Medication Safety

Medication (3).pngCollege may be the first time you’re responsible for managing your health and medicines on your own. Here are 4 easy tips for using your medicines safely.

#1: Follow Directions
You hear it in your classes all the time, but following directions applies to your medicines too. Taking too much or too little of your medicine may make you sick. Be sure to use your medicines as directed – read the directions on the label and ask your healthcare provider how much you should take and when.

Use Medicines as Directed.

  • Read the directions on the label and ask your healthcare provider how much you should take and when.
  • Never skip taking your prescription medicine. Talk to your healthcare provider before you stop taking your medicines.
  • Only take the suggested dose.

Avoid Common Problems.

  • Don’t share medicines.
  • Don’t use medicine in the dark where you can’t see what you are taking.

#2: Ask Questions
Your professors encourage you to ask questions about assignments, so why not ask your
healthcare provider about your medicines? Campus Health Pharmacy and Student Stores Pharmacy can explain the facts about every medicine you take, including prescriptions, over-the-counter medicines, and vitamins. They can tell you about any side effects or special warnings, and if there are any types of food you should avoid while taking the medicine.

Ask your doctor, nurse, or pharmacist to tell you the facts about each medicine you take.

  • What is the name of the medicine?
  • What is the active ingredient(s)?
  • What is the medicine for?
  • How much do I take and when should I take it?
  • What does it look like?
  • When does it expire?
  • Are there any side effects or special warnings?
  • What should I do if I start having side effects?
  • Can I take it if I am pregnant or breastfeeding?
  • What other medicines or foods should I avoid?

#3: Do Not Use Expired Medicine
Just like that yogurt that’s been sitting in the back of your fridge, your medicines expire too. Check the box or the prescription label for the expiration date before taking any medicine, or dietary supplement. Expired medicines may not work or may make you sick. If you’re unsure of a medicine’s expiration, just ask your healthcare provider or pharmacist! They can help make sure all of your medicines are safe to take.

#4: Store Safely
It may be convenient to keep your medicines in plain sight to help remember to take them, but it’s important to store medicines safely. Put your medicines away after each use, and keep them out of sight. Medicines can cause harm if taken by the wrong person.

Ask your doctor, nurse or pharmacist how you should get rid of unused medicines. Find out if you should:

  • flush it down the toilet or sink.
  • put it in a sealed plastic bag with coffee grounds or kitty litter and throw it in the trash.
  • drop it off at a drug take-back program in your community.

Be sure to scratch off your name and personal information before you put empty pill bottles in the trash.

Make sure that children can’t get to medicines including patches that you put in the trash.

If you are a UNC community member and have questions about your medication, call Campus Health Pharmacy at 919-966-6554.

 

Other than Salt-n-Pepa, does anybody actually talk openly and honestly about sex?

sexual communicationOther than Salt-n-Pepa, does anybody actually talk openly and honestly about sex? Turns out the answer is YES for Carolina students!  91% of UNC-Chapel Hill first years say they’d communicate with a partner about what they want in a sexual situation.  Now, we know that all first- years are not the same; different groups of students have different attitudes and beliefs. However, interestingly enough this statistic doesn’t change a whole lot across different gender identities, races, and sexual orientations (ranges from 88%-93%).

 

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Alicia Keys Photo by Intel Free Press, Flickr Creative Commons

Not convinced?  Famous musical artists across the decades would agree with 91% of UNC first-years, and have rather good advice and examples of how to communicate about sex. Salt-n-pepa kicks us off with the obvious, “let’s talk about sex, baby, let’s talk about you and me”. Coldplay chimes in about getting it on with, “Turn your magic on, to me she’d say ,…  ‘Oh you make me feel like I’m alive again’”  John Legend and Marvin Gaye (respectively) ask for affirmative verbal consent singing, “I just need permission, so give me the green light” and “I’m asking you baby to get it on with me, I ain’t gonna worry, I ain’t gonna push, won’t push you baby”.  Lauryn Hill talks about what she likes singing, “The sweetest thing I’ve ever known is your kiss upon my collar bone.” And then there’s Alicia Keys showing us how to set some boundaries, “There’s an attraction we can’t just ignore, but before we go too far across the line I gotta really make sure that I’m really sure.”

