Anatomy of a Safe, er, Less Dangerous Mirror Lake Jump

Be Safe Bucks!

Rumor has it that thousands of students will Jump into Mirror Lake on Tuesday evening.  Our health and safety concerns are not likely to impede this event, so let’s consider a few steps to make it safer.

Feet:  Wear something on your feet!  Between glass shards on High Street and sticks in the grass and unknown objects buried in the muck on the bottom of the lake, bare feet are prime targets for cuts and other trauma.  At a minimum, consider wearing a cheap pair of flip-flops, strapped on with duct tape so that they don’t fall off in the mud.

Neck:  Never, ever dive into Mirror Lake or any other shallow, murky body of water.  The risk of disaster, including catastrophic injury to the brain or spine, is ridiculously high.

Skin:  When running, jumping, wading, and falling meets rocks, sticks, broken glass, and throngs of partiers, there is great opportunity for bruises, abrasions, and lacerations.  Add contamination with skanky lake water, and risk for infection is high.  When you get home, take a shower (seems like reasonable advice regardless) and pay special attention to wash any broken skin with soap and water. 

Eyes:  If you wear contact lenses, consider leaving them at home.  At a minimum, take out the contacts as soon as you get home and wash or replace them.  Skanky water (a recurring theme) + contact lenses + horseplay + late night =  increased risk for funky mirror lake eye infection, especially if the cornea has been abraded by friction from the contact lens. 

Hypothermia:  Our colleagues in the Emergency Department at the OSU Wexner Medical Center tell us that many of the students who end up in the ER in the hours during and after the Jump suffer from hypothermia.  This isn’t surprising given typical midnight temperatures in Columbus in late November coupled with the dubious heat-retaining properties of a wet pair of speedos.  The nature of the Jump does not lend itself to staying warm and snuggly, but it also does not require coursework in computational astrophysics to appreciate that intoxication makes hypothermia all the more dangerous.

Soul:  Friends don’t let friends do the Mirror Lake Jump alone.  Go with a friend.  Keep track of your friend.  If there’s trouble, ask for help.  Call 9-1-1.  Do the right thing.

If you Jump, please be safe.  FYI, Student Health Services will be open Wednesday.

Happy Thanksgiving Week!

James R. Jacobs, MD, PhD
Student Health Services
The Ohio State University

Medical Mythbusters: The turkey made me do it!

There are a lot of traditions at Thanksgiving; turkey, pumpkin pie, football games, shopping, and of course “the nap”.   At my house dinner usually begins around two.  After the meal has been blessed, the football fanatics fill their plates and head to the family room to cheer on their favorite teams.  The non-football inclined take their plates to the table and kibitz.  About an hour or so later a quick glance into the family room usually reveals that the football fanatics have transitioned to “the nap”. 

The fanatics, of course, would argue that the turkey made them sleepy.  Turkey contains an amino acid called tryptophan.  Tryptophan helps the body produce the B-vitamin niacin which in turn helps the body produce serotonin.  Serotonin acts as a calming agent in the brain and plays a key role in sleep.  Hence the myth that turkey makes you sleepy. 

But… tryptophan works best on an empty stomach and let’s face it, at Thanksgiving, no ones’ stomach is empty!  The turkey is competing with the potatoes, veggies, rolls, and deserts and only a small part actually makes it to the brain to produce serotonin.

The more likely culprit for the after dinner nap is a combination of things.  You have on a new fall sweater, dressed up for the relatives, which is making you a bit warm.  It’s the middle of the afternoon and the sun is shining through the windows causing you to squint a bit, i.e. close your eyes.  You’ve just consumed an enormous meal of 3000+ calories with significant carbs, and more than likely you’re a bit sleep deprived.  All of these together have the perfect makings of a nap!

So, don’t blame the turkey for that after dinner rest.  Instead, give thanks this Thanksgiving for the blessings of a wonderful meal eaten with family and friends and for the opportunity to catch up a little bit on your sleep.

Submitted by Tina Comston, M.Ed.

The Great American Smokeout

Tobacco use remains the single largest preventable cause of disease and premature death in the US, yet about 43.8 million Americans still smoke cigarettes – Nearly 1 in every 5 adults. As of 2010, there were also 13.2 million cigar smokers in the US, and 2.2 million who smoke tobacco in pipes – other dangerous and addictive forms of tobacco.

The American Cancer Society marks the Great American Smokeout on the third Thursday of November each year by encouraging smokers to use the date to make a plan to quit, or to plan in advance and quit smoking that day. By quitting – even for one day – smokers will be taking an important step towards a healthier life – one that can lead to reducing cancer risk.

The health benefits of quitting start immediately from the moment of smoking cessation. Quitting while you are younger will reduce your health risks more, but quitting at any age can give back years of life that would be lost by continuing to smoke.

Check out how your body recovers after quitting:

  • 20 minutes – your heart rate and blood pressure drop
  • 12 hours – the carbon monoxide level in your blood drops to normal
  • 2 weeks – 3 months – your circulation improves and your lung function increases
  • 1-9 months – coughing and shortness of breath decrease
  • 1 year – excess risk of coronary heart disease is half that of a continuing smokers
  • 2-5 years – stroke risk can fall to that of a non-smokers
  • 5 years – risk of cancer of mouth, throat, esophagus, and bladder are cut in half
  • 10 years – risk of dying from lung cancer is about half that of a continuing smokers
  • 15 years – risk of coronary heart disease is that of a non-smokers

Information taken from American Cancer Society (www.cancer.org)

Reviewed by Tina Comston, M.Ed.

Wash those germs right off of your hands!

Have you ever considered the door knobs/handles in your dorm?  Think about it for a minute.  How many people live in your dorm?  All of those people are going in and out of the dorm, perhaps multiple times each day and every time they do they are touching those knobs/handles.  And then you come along and you touch that knob/handle.  You have just exposed yourself to the germs that were on the hands of everyone else who used that knob/handle – YUCK!

Now consider the door knobs/handles of your classrooms and buildings.  How many people are taking classes in those buildings?  Again, every time you touch that knob/handle you are exposing yourself to the germs that were on the hands of everyone else who used that knob/handle – again YUCK!

Is it any wonder that college students get sick?!!  The most effective thing you can do to avoid getting sick, according to the CDC, is to wash your hands.  Frequent washing will help to limit the transfer of bacteria, viruses, and other microbes. 

What is the right way to wash your hands?

  • Wet your hands with clean running water (warm or cold) and apply soap.
  • Rub your hands together to make a lather and scrub them well; be sure to scrub the backs of your hands, between your fingers, and under your nails.
  • Continue rubbing your hands for at least 20 seconds. Need a timer? Hum the “Happy Birthday” song from beginning to end twice.
  • Rinse your hands well under running water.
  • Dry your hands using a clean towel or air dry.

Don’t underestimate the power of hand washing! The few seconds you spend at the sink could save you trips to Student Health Services.

Submitted by Tina Comston, M.Ed.

Are you a sleep bulimic?

Do you regularly “purge” sleep during the weekdays and then “binge” on the weekends?  If so, you may be a sleep bulimic.  This sort of pattern, lose out on sleep during the week and make up for it on the weekend may seem to make sense.  It all adds up to the same amount of sleep, right?  Unfortunately no.  Lack of sleep during the week will affect your productivity and performance, i.e. your grades, and no amount of sleep on the weekend can get that back.

Your brain is designed to solve hard problems while you sleep.  Have you ever been stumped by a problem and no matter how long you stay up and work on it you just can’t solve it.  You hit the sack and the next morning, lo and behold, you have the answer!  That is sleep doing its thing.  Studies have shown that sleep pinpoints the tasks a person is having difficulty learning and resolves them overnight.

So, skip the all-nighter.  These have been linked to lower grades and not just for the next day.  The effects of an all-nighter can last for as long as 4 days, impairing both memory and reasoning. And forget the get up early and do some cramming before the exam option.  Waking up earlier than usual could interfere with rapid-eye-movement (REM) sleep.  This is the sleep that aids memory.  So, while you might think that one more review of your notes will help, it could actually be affecting what you have already learned. 

Instead, get yourself on a regular sleep schedule.  This is especially important if you have an upcoming exam.  And, if your exam is on Monday, try to stick to the schedule on the weekend as well.  Remember the effects of missing sleep can last for several days which could impact your Monday morning exam. 

And if you find yourself feeling drowsy during the day, opt for a power nap as opposed to caffeine.  Caffeine will keep you awake, but it doesn’t help process what you’ve learned.  A short nap will recharge your brain and give you an energy burst.  Keep it under 20 minutes, though.  Anything longer and you’ll find yourself feeling groggy.

Submitted by Tina Comston, M.Ed.

Reviewed by Mary Lynn Kiacz, MD