Know Your Health Concerns for College


With the ever-growing number of students enrolling in college courses, the risk of potential disease increases.

For most students, starting their freshman year in college is a great time for discovery, friendships, and a lot of growing up. Today, more than ever before, a record number of high school seniors decide to take the next step and apply for college. But with the ever-growing number of students enrolling in college courses (over 19 mil. in 2009), the risk of potential disease increases. And I’m not talking about the common cold or the occasional headache. I’m talking of ”niche” ailments that college students are most prone to. Check them out below and get informed!

#1 Athlete’s Foot

Source: Skin infection caused by fungi and generally transmitted in moist, warm areas where people might walk barefoot (showers).

Symptoms: Scaling, flaking, and itching of the affected skin. The infection can also SPREAD to other parts of the body.

Prevention: Since spreading happens in showers or moist areas, wearing shower sandals might be an important factor in preventing this infection. At the same time, not sharing towels and keeping footwear dry will also help.

#2 Mononucleosis

Source: Viral infection caused by the Epstein-Barr virus (EBV), transmitted orally.

Symptoms: Sore throat, fatigue, fever, loss of apetite, pharyngeal inflammation (sounds like pharyngitis or flu right?).

Prevention: Avoid sharing food or drinks, wash surfaces and objects that come into contact with saliva, have a good intake of vitamin B9 (folate), reduce stress on your immune system by getting regular sleep, as well as keeping a normal diet with normal meal times.

#3 Gastroenteritis

Source: Also called Stomach Flu, most commonly caused by the norovirus, or bacteria, transmitted via improperly prepared food, seafood, reheated meat dishes etc.

Symptoms: Most commonly, nausea & vomiting, accompanied by diarrhea, abdominal cramps and headaches. These symptoms are usually accute.

Prevention: Wash hands thoroughly after using the restroom, as well as before and after eating a meal. Keep food products at their required temperatures and make sure foods are thoroughly cooked.

#4 Strep Throat

Source: Bacterial infection of the throat and tonsils, caused by streptococcal (strep) bacteria. Airborne bacteria spread through close contact with infected individuals.

Symptoms: Sore throat, fever (over 100 F), pus on the tonsils, enlarged cervical lymph nodes, muscle fatigue.

Prevention: Minimize contact with infected individuals, wash hands thoroughly and often, cover your mouth, tonsillectomy is an accepted preventative measure in extreme cases.

#5 Meningitis

Source: Inflammation of membranes covering the brain and spinal cord, caused by viral and bacterial infections.

Symptoms: Severe headache, increased neck muscle stiffness, sudden high fever and altered mental status, photophobia and phonophobia, Can be life threatening!

Prevention: Routine vaccinations! Most (if not all) colleges offer meningococcal and pneumococcal vaccines, as well as other types of vaccines against the different bacteria that cause meningitis. Remember: Meningitis can be LIFE THREATENING! See a doctor if you think you may have it!

#6 The Human Papillomavirus or HPV

Source: Also known as Genital Warts, HPV is the most common STD on college campuses nationwide. This virus is passed on through genital contact, most often during vaginal and anal sex, but can also be transmitted during oral sex and genital-to-genital contact.

Symptoms: Because HPV usually comes without any symptoms, most people don’t know they have contracted it. However, in some cases symptoms do occur. Here is what to look out for:

  • Warts that occur anywhere, from the genitals, to your hands and feet, even your throat
  • Changes to the cells of the cervix, vulva, anus, or penis, which can cause cancers
  • Several warts close together that take on a cauliflower shape

Prevention: There are no cures for this virus, but treatments and preventative methods are available. PAP smears can help detect any changes to the cells of the cervix. If these are found, a doctor usually removes any abnormal cells that can otherwise lead to cervical, oral, and anal cancer. The more easily detectable genital warts that can surface with this virus are treated topically by a physician. The CDC recommends Gardasil, a vaccination that can help prevent certain types of HPV. But most important, practice safe sex!

#7 Chlamydia

Source: Right behind HPV in STD prevalence across college campuses is Chlamydia. This is a bacterial STD and passed on through vaginal, anal, and oral sex.

Symptoms: This STD also rarely shows any symptoms, but if there are any, they surface in the following ways:

  • Painful sex
  • Irregular menstrual bleeding
  • Pain in the lower abdomen
  • Vaginal discharge
  • Fever or nausea
  • Swollen or painful testicles

Prevention: Fortunately, unlike HPV, Chlamydia is treatable and curable with antibiotics when caught. The two common oral antibiotics are Azithromycin, which you take once, or Doxycyline, which is administered twice daily for a week. And again, remeber, safe sex is key!

#8 Gonorrhea

Source: This is the third most common college STD, transmitted through vaginal, anal, and oral sex.

Symptoms: Gonorrhea can also take effect without any symptoms, but in many cases these symptoms are present:

  • Pain or burning sensation when urinating
  • Frequent urination
  • Painful sex
  • Spotting between periods
  • Swollen or painful testicles

Prevention: This STD is also easily treated and can be cured with a round of antibiotics, but it is important to catch and treat it early on because medication will not repair any permanent damage, including Pelvic Inflammatory Disease. We all know the best fail-proof method to prevent these diseases is to abstain from sex — but we know that’s not going to happen for most individuals, so it’s important to always be careful and wrap it up. Remember ladies, there’s no shame in carrying around a condom for your guy to put on when things get heated.