Asthma is a long-term disease. If you have asthma, at times the air passages of your lungs become inflamed. When this happens your airways get read and swollen. They become narrow, making it harder for you to breathe. You may also wheeze or cough. Even if you feel good your airways can become inflamed for certain things such as smoke or dust. Colds or allergies can also trigger asthma attacks.
Most people with asthma take 2 kinds of medicines. One is called controller medicine. These medicines help control the inflammation so you feel and breathe better. Controller medicines work only if you take them every day, as your doctor tells you.
Another kind of medicine is quick-relief or rescuer medicine (also called bronchodilators). These medicines dilate the airway and make it easier for you to breathe. These medicines should only be used for quick relief when you are coughing or wheezing, or when your chest feels tight.
Try to avoid things that irritate the lungs such as air pollution, tobacco smoke or perfumes. Avoiding pet hair and controlling seasonal allergies may help. Avoid infections and get a flu shot every year.
Take controller medications every day. These medicines will not work properly if you skip days.
Quick relief medicines:
If you are having shortness of breath and wheezing or your symptoms are not being controlled with your medications you should call the Health Center. Also, if you find that you wake up at night more than 2 times per month or use your quick relief inhaler more than twice a week, you should see the doctor.
Most colds are caused by invisible droplets called rhinoviruses that are in the air you breathe or on things you touch. More than 100 different rhinoviruses can infiltrate the protective lining of the nose and throat, triggering an immune system reaction that can start the cold symptom response. Rhinoviruses can stay alive as droplets in the air or on surfaces and may be able to make a person sick for as long a 3 hours after someone who has a cold has coughed or sneezed.
Colds usually begin slowly, two to three days after infection with the virus. The first symptoms are typically a scratchy, sore throat, followed by sneezing and a runny nose. Colds typically last from 3 to 10 days. Temperature is usually normal or only slightly elevated. A mild cough can develop several days later.
No medicine can cure a cold. Antibiotics don’t work against viruses. Antibiotics should only be taken if needed for bacterial infections. You can help yourself feel better by letting your body rest and by treating your symptoms while your body fights off the virus. Some suggestions include:
Many colds can be prevented by:
Most common colds do not require a visit to the health clinic. Sometime secondary bacterial infections such as ear infections, sinusitis or pneumonia may develop. These may require treatment with antibiotics. People with asthma or people who smoke may be especially prone to complications. Schedule an appointment to see the doctor or nurse practitioner if any of the following occurs:
An abrasion, or scrape, is a shallow wound characterized by a tearing or wearing away of the top layer of skin. A cut is a wound in which the skin is sliced by a sharp edge. Abrasions and cuts often occur because of an accident in which the skin is scraped against a rough surface (abrasion), or the skin is sliced by a sharp edge (cut).
The best way to clean a cut or abrasion (scrape) is with cool water. Use soap and a soft wash cloth to clean the skin around the wound. Do not use a stronger cleaning solution such as hydrogen peroxide as they may irritate the wound.
Bleeding helps clean out wounds. Most small cuts or scrapes will stop bleeding in a short time. Wounds on the face, head, or mouth will sometimes bleed a lot because these areas are rich in blood vessels. To stop the bleeding, apply firm but gentle pressure on the cut with a clean cloth, tissue, or gauze pad. If your wound is on an arm or leg, raising it above your heart will also help slow the bleeding.
Cuts and abrasions will initially be cleaned by your healthcare provider. He/she will then determine if stitches are needed. Small cuts may be closed with a special tape called butterfly tape, or special adhesive strips, such as steri strips. Antibiotic ointments, such as Bacitracin help healing by keeping out infection and by keeping the wound clean and moist. Most minor cuts and scrapes will heal just fine without antibiotic ointment, but it can speed healing and reduce scarring. Your provider may leave the wound uncovered or may cover it with a bandage. Leaving a wound uncovered helps it to stay dry and helps it heal. If the wound isn't in an area that will get dirty or be rubbed by clothing, you don't have to cover it. If it is in an area that will get dirty or be irritated by clothing, it will be covered with a Band-aid or with sterile gauze and adhesive tape. The bandage should be changed each day to keep the wound clean and dry.
Nothing. Scabs are the body's way of bandaging itself. They form to protect wounds from dirt. It is best to leave them alone and not pick at them. They will fall off by themselves when the time is right.
