Whooping Cough Alert!

Pertussis Campaign

BuckMD has been talking about Whooping Cough (pertussis) over the past few months. Outbreaks across the country, especially widespread in Callifornia, had prompted us to encourage Buckeye students to make sure they are vaccinated against this disease.

Now, the public health agencies of Columbus and Franklin County are reporting that there have been over 600 cases in our county in 2010 so far, and 200+ have been reported in August and September. With nearly 100 more so far in October, we are on our way to a record-breaking year, right along with the state and the country as a whole.

Pertussis is especially dangerous for infants, who do not have vaccine immunity yet, but it can also make adults very sick. Best to avoid it if you can, with a Tdap booster. Tdap is Tetanus-Diphtheria-acellular Pertussis, and is a new vaccine for adults since 2005. If you have not had a Tdap in the past five years, you should get one.

People who are around young children, daycare centers, or health facilities are strongly urged to get the vaccine.

Student Health Services offers the vaccine by appointment (614-292-4321). For more information, visit the Immunizations Page on our website.

Good Health!

Roger Miller, MD, OSU Student Health Services

The Technicolor Yawn

an aquarium you don't want to visit!

Everybody, at one point or another, is at the mercy of their gastrointestinal tract. To have gastroenteritis is to be steeped in wretchedness.

While “blowing groceries”, “making pavement pizza”, and “praying to the porcelain god” almost always gets better on its own after a few days, trouble ensues if you lose too much fluid.  And while most of us can drink enough to keep up with the fluid lost from diarrhea, it’s easy to get dehydrated from the pukes; you simply can’t keep up with the fluid losses.

What should you do?

Drink – but sip, don’t chug. A few tablespoons every fifteen minutes can be enough to keep you going. What should you drink? Not alcohol. Dairy can be misery-inducing even if you normally don’t have lactose issues. Really sugary stuff like juice can be irritating; cut it with a bit of water. Popsicles or Jello are okay. Pedialyte or other oral rehydration solution taste nasty, but can be really helpful. You can make your own by adding 8 teaspoons of sugar (8 sugar packets) and 1 teaspoon of salt (more or less) to 3 cups of water and 1 cup of orange juice.  You might want to avoid anything with a lot of red or orange dye in it because of the damage the dye can do… to your carpeting and pajamas.

Increase the amount of liquid you drink as the vomiting settles down. Food isn’t a big deal, at least for the first 24 hours or so, but liquids are key. Once liquids stay down and you feel a little hungry, start eating. There’s a lot of mythology out there about how to advance the diet. Really, anything goes, but be sensible and gentle. A giant plate of spaghetti with hot sauce isn’t going to feel very good but a small plate of pasta, will probably be fine. In fact, starchy things-crackers, mashed potatoes, rice, oatmeal, etc.-are a good way to get back on the road to a normal diet.

And please, spare your roommates. Wash up your spew if at all possible. Wash your hands. Don’t use somebody else’s spoon or fork, towel or toothbrush.

When should you worry?

  • Bloody vomit or stools
  • Fever greater than 101 degrees
  • Vomiting persisting over 24-36 hours
  • Severe or localized abdominal pain
  • No urination for more than 8 hours
  • Weakness and lethargy

Victoria Rentel, MD (Ohio State University Student Health Services)

Seven Suggestions for Successful Sleep

photo: www.educator.com

Trouble sleeping is one of the most common problems we see at the student health center, and now that you’re in the midst of mid-terms, sleep is even more difficult to come by than usual.  Not only does stress itself cause insomnia, but the need to prepare for all of those exams at once induces behaviors that compound the problem: pounding the caffeine; bailing on the exercise routine; surrounding yourself with other people who are all wigging out.

People usually come in requesting a prescription for a sleeping pill.  While these medicines are fairly effective and safe, they have significant side effects and should be used only sparingly.  And besides, taking caffeine pills/drinks/gum to stay awake during the day and then more pills to fall asleep at night is a dangerous pattern to get into.

So here are 7 things you can do to make sure you get the best sleep possible.  Admittedly, they’re not as easy as popping a pill, but they’re more effective and a lot safer for you in the long run.

  1. No daytime naps
  2. Limit caffeine
  3. Exercise (preferably early in the day)
  4. Do not eat right before going to bed
  5. Go to sleep and get up at the same time every day
  6. Use your bed only for sleeping (i.e. no watching TV or reading)
  7. Get out of bed if you cannot sleep and go do something relaxing

Good luck on your exams!

John A. Vaughn, MD
Student Health Services
The Ohio State University

I say to thee, Achoo!

