Stomach bug hitting campus hard!

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We have seen a LOT of students with a viral gastroenteritis (“stomach flu”) here at Student Health over the last couple of weeks.  Here’s what you should look out for and/or do if you think you’ve been hit with it.

Watery diarrhea is the main symptom: anywhere from 2 or 3 loose stools per day up to living on the toilet all day.  Other symptoms include:

  • Nausea and vomiting (some people will only have this without the diarrhea)
  • Stomach cramps, pain, or tenderness
  • Fever or chills
  • Appetite loss
  • Weakness
  • Dehydration

The most common cause is an infection by a virus that is spread by coming into contact with an infected person or by touching an object that has the virus on it.  Sometimes people are worried that they may have “food poisoning.” While it is certainly possible to get a similar illness from eating bad food, a viral infection is more common and for the most part, you treat them the same way.

To avoid catching the stomach virus, be sure to wash your hands a lot to prevent the spread of germs; don’t share cups/utensils/toothbrushes, etc.; and be sure you’re cooking and storing food properly.

Even though this is sometimes called a “24-hour stomach bug,” symptoms usually last 2 to 5 days and you may feel weak and fatigued for up to a week.

The mainstay of treatment is rest and replacing the fluids you are losing through vomiting and diarrhea.  Suck ice chips or drink small amounts of clear fluids often. Replace lost fluids and electrolytes with products such as non-caffeinated beverages (Sprite, Ginger Ale, GatorAde, PowerAde).  Once you feel like you can keep food down, stick with bland foods like rice, wheat, potatoes, bread, cereal, and lean meat like chicken.  Milk and dairy products can sometimes irritate your stomach after a stomach flu, so minimize them for a day or two and try to avoid fatty or greasy foods for a few days.

Most of the time, the stomach flu will resolve on its own and you can manage it at home.  Loperamide (Imodium AD) is available over-the-counter for diarrhea.  If the nausea is severe, we can prescribe you anti-nausea medication at the student health center.   Be sure to contact the student health center if:

  • Symptoms last longer than 2 days
  • You see blood or mucus in your stool
  • You can’t keep fluids down
  • You have signs or symptoms of dehydration: dry mouth, lightheadedness or dizziness

John A. Vaughn, MD (OSU SHS)

You Give Me Fever!

Man, when I heard Madonna sing that song back in the day, I thought she was talking directly to me.  Good times, good times… 

But I digress!  We’re here today to answer the question: “When is a fever really a fever, and how do I know if I have one?”

Let’s start by defining what’s not a fever by reviewing some of the common definitions I hear about 80 times a week:

  • “I don’t have a thermometer but I’ve felt really hot.”
  • “I was sweating last night so I must have had a fever.”
  • “My temperature was 98.2° Fahrenheit but my temperature is normally low so that’s a fever for me.”
  • (And my personal favorite) “My roommate told me I have a fever because she/he is a nursing student.”

According to the National Institute of Health a fever is “an increase in the body’s temperature due to disease or illness.”  Normal body temperature is considered to be 98.6° Fahrenheit or 37° Celsius, but body temperature can vary by 1° throughout the day and elevations can be caused by factors other than illness. 

If you take away anything from this post, it should be that you can’t tell if you have a fever if you don’t have a thermometer (and the old back of the hand to the forehead maneuver doesn’t count).  The best kind to use is an oral thermometer – the one that goes under your tongue.  You can get a tympanic thermometer that you stick in your ear, or a “baby” thermometer that you stick… somewhere else, but they aren’t recommended, or very pleasant, for adults.  Luckily for you, a nice digital oral thermometer can be purchased right here at the Wilce Student Health Center Pharmacy for less than $3.00.  Wow! 

If you’re not feeling sick and just want to get an idea of what your normal temperature range is, it is recommended that you check your temperature in the morning when you first get out of bed and then in the afternoon (around 4:00pm or so) before you eat or drink anything. 

If you are feeling sick and have a fever, when should you call the doctor?  Generally speaking, if you’ve had a temperature greater than 100.4° F for more than 48-72 hours or if it ever goes above 103°F, you should give us a ring.  Of course, it all depends on the other symptoms you are having, so when in doubt come in and let us check you out.  In the meantime, the Mayo Clinic has some more good information for you (see ‘adults’ section).

Jason Williams, RN, OCN
Student Health Services
The Ohio State University

How Healthy are Healthy Foods?


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A recent WebMD report cited 23 “Food Frauds” that are suggested by advertising as being healthy food choices, but really contain lots of hidden bad stuff:

  • extra calories
  • fats
  • sugar
  • salt

or, they are just misleading:

  • 2% milk does not mean 2% of the fat in whole milk, but actually about 50%
  • “Zero trans-fat” may not truly mean there is no trans-fat in the food

Here are some of their list of frauds – are any of these on your menu for today?

  1. Fresh Smoothies
  2. Energy Bars
  3. Chicken Burrito
  4. Sugar-free Drinks
  5. 2% Milk
  6. Turkey Hot Dogs
  7. Low-fat Granola
  8. Added Omega 3
  9. Iced Tea
  10. Trans-fat Free Foods

Want to learn more about your diet and healthy food choices?  Both Student Health Services and the OSU Student Wellness Center have nutritionists on staff to assist you. 

Healthy Eating!

Roger Miller, MD (OSU Student Health Services)

Source: WedMD (Copyright ©2009, WebMD, LLC. All rights reserved)

Medical Mythbusters – Green Snot!

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True or False: My snot is green so I need an antibiotic, right?


This is one of the most tenacious, and frustrating, medical myths out there: that clear snot indicates a viral infection that will clear on its own while green snot automatically means a bacterial infection that requires an antibiotic for treatment. 

This is simply not true! Coming down with a sinus infection is very common this time of year. You may know the symptoms: headache, stuffy nose, nasal discharge, facial pain and pressure, fever, cough and ear pressure. The vast majority of cases are caused by viruses and resolve on their own within 10 days.  The only time antibiotics are recommended is when the infection lasts for more than 10 days, or worsens over 5-7 days.

Many people come to the doctor expecting antibiotics for minor viral infections but keep in mind that not only do antibiotics do nothing against viruses, they are not always benign either. They can have side effects such as upset stomach and diarrhea. More importantly, overuse can lead to resistance, so that if heaven forbid you come down with a serious infection that does require antibiotics in the future, they may not work as well and the infection will be more difficult to treat.

As for the myth of the green snot, microbiologists believe the color comes from enzymes released by your white blood cells (myelo-peroxidases and other oxidases) to break down bacteria and other organisms. These enzymes contain iron, which gives off a greenish color. Also, the longer the mucus stagnates in your sinuses, the more likely it is to look green when it comes out. So when your sinuses are clogged up during a sinus infection, it is more likely to stagnate and appear green, just as your early morning snot will be more green just from sitting in your nose all night. The only kind of snot that deserves antibiotics is purulent (think pus) mucus coming from your nose or throat.

Remember, most of these infections clear on their own with a little TLC. Over the counter products such as pseudoephedrine (“Sudafed”) or my personal favorite, the neti pot are usually effective at alleviating the symptoms while the infection runs its course.   

If your sinus infection has been going on for more than 10 days, or it’s been getting worse over the past week, be sure to contact Student Health Services to be evaluated.

Angela Walker (OSU COM)

John A. Vaughn, MD (OSU Student Health Services)


Save a Million Hearts!

Million Hearts - Sodium?

Think you will have a heart attack or stroke in the next five years?  Well, of course, at 50, my chances are a lot greater than yours.  But even young adults can be at risk.  Is your cholesterol elevated?  How about your blood pressure? Do you smoke? 

Visit this link to try out a risk calculator for yourself

Ok, maybe you are reading this in the RPAC, after your intense daily workout, your pleasing weigh-in, and your fruit-n-bran smoothie.  If you are already doing the things you should, maybe you can spread the word to the people you care about.  (Think – Mom, Dad, Grandpa, Aunt, Neighbor, Friend):

Launched by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services with several key partners, Million Hearts aims to prevent 1 million heart attacks and strokes over the next five years.

The first goal is to empower Americans to make healthy choices such as preventing tobacco use and reducing sodium and “trans” fat consumption. This can reduce the number of people who need medical treatment such as blood pressure or cholesterol medications to prevent heart attacks and strokes.

The second goal is improving care for people who do need treatment by encouraging a targeted focus on the “ABCS

  • Aspirin for people at risk,
  • Blood pressure control,
  • Cholesterol management and
  • Smoking cessation

These four items address the major risk factors for cardiovascular disease and can help to prevent heart attacks and strokes.  

If you want to learn more about your health and your heart attack and stroke risk, stop in at the Student Wellness Center, or come see us at Student Health.  We have the expertise and are here on campus for you. 

Students First!

Roger Miller, MD  (OSU Student Health Services)

Nothing says “I love you” like peeing in a cup!