Ligaments and tendons surround the joints of the body. When a joint gets twisted beyond normal, the tendons and ligaments become stretched and may even tear slightly. The body responds to this injury by releasing chemicals in the area causing swelling. This can also occur when muscles are damaged.
RICE therapy is the first type of treatment that you can do. RICE stands for: Rest, Ice, Compression, Elevation.
It is not always easy to tell if you have a broken bone or it is just a strain. Generally, if you have very limited motion of the joint or if there is significant swelling or bruising then it is a good idea to call the Health Center.
(Source: National Institutes of Health, www.nih.gov.)
Influenza, or the flu, is a respiratory infection caused by a variety of flu viruses that are airborne. The flu differs in several ways from the common cold, a respiratory infection also caused by viruses. Although flu symptoms are felt throughout the body, the flu virus lives and multiplies primarily in the lungs. People with colds rarely et fevers or headaches or suffer from the extreme exhaustion that flu viruses cause. Flu season typically lasts from November to March.
You can get the flu if someone around you who has the flu coughs or sneezes. You can get the flu simply by touching a surface like a telephone or door knob that has been contaminated by a touch from someone who has the flu. The viruses can pass through the air and enter your body through your nose or mouth. If you've touched a contaminated surface, they can pass from your hand to your nose or mouth. You are at greatest risk of getting infected in highly populated areas, such as in crowded living conditions and in schools.
Usually, the flu is diagnosed on the basis of whether it is epidemic in the community and whether your complaints fit the current pattern of symptoms. Laboratory tests are rarely used to identify the virus during an epidemic.
The main way to keep from getting the flu is to get a yearly flu vaccine. Your immune system takes time to respond to the flu vaccine. Therefore, you should get vaccinated 6 to 8 weeks before flu season begins to prevent getting infected or reduce the severity of the flu if you do get it. The vaccine itself cannot cause the flu, but you could become exposed to the virus by someone else and get infected soon after you are vaccinated. Some possible side effects from the flu vaccine are soreness at the site of vaccination, sore muscles, and a slight fever. These side effects may begin 6 to 12 hours after vaccination and may last for up to 2 days. The flu vaccine is contraindicated if you have an allergy to eggs.
(Written by: Nancy Merrill, M.D. | 8/21/2003)
Mono (infectious mononucleosis) is a viral infection. The Epstein Barr virus causes mono in over 95% of cases in college students.
Common symptoms include:
Less common symptoms include:
The virus that causes mono is spread mainly through saliva, which is why it is named the “kissing disease.” Sharing a cup or toothbrush and kissing on the mouth are known methods of transmission. Being a household contact (boyfriend/girlfriend and occasionally roommate) increases your chances of exposure. However most people that get mono (> 50%) have no known exposure. Sitting in a classroom or lecture hall or living in a residence hall with a student who has mono does not increase your chance of getting the disease (unless the student with mono kisses you on the mouth or spits in your face). Being tired, stressed, malnourished or fatigued place you at greater risk, since your immune system is not able to fight exposure to the virus.
Your health care provider at the student health center will do a history and physical (ask you questions and examine you). Blood tests may be recommended. Often the initial blood test (which tests for antibodies to the virus) may be negative, because your immune system has not yet produced enough antibodies to be detectable by lab confirmation. If the 1st test is negative, this does not indicate that you have either been misdiagnosed or that you do not have mono. You will probably also be tested for “strep throat”, as many of the signs and symptoms of mono and strep are similar. If the strep test is negative, and if your signs and symptoms and CBC (blood count) results suggest mono, you will be asked to return to the health center in a few days for further testing.
Since mono is caused by a virus, there is no antibiotic treatment. Rest and fluids (allowing your immune system to fully function) are the best treatment. Your health care provider may prescribe steroids if airway obstruction is a possibility to try to decrease the size of the tonsils.
Symptoms usually last for one to two weeks. If your immune system is compromised or if you are not resting, symptoms may last a few months. You will be advised to get plenty of sleep and to abstain from strenuous physical activity.
Most college students can continue to attend classes. Since mono is not spread in the air, isolation is not required to prevent contagion. Adequate rest and proper nutrition (including fluids) are necessary for recovery. If you feel like you are falling behind academically, academic advisors and professors may be notified (with your written consent), and most are willing to assist and accommodate while you recover.
If you suspect you have mono, make an appointment to be seen by a health care provider (physician, nurse practitioner, or nurse) at the student health center.
(Revised: July 2003)
Vomiting and diarrhea lasting four to six hours becomes a medical concern.
Vomiting and diarrhea may cause dehydration and an electrolyte imbalance. If there is too much loss of fluid, dehydration may occur. Severe dehydration (too much loss of fluid) may require treatment in the hospital.
Most vomiting and diarrhea is caused by “gastroenteritis” or simply, an infection of the gastrointestinal tract. Some patients may have abdominal pain. Other causes can be ear, throat (strep), or kidney infections. A problem such as intestinal blockage or appendicitis may cause vomiting.
Sometimes bloody vomiting occurs when the stomach wall is stretched with retching and some of the small blood vessels are torn. A few small streaks of blood are not of great concern, but larger amounts should be checked by a physician.
The most important treatment is a special diet to let the stomach rest. Since most cases are caused by viruses, antibiotics will not be of any help. It is very important to follow diet instructions carefully.
If vomiting, do not eat or drink anything for four hours, then:
Vomiting usually disappears after 24 hours but may last longer, and the diarrhea that often is associated with it may last for several days.
Keep on clear liquids for at least 24 hours, then progress to solid foods such as bananas, rice, raw apples, saltine crackers, toast and jelly. Avoid all dairy products until the vomiting and diarrhea resolve.
Pink eye, or conjunctivitis, is inflammation or infection of the membrane lining the eyelids (conjunctiva). Pink eye refers to a viral or bacterial infection of the conjunctiva. These infections are very contagious. There are many causes of pink eye. The most common cause of pink eye is viruses. Other causes are allergies, bacteria, chemical exposure, and contact lenses.
Diagnosis is typically made by the signs and symptoms that you have and after examination of your eyes.
Medication, usually eye drops, is effective for pink eye and will help prevent bacterial conjunctivitis. Most infections will even resolve on their own. Eye drops should be inserted in the inner part of the lower eyelid. The discomfort with pink eye can be soothed by applying warm compresses (a clean cloth soaked in warm water) to closed eyes. Eye secretions are contagious for 24 to 48 hours after therapy begins.
Testing for sexually transmitted infections (STI) isn’t always as easy as checking blood work. There isn’t one universal test that would test for “all STDs” either. In order to determine whether or not you have an infection and what types of tests should be done, the doctor will need to ask questions about your sexual history and what symptoms you might have. Also remember that just because you’ve tested “negative” for one STI you still may have another.
Here’s a list of the testing done for STIs. All tests are available at the SMU Health Center.
Women: endocervical probes or tests done in conjunction with Pap smear. Urine tests available too.
Men: urethral probe or urine test
Notes: Blood testing not used. Costs vary up to $50 Asymptomatic women may consider screening.
Women: endocervical probes or tests done in conjunction with Pap smear. Urine tests available too.
Men: urethral probe or urine test
Notes: Blood testing not used. Costs vary up to $50
Hepatitis B, C
Women and Men: blood testing available
Notes: Vaccine available to prevent Hepatitis B
Women and Men: Most definitive test is inspection and culture of area of concern
Notes: Blood testing can be expensive and not routinely done for screening.
HIV/AIDS (Human Immunodeficiency virus/acquired immune deficiency syndrome)
Women and Men: blood testing available
Notes: Repeat testing within 6 months recommended for those at higher risk. Free testing available in Dallas: UTSW HIV testing clinic (214-645-7300)
HPV (Human Papillomavirus, including genital warts)
Women: inspection and Pap smear
Notes: No reliable blood test exists. Physician inspection in males is current screening
Women and Men: blood testing available
It’s not so easy to answer this question but here are some general guidelines:
Lasts more than 7-10 days. Also, at least three of the following are present:
If you symptoms last beyond 1-2 weeks or if you have three or more symptoms listed under sinus infection, call the Health Center.
The sinuses are a labyrinth of air pockets throughout the bones of the face. The produce secretions that wash away dist particles, bacteria, and other pollutants from the air we breathe.
Common colds (caused by viruses) will cause sinuses to become inflamed. These types of infections (viruses) respond well to self treatment and clear up on their own. Bacterial sinus infections may require a doctors visit (see above).
Pharyngitis can be caused by many things. Sometimes when mucus from your sinuses drains into your throat, the drainage can make your throat feel sore, especially in the mornings. 90% of sore throats in adults are caused by viruses. Bacteria (such as strep) can cause a sore throat. Your throat may also feel sore if you smoke, breathe polluted air or drink alcoholic beverages. If you have hay fever or other allergies, a sore throat may be one of the symptoms. Most other sore throats are caused by viruses, which usually do not lead to serious problems.