Gerardus Cremonensis, Wikimedia

BuckMD is delighted to welcome Sarah Kernan to our blog. Sarah is a PhD student in medieval studies here at The Ohio State University. Her area of specialization is late medieval French and English food and cookbooks. Now, it might not seem like medieval cookbooks and student health have a lot in common. Wrong. Read. Learn. That’s why you came to college, after all. -Victoria Rentel MD

As a medievalist, my mind often wanders to daily life in the Middle Ages.  With cold and flu season upon us, I have been thinking about how people in the Middle Ages tried to stay or become healthy by eating right.

Just as people today turn to nutritional information in books or online, literate people in the Middle Ages turned to books of health and nutrition advice called “regimens of health” and “dietaries.”  One extraordinarily popular regimen of health was the Regimen sanitatis salernitatum, a twelfth-century poem about hygiene and diet dedicated to the king of England.

Eating right in medieval Europe meant balancing four bodily humors – blood, phlegm, yellow bile and black bile.  Each of these humors had a combination of hot, cold, moist, or dry characteristics.  Imbalanced bodily humors could be balanced by foods which contained opposite characteristics.  Ingredients were often selected for their humoral properties.  Foods that could potentially be dangerous to eat, such as eel – an extremely cold and moist fish – could be remedied and balanced by a warming and drying sauce containing ingredients such as pepper or garlic, rendering it healthy for consumption.

Medieval cookbooks often contained recipes called “sickdishes” for foods that could be easily eaten and digested by picky eaters, convalescents, or someone suffering from a nonspecific illness.  These dishes contain more sugar, nuts, and chicken than regular recipes. The chicken and nuts – especially almonds – had balanced humoral properties similar to the balanced humors of a healthy human.  Sugar was thought to purify blood.  It was the most common item in sickdishes, but rarely was an ingredient in regular food preparations.

Strange combinations of food were thought to restore health and wellness to the sick.  I am, however, comforted to know that my sickdish of choice, chicken noodle soup, would have been approved by medieval physicians.

Sarah Peters Kernan


Blanc mengier d’un chappon: An Invalid’s White Dish of Capon

Cook a capon in water until it is well done; grind a great quantity of almonds together thoroughly with the dark meat of the capon, steep this in your broth, put everything through the strainer and set it to boil until it is thick enough to slice; then dump it into a bowl. Then sautee a half-dozen skinned almonds and sit them on end on one half of your dish, and on the other half put pomegranate seeds with a sprinkling of sugar on top.”

Terence Scully, The Vivendier: A Critical Edition with English Translation (Totnes, England: Prospect Books, 1997): 291.

For the Student Traveler, Part II

Did you know that of the 21 students profiled in the What I Did This Summer review on osu.edu, more than half of those life-changing experiences occured in other countries?  That, along with our record enrollment of international students this year, means that Ohio State is truly your gateway to the world.  Student Health is ready to help make your international travels as safe and healthy as we can, through our Travel Medicine Consultations.  Take a look at this information from the CDC, from a blog post we ran this summer:

President Gee wants every Ohio State student to take advantage of opportunities to study internationally.  As he recently wrote, “I am convinced that an international experience is an essential element of every student’s education.”  You can see his full comments here.

We hope you do get a chance to study abroad and want you to know that we are here to help you do it.  In Part I, we talked about things you should do before you head out of the country.  In this post, we’ll talk about things you should do to stay safe and healthy once you get there.

Most students have great experiences abroad, but travel can pose some risks to your health and safety.  Student Health Services is prepared to guide you through some of those hazards and make sure you are armed with everything you need to stay safe – good information and advice as well as vaccines and medicines. 

Question – do you know the most common cause of preventable death in travelers in other countries?  Malaria?  Typhoid?  Flu?  Guess again.  It’s motor vehicle accidents. 

Watch the following video for more useful prevention information from the CDC:



BTW, you need a passport to do all of this stuff.  Don’t have one?  Check out the Office of International Affairs website to find out how to get one. 

Bon Voyage!

Roger Miller, MD
Student Health Services
The Ohio State University

Are birth control pills safe?


Q: I’ve seen some scary things about birth control pills in the news lately.  Are they safe to take?

A: Birth control pills are a very popular method of contraception – the CDC reports that since 1945, 80% of women in the United States have used them at some point in their lives.  They are generally a very low risk medication – especially for young, healthy women – but low risk does not equal no risk.  Here’s what you need to know: 

Blood Clots

Many birth control pills contain estrogen, a hormone that makes your blood more likely to clot up.  A blood clot is a good thing when it stops a cut from bleeding, but it’s a very bad thing when it happens in the deep veins of your leg (DVT) or your lung (Pulmonary Embolus).  Fortunately, pills today contain a lot less estrogen than they used to, but taking any form of birth control (pill, ring, patch) containing estrogen can still mean a 3-6 times increased risk of blood clots, especially in women who are obese.

