Check your melons!

CDC Case Count (click to enlarge)

Last week, CDC and FDA issued updated alerts about the multi-state Listeria outbreak associated with cantaloupe.  The alerts are based on 72 cases that have been identified since the beginning of August, resulting in 13 deaths. 

Listeria is a bacteria that causes fever and diarrhea, and usually resolves on its own.  However, for the elderly and people with suppressed immunity, this infection can be much more severe and and sometimes fatal.  It can also cause miscarriage or fetal damage, so it is especially dangerous for pregnant women. 

Most notable is that this organism can grow at refrigerator temperatures, and is killed by cooking.  For raw fruit like cantaloupe, thorough rinsing before eating is recommended.  The CDC has identified certain brands of cantaloupe, grown in southern Colorado, that should not be eaten.

CDC update, 9-21-11:

CDC Listeria page:

FDA press release, 9-14-11:

Keep an eye out for updates on this situation.

Roger Miller, MD
Student Health Services
The Ohio State University

Should You Clean Out Your Colon?

I just came across a very interesting article in the Journal of Family Practice about the recent comeback of an oldie-but-goodie “natural” health fad – colon cleansing.  

Colon cleansing is based on the premise that waste products in your colon (i.e. poop) contain toxins that poison your body and need to be flushed out of your system.  It can be self-administerered or performed by a “colonic hydrotherapist” who will sometimes throw in some herbs and spices, including coffee, to enhance it’s “naturalness”. 

So… how shall I approach this topic in a calm, measured manner…

First of all, there is nothing “natural” about having someone stick a garden hose up your butt and dumping up to 60 LITERS of fluid into it!  Second of all, your colon is supposed to be full of poop!  Proponents will show you pictures of what they flush out as evidence of its effectiveness (that is one Google image search you want no part of), but it means absolutely nothing.  It’s like someone pointing inside your trash can to show you how filthy your house is.  It’s ridiculous!

Here’s what you need to know about colon cleansing:

  • There is NO evidence that it has any health benefits whatsoever
  • There IS evidence that it can be very dangerous, especially if you have a history of gastro-intestinal problems.  See the above article if you don’t believe me.
  • There are some organizations with scientific-ish sounding names like the National Board for Colon Hydrotherapy (NBCH) or the International Association for Colon Hydrotherapy (I-ACT), but colon cleansing “practitioners” are NOT licensed by any medical or scientific organization.  The only requirements for membership are a high school degree, 3 semesters of postsecondary education and CPR certification.  
  • None of the equipment or ingredients used in colonic cleansing have been approved by the FDA, which means there is NO proof that they do anything or are safe.  Some of the herbal supplements have been associated with liver damage and aplastic anemia.

I respect the fact people have different belief systems when it comes to their health, and that there are many valuable forms of health care outside the realm of traditional medical practice.  In fact, there is a center for Integrative Medicine right here on campus that I often refer people to.  But colonic cleansing represents a point where a worldview can become a threat to your safety.  It’s best to steer clear of it.

If you are having any problems with your stomach or intestines, come in and see us – we’re glad to help you figure out what’s going on.

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

Welcome to BuckMD!

The Student Health Center

Hello new and returning Buckeyes!  Welcome back to campus for what we hope will be an exciting and rewarding year for you!

BuckMD is going into its 3rd year now and we’ve been busy over the summer getting ready to help you prepare for the challenges of the year ahead!  Wanna know how safe that tattoo you’re thinking about getting is?  Or if antibiotics really interfere with your birth control?  Or even how to prepare for a zombie apocalypse?  Well, look no further, my friends.  

We know everyone goes online for health information nowadays and while there’s plenty of good information out there, it often lacks the proper context.  That’s where we come in.  We’ll put that information in context for you and – most importantly – introduce you to a group of living, breathing health care providers right here on campus that you can actually see if necessary.

We want this blog to be an entertaining, informative and engaging way to talk about health topics that are important to you.  Ask us anything!  If you’re worried about something, odds are other students are too and with so many different types of people on campus, we’re all bound to learn something new.  

So let’s get this party started!  Check out the posts we’ve already done and let us know what you think.  Post a comment.  Subscribe to our RSS feed.  Follow us on Facebook.  Tweet to us on Twitter.  And most of all, send a question to so we can start talking about what matters to you!

Go Bucks!

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

Do I need to avoid the sun if I’m on medication?

PhotoTOXIC reaction

PhotoALLERGIC Reaction

Certain medications cause your skin to become more sensitive to the sun.  Contrary to popular belief, they don’t make you more likely to burn, but actually cause a separate type of painful and itchy rash that can look like a bad burn.  There are two types of photosensitive reactions: phototoxic and photoallergic. 

Phototoxic is the most common.  This happens when the drug itself gets dispersed throughout the body and ends up in the skin, where it absorbs UVA light and causes cellular damage.  A phototoxic event typically happens within hours of initial exposure to sunlight.

Photoallergic reaction occur when the UV light alters the chemical structure of the drug and the body’s immune system sees this new compound as an intruder and attacks it.  A photoallergic reaction doesn’t usually happen right away; it requires longer, and often multiple, exposures to sunlight before it happens. 

Many commonly used medicines can cause photosensitivity:

Antibiotics such as ciprofloxacin (Cipro®), levofloxacin (Levaquin®), sulfamethoxazole/trimethoprim (Bactrim®) and doxycycline, tetracycline, and minocycline.