 

 

 

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Coldplay Photo by pinero.beatriz, Flickr Creative Commons
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John Legend Photo by Fantasy Springs, Flickr Creative Commons

 

 

 

 

 

 

Speaking of talking about sex… what does “sex” refer to anyways?  Study after study after study has shown that everyone defines sex very differently.  So, for the remainder of this blog, we’re going to focus on “sexual behavior/ activity”, which can include wide a range of behaviors done with ourselves or others including hugging, kissing, vaginal sex, holding hands, oral sex, abstinence, (mutual ) masturbation, different forms of physical intimacy, anal sex, the list goes on.  Some people have oral/ anal/ vaginal sex, other people are sexual in other ways, and some other people choose to abstain from some/ all of these things! Side note: it turns out lots of UNC students are abstaining in lots of different ways as well; click here to learn more! Moral of the story is, no matter what kinds of sexual behaviors you are or aren’t engaging in with other people, learning to talk about wants/needs and boundaries is important, and practice can help. 

Back to the point. If someone is interested in being sexually active, or is sexually active, why does everyone think talking about it with the people involved is such a good idea?  The long and short: talking means everyone is on the same page and everyone will have a better experience if there is clear communication. Loveisrespect.org would say that you’re the only person who knows what’s on your mind, so your partner won’t know unless you say it!  Along the same lines, you can’t know what your partner is thinking or wanting until you ask them and talk about it. We don’t always know how to talk about sexual activity, especially since we don’t always see representations of this in the media, and because we don’t often learn about how to communicate on this topic in school or from our families. However, it’s important for everybody to talk about what they like, don’t like, and what their boundaries are.  It’s also super important to listen to your partner, and respect the things they say and the boundaries they set.  Even if they have previously consented to intimacy, but do not desire to this time. This will show the person that what they say matters to you, and they’re more likely to trust you and listen to you as a result.

Some people think talking about being sexual is for folks in serious, long-term, committed relationships, however, this is just as, if not more, important for people who choose to have casual/ short-term sexual interactions! Why’s that?  Casual/ short-term sexual interactions often occur between people who don’t know each other well, and/or are interacting sexually for the first time.  Therefore, talking about expectations, limits and boundaries for sex (in ways that are comfortable, clear, and sexy) is even more important to make sure everybody is on the same page and having an equally positive experience. There are also people who choose to abstain from some or all sexual behaviors.  Do they need to talk about being sexual?  Absolutely!  Making sure there are clear lines of communication about what everyone wants in these situations is more important than ever so that everyone’s boundaries are understood and respected.

Sound hard/ challenging/ uncomfortable?  It’s easier (and sexier) than it sounds!  And, if someone knows what you like (and you know what they like), and everyone knows what’s on and off the table, it’ll be a lot more safe and satisfying, too. Here are some phrases our sexual wellness counselors recommend to get you started!

  • Do you want to…?
  • How would you feel about…?
  • How far do you see things going?
  • What do you want to do?
  • Would you like it if I…?
  • I want to…
  • I don’t want to…
  • That sounds amazing
  • Nope, not for me
  • I’m down to do… but I’m not into …

Still perplexed? Click here to take a free online course about creating and sustaining healthy relationships, INCLUDING skills around how to communicate and talk about sex in healthy ways. While the information is applicable to people of all sexual orientations and gender identities, these modules are centered on the experiences of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender/Trans*, Intersex, Queer, Questioning, Two Spirit, and Same Gender Loving communities. Whether you are looking to strengthen your own relationship skills or support others in their relationships—this course is for you!

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Have additional specific questions?  Make a free private SHARE appointment to talk about talking about sex.SHARE

We encourage you to think about one way you or a friend could communicate about healthy relationships and sex in an open and positive way.  If you or your friend feels uncomfortable talking about this, remember that 91% of your peers and several pop stars have your back and support talking it out! Continue reading

Supporting Healthy Bodies at UNC: Navigating Obesity, Eating Disorders, and Weight Bias

When discussing health, you’ll notice a trend between two approaches – weight normative and weight inclusive.

