Self-care Guide

A quick reference for common health questions and emergencies facing students today.

 

Keep this handy! You’ll be able to use this site on multiple occasions throughout the school year as a reference for common questions you and your friends may have about ailments, emergencies, addictions, etc. It has been written for students by a staff of multi-disciplined, board-certified physicians who practice medicine throughout the United States.

 

 Also look for the Student Health 101 magazine, the monthly publication dedicated to improving the health and wellness of students. Your school is distributing this information to its students to inform them about health issues. Your school is not responsible for the content or opinions expressed in this publication. This health guide is for your information only.

 

 Part of maintaining your health is knowing when to seek professional guidance. The staff of physicians who wrote this guide researched and compiled it with the utmost care; however, it is no substitute for a diagnosis and treatment plan obtained via consultation with a qualified professional medical provider.  Each individual has a unique history, environment and body. This site provides high quality general guidance, but is tailored to a broad audience. If your provider’s advice conflicts with information in this publication, always follow your provider’s recommendations.

Emergencies & Injuries

It is a good idea to have a first aid guide on hand. Here’s one from the American Red Cross. The American Red Cross also publishes First Aid phone apps.

Stings and Bites

Jump to:  Animal Bites    |    Insect Bites and Stings   |    Tick Bites    Animal Bites Dogs and cats are the most common perpetrators of animal bites. Bites from wild animals that may carry rabies, such as skunks, raccoons, bats, and foxes, are less common, but...

Nosebleeds

Nose bleeds generally respond well to home treatment. The most common causes are nasal trauma, nose picking, cold and allergies, dry air, and medications. Prevention Humidify your room/home if you live in a dry climate, especially during dry winter months. Spray nasal...

Heat Stroke / Exhaustion

Heat stroke is a life-threatening condition that strikes when your body’s cooling mechanism fails. Signs of heat stroke include a very high body temperature; hot, dry skin; the absence of sweating, and confusion or loss of consciousness. Heat exhaustion is...

Frostbite

Frostbite is a freezing of the skin or underlying tissue that occurs as a result of exposure to cold temperatures. It can occur quickly in very cold weather or in conditions where wind chill speeds up body heat loss. Frostbite generally affects the toes, feet,...

Fever

A fever is a body temperature greater than 100.4°F (38.0°C) when taken by mouth. It is a symptom, but not a disease. A fever is usually a sign that your body is fighting infection, most often a viral infection. Most healthy adults tolerate fever without any long-term...

Cuts and Scrapes

CUTS A cut, or laceration, occurs when the skin is sliced open.    Home Care Assess the degree of bleeding Attempt to stop the bleeding To stop minor bleeding: Apply direct pressure over the wound for ten to 15 minutes. Wash the cut well with soap and water once the...

Choking

Choking occurs when an object (usually food) blocks the flow of air through the windpipe. Someone who is choking cannot talk, cough, or breathe. They typically signal this by clutching their hands to their throat.. The victim may turn blue and/or lose consciousness....

Chest Pain / Heart Attack

Chest pain is a symptom of a variety of medical conditions, including cardiac conditions, muscle strain (usually from coughing or sneezing), indigestion, pneumonia, or rib injuries. Chest pain from a heart attack is usually felt as a crushing or squeezing sensation....

Burns

Heat, chemicals, electricity, or radiation can cause burns. A burn is classified by its depth. A first-degree burn, such as mild sunburn, affects only the outer skin layer, and causes it to become dry, red, and painful without blistering. Long-term tissue damage is...

Bruises

Bruises, or contusions, are caused by direct trauma to the small blood vessels under the skin. Bleeding in these tissues causes the black and blue coloration of a bruise. Treatment    Home Care Apply ice or cold packs to the area for 15 to 20 minutes,...

Blood Under the Nail

Bleeding under a nail after any injury to a finger or toe can be very painful. Common causes are single traumas, such as shutting a finger in a door, and repetitive trauma such as toes pounding the front of overly tight shoes or cleats. Trauma to the tissue under the...

Bleeding (severe)

Severe lacerations, or cuts, can cause severe or brisk bleeding, especially if an artery is involved. Professional Care Call 911 immediately. Promptly have the victim lie down. Elevate the site that is bleeding and apply firm, direct pressure to the site...

