Kiss Me Deadly!

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Q: Can someone who is allergic to a food die from kissing someone who just ate that food?

A:  A few years ago, there was a big story in the news about a woman with a peanut allergy who supposedly died after kissing her boyfriend who had just eaten a food with peanuts in it.  It turns out that this was more of an urban myth – the woman actually died of another cause, but I guess the idea of a “deadly kiss” was too good of a story to pass up.

We just heard a presentation from the allergy experts at Nationwide Children’s Hospital and they did tell us stories of moms who just ate a Reese’s Peanut butter Cup giving their child a big hive on their cheek after kissing them, and people walking into a restaurant with peanut shells on the floor (like 5 Guys Burgers and Fries) and just the peanut dust in the air causing them to have a wheezing reaction.  The key factor is the amount of protein you’re exposed to.  So theoretically if you’re boyfriend just ate a whole handful of peanuts and you guys immediately start playing some serious tonsil hockey, you could be in trouble.  But to date no one has been kissed to death.

However, food allergies – especially to peanuts and shellfish – can be life threatening so it is absolutely (and literally) vital for you to be careful.  If you’re allergic to peanuts or other tree nuts, you should:

  • Avoid bakeries, ice cream parlors and Asian restaurants
  • ALWAYS ask about food ingredients and read labels when eating food you didn’t prepare
  • Wear a bracelet or necklace that identifies the type of allergy you have
  • Have an EpiPen with you at all times and make sure you know how to use it! (I’ve taken care of more than one person who in the heat of the moment held the pen backwards and injected their thumbs, and since epinephrine makes blood vessels constrict that makes for a nervous 20 minutes waiting to see if the blood flow returns to the digit).

The Food Allergy and Anaphylaxis Network has a great website with more information about food allergies.  In addition, allergy testing services are available through the Wilce Student Health Center.  If you have any questions or concerns, call us at 614-292-4321 to schedule an appointment. 

John A. Vaughn, MD (OSU SHS)


The 3 Facebook Settings You Should Check Right Now

The title of this blog post is stolen directly from a New York Times article that appeared a few days ago.

While Facebook privacy settings aren’t technically a “health” issue, they can have a huge impact on the life of a college/grad student who uses Facebook… in other words – all of you. 

When Facebook updated its privacy settings last month, the dialog box that informed you of the changes had a set of recommended privacy settings.  If you just selected that option, which most people did, then you basically gave Facebook the right to publicize all of your information.  This article walks you through the steps to take to regain your privacy.  It takes about 5 minutes to do, and it’ll be the best 5 minutes you’ve spent in a long time.  When you’re applying for a job, or an internship, or a study abroad program the last thing you need is people looking up the photos from last weekend’s party! 

John Vaughn, MD (OSU SHS)

Can we link our student health records with online personal health services?

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Q:  Can we link our health records at the student health center with Google Health or other online personal health services?

A:  Great Question!  Seems pretty straightforward, right?  Student health keeps its records in electronic format, Google Health is all about health records in electronic format, so let’s just get ‘em talking to each other!  If only it were that easy.

While Google Health is probably the most well known, there are actually many players in the Personal Health Information (PHI) market.  Each of these systems offers you a way to store your health information in one location and they all claim that this will allow you to have your information automatically updated from doctor offices, hospitals, pharmacies and more.  AND they all say that it will be easy.  It’s not. 

Each of these vendors has its own way of doing things.  In order to transfer information to one of these systems, Student Health would have to: make sure you are who you say you are, extract your health data, modify it to look the way your specific PHI needs it to look, and finally upload the information to the PHI system via a secure channel that is compliant with HIPAA, the federal law that enforces strict privacy of your personal health information.   

But while we aren’t likely to be linked up with Google Health any time soon, we are working on some pretty tech-savvy things that will be implemented in the very near future.  The most exciting is our new health portal, which will allow you to:

  • View and print your immunization record
  • Schedule your appointments
  • Send and receive secure messages to/from your provider

We’re really psyched about that last feature.  No more playing phone tag with your provider to get your lab results!  They’ll be sent to you via a secure message to which you can reply and ask questions at your convenience.  And that, my friend, is something even the mighty Google can’t do!

Tina Comston, Systems Specialist (OSU SHS)

Smile! You’re on ovulation camera!

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Ever been interested in what a human egg looks like when it pops out of an ovary? What YOU looked like – well, half of you anyway – way back when you were only a bunch of chromosomal material and some gelatinous gooey protein?

Okay, I’m speaking to a very narrow group of fellow dorky mega-nerds, but wow, these pictures totally blew me away. Captured accidentally during surgery for a hysterectomy, the surgeon managed to get pictures over about a fifteen minute period while the egg erupted. Well, given that the process took 15 minutes, perhaps “erupted” is a bit too explosive a word. Let’s say the egg was expelled gradually.  How fortuitous that somebody was there with a camera to capture the blessed event.

This is you! This is your brother, mother, dad, sister, kids, if you have any. Along came a sperm and a few months later, here comes baby. Or, if you’re female like, oh, half our readers, and you’re not suppressing ovulation in some way (with oral contraceptives or Depo-Provera) this is what happens every month, about halfway through your menstrual cycle, give or take a few days. Weird but cool.

Read more about it at:

Human Egg Makes Accidental Debut on Camera

Victoria Rentel MD


What’s the most common type of relationship abuse?

Q: What’s the most common type of abuse in a bad/unhealthy relationship? 

A: The best way to answer this question is to look at surveys which ask people about their experiences with abuse in relationships. 

The 2009 American College Health Association (ACHA) assessment at Ohio State reported that in the preceding 12 months, 9.9% of respondents were in a relationship that was emotionally abusive, 2.4% were in a relationship that was physically abusive, and 1.4% were in a relationship that was sexually abusive.  From this data, it seems clear that emotional abuse is the most common.  The problem is that the survey doesn’t define what constitutes “emotional abuse,” so we are left trying to figure out what behaviors would fit that definition.    

For example, we hear a lot about “technological and/or communications” abuse.   According to a 2007 Technology & Teen Dating Abuse Survey:

  • 1 in 3 teens (30%) say they are text messaged 10, 20, or 30 times an hour by a partner inquiring where they are, what they’re doing, or who they’re with.
  • 68% of teens say boyfriends/girlfriends sharing private or embarrassing pictures/videos on cell phones and computers is a serious problem.
  • 71% of teens regard boyfriends/girlfriends spreading rumors about them on cell phones and social networking sites as a serious problem

An abusive relationship refers to a pattern of controlling behaviors, and a bad/unhealthy relationship will undoubtedly be emotionally abusive, and might also be verbally, physically, sexually, and perhaps financially abusive.

The Sexual Violence Education and Support program in the Student Wellness Center can help students identify and make decisions about an abusive relationship.  Additionally, the “it’s abuse” campaign on campus offers great resources and information.

Deborah Schipper, Sexual Violence Education and Support (OSU SWC)

John A. Vaughn, MD (OSU SHS)

Is it unhealthy for guys to masturbate daily?

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Q: Is it unhealthy to masturbate daily?

A: I have a family member who is a police officer in another state.  As part of the hiring process he had to undergo a psychological evaluation, during which he was asked the following question: “Would you rather have sex or read a book?” 

Without missing a beat, he answered: “Well… am I in a library?”

Besides being pretty hilarious, what does that story have to do with answering your question?  Everything.  It depends on the situation

If you’re asking if there are risks of physical harm from frequent masturbation, the answer is no.  I suppose if you’re giving yourself rug burns or carpal tunnel syndrome, you should tone it down a notch.  But if you’re talking about the whole “you’ll go blind” or “you’ll grow hair on your palms” stuff – the answer is a definitive no.   It doesn’t affect fertility (unlike the ladies, who are born with all of the eggs they’ll ever have, guys constantly replenish sperm throughout their lives) or cause any other physical problems.

Could it even be good for you?  There’s been some press lately that frequent ejaculation (either alone or with a partner) lowers the risk of prostate cancer.  One study seemed to indicate that men who averaged 20+ ejaculations per month had a significantly lower risk of developing prostate cancer compared to men who average 4-7 per month.  But there are some problems with the study that make it hard to say whether or not this relationship is really true. 

HOWEVER… there are times when frequent masturbation can be a sign of trouble.  Obviously, if you feel it’s causing a problem in your life – making you feel guilty, anxious, depressed, or causing problems with relationships – then it should be addressed.   And if it is compulsive – you want to stop but you can’t – that can be a sign of a more serious issue like Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD). 

I know this is a “touchy” topic (sorry… couldn’t resist), but it’s a very common question so you shouldn’t feel embarrassed.  Odds are you’ve got absolutely nothing to worry about – but if you are, the clinical staff at Student Health or CCS can help. 

John A. Vaughn, MD (OSU SHS)


How can I cut back on caffeine without the withdrawal?

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Q: I’m trying to cut down on coffee as a New Year’s resolution but I get an intense headache on days when I don’t have it.  Is this caffeine withdrawal? How can I make it go away?

A: Congrats on trying to kick the caffeine habit!  You’re doing the right thing.  Caffeine can cause sleep problems, nervousness, irritability, fast heart beat, headaches, tremors, and anxiety (not to mention a light wallet – those daily Grande low-fat lattes get really expensive!)

