorable for all the right reasons:
9 can't miss events through the last week of February
Adjusted hours for campus locations and services during Spring Break
Learn how to "Love Your Heart" Feb. 21-25
Five Tips for Accessing Health Care on Campus
The University Health Center is a valuable campus resource that provides students with health care when they need it. Here are five ways to be prepared this semester in case you need to use its services:
- Save the University Health Center number to your phone contacts. You never know when you will need to call the health center. Having the phone number handy will save you the hassle later. The main phone line is 402.472.5000. When you call, follow the prompts to make an appointment, talk to a nurse, ask about a bill or connect to another department in the building.
- Know the building hours: During the spring semester, the health center is open Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Saturday from 9 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. Hours may vary by service.
- Call ahead to get care. For the safety of patients and staff, the health center requires you to make an appointment before arriving. Walk-ins are not accepted, but same-day appointments are available on a first-come, first-served basis for urgent needs. If you have an after-hours concern, you can call the health center when they’re closed and follow the prompts to speak to the 24/7 nurse advice line.
- Prepare for your appointment. If you have a telehealth appointment, make sure to test your computer or mobile phone in advance and find a private, quiet place for your video visit. If you have an in-person appointment, make sure you know where the health center is located and how you will get there. Plan to arrive at least 15 minutes early so you have time for the symptom screening and check-in process.
- Take advantage of all the many available services. The health center is much more than a resource for when you are sick or injured. It also offers:
Stay safe. We are here for you.
5 sleep hygiene tips: How to sleep better
It’s no secret that a refreshing night of sleep can boost your mood, health and productivity, yet finding the time to snooze can be a struggle.
If you’re not consistently getting eight hours of sleep on average, sleep deprivation can take a toll on your health.
So what can we do to get better sleep? Focus on sleep hygiene and better bedtime habits. Nebraska Medicine University Health Center psychiatry physician Stephanie Sutton, MD, gives five science-based tips to help you sleep better.
1. Watch the caffeine
You might not think much of an afternoon can of soda or an evening cup of coffee, but caffeine can stay in your system a lot longer than you think – and affect a good night’s sleep. Stop all caffeine (including caffeinated teas, coffees and sodas) by mid-afternoon.
If you need an energy boost later in the day, try caffeine alternatives. Eating a healthy snack, like fruit or vegetables, can be energizing, as can drinking lots of water. Another option is to enjoy a quick exercise session, even if it’s as simple as a brisk walk.
2. Think before you drink
It’s time to retire the nightcap. Alcohol may help you feel tired, but the quality of sleep after drinking is not great. Even if you’re asleep for six to eight hours, your time asleep isn’t as rejuvenating or refreshing as sober sleep.
3. Optimize your nap
If you’re struggling to fall asleep each night, napping during the day may make nighttime sleep harder. That's because naps take away "sleep pressure" – the signals in your body that say you need rest. If you find yourself falling asleep easily each night, however, it's OK to nap. There's even an optimal time to nap: between 1 and 3 p.m. when we are naturally drowsy.
4. Put the screens away early
Phone, computer and TV screens are very activating to your brain. The light from screens is similar to sunlight and sends signals to your brain that it's time to wake up. Browsing your phone or watching TV before bed isn't a healthy way to fall asleep. Find out why reading the news for hours at a time – also called doomscrolling – can cause anxiety and disrupt your sleep.
5. Use light to your advantage
Consider a daily dose of sunshine to help you shake the sleepiness when you wake. Morning exposure to daylight can help your body get into a routine that makes you naturally feel sleepier at night.
In the wintertime, when the sun is sparse, you can use a lamp to mimic the natural light of the sun. Ideally, you'll want a lamp that provides 5,000 to 10,000 lux of light. Place the sun lamp about 12 to 14 inches away from your eyes, depending on the lamp size, and have the light pointing down at you.
More healthy sleep tips:
- Get up and go to bed at the same time every day
- Use a calming bedtime routine (like yoga, meditation or reading a book) to prepare your body and mind for sleep
- Ditch all electronic devices at least one hour before bedtime, as they may suppress the body's natural release of melatonin
- Use your bed for sleep and sex only, not homework, watching TV, etc.
- Create a dark, cool and relaxed environment
- Exercise regularly, preferably earlier in the day
- Stop caffeine intake by mid-afternoon
- Get exposure to light in the daytime
Plus, find out why melatonin supplements can help in the short term but aren't a long-term fix.
5 questions to help you decide if your habits have become addictions
We all have habits – things we do routinely every day.
Sometimes we do them automatically, with barely a second thought, like brushing our teeth, taking a shower or making coffee in the morning.
Then there are the good habits we have to work harder to maintain, like exercising, making healthy food choices and getting enough sleep.
And finally, there are the habits that may not be so good for us:
- Over or under eating
- Excessive gaming
- Spending too much time on social media
- Vaping or using tobacco
- Drinking too much alcohol
- Gambling, etc.
When habits become addictions
Sometimes it can be difficult to determine when a habit becomes an addiction. This is because both exist on a spectrum. They can overlap and have distinguishing features.
The psychiatry experts at the University Health Center suggest asking yourself these five questions to help you decide if your habits may have crossed the line into addictions:
- Do you find yourself craving the behavior and you feel like you have lost the ability to stop it?
- Are you preoccupied with this activity/substance to the point that it prevents you from doing other things you need or want to do?
- Do you continue this behavior even though it causes negative consequences physically, mentally and/or socially?
- Do you have strong feelings about the behavior? For example, is it rooted in emotion, does it lead to feeling guilty/ashamed or do you feel defensive and resistant when examining your behavior?
- Do you have a physical dependence on the substance? Have you developed a tolerance to it or experienced withdrawal without it?
Why are addictions so difficult to change?
It starts with the brain.
Habits have been traced to the basal ganglia, the part of the brain involved in pattern recognition, memory making and emotions. Habits create a neural pathway in our brain that we can quickly and easily access when we perform common daily tasks like eating, driving and going to work. It frees us from needing to constantly maintain our attention and effort, which would be exhausting.
Addictions have been linked to the basal ganglia, too, but they also affect several other areas of the brain, including the prefrontal cortex, hippocampus and amygdala. These areas of the brain can potentially influence behaviors like decision making, impulsivity, motivation, learning and reward. It makes addictive behavior more difficult to break.
How to change a habit or addiction
The good news is the brain can change and adapt over time with support, conviction and sometimes treatment.
Here are eight steps to help you retrain your brain and break a habit:
- Identify the cues that trigger you to repeat this behavior. Maybe it's stress, a smell or sound, a particular person, place or time or a certain ritual in your routine.
- Experiment with changing your routine to avoid these cues. For example, if drinking alcohol makes you want to vape, skip the drink or replace it with something else.
- Replace the negative behavior with a positive one. This breaks the neural pathway associated with the old habit. Instead of drinking alcohol while vaping, try going for a jog. It also helps to put more layers between you and the behavior you're trying to avoid, such as not keeping vaping supplies in your residence.
- Keep the new habit simple and specific. Potentially break it down into smaller steps to allow your brain to more easily adapt and allow the new behavior to become part of your autopilot routines.