Addictions

According to the American Society of Addiction Medicine: Addiction is a primary, chronic disease of brain reward, motivation, memory and related circuitry. Dysfunction in these circuits leads to characteristic biological, psychological, social and spiritual manifestations. This is reflected in an individual pathologically pursuing reward and/or relief by substance use and other behaviors.

Addiction is characterized by inability to consistently abstain, impairment in behavioral control, craving, diminished recognition of significant problems with one’s behaviors and interpersonal relationships, and a dysfunctional emotional response. Like other chronic diseases, addiction often involves cycles of relapse and remission. Without treatment or engagement in recovery activities, addiction is progressive and can result in disability or premature death.

Drug Abuse and Drug Addiction

Drug abuse is the use of a substance, be it a “street” or prescription drug, to get high or gain pleasure or benefit. This is distinct from a usual prescription plan formed with a medical provider, which involves taking a specified dose of a medicine on a...

Gambling Addiction

Some people enjoy gambling as they would enjoy a game, but for certain people it can become an addiction as powerful as any drug. A gambling addiction can interfere with any major area of life such as work, school, family, or finances. The addiction is...

Alcohol Abuse

When alcohol begins to consistently cause problems in a person’s life, it is termed alcohol abuse. This can include problems with your health, your education, your work, or your family. Alcohol abuse for one person may mean drinking every day, and for another it may...

Smoking / Vaping

Quitting smoking/vaping is the single most important thing you can do to improve your health. The best reason to quit smoking/vaping is that quitting reduces your risk of dying. Smoking/vaping causes 1 in 5 deaths in the United States every year....

Bone and muscle conditions

Strains, Sprains and Fractures

A strain is an injury caused by over-extending or over-using a muscle. A sprain is an injury to a muscle, a tendon (tissue that connects muscle to bone), or a ligament (tissue that connects bone to bone). A fracture is a broken bone. Common causes of these injuries...

Back pain

A very common condition most often caused by strained muscles in the lower back cause. Other causes include sports injuries, a herniated (bulging) disc, arthritis, and osteoporosis. Sciatica is irritation of the sciatic nerve, which runs from the low back, through the...

Digestive and abdominal conditions

Nausea and Vomiting

Most cases of nausea and vomiting are harmless and resolve on their own. However, sometimes, more serious conditions cause these symptoms. The range of conditions that may cause nausea and vomiting includes: Over indulgence, especially with alcohol Infection from...

Hemorrhoids

Hemorrhoids are swollen veins inside or outside the anus. Internal hemorrhoids are dilated veins inside the rectum that do not hurt but may bleed or occasionally bulge through the anus. External hemorrhoids are on the outside of the anus and can itch and cause pain if...

Heartburn

Despite its name, heartburn does not affect the heart. Heartburn occurs when there is an abnormal entry of stomach acids back into the esophagus. This causes a burning feeling in the chest that spreads towards the neck. You may also experience a sour taste in your...

Diarrhea

Diarrhea occurs when stools are pushed through the intestines before the water in them can be absorbed into the body. This causes more frequent, looser stools, sometimes with abdominal cramping. There are many cause of diarrhea, the most common of which includes...

Dehydration

Dehydration is the failure to keep up with loss of water and salt from the body. The most common cause is exposure to very hot or arid (low humidity, such as occurs in desert or winter conditions). Fever can also cause dehydration, as can diarrhea. Dehydration is...

Constipation

Constipation occurs when stool is hard, dry, and difficult to pass. Normal bowel movement frequency varies from person to person. Some pass stools two or three times a day, while others, every three to five days. If your stools are soft and pass easily, you are not...

Abdominal Pain

Many different conditions can cause pain in the abdomen. The source can be as simple as gas or a pulled abdominal muscle, or it could be as serious as pain radiating to the abdomen from a heart attack. Dysfunction in any one of the organs can lead to abdominal pain....

Eye conditions

Pink Eye (Conjunctivitis)

Pink eye, or conjunctivitis, is an inflammation of the tissue that lines the surface of the eye and the inside of the eyelids. Symptoms include red irritation of the membranes of the eye, tearing, and a gritty feeling in the eye. All types of conjunctivitis can cause...

Eye Injuries

Eye injuries or pain frequently require a visit to your medical provider. One of the most common causes of eye pain is a chemical or object, such as dirt, in the eye. This can cause irritation and damage to the cornea (the clear covering of the eye). Other causes of...