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Screenshot from American Heart Association, 1/25/2015

The weight-normative approach includes the many principles and practices that emphasize achieving a “normal” weight when defining health and well-being. This approach rests on the assumption that weight and disease are related in a linear fashion, with disease and weight increasing in tandem. Under the weight-normative approach, personal responsibility to make “healthy lifestyle choices” and maintain “healthy weights” are emphasized.  The approach prioritizes weight as a main determinant of health and as such, weight management (calories in/calories out) as a central component of health improvement and health care recommendations.

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Photo Credit: Prevention Magazine

Instead of imagining that well-being is only possible at a specific weight, a weight-inclusive approach includes research-informed practices that enhance people’s health regardless of where they fall on the weight spectrum. Under this paradigm, weight is not a focal point of treatment or intervention. Instead the weight-inclusive approach focuses on health behaviors that can be made more accessible to all people. These are behaviors such as exercising for pleasure, eating when hungry and stopping when full.

So is one better than the other? We’ll look at three questions to figure that out:

Continue reading

Setting up Patterns for Sleep Success

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Patterns. Sleep is all about patterns – we do it every single night, and our ability to sleep relies on the patterns we create with our daily lives. What else do you do every day that you could shift to help your sleep become a more regular pattern?

  • Exercise routine: A tired body usually means a tired mind. Make it a goal to move your body every single day.
  • Meditation: The main requirement of meditation? Focusing your thoughts – either on your breath or a mantra, something simple, like “I will be more mindful.” Beyond that – the where and the how long and pretty much everything else is up to you. Even a few minutes a day can help. Schedule it in – perhaps first thing when you wake up and right before you fall asleep. You can even meditate in your bed – that’s absolutely allowed.
  • Eat a variety of nutrient dense, processed-as-little-as-possible foods. These are less likely to have caffeine nor high amounts of sugar and are more likely to nourish your body the way it needs.
  • Create a routine of when you go to bed and wake up. College makes this difficult, but really – we all could use more regular sleep and wake times. Ideally this includes weekends as well. Is there a wake time you could imagine working for your weekdays and weekends? Try it out for a week and see how it goes.
  • Create a sleep sanctuary. What’s your bedroom like? Cool it down at night, try to keep it quiet (now’s a great time to try earplugs and white noise at night if you have loud roommates), keep it dark (a sleep mask or blackout curtains might help!). Do anything you can to make your bedroom a place of relaxation and relief from the stress of the outside world.

What do you do right before you try to fall asleep?

  • Screen use just before bed: consider installing a filter to add red to the visual. Research has shown that blue lights of screens can mess with our brains, where the red filter helps our brain think of sunsets and sleep.  Or consider keeping all screens out of your bedroom. Make your room a space reserved for sleep.
  • Exercise just before bed: consider doing more flow yoga or a chill walk just before bed and scheduling your hardcore cardio and lifting to earlier in the day or early evening. But – your bigger priority should be to get exercise at some time each day. Movement helps our bodies be tired and ready to sleep.
  • Good options before bedtime: book reading, meditation, writing down things from the day that are running through your brain so you don’t have to think about them anymore, really any sleep routine. A good example of a sleep routine? Take a warm shower, put on pajamas, brush your teeth, read a chapter of a good novel, earplugs in, sleep mask on, nightymcnightpants.

After you have put in some effort into sleep hygiene (that’s a real term describing steps like those above), and you’re still having trouble, come see a provider at Campus Health. Some providers may recommend further changes to sleep hygiene, medication, or the use of a phone app (CBT-i Coach on Play and iTunes), which can be used alone and in conjunction with a medical provider to improve your sleep. Make an appointment at CHS to learn more.

 

Photo credit: Gabriel Gonzalez, Flickr Creative Commons

Financial Wellness in the Holiday Season

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Regardless of what holidays we choose to celebrate, December can be rough on budgets, especially for college students. Between travel expenses, winter break plans, going out with friends to celebrate the end of the semester, and buying gifts, we often quickly spend much more money than we may have planned. Americans spend more during winter holidays than any other time of the year. Back-to-school shopping and sales during winter holidays make up about 20% of all retail throughout the year!

