How to Build a First Aid Kit for College

By Kirsten Licht, MS, health promotions analyst

Heading to college is all about learning and preparing for your future. This includes being prepared with a first aid kit!

There are a variety of already assembled first aid kits you can purchase at your local drug store, but you can also easily put one together yourself using a sturdy box with a lid — plastic is preferable.

Your kit should include:

  • Alcohol pads
  • Antibiotic ointment
  • Bandages – a variety of sizes and colors
  • First aid tape
  • Gauze pads
  • Ice pack
  • Oral thermometer
  • Over the counter medication:
    • Anti-diarrhea medication
    • Antacids
    • Acetaminophen or ibuprofen for aches and fever
    • Anything else you regularly use at home
  • Scissors
  • Tweezers
  • Warm pack or heating pad

Once cold and flu season arrives, you should expand your kit with these items:

  • Chapstick
  • Cold medicine
  • Cough medicine
  • Cough drops and sore throat lozenges
  • Soup and tea
  • Tissues
  • Vicks VapoRub

Don’t forget these essentials during the spring and summer:

  • 1% hydrocortisone cream
  • Allergy medication
  • Aloe lotion for sunburns
  • Calamine lotion
  • Sunscreen

It’s a good idea to keep important medical information nearby in case of an emergency, such as:

  • Allergy information
  • Blood type
  • Chronic health information if applicable
  • Contact information for your family doctor
  • Contact information for the University Health Center
    • 1500 U Street, Lincoln, NE 68588-0618
    • 402.472.5000
  • Emergency contact information
  • Medications taken on a regular basics
  • Your insurance card and a copy to keep in your first aid kit

Lastly, be prepared by talking to your relatives about your family medical history before you come to campus. This information is helpful for medical appointments and emergencies.

If you forget or run out of an item in your first aid kit, the University Health Center pharmacy can help. We offer many of these first aid kit essentials, many for less than $5.



Don’t Fall for These Common Hydration Myths

By Kirsten Licht, MS, health promotions analyst

Our bodies are comprised of about 60 percent water, and this water is essential for healthy skin, hair, and nails; removing waste through urine; and controlling body temperature, heart rate, and blood pressure.

Although we should make drinking water a priority in our day, it’s important to recognize that there are many commonly believed myths about hydration:

MYTH 1: You need 8 cups of water a day.

It’s important to drink water daily, but each person’s intake needs are different. You may need more than eight glasses or you may need less. Your needs can change from day to day and depend on your size, weight, outside temperature, daily activities and the foods you’ve eaten.

MYTH 2: If you’re thirsty, you’re already dehydrated.

If you feel thirsty, you’re not already dehydrated — you’re just thirsty; drink some water and you will likely feel better. Our thirst is pretty accurate in reporting our hydration needs.

Dehydration becomes a problem when you exceed a five to eight percent body water reduction. Symptoms of dehydration are much more severe than a slightly dry mouth. They include dizziness, fatigue, confusion, or not being able to stay awake; faintness that is not relieved by lying down; an inability to stand or walk; rapid breathing; a weak, rapid pulse; and loss of consciousness.

MYTH 3: Clear urine is how to tell if you are hydrated.

If your urine comes out clear, it just means you are full of fluid and it is coming out. If your urine is more concentrated, it will be more yellow, but it is still healthy. If your pee is the color of apple juice or darker, or very smelly, you need more fluid.

In fact, It’s possible to drink too much water, which dilutes the body’s sodium levels and can cause symptomatic hyponatremia, a potentially fatal condition.

MYTH 4: Caffeine dehydrates you.

The diuretic (causing increased passing of urine) effect of caffeine in coffee and soda is mild compared to the amount of fluid they contain. So the take away is that caffeinated fluids can contribute to your daily fluid intake. However, keep in mind that caffeinated drinks can interfere with your sleep, and some drinks may be high in calories and sugar.

Rather than plan your hydration goals around the common myths above, try following these tips to drink more fluid:

  • Make drinking water a part of your daily routine
  • Always have water handy
  • If you need variety, add flavor to your water with sliced cucumbers, kiwi, etc.
  • Set a timer on your phone to remind you to fill up your water bottle
  • Eat foods with higher water content — cucumbers, watermelon, spinach, grapes, etc.
  • Treat yourself to a nice water bottle
  • Find the right temperature — do you like freezing water or is room temperature more for you?




Top Five Reasons to Consider Nebraska’s Student Health Insurance

Having health insurance may be the difference between achieving your academic dreams and being sidelined by unexpected medical bills.

Don’t let this happen to you!

If you need health insurance, consider UnitedHealthcare StudentResources, the University of Nebraska’s health insurance option for students.