- Reward your efforts. For example, you could use the money you saved on vaping to treat yourself to a night at the movies.
- Loop in your friends and/or family. If the people in your life know your goals, they can offer both support and accountability.
- Focus on the long term. Think about how changing this habit is consistent with your values and an investment in your future.
- Be persistent. Remind yourself of times you may have been successful at making changes in the past. Go easy on yourself when you have a setback, then get back on track and remember change is possible.
Addictions can be more difficult to change and for some people, breaking an addiction may require professional help. It’s nothing to be ashamed of. Many people need a little extra help, and asking for it is ultimately a courageous sign of strength.
If you think you may need help, the psychiatry team at the University Health Center is a great place to start. They will listen to your concerns, provide expert help and offer referrals if needed. Call 402.472.5000 to schedule an appointment.
Do candy Warheads stop panic attacks? 5 panic attack hacks that work
The first step to stopping a panic attack is to recognize the signs of one.
Everyone experiences a panic attack differently, but it commonly includes a combination of the following symptoms:
- Accelerated or pounding heartbeat
- Shortness of breath
- Feeling like you might be dying
- Impending sense of doom
- Chest pain or tightness
- Trembling or shaking
Focusing on the symptoms can make an attack more intense. The key to stopping a panic attack is to focus on your external world (sights, sounds, sensations) rather than the internal signs (heart racing, scary thoughts or rapid breathing).
Panic attack survival kit
Ever heard of a panic attack survival kit? If you or someone you love has dealt with panic attacks before, you know they can come on without warning. Use these five tips from the Nebraska Medicine University Health Center psychiatry providers to put together a small bag of items to reach for the next time a panic attack strikes.
1. Sensory grounding with ice or cold water
Sometimes panic attacks make people feel uncomfortably hot. A cold, damp washcloth around the neck or face can ease this feeling and give you a sensation to think about. You can also try holding an ice cube in your hand and focus on the sensation or dunk your head into a bowl of ice water.
2. Focus on your five senses
Focus on your external reality, rather than the symptoms. Use the five senses to ground yourself in the moment. Be curious about your environment. What can you see, hear, touch, smell or taste? This is where you can add tactile items to your kit: a fidget spinner, stress ball or squishy toy.
3. Warhead sour candy trick
Sucking on sour candy, like a Warhead, is another technique to shift your attention. If you don't have any sour candies around, you might try something else with a strong flavor – hot sauce, horseradish or wasabi – instead.
4. Coping statements
A coping statement is one way you can practice soothing self-talk during a panic attack. Concentrate on the words and how they sound to get your mind off of the symptoms. Some examples include:
- This feeling is uncomfortable but not dangerous
- This will pass
- I can get through this
- I'm not having a heart attack
Write one or more of these coping statements down to keep in your survival kit
5. Breathwork in any environment
The above tips can be difficult to do in a crowded spot or if you don't have the kit with you. Luckily, breathwork techniques can be done anywhere, anytime. Depending on your environment, you can try progressive muscle relaxation, meditation or square breathing.
Square breathing uses four actions, each lasting for about four seconds:
- Breathe in through your nose while counting to four
- Hold your breath for a count of four
- Exhale slowly to a count of four
- Hold your breath for a count of four
Repeat these four actions, for as long as you want to. If you're interested in progressive muscle relaxation, try this free 11-minute guided recording.
What causes a panic attack?
Sometimes external factors, like a stressful situation or a scary environment, can trigger a panic attack. But they can also be spontaneous with no apparent cause.
And worrying about panic attacks isn't exactly helpful. Some people have a history of anxiety and worry about having another panic attack in the future. That can make you hyperaware, which increases the likelihood of having a panic attack in the future.
If you're struggling with frequent panic attacks, see a licensed health care provider who can help you learn how to manage panic attacks better. Panic attacks don't have to limit what you can do.
Get help from the psychiatry experts at the University Health Center. Call 402.472.5000 to schedule an appointment or visit our website to learn more about their services.
5 foods that can boost your mood
When you eat your fill, you're feeding trillions of tiny bacteria, too.
Nutrients in our diet work together to produce different hormones. The foods you eat can help regulate your mood and emotions.
Nutrients are the building blocks of happy hormones. For instance, serotonin is one of our happy hormones and is produced in our gut. The healthier you're eating, the more serotonin your body makes, which may improve your mood.
How your microbiome affects your mood
Your gut is where digestion happens. Some digestive work is undertaken by your own body. But a lot of credit goes to something called your gut microbiome.
Your gut microbiome is a mysterious community living inside you at this very moment. It's made up of trillions of microbes, which are tiny organisms that break down food products. During digestion, these microbes send signals to the immune system and your brain. If your microbes are not functioning properly, they complain, which then affects how you feel.
What foods improve mood
Vitamins and minerals (from the foods you eat) are needed to create certain hormones. Nebraska Medicine University Health Center registered dietitian Ralph Ovonlen recommends stocking up on these foods to boost your mood:
- Fiber-rich foods (fruits, veggies with a variety of colors, whole grains, beans) – These keep you feeling full as well as energized, so you don't reach for an unhealthy snack. Fiber slows down digestion and gives us a longer-lasting energy source. It feeds our healthy bacteria, which can be linked to improving our mood
- Protein (chicken, fish, tofu, eggs) – Protein is also digested more slowly, giving you more consistent energy that sticks with you longer. Choose lean meats like chicken, turkey and fish while limiting your intake of red meat like beef and pork. Protein is also found in plant-based foods such as beans, nuts, seeds, tofu, soy milk and quinoa
- Antioxidant-rich foods (berries, leafy greens, turmeric, salmon, black chia seeds) – Research suggests that antioxidants have an anti-inflammatory effect, helping your body remove free radicals which can be harmful to your cells. In turn, this can positively impact your energy levels and mood
- Omega-3 fatty acids (salmon, tuna, walnuts, plant oils, flax seeds, chia seeds) – Research suggests omega-3s are helpful for better moods and work against depression and anxiety
What foods cause mood swings
Some additives and preservatives can negatively impact your gut microbiome. Ovonlen recommends avoiding these foods:
- Sugar-sweetened foods (candy, cakes, pies, soft drinks, chocolate) – If you've ever seen a kid eat way too much candy, you've seen a sugar spike in action. After a burst of excitement comes a really bad mood. Adults will react similarly to sugar-sweetened foods. Some studies have linked an increased risk of depression with sugar-sweetened soft drinks (i.e. soda or pop)
- Flour-based foods (white breads, crackers, white pasta, baked goods) – You'll get a quick burst of energy right after your gut digests flour-based foods, but it'll be quickly followed by a fall in energy. This is why more complex carbohydrates, like whole-grain foods, are generally better for you. Whole grains are digested slower, so you have a gradual, constant source of energy. Look for steel-cut oats, whole-grain breads and brown rice
Where to start
When it comes to making long-lasting changes, start small. Pick one food group to focus on and start from there. For example, start eating more fruit the first week, and then, once you have that habit established, add more veggies and so on.
