STD Myths

There are many misconceptions surrounding STDs. In honor of STD awareness month (that’s in April!), we’ll clarify some of those most common myths sexual health educators hear.

“Only promiscuous people get STDs.”

STDs can be acquired and transmitted by anyone, regardless of the number of sex partners one has. Unprotected sex and inconsistent condom use can occur in a variety of sex partnerships, from a long-term monogamous couple to a casual fling.

“Condoms are too expensive to use regularly.”

Condoms and other safer sex supplies (dental dams, female condoms, lube) are available for FREE to students through Campus Health Services and Student Wellness. When used correctly, condoms are very effective at preventing most sexually transmitted infections.

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Women’s History by Dimensions of Wellness

March is Women’s History Month.  In honor of the month, here are some famous women throughout time who embodied dimensions of wellness.

Physical

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Despite an official trying to attack and eject her (even though the rules did not say women couldn’t run), Kathrine Switzer became the first woman to run the Boston Marathon.

Social

ErinPizzey

Erin Pizzey was the first person to start a formal organization to protect women who have been domestically abused.  Erin started Refuge as a place where abused women could and take shelter with their children.

Emotional

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Rosalynn Carter defied traditional first lady roles and fought to promote positive change, awareness, and stigma reduction in the mental health field.  She created The Carter Center Mental Health Task Force and hosts the annual Rosalynn Carter Symposium on Mental Health Policy.

Environmental

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Founder of The Green Belt Movement, Wangari Maathai advocated for poverty reduction and environmental conservation through tree planting. Wangari was the first woman in East and Central Africa to earn a doctorate degree and was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 2004.

Financial

SuzeOrman

After barely graduating college, Suze Orman was a waitress tired of stereotypes when she decided to open her own restaurant. She taught herself everything about finances, and is now one of the most successful financial advisors in the world.

Cultural

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Virginia Dare was the first English person born in the Americas. Nobody knows what happened to her colony, but there’s plenty of legend and lore surrounding The Lost Colony, and the mark it left on history.

Intellectual

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Toni Morrison became the first black woman writer to hold a chair at an Ivy League University, and she became the first black American woman to win a Nobel Prize.

 

Spiritual

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Ingrid Mattson is a prominent religious leader and interfaith activist. She teaches and chair Islamic Studies programs at universities in the U.S. and Canada. Shen advocates for a greater dialogue between faiths as a way to increase partnerships and understanding.

Spring Break Packing List

As spring break approaches, many UNC students look forward to beach destinations and a long week of chill. Some may travel to the tropics like Mexico or the Carribean, while others may opt for metropolitan adventures in Amsterdam, Bangkok or otherwise. Still others hit the slopes.

Most spring break destinations have health risks that may impact what you pack for your vacation. Connect with the UNC Travel Clinic as soon as you can once you know your plans for leaving the United States. We help you determine vaccines you might need, medications that could help you stay healthy, and health risks specific to your travel itinerary.

the-suitcase-811122_1920.jpgWhat to Bring

We know you’ll bring the fun on your adventures! It’s harder to think about when things don’t go perfectly. So for those less likely scenarios, also bring:

  • Copies of your passport and travel documents. We suggest one copy in each piece of luggage (in case a bag gets lost!), one copy with a trusted friend or family member at home, and the actual documents with you.
  • Prescription medications – the ones you regularly take (and enough of them to get you home) and any special prescriptions for your trip such as anti-malarials or meds to help with travel diarrhea (the #1 health issue for international travelers).  Bring your EpiPen if you have one prescribed to you!
  • Over-the-counter medications – ones you regularly use like supplements or asprin as well as those that might help if you become ill while traveling. Antidiarrheal medication is helpful since traveler’s diarrhea hits so many. Bring first aid items like bandages, antifungal and antibacterial creams, moleskin, a thermometer and hydrocortisone. Also think about what works for you if you get a cold, motion sickness, a headache, constipation, indigestion, etc and bring those items as well.
  • Insect repellent containing DEET (30 – 50%)
  • Water-resistant sunscreen of 15 SPF or greater with both UVA and UVB protection, hat and sunglasses
  • Antibacterial wipes or alcohol-based hand sanitizer
  • Health insurance card (consider supplemental travel insurance as many US health plans do not cover all of your needs while abroad).
  • Earplugs, travel pillow or other sleep aids
  • Water bottle – as well as purification tablets or system if you’ll be in the backcountry
  • Condoms – for you or to give away. You can get them for free at Campus Health Services.
  • Yummy and nutrient-packed snacks for the trip. Try for a mix of fat, protein and fiber!