Heart Attack

Heart attacks and strokes are so rare in young, healthy women that there is not a significant risk of these conditions with the use of low-dose estrogen pills.  Certain conditions can increase that risk – high blood pressure, diabetes, certain types of migraines and smoking – so be sure to tell your health care provider if any of them apply to you. 

High Blood Pressure

About 1% of women develop hypertension when they start taking birth control pills.  High blood pressure is associated with an increased risk for heart disease, stroke, and kidney disease so it’s important to get regular checkups while you’re on the pill. 

Liver Disease

Although rare, birth control pills can cause benign tumors of the liver. This usually happens after 4-8 years of use.  High-dose estrogen pills have also been associated with an increased risk of gall bladder inflammation.

So how can you tell if you’re experiencing any of these side effects?  Just remember ACHES.

  • Abdominal pain that is severe. 
  • Chest pain that is severe or associated with shortness of breath or cough
  • Headache that is severe or associated with dizziness, weakness, or numbness
  • Eye problems, like sudden vision loss or blurry vision
  • Severe leg pain in the calf or thigh

We’re not trying to scare you away from birth control pills – like we said; millions of women use them and do just fine.  But now that you’re moving out into the world on your own, it’s important for you to be proactive and take charge of your health. Know your own medical history.  Know your family’s medical history.  And don’t be afraid to ask questions of your health care providers. 

If you have any questions about birth control options, the clinicians in our Women’s Services department are happy to help you figure out which options is right for you.

Cheryl Czapla, Med IV
College of Medicine
The Ohio State University

John A. Vaughn, MD
Student Health Services
The Ohio State University

How do you decide when to let your friend leave the party with that guy?


So you’re out partying with your girlfriend, and a cute guy invites her back to his place.  She’s getting ready to take off with him, but she’s had a lot to drink and you’re not so sure this is a good idea.  Do you:

  1. Try to persuade her not to go by telling her she’ll regret it in the morning?
  2. Tell her to have fun and call you tomorrow?
  3. Make sure she gets home safely?

Well the good news is that according to a recent study published in Communication Education, approximately 80% of college students would choose option “3” and not let their intoxicated female friend go home with a male acquaintance.  The goal of the study was to figure out how they made that decision and what they would do to back it up.  Here’s what they found out:

Relationships are more important to you than health risks

All kinds of bad things can happen to people when they get drunk and hook up – sexual abuse, unsafe sex, and decreased self-esteem among others – but those weren’t as big a deal to the students who were polled as the relationships between the people involved.  They were more willing to let their friend go home with the guy if they or their friend knew him. 

You’re not afraid to use shame, deceipt or even confrontation to help out a friend

Some students would tell their friend what going home with the guy could do to her reputation.  Others would simply try to trick her into leaving with them by telling her they were taking her to the guy’s house but take her home instead.  Many would even confront their friend directly to keep her from making a mistake, even if it meant physically dragging her out of there.

So what’s the take home message? 

The good news is that most of you would do whatever it takes to keep your friends safe.  The bad news is that you might let your guard down a little if you feel like you “know” the guy.  Bottom line – if you think your friend is making a dangerous decision when she (or he) isn’t thinking clearly, don’t hesitate to step in no matter who is involved.  That’s what friends are for, right?

Cheryl Czapla, Med IV
College of Medicine
The Ohio State University

John A. Vaughn, MD
Student Health Services
The Ohio State University

What are probiotics and what do they do?


Q: I keep hearing about probiotics.  What are they?  What do they do? 

A: According to the World Health Organization, probiotics are “live microorganisms which confer a health benefit on the host”.  Our gastrointestinal tract normally contains many different types of bacteria, yeast and viruses, collectively known as our “gut flora.”  The theory behind probiotics is that certain illnesses or medications can knock that flora out of balance – which causes all kinds of other problems – and probiotics help restore it.   

Probiotics exist naturally in such foods as yogurts, cultured milks (buttermilk, kefir) and fermented foods such as fresh sauerkraut, kimchi, tempeh, and miso.  They also can be found in certain nutritional supplements, and are added to many commercial foods including:

  • Yogurt (Activia, DanActiv Dairy Drink, YoPlus, store brands)
  • LiveActive Cottage Cheese
  • Kashi Vive Cereal
  • LiveActive Drink Mix
  • Goodbelly Juices
  • Attune Probiotic Bars

So do they work? 