It definitely sounds like you’re dealing with caffeine withdrawal, which can involve all of the following symptoms:

  • Headache, which is the most common symptom
  • Fatigue or drowsiness
  • Bad mood, irritability, or depression
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Nausea, vomiting, or muscle pains

Withdrawal symptoms typically hit you within a day of quitting and can last up to a week.  The more coffee you’ve been drinking the worse the withdrawal will probably be, but it can happen even if you’ve only been consuming as little as 100 mg of caffeine per day.  To give you an idea of how easy it is to reach that level, here are the caffeine contents of some common drinks:

8 ounce cup of coffee


Starbucks coffee, short


Starbucks coffee, grande   


8 ounce cup of tea (leaf/bag/green)


12 ounce can of Coke/diet Coke


12 ounce can of Mountain Dew


8.3 ounces of Red Bull


16 ounce can of Rockstar


16 ounce can of Monster    


What can you do to make it go away?  Um… drink some coffee.  Consuming caffeine can make withdrawal symptoms go away within an hour.  Of course, the down side is that you’re back to being a coffee junkie. Cutting back gradually can help: try drinking one less cup or one smaller size per day.  Another method could be to mix decaf with regular coffee so that you cut down on caffeine content without cutting back on volume.

And watch out for chocolate or any food/gum/drink that promises an energy or concentration boost – they’re loaded with caffeine.  You even have to be careful of some over-the-counter pain medications.  The reason ExcedrinTM is so good at getting rid of “migraines” so quickly is that its main ingredient is caffeine, and the headache is really caused by caffeine withdrawal.  Stick with Acetaminophen or Ibuprofen if necessary.

Good luck with your resolution!  Here’s to a decaffeinated 2010!

Adam Brandeberry, Med IV (OSU COM)

John A. Vaughn, MD (OSU SHS)


National Influenza Vaccination Week

In recognition of the conclusion of National Influenza Vaccination Week, BuckMD would like to remind all Buckeyes of the importance of preventive measures to reduce your risk of the flu and other infectious diseases.

CDC and Aetna Communications bring us “Smart Tips from Some Germ Experts”.  These kids really know their stuff!  Good tips for us to keep in mind, even after H1N1 is a distant memory.


 For more information, visit the CDC’s Immunization Action Coalition

Roger Miller MD, for BuckMD



Does starting and stopping birth control affect fertility?

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Q: Can starting and stopping birth control (pills, patch, etc.) affect fertility?  In what ways?

A: In continuing our birth control theme this week, I have once again gone straight to the experts in our Women’s Services department for the straight scoop. 

The short answer is NO.  As we discussed in our previous post, the hormone levels in birth control medications are just high enough to prevent pregnancy, but low enough that they rarely cause any significant problems for most women who take them.  And once you stop taking them, the hormones leave your system and you return back to your normal state.  There has never been any evidence that stopping and starting birth control has any long term effects on fertility.

However, there is POSSIBLY a rebound phenomenon that takes place right after you stop birth control medication that might actually increase your fertility for a short time.  Basically, the theory goes that once you stop a medication that has been inhibiting your fertility hormones, they’re so excited to get back in action that they overcompensate past their normal levels for a while.  Again, this is kind of theoretical but it certainly can’t hurt to be extra careful with other forms of protection for a couple of weeks after stopping birth control.

As always, if you have any questions about birth control, please make an appointment to see the staff of Student Health Women’s Services.  They are always happy to help you find the option that is right for you.

John Vaughn, MD (OSU SHS)

How long can a woman safely stay on birth control?

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Q: How long can a woman safely stay on birth control?

A:  To get to the bottom of this question, I went right to the experts at Student Health Women’s Services, and I’m happy to report that the news is good. 

While birth control pills can obviously have side effects while you’re taking them, there are really no lingering adverse effects after you stop, no matter how long you’ve been on them.  So whether you take them for 5 months or 15 years, you’ll be in the same (hopefully good) shape once you stop. 

There used to be a concern that women who were on oral contraceptives for a long time were at a higher risk of amenorrhea – i.e. that their periods wouldn’t start back up normally – but that turned out not to be the case.  The levels of the hormones in newer pills are low enough that they don’t cause any trouble for the vast majority of women who take them.

And don’t forget the positives of being on birth control, which greatly outweigh the risks for the vast majority of women who take them.  In addition to the obvious – keeping you from getting pregnant – birth control pills also have the following positive effects:

  • Prevent anemia (low iron levels)
  • Improve pre-menstrual syndrome (PMS) symptoms and menstrual cramps
  • Lessen the frequency and severity of endometriosis flare-ups
  • Lower the risk of Pelvic Inflammatory Disease (PID) and ectopic pregnancies

As always, if you have any questions about birth control, please make an appointment to see the staff of Student Health Women’s Services.  They are always happy to answer your questions and will help you find the birth control option that is right for you.

John A. Vaughn, MD (OSU SHS)