Sometimes, we need a little guidance and accountability when it comes to healthy eating. This is where nutrition counseling comes in. To schedule an appointment with Ovonlen at the health center, call 402.472.5000. If you pay student fees, the first visit is no additional cost.
Adjusted hours for campus locations and services during Final Exams and Winter Break
Only 5 weeks until final exams. Here are 6 tasks to accomplish.
The beginning of November signals the start of a busy five-week dash to the conclusion of fall semester. Take time to plot a strategy to successfully navigate your course work, projects, club and organization obligations, personal health and the changing seasons. Here are some helpful tasks and resources to assist you.
Campus locations adjusting hours for Thanksgiving Break
Nicotine pouches: Are they safer than chewing, smoking or vaping?
A new flavored nicotine product is increasing in popularity – oral nicotine pouches and lozenges.
This product is placed between the cheek and gum. They do not contain tobacco, but they do contain nicotine, flavorings, sweeteners and plant-based fibers. Some popular brand names include Zyn, On! and Velo, and they come in colorful packaging that looks like mint containers.
Although advertising may make it look convenient and appealing, it’s important to know that these products deliver varying amounts of the addictive chemical nicotine, which can negatively impact your learning, attention span and proneness to addiction.
Are nicotine pouches safer than chewing, smoking or vaping?
The long-term health impact of nicotine pouches is still unknown. They are not technically categorized as smokeless tobacco, so the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) does not regulate them as strictly as smoked tobacco products or combustible tobacco. Without long-term data, we cannot be certain if or how reduced exposure will prevent harm to one’s health.
Side effects of use can include:
Irritation of the gums
Nicotine addiction (which increases relapse risk with other tobacco products)
Are nicotine pouches a safe approach to quitting nicotine dependence?
There is no data to show nicotine pouches as a safe or effective way to quit. University Health Center medical experts and Nebraska Medicine certified tobacco treatment specialist Jill Selzle, PA, do not recommend these products.
If someone is already using nicotine pouches and has been able to quit tobacco, we suggest weaning off them for full nicotine freedom. Approved short-term nicotine replacement therapies include:
All medications have side effects and indications for use, so it’s important to discuss this information with a health care provider before use.
Living nicotine-free is possible
Here are a few expert tips to help you quit for good:
Understand nicotine withdrawal – what it looks and feels like for you
Find ways to physically and mentally deal with urges in a healthy way
Delay or distract to avoid tobacco use
Practice mindfulness: Don't be on autopilot, but be aware of every time you choose to use
Use visualization, deep breathing or meditation to focus your energy
Try a new hobby or activity to keep yourself busy
Avoid access to tobacco: don't have it around, pay at the pump, avoid high-risk social situations, etc.
Exercise – it increases endorphins and helps you to stay busy in a healthy way
Drink plenty of water
Choose healthy foods
Selzle also recommends the power of positive thinking. People believe what they tell themselves, so make sure you remind yourself you can do it, and you will do it.
Are you struggling with nicotine or tobacco dependence? We're here to help. To get started, call 402.472.5000 to schedule a University Health Center medical clinic appointment to talk about your options. You can also call 800.922.0000 and ask for a Nebraska Medicine Tobacco Dependence Clinic appointment.
Little blue pill, risky business?
It’s no secret that Viagra (sildenafil citrate) treats erectile dysfunction (ED) effectively by improving blood flow to the penis.
But now that the “little blue pill” is more accessible, some people with a penis might use it recreationally – meaning without a prescription. Some may take it socially with other drugs, rather than for treatment of a medical condition.
A study in the Archives of Sexual Behavior says that recreational ED drug use is associated with an increased risk of sexually transmitted infections and higher rates of illegal drug use.
The side effects of sildenafil citrate, even with a prescription, can be intense:
For example, if someone takes sildenafil citrate after a night of drinking, they can experience migraines and increased facial flushing. Since alcohol decreases blood flow to the penis, it limits the drug's effectiveness (i.e. an erection's rigidity).
Can ED pills cause ED?
The Journal of Sexual Medicine found that men who take ED medications recreationally report lower sexual satisfaction than nonusers. The more frequently men used ED medications recreationally, the less confident they were in their sexual abilities.
Recreational ED drug use can even cause psychogenic erectile dysfunction. In psychogenic erectile dysfunction, psychological issues prevent maintaining or getting an erection – nothing physical.
Taking ED medication with other drugs like cocaine
Mixing ED drugs with hard drugs is inherently dangerous. For example, cocaine constricts blood vessels, and sildenafil citrate does the opposite. It can increase the risk of heart attack, stroke or priapism (an erection that lasts more than four hours and requires urgent medical attention to reverse).
Expired, fake and contaminated pills
Another problem is how people are getting the drug. If you don't have a prescription, the drug itself – not just how you use it – may be a problem.
Getting drugs from a friend or other sources is a recipe for expired, fake or contaminated pills. Online pharmacies don't always hold up to scrutiny, either. Often, they sell drugs with missing active ingredients or in smaller amounts.
The bottom line: It's safe to take as prescribed. The danger comes from taking it with other drugs or getting it from someone without a medical license.
If you are concerned you have ED and would like to talk to a medical professional about your options, we can help. Call 402.472.5000 to schedule an appointment with a reproductive health care provider.
Is it safe to use a Magic Eraser as a teeth whitener?
Dark-colored stains on teeth are frustrating.
Some TikTok users have an answer: Use a Mr. Clean Magic Eraser to clean your teeth. But this latest trend is not one to try at home, for several reasons, according to the University Health Center Dental Clinic experts:
These cleaning sponges are meant for household use, not personal use
They contain chemicals that can irritate the stomach
They can damage the mouth, teeth and gumline
Magic Eraser when mixed with water essentially turns into sandpaper. Such abrasive material can remove the enamel on the teeth causing damage, sensitivity and lead to decay.
Magic Eraser may be a good stain remover for your stove, sink and walls, but not your teeth, says Josi Stephenson, DDS, health center dentist. There are many reasons teeth can be discolored. Usually, diet and lack of regular brushing are the main culprits.
To prevent stained teeth, Dr. Stephenson recommends:
Limit coffee and teas. If you must drink, sip through a straw and drink water after finishing them
Choose water over pop, tea, Gatorade, energy drinks and other popular drinks
Alcoholic beverages are also a source of staining, particularly red and white wines
Avoid tobacco products like smoking, smokeless tobacco or vaping products
If you need professional cleaning or a dental exam, make an appointment at the University Health Center Dental Clinic by calling 402.472.7495.
Gut parasite cleanses like ParaGuard: the good, the bad and the ugly
Do you need to deworm twice a year, or could a parasite cleanse cause more harm than good?
Nebraska Medicine gastroenterologist Peter Mannon, MD, MPH, urges caution before following this untested TikTok trend. He says most people do not have active parasites in their gut, and he questions the usefulness of these parasite cleanses.
If you've traveled recently to an area with endemic parasites and have unexplained weight loss, then it could be a parasite. But even then, it's not a sure thing. Travel Clinic provider Szuhua Lambdin, APRN says people with diarrhea after travel typically test negative for pathologic parasites.