Here are the top five reasons you should consider enrolling:

  • The on-campus benefits can’t be beat. Most medically necessary services at the University Health Center are covered at 100 percent with no deductible or coinsurance.
  • It’s accepted nationwide wherever UnitedHealthcare is accepted. That way, you can easily use your insurance if you’re ever off campus.
  • The low-deductible is realistic for most students’ financial situations. The annual deductible is $500 per insured person per policy year, and coinsurance is 80/20. The annual out-of-pocket maximum is $2,200 per person per policy year and the annual aggregate maximum benefit is unlimited.
  • The plan includes Dental and Pharmacy. The annual dental benefits include two healthy mouth cleanings, two exams and two sets of bitewing X-rays, and a $1,000 maximum coverage per person per calendar year. Pharmacy co-pays are cheaper at the University Health Center than other pharmacies.
  • The premium can be billed to your MyRed account. Pay the premium with your tuition and even use financial aid to help cover the cost.

Enroll Now!

Open enrollment for the Fall 2017 coverage period is open now and closes Sept. 5, 2017, at midnight. For enrollment instructions and more information about student insurance, visit

Questions? Contact the University Health Center billing and insurance office: 402.472.7435,

Self-Care Tips for Bug Bites and Stings

With the warm, summer weather comes a prevalence of biting and stinging insects such as fire ants, bees, wasps, spiders, chiggers and mosquitos.

Although applying insect repellent, covering exposed skin and avoiding perfumes can help prevent a bite or sting, these methods aren’t 100 percent effective. It’s best to be prepared in case a sting or bite occurs.

Depending on the insect, the affected areas can cause pain, itching or both. In most cases, a bite or sting can be treated with self-care. In other cases, emergent care may be needed.

If you’ve had an encounter with a biting or stinging insect, here are our self-care tips:


You’ll know when you’ve been stung by a bee, wasp or hornet by the sharp pain and burning sensation that follows. A red ring or bump will appear when you’ve been stung.

Check to see if the stinger is still in the wound. If you see the black dot or stick-like substance, remove it by using your fingernail to scrape it in the opposite direction it is faces. Never attempt to squeeze the stinger out. Once the stinger has been removed or if you do not see a stinger, wash the area with soap and water. Apply an ice pack to reduce swelling. Take Tylenol or Advil for pain as needed. If the wound becomes itchy, apply calamine lotion several times a day and take an antihistamine.

If you have an allergic reaction, this will generally occur within the first two hours. The reaction can range in severity, from nausea, cramps and diarrhea to more life-threatening symptoms such as trouble breathing, mouth or facial swelling, dizziness and faintness. If you know you are allergic to stings, take an EpiPen immediately after the sting, then take an antihistamine and call 911 (even if you’ve taken an EpiPen).


Most bug bites are harmless, but certain spider bites, such as the black widow or brown recluse, both of which are common in Nebraska, can cause illness or death. If you know or suspect a spider has bitten you, take a photo of it if you can and bring it with you to the health care facility for identification purposes.

If an insect has bitten you and you are certain it isn’t poisonous, treat the area by:

  • Washing it with soap and water
  • Avoid scratching it
  • Apply anti-itch creams such as calamine
  • Use anti-inflammatory creams like hydrocortisone cream to ease swelling and itching
  • If the itching or burning is severe, take an antihistamine
  • Rub the itchy area with an ice cube

The University Health Center can help you treat bug bites and stings as well as many other summer illnesses and injuries. Walk ins are available during the summer, or to make an appointment, call 402.472.5000.

Celebrate #NWHW With These Healthy Living Tips

It’s National Women’s Health Week! This observance is an opportunity to empower women to make their health a priority and to encourage them to take steps to improve their health.

Here are a few tips for college-age woman who want to live a healthy lifestyle:

Visit a doctor or nurse for a well-woman visit (checkup) and preventive screenings

Ask them how often you need to be seen for a routine checkup. Use this time to bring up any health concerns or questions you have. The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force recommends college-age women get these regular screenings:

  • Pap test every three years if you are 21 or older and have a cervix
  • Chlamydia test annually through age 24 if you are sexually active or pregnant
  • Cholesterol test regularly starting at age 20 if you are at increased risk for heart disease
  • Diabetes screening if your blood pressure is higher than 135/80 or if you take medicine for high blood pressure
  • Gonorrhea test annually if you are sexually active and at increased risk
  • HIV test at least once (discuss your risk with your doctor or nurse as you may need more frequent tests)
  • Syphilis test annually if you are at increased risk or pregnant

Many of these tests are offered at the University Health Center, as well as well-woman visits. To schedule, call 402.472.5000.

Eat healthy

Eat a high fiber, low fat diet. Include plenty of vegetables and fruits, and watch out for fried and prepared foods. Milk products and/or those containing other forms of protein and calcium are very important for women throughout their lifetime. Limited alcohol is also a plus. For more suggestions, visit

Make sleep a priority

Sleep is easy to neglect, especially in college, but doing so can affect your academic success and overall quality of life. Lack of sleep is linked to a wide variety of physical and emotional illnesses. