Stomach bug back on campus

click to enlarge

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).  Stay away from orange juice, that will just cause irritation.  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 like hamburgers and pizza 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)

Revised 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.

Medical Mythbusters – Can you catch the flu from the flu vaccine?

Q: I’ve heard that you the flu shot can give you the flu.  Is that true?

A: Definitely not! This is one of the most pervasive and frustrating medical myths out there. The flu shot contains only dead virus so there is no way it can infect you.

It is possible that the shot can induce an immune response that gives you flu-like symptoms such as muscle aches or a low grade fever, but nothing compared to getting the actual flu.  If you do get the flu after a flu shot, it is likely that you were exposed to the flu or another illness before getting the shot, since it takes about 2 weeks after your shot for full immunity to develop. The flu vaccine doesn’t guarantee 100% protection; it is always possible to catch a strain of the flu not included in the vaccine.

Certain people who are at especially high risk of complications from the flu definitely need to get vaccinated every year, but the flu shot is available to anyone who wants to avoid getting the flu.

You can find information on getting the flu vaccine at OSU Student Health Services here.  

Angela Walker, Med IV (Ohio State College of Medicine)

John A. Vaughn, MD (Ohio State Student Health Services)

Reviewed by Tina Comston, M.Ed. (Ohio State Student Health Services)

Help There’s a Bat in My Room, What Should I do?

Bats can transmit the rabies disease

Here at Student Health Services things have been a bit batty.  We have had quite a few appointments related to bat exposures.  Why would someone schedule a doctor’s appointment if they have been exposed to a bat?  Bats can be carriers of rabies.  In fact, the CDC recommends that all persons with a bite, scratch, or mucous membrane exposure to a bat undergo rabies post exposure prophylaxis. 

Mucous membranes line the cavities that are exposed to the external environment and to internal organs.  Think nose, lips, eyelids, ears, etc.  If a bat were to land on you and touch your ear, for example, you might have a mucous membrane exposure.

If you woke up because a bat landed on you while you were sleeping of if you awakened and found a bat in your room, you have potentially been exposed.  The small teeth of a bat can make a bite difficult to find, so it’s better to be safe in these situations and assume exposure.

Of course, the best thing to do if you have been exposed to a bat is to safely capture the bat in question and have it submitted for rabies testing.  You can contact the Ohio State Veterinary hospital for more information.  If you are unable to capture the bat, then thoroughly wash the affected area with soap and water and schedule an appointment at Student Health Services or with your primary care physician.  They can then determine if rabies post exposure prophylaxis is needed.

Rabies post exposure prophylaxis involves four doses of rabies vaccine given on the day of the exposure and then again on days 3, 7, and 14.  The purpose is to prevent you from contracting rabies which is a very nasty and deadly virus.

Submitted by Tina Comston, M.Ed.

Reviewed by Mary Jane Elam, MD

I stepped on a nail. Do I need a tetanus shot?


Get your vaccination

Jogging with tunes

Q: I stepped on a nail and am wondering if I need a tetanus shot.  My last shot was 5 years ago.

A: You should probably get a tetanus shot in this case.  Tetanus vaccines are given to children in the USA with a series of 5 childhood shots called the DTaP.  The vaccine covers diphtheria, tetanus, and pertussis.  A booster that contains vaccines to all three diseases is given between the ages of 11 and 18.  After that, it is recommended that adults get the booster vaccine every 10 years, and sooner (every 5 years) if there is an injury. 

What kinds of injuries are concerning?

Puncture wounds from objects like nails and bites are most susceptible to infection with tetanus. However, you can also get tetanus from any exposure to soil, including minor cuts, scrapes, and burns, and sometimes with no injury at all. 

Is tetanus a bad diease?

Thanks to the vaccine, Tetanus (or “lockjaw” as it used to be known) is pretty rare in the United States, which is a good thing because it is seriously bad news.  Once the tetanus bacteria get into your tissues, it starts creating toxins that interfere with nerves.  This leads to muscle spasms, contractions, and ultimately, respiratory failure.  We emphasize the importance of the vaccine because Tetanus is deadly and there is no cure for it. 

How do I care for my wound?

It is important to take care of a skin wound to prevent infection.  The steps are:

  • Clean the wound thoroughly with soap and water. 
  • Use an antibiotic cream and keep the wound covered with a bandage until it scabs over. 
  • Remember to change the dressing daily or it becomes wet or dirty.
  • Seek care if the wound is getting more red or painful, or if you have other concerns. 

Student Health Services offers services for most non-life-threatening injuries and wounds, and the full range of adult immunizations, including the Tetanus/Diphtheria and Tetanus/Diphtheria/Acellular Pertussis boosters used most commonly in this situation.  Check out our price list, in case you are concerned about the cost.

FINAL SUMMARY – if you get hurt, consider getting a tetanus shot if it has been more than 5 years since your last booster, and keep your tetanus protection up-to-date every ten years. 

Student Health Services
The Ohio State University

Can a Toilet Give You Gonorrhea?

an aquarium you don't want to visit!

Clinical Correlations is a blog managed by the NYU Department of Internal Medicine.  I was perusing it this week and came across a great post about whether or not you can catch gonorrhea from sitting on a toilet seat.  The blog is written by medical students and physicians for medical students and physicians, so it’s a little heavy on the scientific details, but it’s actually pretty readable and since this is a topic that is always of interest around campus, it’s definitely worth a read. 

Check it out… and always remember to put the lid down when you’re done!   

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

Enough with the manscaping, already!

Dr. Emily Gibson, Director of Student Health Services at Western Washington University, wrote a great story about the risks of frequent pubic hair removal in their student paper.  I agree with my esteemed colleague that the obsession with pubic hair removal on campuses nationwide has gotten out of hand – I encourage you to check out the article, and put the razor/wax/light saber away for a while.

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

Have you been asked the Five P’s??? – April is STD Awareness Month

GYT - Make your appointment!

Use protection

Let’s say you are going to Student Health or your private caregiver.  In most cases, they are going to ask you a few questions about your sexual health and sexual practices. These questions are very personal, but they are as important as the questions about other areas of physical and mental health. Your answers are kept in strict confidence. 

So, are you ready to talk about your five P’s?  The five “P”s stand for Partners, Practices, Protection from STDs, Past history of STDs, and Prevention of pregnancy.


  • Are you currently sexually active? (Are you having sex?)
  • In the past 12 months, how many sex partners have you had?
  • Are your sex partners men, women, or both?


  • What kind of sexual contact do you have or have you had?
  • Genital (penis in the vagina), Anal (penis in the anus), Oral (mouth on penis, vagina, or anus)?

Protection from STDs

  • Do you and your partner(s) use any protection against STDs? If not, why?  If so, what kind”
  • How often do you use this protection? If “sometimes,” in what situations or with whom do you use protection?
  • Are there other forms of protection that you would like to discuss today?

Past history of STD’s

  • Have you ever been diagnosed with an STD?
  • Have you had any recurring symptoms or diagnoses?
  • Have you ever been tested for HIV, or other STDs? Would you like to be tested?
  • Has your current partner or any former partners ever been diagnosed or treated for an STD?

Prevention of pregnancy (Based on partners noted earlier, conception and contraception questions may be appropriate)

  • Are you currently trying to conceive or father a child?
  • Are you concerned about getting pregnant or getting your partner pregnant?
  • Are you using contraception or practicing any form of birth control?
  • Do you need any information on birth control?

Finally, before you move on to discuss other things with your caregiver, consider:

  • Are there other things about your sexual health and sexual practices that you should discuss to help ensure your good health?
  • Any other concerns or questions regarding sexual health in general?

Student Health Services can offer you expert advice, all the current diagnostic and treatment options, and vaccinations that can protect you long term.  Come see us, and GET YOURSELF TESTED

Roger Miller, MD (OSU Student Health)

Travel Medicine In Focus

Gorakhpur, India

Q:  I am going to (FILL IN YOUR DESTINATION HERE) and I don’t really think I need any shots to go there.  Should I still make a travel appointment at Wilce Student Health?

A: We see OSU students traveling to nearly every destination on the globe, and the risks do vary from country to country, no doubt.  However, there is more to a travel appointment than getting an exotic vaccine.  Our travel medicine providers will: 

·   Provide current health and security information about your destination(s)

·   Update your routine immunizations

·   Recommend tuberculosis (TB) testing when indicated

·   Prescribe travel medicines, including anti-malaria pills

·   Advise you on getting adequate supplies of your prescription medicines

·   Provide information on staying healthy while traveling, such as food and water safety, sun and insect protection, and more

·   Explain and recommend travel vaccines for diseases like typhoid and yellow fever

So, even if you are traveling to a destination with limited risk, you still might want to consider coming in for some advice and recommendations. 

Wilce Student Health is an Ohio Department of Health-approved vaccine site, and routinely stocks the most commonly used travel shots at reasonable prices.  We also issue official World Health Organization vaccine certificates to all travel patients. 

Happy Travels! 

Roger Miller, MD (OSU Student Health)


Breakthroughs in HIV research

HIV - Public Health Image Library

At the March 2013 Conference on Retroviruses and Opportunistic Infections in Georgia, new research findings regarding long-term suppression of HIV virus in humans were discussed.  HIV is a retrovirus, meaning that it infects cells by inserting itself into the genetic code. 

Since 1996, highly aggressive antiretroviral therapy (HAART) has advanced to the point where HIV infection can be suppressed in patients, preventing the advancement of disease and reducing the risk for other associated infections.  However, these patients were not considered “cured”, since the virus levels would rise whenever the treatment was stopped. 

However, two recent breakthroughs may change our perspectives on an HIV cure. 

  • An infant in Mississippi born to an HIV infected mother was treated with a combination of HIV medicines from immediately after birth, but stopped the medicine.  However, when she was re-tested off medication, the virus was not detected. 
  • 14 adults in France who were treated with antiretrovirals shortly after exposure have been followed for several years off treatment, and all are maintaining extremely low virus levels. 

Both of these are considered “functional cures”, because the virus can still be found with special high sensitivity testing, but the virus levels stay low. This breakthrough only applies to a small subset of HIV patients, because it requires aggressive treatment in the period shortly after exposure.  However, any measure that gives sustained suppression of HIV without treatment is huge.

If you have questions or concerns about HIV exposure or infection, come see us at Student Health Services.  Our staff can help with the best advice and resources.

Good Health!

Roger Miller, MD (OSU Student Health Services)