Common symptoms of parasitic infection include:
Diarrhea after traveling
Nausea or vomiting
Unexplained weight loss
Passing worms in your stool
But these symptoms can also indicate many other diseases that are more common than parasites. If you experience symptoms, schedule an appointment with the University Health Center by calling 402.472.5000. They can use a stool test or blood test to identify parasites in your gut.
The risks of a parasite cleanse
Not only is there no upside to these cleanses (since no parasites are there to remove), but there are also many potential downsides. The risks depend on the type of cleanse, says Dr. Mannon.
Note that parasite cleanses are not tested to see if they work or if they're safe. They haven't gone through any type of Food and Drug Administration (FDA) review or approval process.
The good: strict diet
If you're avoiding gluten, dairy or pork to "starve your parasites," that's not such a bad thing. While it may not clear up any parasites (because there were none to begin with), it shouldn't cause any digestive issues as long as you don’t exclude essential vitamins and important nutrients, says University Health Center registered dietitian Ralph Ovonlen, MPH, MS, RDN, LMNT/LD.
Eating healthier is great for your body. If you are interested in boosting your gut health or alleviating digestive issues through your diet, schedule an appointment with Ovonlen by calling 402.472.5000. Your first nutrition counseling visit is covered by student fees.
The bad: herbs and other supplements
Other people may try adding supplements like wormwood to their diet. If you're adding dangerous amounts of certain herbal supplements, that could be a problem. Certain herbal dietary supplements can even cause drug-induced liver disease. Check with your doctor before taking supplements, especially if you have a chronic illness that needs to be managed with medication.
The ugly: untested products
Untested products – whether pills or enema therapy – are the worst of all. They don't go through FDA review, and they may contain toxic compounds like lead, mercury or arsenic. Some of these products act like a laxative, to trick you into thinking it's doing something helpful. If you have excessive diarrhea, you can be at risk for kidney injury. It's best to avoid these products.
Fevers 101: how to treat them and when to get help
When you’re feeling sick or slightly “off,” one of the first things you should do is use a thermometer to check your temperature.
A fever is your immune system's way of changing the battleground to help itself fight. When your body recognizes an invader (like bacteria or a virus), your immune system raises your body temperature as a defense. Your immune system works much better in hotter temperatures, while invaders do worse. Fevers may feel terrible to you, but they help your body destroy invaders and get back to its healthy self.
Normal body temperatures sit between 97 F to 99 F. A fever is a temperature of 100.4F or higher. There are low-grade fevers and more serious fevers, depending on the sick person's age. A serious fever is warmer than 103F in young adults.
Which thermometer reading is best
Mouth: This is the best choice for when you’re in your dorm, apartment or on campus. Oral readings are accurate and easy to take
Armpit: Placing an oral thermometer in the armpit is less accurate and will be about 1 degree lower than a mouth reading
Forehead: Though these are convenient and fast, they aren’t as accurate. No-touch forehead thermometers are the least accurate
Home treatments for fevers
You don't always have to treat a fever, especially if it’s low grade.
A fever is part of your normal immune response. Lowering your body temperature with medication can limit your immune system's fighting power. However, if your symptoms are intolerable, acetaminophen, ibuprofen or any other over-the-counter nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID) can effectively treat a fever. You can purchase these items at the University Health Center Pharmacy.
Other at-home remedies can make you feel more comfortable and help with accompanying symptoms:
Decreasing the temperature in your dorm, apartment or home
Using a fan
Using fewer blankets or wearing fewer layers
Trying soothing honey or lemon teas
Drinking cold beverages for a sore throat
Using a humidifier for a cough
Above all, stay hydrated and get plenty of rest.
If you experience a fever, isolate and do not attend class. Remember to email your professor and let them know your situation.
When to get medical attention
Most fevers don’t require medical attention. However, any of these symptoms along with a fever means it's time to seek medical help.
University Health Center
Sensitivity to light
Chest pain or shortness of breath
Pain when urinating
Remember, a fever is also one of the symptoms of COVID-19. If you have symptoms and suspect you have COVID-19, self-isolate and call 402.472.5000 to schedule an appointment with the University Health Center medical clinic. Testing may be ordered depending on your symptoms.
If you need advice from a medical professional, call 402.472.5000 anytime 24/7 to speak to a nurse on call. They can make recommendations for you based on your symptoms and help you locate a nearby urgent care or emergency room if needed.
Adjusted hours for campus locations and services during Fall Break
5 over-the-counter items to always have handy
Your backpack is filled with all the class essentials: notebooks, textbooks, pencils, erasers and more. But does it also include a small stash of medicine to keep you healthy?
The University Health Center Pharmacy recommends keeping a first aid kit in your backpack in case you get sick or injured while you’re out and about. If you don’t have room for a full first aid kit, stick to the basics by stashing these five over-the-counter items in a backpack pocket:
Fevers are usually an early warning sign that you have an infection or common illness such as influenza, strep throat or COVID-19. You should take your temperature anytime you feel sick or “off.” Health center experts also recommend taking your temperature two times a day: once shortly after waking and again in the late afternoon or early evening. If you have a fever, stay home and monitor your symptoms. If you need help managing your symptoms, call the health center to make an appointment.
2) Cough drops
Whether you have allergies, the common cold, or something else, coughing is a fairly common symptom for most respiratory illnesses. One of the easiest ways to treat a cough is with cough drops. Although they won’t cure the cough, they can help you suppress the tickling sensation in the back of your throat and can ease a sore throat.
3) Pain reliever
The most common types are acetaminophen, aspirin and nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs). They can help you manage headaches and relieve pain. Watch out for side effects, read the warning labels and never take more than the recommended amount.
If you frequently suffer from heartburn and indigestion, have these tablets nearby when eating. Most people benefit from taking them as soon as they have symptoms or think they will get them soon, like before or after eating a meal or going to bed.
5) Antibiotic ointment
Apply this to cuts or scrapes to prevent the growth of bacteria and help heal your wound. Clean and dry the affected area first, then apply the ointment. Place a bandage over it if needed.
Talk to a pharmacist before using any over-the-counter medicines like the ones mentioned above to make sure it is safe for your condition.
Remember the University Health Center Pharmacy offers over-the-counter medications like these at prices much cheaper than what you’ll find off campus. The pharmacy is open Monday and Tuesday from 8 a.m. to 5:30 p.m., Wednesday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Saturday from 9 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. The pharmacy also offers prescriptions, safe medication disposal and COVID-19 vaccines. Learn more.
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Protect the planet and prevent harm by properly disposing of unwanted medicines
It’s not uncommon to collect medications over time. If you do this, it’s likely that some of your medicines have become expired or you no longer need them. You may have them hidden in your bathroom, kitchen, bedroom or purse.
Now is a good time to take stock of your medicine supply and dispose of old and unwanted medicines. Try these tips from the University Health Center Pharmacy.
Don’t save medications for a rainy day.
If a medication is expired, it’s time to get rid of it. Taking expired medications is dangerous because they lose their potency with time and won’t effectively treat your symptoms. The chemical composition changes, which can be toxic in some cases. Don’t risk it!
Don’t flush them or throw medications away.
Flushing medications down the toilet or rinsing them down the sink can cause them to end up in the local water supply and harm the ecosystem.
Throwing medications in the garbage increases the risk that someone may see them and take them from the trash. It is dangerous for people to consume medication that wasn’t prescribed to them. This can perpetuate drug abuse and put your personal safety at risk.
Another reason not to throw unused medications away is that a child or animal could accidentally take them, which could be fatal.
Instead, gather your medications and take them to a safe medication disposal box, like the one inside the health center pharmacy.
Although it may take more effort and planning on your part, it’s safer and better for the environment to drop off your unwanted medicines at a safe medication disposal box. Before you take them to the pharmacy, sort through your medications and prepare them for disposal.
Most over-the-counter and prescription drugs can be disposed of at your local pharmacy. If you have liquids, make sure to place them in a self-sealing bag before putting them in the medication disposal box. You can leave medications in their original containers with the assurance that all medications will be kept confidential.
If you’re on campus or in Lincoln, you can drop off medicines at the health center pharmacy anytime during business hours. There’s no need to speak to anyone to deposit medications.
If you’re outside of Lincoln, you can search for the nearest safe medication disposal box by using this online tool from the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration.
Make a plan for illegal drugs and other items not accepted at pharmacies
Illegal drugs, needles or syringes, sharp containers, medical devices or batteries, aerosol cans or inhalers, chemicals, mercury-containing devices, radiopharmaceuticals and liquid antineoplastic agents often aren’t accepted at local pharmacies. However, you may be able to dispose of them at DEA Take Back Days. This is a free event where law enforcement or federal agencies accept drugs and medications for disposal – no questions asked.
If you have questions about safe medication disposal, call the health center pharmacy at 402.472.7457.
6 travel tips for when you’re fully vaccinated
Itching for a trip? The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention updated travel guidelines for people who are fully vaccinated. If it's been two or more weeks since your final dose of the COVID-19 vaccine, travel is much safer.
If you're still waiting your turn for a COVID-19 vaccine, stay put for now, says University Health Center Travel Clinic provider Szuhua Lambdin. COVID-19 variants are circulating both domestically and internationally. Travel increases the risk of getting and spreading COVID-19. Many more people need to be vaccinated, and we need to get variants under control before everyone can travel.
If you're fully vaccinated and planning a trip, Lambdin offers this timely advice.
1. Mask up, wash your hands and avoid crowds
Fully vaccinated people should continue pandemic prevention measures like good hand hygiene, wearing a face covering, and practicing physical distancing. The biggest risk with travel is when you have less control of your surroundings. For instance, distancing is sometimes impossible in check-in lines, security points, airport terminals and meals. Try researching times when airports are less busy to avoid crowds.
2. Research your destination: testing and quarantine requirements
Some domestic and international locations require a negative COVID-19 test or a period of quarantine before you can be out in public. Determine these requirements before you leave, or you may be denied entry. Some places use antigen testing. Rapid antigen testing will be less sensitive and specific in asymptomatic people, thus there’s a higher risk of false positives and false negatives.
3. Research your destination: COVID-19 levels
Some places have much higher rates of COVID-19 than others. Check before you leave to see how high COVID-19 levels are in other states and other countries. Remember that, outside of the United States, testing levels may be lower, so numbers can be deceiving.
Why is this important? You may still get COVID-19 even if you're fully vaccinated – the vaccines are not 100% effective in preventing mild disease. (The vaccines are completely effective at preventing hospitalization and death from COVID-19, however.)
4. Research your destination: other immunizations
Visit our Travel Clinic to ensure you have up-to-date vaccinations. The clinic doesn't offer COVID-19 vaccines at this time, but we provide other immunizations or preventive medications required for safe international travel. You should visit the Travel Clinic at least four weeks before an international trip since some vaccines must be given in series. We'll provide you with advice specific to your destination.
5. If you leave the U.S., you must test negative before returning
Even fully vaccinated people must test negative for COVID-19 before flying into the United States. It can be a rapid antigen test or a PCR test. This requirement applies to all air passengers, 2 years of age or older, including U.S. citizens and legal permanent residents.
6. After returning home, self-monitor for symptoms
Domestic travelers who are fully vaccinated do not need a COVID-19 test after returning home. Unless you develop COVID-19 symptoms, you don't need to self-quarantine or isolate after returning home.
After you get home from international travel, get a COVID-19 test three to five days later. It can be an antigen or PCR test. Also, self-monitor for COVID-19 symptoms. If your test is positive or you develop symptoms, isolate yourself for 10 days.
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7 steps to prepare for your COVID-19 vaccines
7 steps to prepare for your COVID-19 vaccines
You might be wondering what to expect for your COVID-19 vaccine appointment. In many ways, the COVID-19 vaccines are just like other vaccines you’ve seen before. The University Health Center recommends following these seven steps to prepare for your upcoming vaccination.
1. Accept the earliest appointment available
Appointments can be limited, so it is in your best interest to schedule the soonest appointment that works for you. Remember though, you could have some mild side effects in the 24 hours that follow. Try not to schedule your appointment before an important exam or significant commitment.
2. Don’t get other vaccines at the same time
Before you get the COVID-19 vaccine, avoid getting any other vaccines for 14 days. Once you’ve had your second dose of the COVID-19 vaccine, wait 14 days to get any other vaccines. It’s more important to get the COVID-19 vaccine when it’s available. So adjust the timing of your other vaccines to make sure you get the COVID-19 vaccine as soon as possible.
3. Have pain relievers on hand
Ibuprofen and acetaminophen can help if you develop side effects like fever, pain or headaches. Side effects are normal and mean your immune system is responding to the vaccine. Most people experience more side effects after the second dose. Do not take pain relievers before vaccination to try to prevent vaccine-related side effects.
4. Grab groceries ahead of time
Get groceries before you’re scheduled to get your shot. Pick up things you’d get if you were sick, like chicken noodle soup, crackers and sports drinks. The COVID-19 vaccine will not give you COVID-19 but some people feel nausea as a side effect.
5. Be ready to roll
Wear a shirt with sleeves that are easy to roll up or a jacket over a short-sleeved shirt. Bonus points if you wear a favorite outfit perfect for posting your #IGotTheShot selfie on social media later.
6. Fuel up
Eat something and drink water the day of your vaccination. Some people get nervous when they get any kind of shot and can feel dizzy or lightheaded. Proper nutrition and hydration will combat that. Staying hydrated contributes to your overall well-being and helps your body prepare to respond to the vaccine. It is advised to refrain from drinking alcohol and intense workouts before your vaccination.
7. Plan to take it easy
If you can schedule your second dose when you have time to rest, that’s ideal. Some people may need to take the next day off work if they’re feeling under the weather. Avoid strenuous workouts, giving blood and other similar activities immediately before and after your vaccine.
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Here’s why you need to wear a face covering after you’ve been vaccinated
Once you’ve been vaccinated, can you throw away your face covering? Experts say not yet.