All of these items are available at Campus Health Pharmacy or Student Stores Pharmacy, right on UNC’s campus.

Learn more tips for healthy Spring Break Travel at the CDC.gov.  And enjoy yourself!

 

Does absence make the heart grow fonder?

For some couples, distance is a deal-breaker that brings the relationship to a close; however, for others, absence really does make the heart grow fonder.

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If you can’t bring them along…how will you survive?

Traveling can be hectic – academics, getting around, possibly learning a new language, and maybe an internship – regardless of your exact situation, traveling takes up your time. And for many students, new cities and experiences change the way they view themselves and their lives. Poor communication while you are apart can lead to disagreements, and a lack of trust can strain the relationship.

Whatever your situation, being separated from loved ones can bring stress into your life.

Despite this, it appears that relationships can weather a stint apart. Proximity can lead us to take people for granted, whereas being distanced allows us to know someone in a different way. A study of 283 college students found that only 34% of students who had a significant other when they went abroad broke up while a partner was abroad or just after they returned home. About 36% of those who broke up said that studying abroad did not really contribute to the breakup.

When you are trying to make the most of a once in a lifetime opportunity, relationship problems are the last thing you want to think about. Here are some tips for being in a romantic relationship while at a distance:

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Good communication is your best asset.

Before You Go:  Talk with your partner about how and how often you want to keep in touch.  Will they come visit you?  Will you go visit them?  Phone, iChat, gChat, Skype, or  email?

Also, get an understanding about the state of your relationship.  Is your relationship completely committed or just sort of casual? Understanding what your partner thinks about your relationship can help both of you set boundaries for your behaviors while you are apart.

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Documenting your life through photos or social media can help maintain connection.

When You Are Apart: Take an interest in each others’ routine and talk about thoughts or feelings as they arise.  If internet access is intermittent, seek cheap ways to talk on the phone.  Some suggest setting up a joint blog where you can share your experiences with each other. The extra effort you both make to keep in touch can foster a special intimacy. In the end, you may learn more about each other’s values, ideas, and dreams than folks who are together every day.

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First business upon return? HUGS.

When You Get Back: Adjusting to regular life after traveling may be difficult or stressful. These feelings may influence your relationship. Let your partner know what you are thinking/feeling.

Also, set aside time to be with your significant other when you get back. During your time apart you may have made new friends or developed new interests that you do not share with your partner.  These divergent interests can make spending time together a little harder, but also can open up new avenues for connection.

Have a great trip!

This article was adapted from an earlier blog post written by Kadija Turay, a former graduate student who worked for Wellness. The adaptations were made by Sara Stahlman, Marketing and Communication Coordinator for Campus Health and CAPS.

Love Your Body

Loving your body tends to be easier said than done. There are a million messages bombarding us daily telling us we’re not good enough the way we are – and millions of dollars in profit attached to us believing those messages.

But we can try to see and think about our body differently. Here’s one video example. It’s worth noting that this is dude talking and drawing about his body image issues. We’re guessing some of our readers also identify as masculine – and that most of you identify as feminine. There’s loads of cultural reasons for this – but regardless of your gender identity, we hope this video is helpful to you.

There are loads of ways to love your body! Here are some ideas:

  1. Listen to your body. Eat when you are hungry and rest when you are tired. If you’re looking for more details, check out Intuitive Eating.
  2. Change the messages you are giving yourself. Identify the negative ways that you speak to yourself and make a decision to replace that self-talk with more realistic, loving, and positive statements. The video above is a nice example of this.
  3. Throw out the bathroom scale. You are much more than a number on a scale. Instead focus on the most important things about yourself like your unique talents, qualities, skills, and characteristics.
  4. Think of your body as an instrument instead of as an ornament. Be thankful every day for all of the wonderful things you can do in your body such as dance, play, run, enjoy good food, and give hugs!
  5. Exercise to feel good and be healthy, not to lose weight or punish your body. Find fun ways to add more physical activity in your life, such as going for a walk with a friend. Campus Rec is full of ways to connect with folks who enjoy similar ways of moving as you.
  6. Move with your head held high. If you act like someone with a healthy body image and good self-confidence, the “act” will eventually become reality.
  7. Wear comfortable clothes that fit. Clothes that are too large or too small tend to create physical discomfort and may make you feel even worse about your body. Clothes that fit you well are designed to complement your figure. Ignore the size tags if possible (remember – you are so much more than a number!).
  8. Question ads that perpetuate unrealistic standards for our bodies. Instead of saying, “What’s wrong with me,” say, “What’s wrong with this ad?” Write the company. Set your own standards instead of letting the media set them for you.
  9. Surround yourself with people who are supportive of you and your body, not critical. How does your community comment about your body and your food? How can you set limits on that to make sure you are comfortable and supported?
  10. Every day tell yourself, “I am beautiful!” Write it down! Put notes everywhere! YOU ARE ENOUGH – just the way you are.

Avoid the Flu

We all know someone who has been sick recently. Avoid the #uncplague this Cold and Flu season by using these annual reminders about what to do to not get sick.

Photo (Wash Hands Frequently) by (Fairfax County), Flickr Creative Commons
Photo (Wash Hands Frequently) by (Fairfax County), Flickr Creative Commons

Wash your hands (and stop touching your face).

Illness is often spread by people getting the a virus on their hands from touching someone or something that a sick person has coughed on, sneezed on, or touched, and then touching their face. In a recent study, random people touched their face 3.6 times an hour and with the same hand also touched common objects that others had touched. So wash your hands and stop touching your face so much.

When should you wash ’em?

  • Before, during, and after preparing food
  • Before and after caring for someone who is sick
  • Before and after treating a cut or wound
  • After riding on public transportation
  • After using the toilet
  • After using shared gym equipment
  • After handling money
  • After changing diapers or cleaning up a child
  • After blowing your nose, coughing, or sneezing
  • After touching an animal, animal feed, or animal waste
  • After touching or taking out garbage
  • After any other potentially gross things you do

Sleep

We get that it’s difficult – but sleep is critical to keep your body functioning. Getting good sleep is about developing good habits, or “Sleep Hygiene.” Harvard Medical School has a Division of Sleep Medicine website which we highly recommend if you are interested in learning more about sleep. They have listed 12 tips for improving sleep which are amazingRead them nowSeriously.

Hydrate.

Stop and take a sip anytime you pass a water fountain. Carry a water bottle with you to hydrate throughout the day. Drink a glass of water as the first thing you do when you wake up (on second thought: first pee, then drink the water). Drink at least a glass of water with each meal. There are loads of tricks like these to ensure you stay hydrated. Incorporate at least one into your life.

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When you are really sick, stay home.

Email your professors, let group partners know that you are sick, and tell your coaches that you cannot come to practice. I am as guilty as anyone I know of breaking this rule regularly; there is still part of me that thinks I just need to “tough it out” and work through it. Unfortunately, our society often still rewards or finds it admirable when individuals fight through a sickness, but we need to change this norm. I am not saying take advantage of a sickness. If you have a sniffle or a tickle in your throat I might not advise that you lay in bed all day, but if you truly are sick, you are protecting others by staying home. You also most likely will not get much out of being in class or at a meeting if you are not feeling well.

Get a flu shot

According to the CDC the number of deaths due to the flu has ranged from as low as 3,000 to as high as 49,000 per year in the United States in recent years.

Photo (Flu vaccinations make their way to U.S. Army in Europe) by (U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Europe District), Flickr Creative Commons
Photo (Flu vaccinations make their way to U.S. Army in Europe) by (U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Europe District), Flickr Creative Commons

Get a flu shot. You do NOT get the Flu from a Flu shot. Let me say that again: you do NOT get the Flu from a Flu shot. Some people do get a low-grade fever and headache from the vaccine, but this is just the body reacting to the foreign substance, not the Flu. According to the CDC, vaccines have saved more than 732,000 lives and trillions of dollars over the last 2 decades. There is also absolutely no evidence that the Flu vaccine –or any other vaccines– present significant harm, and the idea that vaccines cause autism is a complete myth. The worst that could happen is that the Flu shot does not provide protection for the strain of the Flu that is being passed around but, even in that case, there is nothing lost by getting the shot. Most people who work in public health agree that vaccinations are one of the most important innovations of modern medicine and protect not only the individual getting the shot, but others around them.