It’s especially important during this time of the year to prioritize financial wellness, which involves setting and achieving both long and short-term personal financial goals. Everyone’s financial status and goals are different, depending on income, wealth, spending, debt, values, etc., and are situated within our society’s financial and economic context.

Take some time to think about your finances.

How much do you have to spend?

How much do you need to save?

What are the most important things for you to spend money on or save money for?

Here are some ideas to keep your budget happy this season!

  1. Practice mindfulness. Being mindful means paying attention to what you are doing, noticing your thoughts, sensations, and the world around you without judgment. Research shows that mindfulness can actually help you make better decisions.
  2. Set a budget. What’s important to you? What are you going to need/want money for? Decide what you are able to afford based on your priorities and values, and then stick to it. Check out this list of apps for budgeting tools.
  3. Make a list and check it twice. This will help you stay focused on what you need and avoid purchasing on impulse. Check out these strategies to avoid impulse purchases!
  4. Try DIY gifts! Homemade gifts are wonderful both for your budget and for adding that personal touch to let your family and friends know how much you care. Need some inspiration? Here are 50 of the best DIY gift ideas.
  5. Give of your time. Some of the best gifts are things you can do for or with another person. For those of us that are craft-challenged, here are some great alternatives.
  6. Host a potluck. If you want to get together with friends, consider having a potluck instead of going out for an expensive meal. This way, you don’t have to get everyone to agree on a restaurant, and you’ll spend a lot less. Maybe try out a pizza potluck – everyone brings their favorite ingredient to share (just make sure someone brings the crust!). Instead of spending $20+ on a meal at a restaurant, you’ll spend less than $5 on your topping—plus, it’s a lot more fun!
  7. Be careful with credit card purchases.Having a credit card can be great for building credit, but it’s especially important during this time of the year to make sure we’re able to pay off the card on time at the end of the month. It’s also a time of year when our schedules are different than normal, so be sure to set a reminder for when you need to pay your bills. If you struggle with spending too much when you use a credit card, try only taking cash when you go shopping.

The end of the semester can be stressful with exams and final papers, and worrying about money can just make everything more complicated. Do yourself a favor and lessen some of the stress by prioritizing your financial wellness!

This blog was updated from November 2015 and written by Kaitlyn Brodar. Kaitlyn was the Program Assistant for Resiliency Initiatives at UNC Student Wellness and a Master of Public Health graduate student with a focus in Health Behavior at UNC Gillings School of Global Public Health. She previously worked in cognitive psychology research on post-traumatic stress disorder after earning her bachelor’s in Psychology at Duke University.

Be Good To Yourself

I love uplifting music with inspirational messages. Recently, I was listening to one of my favorite musical artists, Ledisi. She has a song called “Be Good To Yourself”, and the following lyrics from that song really resonated with me:

“Oh, when you’re traveling

Through the highs and the lows

Make sure you listen to your spirit

You gotta take care of your soul

Hold on, never give up

You can get through whatever

Always make time

For yourself, whoo”

 These lyrics resonated with me because they reminded me of wellness. wellness

Wellness integrates your mind, body and spirit. The dimensions of wellness is a concept used to express that integration. The model used by UNC Student Wellness integrates the following seven dimensions of wellness:

  1. Physical Wellness which includes the ability to maintain a healthy quality of life that allows you to get through your daily activities without undue fatigue or physical stress.
  2. Emotional Wellness which includes the ability to understand yourself and adequately cope with the challenges life brings.
  3. Social Wellness which includes the ability to successfully interact with people in our world, participating in and feeling connected to your community.
  4. Spiritual Wellness which includes your search for meaning and purpose in human existence.
  5. Academic Wellness which includes the ability to open your mind to new ideas and experiences that can be applied to personal decisions, group interaction and community betterment.
  6. Financial Wellness which includes awareness of your current financial state.
  7. Environmental Wellness which includes the ability to recognize (1) your own responsibility for the quality of the air, the water and the land that surrounds you and (2) that your social, natural, and built environment affect your health.