Heather Eberspacher, MD, University Health Center medical director, shares six reasons to keep wearing one, even after you receive the vaccine:
- The vaccine doesn’t take effect immediately. You won’t receive the full benefit of the vaccine until two weeks after your one-dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine or two weeks after your second dose of the Moderna or Pfizer vaccine. Until then, you have partial immunity. This is good, but it means your risk of contracting COVID-19 is still a concern.
- The vaccine isn’t foolproof. The vaccine is highly effective, but it doesn’t provide 100% protection — no vaccines do. Unfortunately, there’s no way of knowing who will respond to the vaccine and who will be in the small minority who don’t. Also, as variants of the virus continue to increase in number, it remains to be seen if or how they will change the effectiveness of current COVID-19 vaccines. In the meantime, until we have further supporting data on this, masks are still encouraged to protect yourself and others.
- The vaccine isn’t widespread yet. Although the vaccine is being distributed quickly, it will take time to offer everyone the chance to be vaccinated. We don’t yet know what percentage of the population will need to be vaccinated to reach herd immunity. For example, herd immunity against measles requires about 95% of a population to be vaccinated, according to the World Health Organization.
- It protects those who can’t be vaccinated and the immunocompromised. Not everyone can get the vaccine, such as those who are allergic to the vaccine’s ingredients. Some people with compromised immune systems are still waiting to be vaccinated. We know that their risk for developing COVID-19 complications is high, so we want to avoid infecting them at all costs. Face coverings help protect these people until we reach herd immunity.
- You could still contract COVID-19 and be asymptomatic. The vaccine protects you from contracting the virus, but we still don’t know if it protects you from being an asymptomatic spreader. This means there’s a chance you could spread COVID-19 to people who have not yet been vaccinated if you don’t wear a face covering. This could cause the virus to continue spreading and could take us longer to beat the pandemic.
- It’s university policy. The university continues to require everyone to wear face coverings on campus, regardless of their vaccination status. Whenever you’re on campus, make sure you are wearing a face covering appropriately. Click here to read the university’s face covering policy.
Everyone is anxious for life to return to normal, but it’s important to understand that it will take time. Think of ending the pandemic as a dimmer switch instead of an on/off switch. Stopping a pandemic requires using all the tools we have available, and getting vaccinated is one of them. Until a majority of the population is vaccinated and herd immunity increases, continue with your COVID-19 prevention measures.
Bottom line: Keep wearing your face covering. If we all do our part, we will defeat this virus together.
1 simple way to boost your health before you graduate
If you plan to graduate soon, you’re probably building a to-do list of actions to complete before you leave the university — everything from returning textbooks to applying for internships and jobs. But does your list include a checkup with your doctor?
Although it might not sound important compared to your other to-do’s, getting a checkup before you transition into the workforce or higher academics is a smart move with a big payoff. Why? Because you’re about to enter a new phase of life with different demands and stressors than what you’ve experienced in college. Maintaining your health during this transition is critical if you want to be successful. A physical is where you’ll get a well-being roadmap for navigating these challenges.
A physical boosts your health by:
- Helping you discover ways to improve your health habits
- Screening for possible health problems and risk factors
- Reviewing and updating your immunizations
- Discussing and making plans for your reproductive health and more
How to schedule a physical
- Choose an adult doctor, not a pediatrician. Although you may have an established relationship with your pediatrician, they are trained to treat teens and won’t be able to give you the best advice. If possible, select a health care provider who specializes in college health
- Once you’ve chosen a health care provider, call their facility to make an appointment. These appointments fill quickly, so contact them this week if you plan to graduate in the spring
- Leave plenty of time to commute. Don’t schedule an appointment right before or after a class
- Have your insurance card ready. The medical receptionist may ask you for this information over the phone
- Once your appointment is made, write down your questions for the provider. This ensures you make the most of your appointment
The University Health Center provides checkups for students. Our on-campus location makes it convenient to schedule appointments in and around your busy schedules. Our providers specialize in college health and can provide the best advice to help you care for your well-being during this time of transition. Call 402.472.5000 to schedule. Although physicals are not covered by student fees and will incur a charge, we can submit the cost to private insurance. Financial assistance is available to those who qualify.
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Health Tip: Items to ALWAYS have in your medicine cabinet
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Always have these items in your medicine cabinet
Never underestimate the power of a well-stocked medicine cabinet. Whether you have the sniffles or something more serious, being able to treat your symptoms at home with self-care measures can alleviate your discomfort and help you start feeling better faster.
As spring draws near, set aside time to take stock of your supplies and dispose of any expired medications. If you’re running low on anything, swing by the University Health Center Pharmacy to get what you need at a discounted rate. They have pharmacists on site who can make product recommendations and help you select the right medication for your needs. They can also help you safely dispose of unused, unwanted or expired medicines.
Here is a list of basic over-the-counter items you should have on hand to help treat common symptoms:
Aches and Pains
- Acetaminophen: Headaches, fever, cold or sore throat, general pain
- Ibuprofen or naproxen: Inflammation, fever, muscle aches, general pain, menstrual cramps, toothaches
Naproxen and ibuprofen are different medicines, but both work very similarly to treat the same types of concerns. Sometimes, one affects your body differently than the other – perhaps one irritates your stomach, whereas the other does not. This can vary from person to person, so choose whichever medicine works best for you.
Upset stomach and/or indigestion
- Antacid (such as TUMS): Heartburn
- Polyethylene glycol (such as MiraLAX): Constipation
- Loperamide (such as Imodium): Diarrhea
- Bismuth subsalicylate (such as Pepto Bismol): Nausea, diarrhea, heartburn, indigestion, upset stomach
Indulging in that pizza last night probably sounded good at the time, but now it’s wreaking havoc on your body. Depending on the type of discomfort you have, try one of the medicines above to help you calm your stomach.
Cold and flu
- Thermometer: To take your temperature when you don’t feel well
- Pseudoephedrine (such as Sudafed): Head congestion and sinus pain
- Dextromethorphan (such as Delsym): Cough
- Guaifenesin (such as Mucinex): Chest congestion
- Nasal saline: Dry sinuses
- Diphenhydramine (such as Benadryl): Pain and itching caused by insect bites, minor cuts, burns and poison ivy/oak/sumac; sneezing and hay fever caused by allergies; hives
- Loratadine (such as Claritin): Sneezing and other common allergy symptoms
- Nasal saline: Dry sinuses
- Fluticasone propionate nasal spray (such as Flonase): Stuffy or runny nose, itching and sneezing
Sexually transmitted infections and pregnancy
- Condoms: The only form of birth control that prevents STIs
- Emergency contraception: A pill that can stop a pregnancy before it starts
- Pregnancy test: At-home urine tests that can tell you if you’re pregnant or not
If you are sexually active, have condoms on hand at all times. You never know when you’ll need one. If your birth control method fails, such as when a condom breaks, taking emergency contraception may give you peace of mind and help prevent unwanted pregnancy.
Bonus tip: If you take birth control, save time by filling your birth control prescription on campus at the health center Pharmacy. Free mail-order delivery may be available.