Acne medicines such as (isotretinoin (Accutane®/Claravis®), tazarotene (Tazorac®), and tretinoin)

Medicines to prevent malaria while traveling like atovaquone/proguanil (Malarone®) and chloroquine).

If you are taking a medication that can increase photosensitivity, you should avoid excessive exposure to sunlight and tanning beds.  (Of course, you already know that you should avoid tanning beds anyway).  If you don’t want to be a shut in while the sun shines, make sure you wear a broad spectrum (UVA/UVB) sunscreen with a SPF rating of 30 or greater.  This will decrease that amount of sunlight exposure to your skin and therefore the risk of a bad reaction.      

Sun Screen Tips:

  • Make sure it is broad spectrum (UVA & UVB)
  • Apply roughly one ounce of sunscreen for the full body
  • Apply one-half teaspoon of sunscreen to smaller body parts i.e. face/neck, each arm and shoulder
  • Apply one teaspoon of sunscreen to larger body parts i.e. legs, back
  • Apply 15-30 minutes prior to sunscreen exposure to ensure optimal protection
  • If swimming or being physically active use a “water resistant” sunscreen
  • Reapply liberally, especially if excessive swimming , sweating or toweling off
  • Minimally use a SPF of 15, optimally use a SPF of 30
  • If applying insect repellant, put the sunscreen on first, wait 15 minutes and then apply the insect repellant

If you are planning on spending a lot of time in the sun while on a medication, be sure to ask your pharmacist about possible photosensitivity side effects.   The pharmacy staff at the Wilce Student Health Center is always willing to answer any questions you may have.  Feel free to stop by or call us at (614) 292-0125.

Dean Wagner, PharmD candidate 2012
Student Health Services
The Ohio State University

Jason Goodman, PharmD, RPh
Student Health Services
The Ohio State University


15 Things No Dorm Room Should Be Without!

It's a blanket!  That you can wear!

Shower caddie?  Check.  Combination iPod, laptop, cell phone charger?  Check.  Officially Licensed Ohio State Snuggie?  Check. 

Ok, you and the rents are just starting that list of things you simply must have in your door room.  But have you thought about what stuff you should have to keep you healthy on campus this year?  Here are the 15 health care items that no dorm room should be without:

1. Thermometer

2. Pain and fever medication: Acetaminophen (Tylenol), Ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin) or Naproxen (Aleve)

3. Ice pack and/or heating pad

4. Band-Aids

5. Antibiotic ointment

6. ACE wrap

7. Antihistamine medication for allergies or itchy rashes: Diphenhydramine (Benadryl), Loratadine (Claritin), Cetirizine (Zyrtec)

8. Cough and cold medication

9. Anti-diarrhea medication: Loperamide (Imodium AD)

10. Antacid medication: TUMS, Pepto-Bismol, Ranitidine (Zantac), Famotidine (Pepcid), Cimetidine (Tagamet), Omeprazole (Prilosec)

11. Sore throat lozenges

12. Hydrocortisone cream for itchy rashes

13. Alcohol-based hand sanitizer to prevent spread of germs

14. Lotion for dry skin

15. And last but not least, our phone number: 614-292-4321

You can pick up all of these things at our pharmacy.  They’re cheap, they don’t take up a lot of space, and they’re much more useful than that Justin Bieber pillow you plan to sneak in on Move-In Day. 

Welcome to Ohio State!  We look forward to seeing you on campus this fall!  

Sheila K. Westendorf, MD
Student Health Services
The Ohio State University

Pet Lovers Beware!!

Pets/Salmonella (click to enlarge)

Keep it clean!

Lots of students have pets at home or on campus.  Did you known that dry pet foods and treats can be a health risk for humans?  The CDC recently published a report about outbreaks of intestinal infections with a bacteria called Salmonella, that was linked to humans handling certain dry foods for their pets.  These outbreaks were in multiple states, with Pennsylvania, New York, and Ohio leading the way.

How do you safely feed Fido or Frisky?  Here are some tips:

  • Purchase products (canned or bagged) with no visible signs of damage to the packaging, such as dents, tears, or discolorations.
  • Wash your hands for 20 seconds with water and soap right after handling pet food and treats, and especially before preparing, serving or eating food, drinks or preparing baby bottles
  • Preferably, people should feed their pet in areas other than the kitchen.
  • Wash pet food bowls, dishes and scooping utensils with soap and hot water regularly. Avoid washing these items in the kitchen sink or bathtubs to prevent cross-contamination. In households where there is no alternative, the sink area should be adequately sanitized after these items have been cleaned and removed.
  • Do not use the pet’s feeding bowl as a scooping utensil – use a clean, dedicated scoop, spoon, or cup.
  • Pet food should not be handled or stored in areas where food for humans is prepared.
  • If possible, store dry pet food in its original bag inside a clean, dedicated plastic container with a lid, keeping the top of the bag folded or closed.
  • Promptly refrigerate or discard unused, leftover wet pet food and containers (e.g., cans, pouches). Refrigerating foods quickly prevents the growth of most harmful bacteria.
  • Dry pet food and pet treats should be stored in a cool, dry place under 80 degrees F.
  • Children younger than 5 years of age should not be allowed to touch or eat pet food, treats, or supplements and should be kept away from pet feeding areas. Young children are especially at risk for illness because their immune systems are still developing and because they are more likely than others to put their fingers or other items into their mouths.

Remember, washing your hands is the most important step to prevent many types of illness.  Well, I just filled up Brutus’ food bowl, better go wash my hands! 

Come on, boy, lets go!!

Roger Miller, MD
Student Health Services
The Ohio State University