(To learn more about any of these dimensions please click on the hyperlinks above)

As I reflect on my own journey as a UNC undergraduate and now graduate student, I realize that wellness is often neglected during this time of year. It’s getting close to the end of the semester so there are exams, presentations, and papers galore! Lots of attention is focused on the ‘academic dimension’ of wellness. However, even in the midst of academic craziness, it’s important to, as Ledisi said, “listen to your spirit”, “take care of your soul”, and “make time for yourself”.

In light of the connection between your mind, body and spirit, I encourage you to “Be Good To Yourself” during the end of the semester and think about the other dimensions of your wellness in addition to the ‘academic dimension’. Taking a short break to pay attention to your physical, emotional, social, spiritual, financial, or environmental wellness can help you feel more balanced. At first glance, this list of dimensions may seem overwhelming so here are some simple ideas to get you started.

strechEngage in Activity: Research shows that becoming more active can make you feel better.  Here’s some simple ways you be more active.

  • Take a walk.
  • Take the steps instead of the elevator.
  • Turn on some music and dance around.
  • Take a stretch break.

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Connect with Others: Research shows a powerful connection between social connection and well-being. Here’s some simple ways you can build your social relationships.

  • Have lunch with a friend. For a list of on-campus dining options click here
  • Call someone from your hometown.
  • Watch a movie with your roommate. Tip: You can reserve movies for free at the Undergraduate Library- click here to learn more.
  • Need to talk to someone else? Consider talking with a UNC CAPS counselor. They’re open for walk-in first time counseling appointments on Monday – Friday from 9am-12 and 1pm-4. Check the events calendar on the home page for any closures for holidays and breaks.circle

Chill Out: There are many wellness-related benefits of relaxation. Here’s some simple ways you can relax.

Havmusice other simple ideas for how to “Be Good To Yourself”? Share them in the comments section below!

Sources:

Brock, R. (n.d.). Kids in Action: Stretches and Warm-Ups Clip Art 18 PNGs. Retrieved from http://www.teacherspayteachers.com/Product/Kids-in-Action-Stretches-and-Warm-Ups-Clip-Art-18-PNGs-869484

Fox, K. R. (1999). The influence of physical activity on mental well-being. Public health nutrition, 2(3a), 411-418.

Hicks, M. (n.d.). two friends. Retrieved from http://school.discoveryeducation.com/clipart/clip/friends5-color.html

Klein, S. (2012, April 16). Stress Awareness Day: 10 Health Benefits Of Relaxation. Retrieved from http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/04/13/stress-awareness-day-relaxation-benefits_n_1424820.html

Perry, P. (n.d.) Music Clipart Image: Teenager listening to mp3 music player. Retrieved from http://www.computerclipart.com/computer_clipart_images/teenager_listening_to_mp3_music_player_0515-1003-0104-3355.html

Seppala, E (2012, August 26). Connect To Thrive. Retrieved from http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/feeling-it/201208/connect-thrive

Terrigno, N. (n.d.). Friendship Globe Art + Border Graphics fro Multicultural Projects Retrieved from http://esl-multicultural-stuff-page2.blogspot.com/p/friendship-circle-clip-art-graphic.html

Originally posted December 2013 by Callie Womble

Callie Womble worked for Student Wellness as an undergraduate and graduate student at UNC. She now is a PhD student at NC State studying Educational Research and Policy Analysis, with a specialization in Higher Education Administration. Her doctoral research agenda focuses on critical race theory; grit and resiliency; and science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) education.

How to Not Get Sick

Have you been sick recently? Have that little sore throat that shows up when you’re just about to get sick? 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. You may remember from the movie Contagion that people touch their face 2,000 to 3,000 times a day. This might be a bit of an overestimate, but 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 that I couldn’t think of

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 given to children have saved more than 732,000 lives and trillions of dollars over the last 2 decade. 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 will 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, and will remain available through at least January.

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.