Exercise

Exercise

If you want to significantly improve your health, increase your physical activity now! Exercise reduces the risk for heart disease, diabetes, and many other health problems. It can help you relieve stress and maintain an appropriate body weight. It literally benefits...

Headaches

Headaches

Headache is one of the most common reasons patients seek help from care providers. However, most headaches are not serious and can be safely treated at home. The most common headaches, tension headache and migraine headache, can be classified as primary. Some...

Mental health

Eating Disorders

At any given time, approximately 33% of the population in the United States report that they are dieting, despite being of normal weight. When dieting adversely affects a person’s health it is referred to as an eating disorder. Anorexia nervosa, bulimia...

Anxiety

The daily course of life generates many situations where feeling worried or anxious is normal. However, when anxiety is overwhelming to the point that it adversely interferes with your ability to lead your daily life, it is cause to seek the advice of your medical...

Depression

More severe than just occasional feelings of sadness that most people experience with the ups and downs of life, depression is characterized by persistent, uncontrollable sadness, anxiety, and hopelessness that last longer than two weeks. Women and men of all ages can...

Mononucleosis

Mononucleosis

Mononucleosis, also called mono or the “kissing disease”, is a syndrome, or set of symptoms, most often caused by infection with Epstein Barr Virus (EBV). Mono is most common in people ages 15 to 35. Like the common cold, mono is spread by exchange of saliva, either...

Respiratory conditions

Sinusitis

Sinuses are air-filled spaces in the bone behind the cheeks and forehead. Sinusitis is an inflammation or infection of the sinuses. It is usually viral, typically caused by the same viruses that cause colds. Other causes include smoking, allergies, polyps (growths of...

Shortness of Breath

Difficulty breathing is often frightening, and can be symptom of ailments as serious heart attack or other heart problems (see “Chest Pain”). However, it may also signal a wide range of other conditions, including asthma, allergic reactions, pneumonia, and anxiety...

Laryngitis (Hoarse Voice)

Laryngitis is inflammation of the voice box (larynx) causing hoarseness. It is usually caused by a viral infection such as a cold. Other causes include excessive talking, yelling, or singing; smoking; and reflux of stomach acid into the voice-box area. In most cases,...

Flu (Influenza)

Influenza, or “the flu”, is an infection of the nose, throat, airways, and muscles. It is not the same thing as the common cold. It is usually much more severe, causing very high fevers, muscle pain, headache, fatigue, chills, and dry cough. Most people with the flu...

Colds

The common cold is an infection of the nose, throat, ears, and sinuses caused by any one of hundreds of viruses. Symptoms can include a runny nose, sneezing, sore throat, cough, body aches, and fever. Coughing, sneezing, or touching hands easily spreads cold viruses...

Allergic Rhinitis

Symptoms of allergic rhinitis include coughing, sneezing, itchy throat and eyes, and clear nasal discharge. Some common triggers include pollen, mold or mildew, animal dander, and dust mites. Seasonal allergies return at the same time each year and are usually due to...

Sexual health

Sexually Transmitted Infections (STI’s or STD’s)

This is a complex and evolving topic. Readers are encouraged to supplement the material found here with other high quality sources of information and resources such as CDC’s STD homepage: https://www.cdc.gov/std/default.htm. Sexually transmitted infections are spread...

Sexual Assault

The legal definition of sexual assault depends upon the state in which you live, but generally, it is any sexual act (genital, anal, or oral penetration) that is performed without mutual consent. Consent cannot be granted by someone under the influence of alcohol or...

Infertility

Approximately 15% of couples in the United States are infertile. For healthy, young couples, the odds are approximately 20% that a woman will become pregnant during one menstrual cycle. This figure declines with age, especially after the age of 35. When a...

Contraception

Numerous options are available to prevent pregnancy. Generally contraception methods fall into three categories: non-hormonal methods, hormonal methods and permanent sterilization. Most experts no recommend long-acting reversible contraception for females...

Skin conditions

Sunburn

Sunburn is damage to the skin caused by ultraviolet (UV) light from the sun or tanning beds. Sunburn may occur on cloudy days and even in colder temperatures when UV light reflects off snow and water. Most sunburns are first-degree burns, which involve...