Hard to say.  It’s like comparing billions of apples and oranges and trying to find an exact match.  We each have our own unique gut flora made up of countless groups of microorganisms; within a given group, there are multiple species of microorganisms; and within a given species there are multiple strains of microorganisms.  Studies have shown that some probiotics may be helpful in the following conditions:

  • Acute gastroenteritis (“stomach flu” or “traveler’s diarrhea”)
  • Diarrhea associated with antibiotics
  • Atopic eczema in infants
  • Lactose intolerance
  • Inflammatory bowel disease
  • Irritable bowel disease
  • Childhood respiratory infections
  • Dental caries (cavities)
  • Clostridium Difficile diarrhea
  • Urinary tract infections in females

But there are some very important things to remember:

  • Like other products marketed as supplements (as opposed to medications), probiotics are not regulated by the FDA, so there’s no way to know if the product in the bottle actually contains what the label says.  ConsumerLab.com is an independent laboratory that analyzes dietary supplements and their report on probiotics showed several common brands did not have the ingredients they claimed.
  • Consuming foods that naturally contain probiotics is a healthier way to get them than taking a supplement.  Eating real food is not only more enjoyable, but you get the benefit of other nutrients as well.
  • No matter how you get your probiotic, they need help to work.  It is important to choose meals and snacks that contain fruits, vegetables, and whole grains.  The healthy non-digestible substances in these foods (call prebiotics) help the bacteria to survive and flourish once they enter your gastrointestinal tract.

To learn more about probiotics, click here or make an appointment to talk with one of our nutritionists

Cheryl Czapla, Med IV
College of Medicine
The Ohio State University

Greg Avellana RD, LD, CDE
Student Health Services
The Ohio State University

For the Student Traveler, Part I

In celebration of today’s Education Abroad Expo at the Ohio Union, we are reposting this item from this past summer. Enjoy! 

One of the MANY great opportunities Ohio State has to offer is the chance to study abroad.  The Office of International Affairs has lots of information about the wide array of programs available, and Student Health Services is ready to assist you with all the steps needed for your pre-travel health preparations.  The following brief video from the Centers for Disease Control has a number of helpful hints:

Healthy Travels! 

Roger Miller, MD
Student Health Services
The Ohio State University

Trans fats – What are They and Why Should I Care?

photo: 9quad.com

Q: What are “trans fats” and why are people making such a big deal about them? 

A:  In 2006, the Food and Drug Administration made it mandatory for food producers to list the amount of trans fat in their packaged foods.  New York City went a step further and banned all restaurants from using trans fats in any food production!

So, what’s the big deal?  Why would one little fat be banned by a whole city?  Let’s start with some definitions.  Chemistry majors can skip this part. 

All of the terms used to describe fat in our diet refer to their biochemical make-up:

Saturated fats are fats whose carbon molecules are “saturated” with hydrogen atoms.  These fats are solid at room temperature.  Think butter, cheese, meat.

Unsaturated fats have some carbon molecules without hydrogen atoms attached to them.  They are liquid at room temperature and can actually be good for you in moderation.  Think olive oil, fish oil.

Trans fats are produced when oil is exposed to hydrogen under pressure.  This industrial process decreases the number of double bonds in the molecule and/or converts them to the “trans” position.

Trans fats are everywhere – crackers, cookies, potato chips, processed baked goods, margarine, restaurant kitchens, the list goes on and on.  Why?  They have a higher melting point than natural fats and oils, which increases their stability.  This allows them to give products a longer shelf life and to withstand repeated heating and cooling – perfect for frying foods over and over.

While they’re good for business, they’re terrible for our health!  They do bad things to our cholesterol levels which increases our risk for heart disease, stroke and diabetes.  According to the Harvard School of Public Health, increasing the amount of trans fat you eat in a day by just 2% – about the amount in a medium order of fries – increases your risk of coronary heart disease by 23%!  I don’t know about you, but that’s more of a gamble than I’m willing to take for some fries!

Ideally, you should eat less than 2 grams of trans fat per day.  To put that in perspective:

  • A large fry at McDonald’s – 8 grams of trans fat
  • 4 Girl Scout shortbread cookies – 4.5 grams of tans fat
  • 3 -piece KFC Extra Crispy Combo Meal – 15 grams of trans fat

A couple of things to remember:

  • Food manufacturers can label a product as “0 grams of trans fat” as long as there is less than 0.5g per serving.  If you read the fine print, a serving size can be ridiculously small – say, 16 chips.  So if a product contains 0.4 grams of trans fat per serving and you eat 5 servings (which is easy to do) you will be getting 2 grams of trans fat from a product that says it has none.
  • Another term for trans fat is “partially hydrogenated vegetable oil,” so if you see that on the ingredient list, don’t be fooled.    

If you have any questions about what trans fats can do to your health, or what type of dietary changes you can make to avoid them, set up an appointment to meet with one of our nutritionists.  They’re happy to help.

Cheryl Czapla, Med IV
College of Medicine
The Ohio State University

Kathy Horava, DO
Student Health Services
The Ohio State University