So each flu season, get yourself that flu shot. The vaccine is available on campus without appointment at either Campus Health Pharmacy or Student Stores Pharmacy.

Do what you can to stay well, friends. And when you get sick, check out Campus Health’s cold-care guide or make an appointment.

This post was originally published on October 14, 2014 by Jedadiah Wood. It was updated and reposted November 4, 2016 and January 31, 2018.

Avoiding infectious diseases while traveling

Avoid getting sick on your next trip with these tips:

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1. Wash your hands.

Spend 20 seconds washing, including under the nail beds. If you can’t wash your hands right away, avoid touching your face to prevent germs from entering your eyes, nose or mouth. Use hand sanitizer if your hands aren’t visibly soiled.

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2. Learn water and food precautions for your destination

Relying on your easy-going stomach is a surefire way to ensure you get food poisoning. Be wary of possibly unsafe tap water! Avoid contamination from water by foregoing ice in your drink and use boiled or bottled water for brushing your teeth and washing fruits and veggies. High-risk foods to stay away from include (but are not limited to):

  • raw and peeled fruits and vegetables
  • raw, rare or undercooked meats and seafood
  • unpasteurized dairy foods, including milk (do you know the word pasteurized in the local language?)
  • any hot food that has been left long enough to cool
  • food buffets

You want food that is cooked and served to you hot.

 

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3. Protect yourself from insects

Use DEET protection while traveling, and make sure your place to stay is insect proof. Check the screens, spray a knock down spray (pictured above), and use a bednet.

4. Visit UNC’s International Travel Clinic

We want you to have the healthiest and safest travels you can. We can help! UNC’s International Travel Clinic offers general travel health information and destination-specific recommendations. Immunizations and medications to help you stay healthy and safe are also provided.

 

 

 

 

Safety Tips for Traveling Alone

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Traveling solo? Stay connected and make safety a priority.

Traveling alone has many rewards – from becoming more mindful to making new friends. But staying safe while alone can take a bit more effort. Here are 7 tips that can help:

1. Stay connected.phone-875488_1920.jpg

Before you leave, determine if your phone will work at your destination. If not, or if the cost of use is prohibitive, rent a phone once you arrive or buy international SIM cards if you have an unlocked phone. This gives you a lifeline if you need it. Your phone’s GPS helps you know where you are when in new locations.

If a mobile device is absolutely out of the question, you’ll need to work even harder to do #2:

2. Keep others apprised of your daily itinerary. map-2590417_1920.jpg

Let people know where you are headed – your friends and family back home and someone near you (hotel concierge, for example). When traveling alone in the backcountry, always let someone know when you plan to return and your exact route – and then stick to that plan. Most parks have registration options for your trip which can help immensely if an emergency arises.

3. Keep important items in separate locations.

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Your money, credit cards and passport should not be in the same spot. Keep some payment options in your wallet, additional payment options in a pocket. When out for a day adventure, carry a copy of your passport’s data page and keep your actual passport locked in a hotel safe. It’s also good to leave a copy of your passport’s data page with someone at home. On travel days, carry your passport separately from your money and credit cards.

4. Learn as much as you can about your destination.

UNC Travel Clinic

UNC’s International Travel Clinic helps with this if your destination is abroad. The materials you’ll get will include some of the most important info:

  • Where to get medical care if you need it
  • Local customs and etiquette
  • Local laws
  • Public transportation
  • Water safety
  • Insect needs
  • Health issues in the region

Many of these items can be found through internet research as well. Be aware of how people dress, and when in doubt, opt for conservative. Talk to locals about neighborhoods to avoid, especially after dark. Know what to do in emergencies.

5. Ensure your lodgings are safe.

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Keep your door locked, and use a security chain or deadbolt when inside if available. Avoid first floor rooms where window entry is possible.

6. Stay healthy

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Bring an extra supply of your prescription medications and an extra script with the generic drug name rather than the brand name. Carry hand sanitizer. Use insect repellent and sunscreen. Hydrate!