Scabies

Scabies mites are tiny insects that dig tunnels under the skin and lay eggs, leaving small raised bumps that can itch intensely. They are usually found on the wrists and ankles or between the fingers and toes; they can also affect the groin region. Avoid...

Poison Oak / Ivy / Sumac

In the United States, poison oak, poison ivy, and poison sumac are some of the leading causes of rashes. The rash is an allergic contact dermatitis triggered by an irritant oil from the plant. It occurs after contact with the plant itself, with clothing or...

Lice

Lice are tiny, white, wingless insects. Head lice live in the hair of the head, body lice live on clothing, and pubic lice (also called crabs) live in the groin and underarms. Lice lay eggs called nits that stick to the hair very close to the scalp. They feed by...

Ingrown Toenails

When a toenail is ingrown, the side of the nail grows down and into the skin, causing swelling, redness, and pain. The major cause of an ingrown nail is improperly cut nails or shoes that are too tight. Prevention Trim the nails straight across the top. Avoid trimming...

Hives

Hives, also called urticaria, are itchy, red raised welts. They range in size, can disappear and reappear at random, and usually last from a few minutes up to a few days. In rare cases they may become chronic. Hives are not contagious. They are usually caused by an...

Cold Sores

Cold sores, also called cold blisters or fever blisters, are small and red or clear. They usually appear on the lip and outer edge of the mouth. They generally dry up within a few days, scab, and the resolve, usually without scarring or marking. They can recur, and...

Canker Sores

Canker sores, also called aphthous ulcers, are shallow, painful sores that form on the inside of the mouth. Though physicians don’t fully understand what causes them, injuries to the inside of the mouth, infection and stress are a few possible contributing factors....

Blisters

Blisters are clear, fluid or blood-filled sacks on the skin. The majority result from prolonged pressure on, or rubbing of, the skin causing a shearing force between skin layers. Blisters can arise from illness, certain infections, allergic reactions or burns....

Acne

Acne is one of the most common skin problems in teens and young adults. Acne can occur anywhere on your body, but is most common on the face, shoulders, chest and back. The two key components of the acne-causing process are follicle plugging and infection. Treatments...

Sleep

Sleep

Sleep is a necessity, period. We all know it. We just have a tendency to selectively forget the fact. Too often, sleep is the first thing that students trade off in exchange for other demands on their time. Social activities, studying, and travel almost...

Urinary conditions

Urinary Tract / Bladder Infections

Urinary tract, or bladder infections are common health problems for women. They are caused by bacteria that enter through the urethra (the tube that drains urine from the bladder) and grow in the bladder, a normally sterile environment. Women are more likely to have...

Women's health

Uterine Bleeding

Menstruation is the regular cycle of monthly bleeding that females experience from puberty through menopause. Regular periods are consistent with regard to cycle length, duration of flow, and amount of bleeding. Dysfunctional uterine bleeding is...

Pregnancy

Prevention See section on “Contraception” in the Sexual Health chapter. Planning If you are planning or trying to get pregnant, you should speak with your primary provider about recommendations for optimizing your success and the health of your child....

Pelvic Pain

Many different conditions can cause pain that originates in the pelvic area. Sometimes, it is a sign of something serious, while at other times it is perfectly normal. Severe pain that starts suddenly may indicate a harmful process, such as a pelvic infection, an...

Pap Smears and Pelvic Exams

Regular Pap smears and pelvic examinations are critical to women’s health. These examinations can give you early insight into any abnormalities with your reproductive organs. Early detection is important to increasing the probability of effective...

Vaginal Infections (Vaginitis)

Most women experience a vaginal infection at some point, and some have recurrent problems for many years. The different types of vaginitis share some symptoms. Therefore, to ensure successful treatment, visit your medical provider for an exam, testing, and...

Premenstrual Syndrome (PMS)

Premenstrual syndrome affects many women in their reproductive years. Its cause is unknown. Some sufferers have severe symptoms and seek treatment, while others’ symptoms are mild. PMS begins near the middle of the cycle, around ovulation, and continues until the...

Breast Cancer

Breast cancer is the second leading cause of cancer deaths among women. Risk factors for breast cancer include: Advanced age Family history Obesity High-fat diet Excessive alcohol consumptions Early detection of breast cancer is vitally important. Perform...