Medical Mythbusters – sexual positions!

I’ve been lucky enough to co-faciliate some sexual health information sessions with our friends over at Student Wellness.  They’re great – students write down any question they have about sexual health, we collect them and answer all of them for the group.  I love these sessions because after we sift through the obvious jokes (“Why do I mack so many b—-es?”  I don’t know, maybe they’re attracted to your maturity?...) we get to some questions that are obviously important to students but are just too embarrassing to ask in person.  These questions are usually the ones that involve a lot of medical “myths” and you know what that means… time for some medical mythbusting! 

Q: Can a woman get pregnant if she’s on top?

A: There are lots of myths surrounding sexual positions, and they invariably have to do with the probability of getting pregnant and determining the sex of babies.  I’ve heard them all: women can’t get pregnant if they’re on top; using the rear-entry position (“doggy style”) will improve the chance of having a male baby; lying on the left side during sex will lead to female babies while lying on your right side will lead to males, etc. 

These myths have been around for a long time.  In previous centuries, French noblemen even went so far as to have their left testice removed in order to produce a male heir!  Others took the less drastic – but I would imagine only slightly less painful – route of simplying tying it off.  Nowadays, the explanations sound a little more scientific – male sperm are faster than female sperm, yada yada yada – but they’re all still just as bogus… especially this one.

So, to answer this question… YES, YES, YES a woman can get pregnant if she’s on top.  This myth relies on the old “theory of gravity” defense: if the woman is above the man, then any sperm that is ejaculated upward will quickly fall back down like the water in a fountain and never reach the cervical opening.  

But the problem is that the vagina is a potential space.  Think of a balloon.  When it is deflated there’s no space at all inside of it but it can expand to hold a large volume of air.  When you let the air out, it collapses back down.  The vagina is the same way: it expands to accomodate the penis during sex and when the penis is withdrawn, the walls collapse right back down.  So any sperm left behind will be pressed right up against the cervical opening thereby maximizing the opportunity for conception.  (Not to mention the fact that if the woman is lucky enough to have an orgasm, the vaginal walls undergo a series of contractions that also help push the sperm towards the cervix).   

So ladies, please don’t fall for this one.  Like most of these sexual myths, they were invented a long time ago by guys who didn’t necessarily have your best interests at heart.  Whether you’re upside down, sideways, hanging from the ceiling or doing 100 jumping jacks after the fact, you can still get pregnant if you don’t protect yourself properly.  If you have any questions about how to do that, feel free to come in and talk to the experts in our women’s services – they’ll give you the real story.  

John Vaughn, MD – Ohio State Student Health Services

Medical Mythbusters – Poison Ivy!

poison ivy

rashes caused by poison ivy

Now that we are in the dog days of summer, an old friend is rearing it’s ugly, leafy head.  Yes, it’s poison ivy season, my friends, and while most of us think we know all there is to know about this itch-inducing plant, there are some medical myths lurking around it that need to be busted! 

First, the facts:  Poison ivy, poison oak, and poison sumac plants are all coated with a colorless oil called urushiol.  After contact with urushiol, about half of us will develop intense itching, swelling, and skin redness. Then, we will develop fluid-filled blisters that are often arranged in a line or streak.  (See photos)  The symptoms are usually most severe within 1 to 14 days after exposure to the plant, but can occur up to 21 days after exposure if someone had never been exposed to urushiol before.

Technically speaking, poison ivy usually resolves within 1-3 weeks without treatment, but without something to control the itching they will be the longest 3 weeks of your life.  A group of medications called antihistamines are very good at reducing the itching: diphenydramine (Benadryl) is good for night time because it makes you sleepy and loratadine (Claritin) and cetirizine (Zyrtec) are good for daytime because they don’t.  Oatmeal baths, calamine lotion and hydrocortisone cream are also sometimes helpful, but the best way to knock out the rash and itching is to see your primary health care provider to get a prescription steroid treatment.  Sometimes you can get by with just a shot, but that often does’t last long enough (1-2 days) so you can take a course of pills over a couple of weeks.

Now, on to the myth…

TRUE OR FALSE: Poison Ivy is contagious

FALSE!! 

Poison ivy is not contagious and can not be passed from person to person.  Only contact with urushiol will cause someone else to get poison ivy – the fluid that leaks from blisters does not contain the oil and can not cause symptoms.  Once you’ve washed the urushiol off of your skin (and clothes and fingernails and gardening tools and pets…) you can not spread poison ivy to someone else or yourself.  The rash sometimes appears to be “spreading” from one part of the body to another, but this is because blisters develop at different rates in different parts of the body – any real spreading that went on happened before you realized you had the urushiol on your skin.  This explains why poison ivy has such an unfortunate predilection for our privates.  Please believe me – if you’ve been weeding in the yard, or camping in the woods, make sure you wash your hands before you go to the bathroom as well as after…

John Vaughn, MD – Ohio State Student Health Services

Addressing your vaccine needs

We have recently posted a few news items about immunizations, including the current adult immunization schedule, H1N1 flu updates, and information on Pneumococcal vaccine.  There is also new state legislation on the move that will require residence hall students to provide proof of certain immunizations, starting in 2010.  Finally, with the influenza outbreak, we anticipate there will be a lot of interest in our flu vaccine programs for this fall, as well as any H1N1-specific vaccine that comes along. 

Our questions to you:  How are you doing with keeping up with your shots?  Do you keep a personal shot record with you here at school?  If you needed a vaccination, do you know how to get it done through your doctor at home or here at Student Health? 

Please reply to our blog so that we can get a discussion going about these general questions.  Of course, as always, if you have specific questions about getting care at Student Health, email us directly at shs@osu.edu.

Have a healthy summer!

Roger Miller, MD, for BuckMD

 

 

 

 

No Ham on Reye

Ok, BuckMD here again, and using a catchy, cryptic title to see if people are still blogging during the summer months!  What is “No Ham on Reye” all about?

The H1N1 influenza is a newly mutated virus composed of strains from pigs, birds and humans.  Technically, it is not Swine Flu, since there are specific types of influenza that occur in pigs.  You will have to blog with a veterinarian to find out more about pigs with runny noses and fever, but I understand this does happen. 

Anyway, I am still seeing some references to this outbreak using “Swine Flu” as the name, rather than the more scientifically based “Novel Influenza A (H1N1) type” title used by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).  So, I am being liberal in using Ham as a swine metaphor, but it just looked better than “Novel Influenza A (H1N1) type on Reye”.

The Reye part refers to Reye’s Syndrome, which is a rare but serious nervous system disorder associated with certain viral infections and the use of aspirin and other products containing medicines known as salicylic acid or salicylates.  These compounds, which are used in lots of medicines found in the drug aisle, are generally used to treat pain and fever.  In the 1980’s, we found that, rarely, children treated with salicylates developed confusion and delirium when these medicines were given for viral illnesses like influenza.  A few of these children fell into comas and died.  A tragic end for what started with a short-term illness.  There have also been a few cases of Reye’s syndrome in adults.

Since then, most children’s cold and flu medicines have taken salicylates out of their formulas (formulae, for the Latin scholars out there), and use acetaminophen or ibuprofen for pain and fever busting. 

My point – with more flu in the community, it is wise to avoid using salicylate-containing products to treat your symptoms.  Read the ingredients on the products in your medicine cabinet before you take them for your next fever or cold symptom.  For more information, check out the National Reye’s Syndrome Foundation website.

Roger Miller, MD, for BuckMD