Many of the illnesses that cause sore throats have similar symptoms. If you have a sore throat, you can treat the pain with acetominophen (Tylenol), ibuprofen (Advil) or naproxen (Aleve). If the soreness in your throat does not go away after 2 days, call the Health Center. You may need to have tests run to determine the cause of your sore throat.
Strep throat is caused by a type of bacteria called Streptococcus. The pain of strep throat often feels much like sore throats caused by other illnesses. What’s important and different about strep throat is that serious complications may occur if it is not treated with antibiotics.
If you have signs of strep throat, such as fever, enlarged lymph nodes or white patches in your throat, your doctor will order a strep test. He or she may do a rapid strep test, a throat culture, or both. If your doctor thinks you have a viral infection such as infectious mononucleosis (mono), he or she will probably do a blood test.
If your sore throat is caused by strep, your doctor will order an antibiotic injection or an oral antibiotic to take for 10 days. It is very important to take all the oral antibiotic, even if you start feeling better after a few days. If a strep throat is present, others with sore throats who live with or have been close to the patient should be tested and/or treated. The antibiotic will prevent Rheumatic Fever and Rheumatic Heart Disease.
If a sore throat is a symptom of hay fever or another allergy, your doctor can help determine the causes of your allergies, or you may need to take medicine for your allergies.
Antibiotics don’t work against viruses. Antibiotics given inappropriately for viral illnesses contribute to the emergence of antibiotic-resistant bacteria. Infections caused by viruses usually just run their course. If you have a cold, your symptoms will usually go away within a week or 10 days. Symptoms caused by mono can last longer, sometimes for 4 weeks or longer. Your can help yourself feel better with the tips listed below.
Urinary tract infections are infections of the urethra, bladder or kidneys caused by bacteria. Cystitis is an infection of the bladder; urethritis is an infection of the urethra (opening of the bladder); pyelonephritis is an infection of the kidneys.
Infections in the urinary tract generally start when bacteria enter from the outside. Normally there should be no bacteria in the urinary tract. The bacteria that cause most urinary tract infections are commonly found in the lower intestine. The trouble starts when they move into the urethra and up into the bladder. In both men and women, bacteria leaving the body through the rectum can sometimes re-enter through the urethra. If they succeed in reaching the bladder, they then find a warm, moist environment in which to settle and multiply rapidly. However, because a woman’s urethra is much shorter (< 1 inch long) than a man’s urethra (which runs the full length of the penis), bacteria invading a woman’s urinary tract have a much shorter trip and a far better chance of getting established.
Toilet habits: After urination or a bowel movement, bacteria can enter the urethra through the vagina in two ways. First, wiping from back to front with toilet tissue can bring bacteria directly into the entrance of the urinary tract. Second, even if you keep your rectal area very clean, bacteria can reside in your underwear and work their way around the vaginal area during exercise, bike riding, and while wearing tight jeans or thongs.
Sexual intercourse: Vaginal manipulation (fingering) and the thrusting of sexual intercourse can spread bacteria throughout the genital area while temporarily traumatizing the urethra. Symptoms usually begin within 12 to 48 hours after sex. Women who have recently become sexually active frequently have urinary tract infections, often referred to as “honeymoon cystitis”.
Dehydration: Inadequate intake of fluids (especially water), excessive sweating, and drinking alcoholic and caffeine beverages all lead to dehydration. Urinary tract infections are more likely to occur and symptoms are usually more severe if you are dehydrated.
The most frequent symptoms of cystitis and urethritis (bladder infections) include:
The most frequent symptoms of pyelonephritis (kidney infection) include:
By a urinalysis test. You will be asked to give a urine sample, which will be tested for bacteria, white cells, and blood. A culture and sensitivity may be performed on the urine sample to determine the most effective antibiotic to treat the infection. If you have fever a blood sample may be needed.
Usually by antibiotics. It is very important to take all of the medication prescribed. If the antibiotic is stopped to soon, a second infection may occur that may be more difficult to treat. A medication to relieve the pain may also be prescribed.
Drinking a lot of liquids will help clear the urinary tract. Water (at least 64 ounces/day) is the best fluid. Avoid alcohol and caffeine drinks. There is some evidence that cranberry juice is helpful in creating an unfavorable environment for the bacteria to grow.