- Adhesive bandages (such as Band-Aids): A variety of shapes and sizes
- Topical ointments (such as Polysporin or Bacitracin): To prevent bacterial infection in minor cuts, scrapes or burns
- Adhesive Tape
- Benzoyl peroxide
- Gentle skin-care cleanser (such as Cetaphil)
Remember, the University Health Center Pharmacy is here for you. If you need medicine or have questions about what over-the-counter items to take to help you feel better, call us at 402.472.7457.
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STI testing: Everything Huskers should know about getting tested on campus
If you are having sex, it’s time to consider getting tested for sexually transmitted infections. It’s a perfectly normal part of health care designed to keep you safe and healthy.
If you have considered getting tested but still have questions, you are not alone. University Health Center medical experts answer these frequently asked questions from college students:
How common are STIs?
They’re more common than you may think. One in two people will contract an STI by age 25, according to the American Sexual Health Association. Chlamydia, genital herpes, gonorrhea, syphilis and human papillomavirus (HPV) are more prevalent among college-aged people. Many of these are on the rise in the U.S., especially among younger people.
How can I get an STI?
You can get an STI when you have sexual contact with an infected person. This includes manual, genital, anal and oral sex (both receiving and giving).
How do I know if I have an STI?
Most STIs have no symptoms, so getting tested regularly is the best way to know. If you experience STI symptoms, this may include:
- Unexplained abdominal/pelvic or testicular pain
- Genital discharge
- Burning urination
- Genital rash, itching or sores
Who should get tested?
Anyone sexually active should get tested annually for common STIs and HIV. You should also get tested if you are showing any of the signs or symptoms mentioned above.
Which STIs should I get tested for?
STIs are not like allergies; you can’t get a massive test for all STIs. These tests are specific to each infection. Talk to your health care provider about which STI tests you need. Certain STIs are more common than others, so your provider may suggest you get tested regularly for them.
Remember to be honest and open with your provider about your sexual activity, including what type of sexual contact you are participating in, as this can determine where and how you should be tested. Your provider is here to help, not judge you. What you share will help your provider choose the most appropriate tests for your circumstances so that your testing will not cost more than necessary. Your risk factors will determine exactly which tests are most important for you.
How can I get tested for STIs and/or HIV at the University Health Center?
Step 1: Call the University Health Center at 402.472.5000 and follow the options to speak to a nurse. Tell the nurse that you’d like to get tested. The nurse line is available Monday through Friday from 8:20 a.m. to 4:40 p.m.
Step 2: The nurse will ask you a few questions and put in an order for your testing at our laboratory.
Step 3: Although appointments are required for most health center services due to COVID-19, lab tests are an exception to this rule. Walk in at your convenience and check in at the health center front desk Monday through Friday between 8:20 a.m. and 4:40 p.m. Tell the greeter and registration staff that you’re checking in “for lab only.” Our staff will get you checked in and direct you to the lab, where you will complete your testing.
Step 4: Nursing staff will call you in a few business days with results and schedule follow-up as needed. Results will also be available in your One Chart | Patient portal in about two to three business days.
Who will know I got tested at the health center?
All lab services and clinic medical records are strictly confidential. This information is kept between you and your doctor. However, there are a few things you should know:
- Minors (students 18 and younger) do not need parental consent for STI testing or treatment. STI testing and treatment information will not be shared with parents of minors without the minor’s permission.
- If you use health insurance to get tested, consider who else has access to that information (like a parent or partner if you share health insurance). If you do not want to submit your charge to insurance, please tell the medical receptionist at check-in.
- Positive results for some STIs, like HIV or syphilis, may be shared with state or city health departments for tracking purposes, but there are laws preventing health departments from sharing your test results with your family, friends or employer.
If you have further questions or concerns, talk to your provider.
How much does it cost?
Doctor-ordered chlamydia, gonorrhea and HIV tests are offered at no additional cost to students who pay student fees. Other tests will have a charge, which can be submitted to insurance or paid out of pocket at a discounted rate. Financial assistance is available to those who qualify. For pricing information, call the health center at 402.472.5000 and press the Billing and Insurance option.
What if I test positive?
First, remember to breathe. The side effects and health outcomes of many STIs can be treated, and many STIs are curable. Different treatment methods are used for different STIs. For some STIs, there are several treatment options. Your provider will tell you more about this after your test.
How do I tell my partner(s) I have an STI?
Some conversations seem really hard to have. Telling someone you have an STI may be one of them. But it’s not just about you; your partner needs to know so he or she can get tested and treated if necessary.
Everyone gets an STI from a person. Part of stopping the spread of STIs is open communication, so talk to your partner(s). This is never an easy conversation, but it’s an important one to have. Many couples report this conversation actually brings them closer together.
Make a plan. As soon as you’re ready, bring it up with your partner(s). You could talk to someone else about it first and practice what you’re going to say. You could also journal about it or practice speaking in a mirror. You could even write your partner(s) a letter. The main point is to communicate. Be there for them the way you hope they would be there for you.
Testing positive and talking to your partner(s) about having an STI may feel overwhelming. Remember that CAPS is a resource for you if you need it. Visit their website for more information.
I’m not sure I’m ready to get tested. What should I do?
If you aren’t ready to get tested, that’s OK. In the meantime, stay open and honest with your health care provider and reach out to them if you have any questions.
Know your campus gynecological and sexual health care resources
No matter your sex or gender identity, all college students need routine reproductive health care to stay healthy. The University Health Center provides a full range of these services in a confidential, convenient on-campus location.
These services include:
- Birth control prescriptions
- Wellness exams and pap tests
- Condoms and emergency contraception
- Sexually transmitted infection testing
- HPV vaccines
- Pregnancy testing and referrals
- PrEP and PEP prescriptions
- Treatment for pain and infections
Keep reading for more details about these services and how to make an appointment.
Condoms aren’t the only form of contraception. Health center medical experts can explain your options so you can make the best decision for your life. They offer counseling and prescriptions for the following:
- Oral contraceptive pills
- Intrauterine devices (IUD)
- The implant
- The shot
- The ring
The health center pharmacy also fills birth control prescriptions.
Want to learn more about your birth control options? View this video resource.
If you have a vagina, uterus or breasts, schedule a wellness exam once a year. During the visit, the health care provider will discuss your period, birth control, sexually transmitted infection testing and other aspects of your sexual health. It also includes a pelvic exam, breast exam and pap test (if applicable).
If you have a penis, testes or prostate, schedule a wellness exam once every 18 to 24 months to assess your risk for STIs, testicular concerns, mental health, skin and hair concerns and more.
Condoms and emergency contraception
Safer Sex Kits containing condoms and lubricant (provided by the LGBTQA+ Resource Center and Women’s Center) are available at the health center during your clinic appointment as well as other locations across campus. Condoms are also available for purchase at the pharmacy.
Emergency contraception pills can stop a pregnancy before it starts. They are available for purchase at the health center pharmacy – no prescription needed.