7. Be confident

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Venturing into the unknown is one of the exciting parts of travel. Keep your guard up, but enjoy yourself! The International Travel Clinic is a great way to gain confidence in staying healthy and safe while traveling.

How Being You can Lead to a Less Stressful Life

Focus on you for a minute. The world sends all kinds of messages about what it means to be…a UNC student, a citizen of the world, etc. But when it comes down to it, you have all the answers for what it means to be YOU. And using that internal voice can help you be more successful at UNC.

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1)      Set realistic goals.  Realistic is the key word here.  Maybe some people you know can go to class and work full time and spend 3 hours at the gym and study for 8 hours and take 4 hours to cook a five course gourmet dinner and be the president of every club and volunteer to save sea turtles and keep their inbox empty and still get 8 hours of sleep every night.  I, however, am not that person (and probably you aren’t either). Ask yourself what is most critical to you. Prioritize! Then set some goals on realistic achievements for those priorities and plan for what you’ll do when you achieve those goals.

2)      Be honest with yourself.  Who do you want to be when no one is watching? Deep down, what are the characteristics you value most? And how can you cultivate those in yourself?

3)      Say no.  Just because you have a time slot open in your calendar doesn’t mean you have to fill it if something comes up that you think you “should” do.  I find myself overcommitting and switching around other things in my calendar to accommodate obligations that I didn’t even want to do in the first place!  This year, I’m going to say “I’m sorry, I won’t be able to make it” a lot more and “Absolutely, do you need me to get there early and stay after to clean up too?” a lot less!  And, I won’t feel guilty about it. Saying “no” to others often means saying “yes” to yourself.

4)      Don’t listen to everyone.  You are the expert in you. Ask yourself first! Collecting opinions can be valuable, but ultimately you get to decide. I find that when I’m having a hard time making a decision, if I just sit and really ask myself what I should do, I know the answer. But acting on that knowledge is what’s difficult.

At the end of the day, you really have to listen to and trust yourself.  But, you don’t have to take my word for it – you are the expert in you!

4 Reasons Traveling is Great for Your Health

castelmezzano-1979546_1920 (1)Travel is one of the best things you can do for your overall health and wellbeing.

Yes, travel can be stressful. But overall when you go to new places you gain so much!

Your only limitation is what you can afford. So save up and plan your next vacation already!

You’ll move more. 
There are so many things to see and do – so you will get up and moving more than usual. Movement throughout the day is the best way to improve your health, and that’s traveling in a nutshell! Your whole cardiovascular system will thank you. Plus, movement reduces stress. And these physical benefits last even after travel. According to one study, “travelers experience a 25% increase in performance on vigilance tests after returning from vacation.” (Vigilance tests refer to responding quickly to visual stimuli.)

You’ll use your brain differently.
The brain is a muscle – and just like those biceps, the brain benefits from regular challenge and activity. Travel means your environment changes, forcing your brain to think in new ways as well. Your brain will be constantly on the go, improving your memory and cognitive abilities. Mental health is also improved – you have an opportunity to set aside your daily responsibilities and focus on yourself. You can explore, relax, or both (relaxploration!). The schedule for the day is based on you. In addition to stress relief, some studies show that anticipating upcoming travel correlates to happiness.

You’ll socialize.
Travel is all about people. Even if you are traveling solo – reach out of your shell. If you go to a coffee shop, a local bar/restaurant, or take a bus or train ride, chat with your neighbors. Social interaction is linked to improved cognitive function and decreased levels of stress hormones! Just like physical wellness, social wellness benefits last long after you return from travels. In fact, 53% of employed Americans reported that they feel more reconnected with family members after a vacation.

the-sea-3058780_1920You’ll be more mindful . 
Traveling allows you to cultivate mindfulness. You will have time for reflection and introspection. You have the opportunity to be present in the moment and focus your attention on taking in your new surroundings. Exploring the natural surroundings at your destination can connect you spiritually with things greater than yourself. Traveling involves a lot of waiting, so patience is also a good practice while traveling. The unexpected will happen while traveling, so practice keeping an open mind and staying flexible to make room for changing plans.

So, what are you waiting for? Get out there and travel for you and your health.