Love - Fear

Order-It-Yourself Testing

The Student Health Center

 Stumped as to what to get that special someone in your life this Valentine’s Day?   A box of chocolates is so ‘been there done that’.   Those handmade “coupons” for a free back rub or carrying her books to class were cute last year, but she ain’t falling for that again.  And while checking out Star Wars – Phantom Menace in 3D would be a blast with your buddies, it just doesn’t set that romantic tone you’re looking for.

Well, fret no more my friends.  Student Health Services has the perfect gift for your valentine this year – Order-It-Yourself lab testing!!

What says “I love you” better than a pee-in-the-cup Chlamydia test? 

Feeling tired, honey?  Well why don’t you go to the Student Health Center and get screened for anemia and diabetes?  It’s on me.

The man in your life putting on a few extra pounds?  Well nothing will get him more motivated for Speedo season than a quick peek at his cholesterol levels.

All of these wonderful tests and more are available at the Student Health Center.  And the best part is that you don’t need an appointment or even have to see a health care provider to get them.  Check out our information page for prices and other information.

Just one word of caution.  Nothing lights the flames of passion like a visit to the Student Health Center so be careful that you don’t get burned by those fireworks tonight!

John A. Vaughn, MD (OSU Student Health Services)

How to check on your pee

Order-It-Yourself Testing

The Student Health Center

Q: I am a first year transfer student at OSU, and new to your services. I was wondering if you offer urine screenings?

A: Thanks for your question.  The answer depends on what type of urine screening is desired.  We do three types of urine screening as “OIY (Order-It-Yourself)” tests –

  • drug abuse screens
  • gonorrhea/chlamydia testing
  • pregnancy tests

These are all at your own cost.  For more information on OIY, check out Order-It-Yourself (OIY) Testing at our Student Health web site.  The web site also has a lot of other information, such as our location, hours, and a calendar of events.

If you are interested in some other type of urine screening, you should consider making an appointment with a healthcare provider for an evaluation and discussion of your concerns.  If you see one of our providers, we can order your test right away, and most appointments are available either the same day or within a few days. 

Wish to see a provider outside of Student Health?  Our laboratory can still process most lab orders, if you bring in or the provider sends us a written request. 

Hope this answers your question.  You may also wish to call our Advice/Appointments area (614) 292-4321 and discuss your concerns with our Advice Nurse.

Good Health!

Roger Miller, MD, (OSU Student Health Services) 

Check your calendar, Groundhog!

Jogging with tunes


 February 2.  Your New Year’s resolution is officially 33 days old.  How are you doing?  Did you decide to

  • Eat healthier?
  • Stop smoking?
  • Get more exercise?
  • Party less?
  • Finally address your moodiness and depression?

One challenge of a New Year’s resolution is that it is so permanent.  If you stop smoking on January 1, only to catch yourself with a cigarette on the 3rd, all is lost.  So, how can you make this more productive and less discouraging? 

Well, if the universe can be committed to fair or foul weather for a few weeks by the emergence of a groundhog from its hole, what say you?  Can you set a short term goal for the next 6 weeks? 

Healthy eating – Can you add another fruit and vegetable to your daily diet each of the next 6 weeks? Remember, while fresh fruits and veggies have a lot of health benefits, you can also get some of these servings from microwave soups, packaged fruit bars, etc., that may be a bit easier to carry around campus.

Smokers – how about setting March 15 as your planned stop date?  Between now and then, look at your smoking habits, try to wean yourself down on the number of cigarettes used every day, and consider a visit to Student Wellness or the Health Center to talk to a professional about the health benefits. 

Exercise – Are you a couch potato?  Try starting with a twenty-minute walk tonight.  Over the next 6 weeks, see if you can progress to 30 minutes of activity that gets your heart beating a little faster, and do it at least 5 days of the week. 

Alcohol – We all know that alcohol should be used legally and in moderation.  If you occasionally cross the line, try this trick – when you go out, see if you can limit yourself to no more than one alcoholic drink each hour. If you meet your goal, then slip a five-dollar bill into your piggy bank when you get home.  At the end of six weeks, see how many “Abes” you have accumulated.

Depression – The National College Health Assessment reports that more than one in four college students is suffering from depression, but only of third of them have consulted a healthcare professional.  Did you know that in six weeks of treatment, either with medicines, counseling, or both, you can see significant improvements? 

6 weeks.  Enough time to get out there and let the sun shine on your new healthier lifestyle?  Or maybe you want to just stay in your dark, wet, wormy hole in the ground?  It’s your decision.  Will you risk seeing your shadow?

Happy Winter!

Roger Miller, MD (OSU Student Health Services)