Sexually transmitted infection testing
If you are sexually active, it is recommended you get tested for STIs regularly (testing frequency depends on your risk factors). The health center offers testing for:
- Chlamydia and gonorrhea
- Herpes and more
Doctor-ordered chlamydia, gonorrhea and HIV testing are covered by student fees. Click here to learn the answers to common questions about STI testing.
The Human papillomavirus is a very common STI infection that can cause certain cancers. Getting vaccinated can protect you from this virus. The vaccine is offered at the health center and is given in three doses over time.
Pregnancy testing and referrals
Patients can self-order pregnancy tests from the health center lab Monday through Friday during regular business hours. No appointment is needed, but you must check in at the front desk and tell the medical receptionist that you are here for “lab only.” Urine pregnancy tests are also available for purchase at a discounted rate at the health center pharmacy.
The health center does not provide obstetric, abortion or family planning services, but we can refer patients to community resources that can help. The All-Options Talkline is a trusted resource for pregnancy options, counseling and support before, during and after abortion, pregnancy loss, adoption, infertility and parenting. You can call the toll-free talkline at 1.888.493.0092 or visit all-options.org.
PrEP and PEP prescriptions
PrEP is a prevention method used by people who are HIV-negative and at high risk for being exposed to HIV through sexual contact or injection drug use. This medicine can keep the virus from establishing an infection if you are exposed. PEP is for people who have possibly been exposed to HIV and is used in emergencies only. PEP must be started within 72 hours after a possible exposure to HIV. Talk to a health center provider if you are interested in or have questions about these prescriptions.
Treatment for pain and infections
Health center providers can diagnose and treat concerns including:
- Abdominal and pelvic pain
- Vaginal and urinary tract infections
- Menstrual problems such as painful periods and irregular bleeding and more
Appointments and cost
To schedule an appointment for any of these services, call 402.472.5000. Telehealth appointments may be available for certain gynecological and sexual health services.
Student fees do not cover most gynecological and sexual health services, but charges can be submitted to insurance or paid out-of-pocket at a discounted rate. Financial assistance is available to those who qualify. Learn more about cost and insurance.
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As pandemic continues, flu shot is more important than ever
As COVID-19 remains top of mind in 2021, influenza — another deadly respiratory virus — remains a concern.
Although a COVID-19 vaccine is not yet widely available, people can protect themselves, the community and the health care system by getting their flu vaccine, said Dr. Heather Eberspacher, medical director of the University Health Center.
Five Tips for a Successful Telehealth Visit
Before you begin your telehealth appointment, make sure you’re prepared for what to expect. Follow these tips to ensure you’re getting the most out of your virtual visits.
- Test technology in advance. You will need a smartphone, tablet, laptop or desktop computer for a telehealth visit and steady connection to the internet to stream video. Follow these easy steps to test your equipment and Wi-Fi connection.
- Pretend you're in-person. When you go to the doctor in person, the nurse or medical assistant will gather your vital signs in advance. Try to recreate this at home as much as you can by weighing yourself beforehand, taking your temperature and checking your blood pressure if able. Make sure to have your prescriptions handy so you can review your medications with your provider.
- Set the scene. Being able to have a clear conversation with your provider about your health is important. Select a place that is private, safe and away from distractions, so you and your provider can consult as you would in an exam room. Some examples include your dorm room or your parked car. Avoid using crowded places like a dining hall or the Union, and don’t multitask while you’re on your visit (e.g., riding a bike, walking to class, etc.)
- Get a room with a view. Along with testing your equipment and Wi-Fi, make sure your setting is ideal for video. Choose a well-lit space and avoid sitting with your back to a window as that can darken your image. Make sure the web camera is at eye level so your provider can see you clearly.
- Ask questions. Don’t be shy in front of the camera, this is your time with your provider. Ask questions and repeat what you hear to be sure you understand next steps.
Six ways to stay healthy in the New Year
Six ways to stay healthy in the New Year
If 2020 taught us one thing, it is the importance of protecting and caring for our physical well-being.
COVID prevention remains a top priority, but it does not have to be your only health focus for the new year. The University Health Center shares additional steps you can take to elevate your physical well-being in 2021 and beyond.
Schedule an annual physical.
Everyone, no matter their age or health status, can benefit from visiting a primary care provider at least once a year for a checkup. This visit includes a thorough examination of your body and usually lasts 30 minutes to an hour. It is an opportunity to check your health status, ask questions, get tips for living a healthier lifestyle and develop a game plan for any current health problems. If you have been struggling with a symptom or concern such as chronic dry skin, allergies, acne, pain, or something similar but haven’t made time to get it checked by a doctor, mention it during your visit. To schedule a physical* at the University Health Center, call 402.472.5000.
Schedule other routine health care appointments.
In addition to an annual physical, it is recommended that college students have a biannual dental exam, annual eye exam and annual reproductive health exam* (if applicable). Scheduling these types of appointments at the beginning of the year ensures you make time for them before you forget or your schedule fills up with school, work and other activities. These preventive care services are available by appointment at the University Health Center for your convenience.
Get your flu shot.
Although you might not be able to get a COVID-19 vaccine yet, now is still a good time to protect yourself against the flu. Students can get their flu shot for free at the University Health Center by appointment.
Learn your family medical history.
Are you aware of the conditions and diseases that run in your family? If not, set aside a few minutes to talk about this with an immediate family member, such as a parent, grandparent, sibling, etc. You will need to share this information when you access health care in the future. This knowledge will also help you develop healthy habits now so that you can reduce your risk of developing the same conditions or diseases later in life. The US Surgeon General’s Family Health Portrait is a useful online tool to help you collect your family history information.
Find and keep a copy of your immunization record.
You submitted a copy of your immunization records when you were admitted to UNL, but do you have a copy on hand? If not, ask your parents, childhood doctor or county health department for a copy of your immunization records. Store it safely in your residence and bring it with you to your doctor’s appointments. If your records show you are missing childhood immunizations or immunizations that are routinely needed, such as an annual flu shot or tetanus-diphtheria booster, your provider may recommend you receive these vaccinations during your physical.
Restock your first aid kit.
If you were sick in the fall, you may have used up some or all of your common medicines, such as acetaminophen, ibuprofen and cough drops. If you are running low on supplies, visit the University Health Center pharmacy to purchase common over-the-counter products at a discounted rate. Make sure you also have Kleenex, lip balm, tea, honey and other non-medicinal supplies that can help if you feel under the weather.
Remember, the University Health Center is here for you. If you have a health care need, call us at 402.472.5000. Telehealth and in-person visits are available depending on your concern. Visit our website to learn more about services and hours.
*Please note that student fees do not cover physicals and reproductive wellness exams. However, these charges are covered by most insurance companies, and financial assistance is available to those who qualify. Click here to learn more about what is covered by your student fees.
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In My Own Words: Kirsten Wandrey
Kirsten Wandrey is a sophomore journalism major in the College of Journalism and Mass Communications. In spring 2019 - prior to enrolling at the university - she was diagnosed with an autoimmune disease that dramatically changed her life. In her own words, Kirsten shares details about her successful transition to living on-campus at UNL and finding community and connections to help her achieve.
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Updated 9:10 A.M. March 18, 2020. Original version published March 15, 2020.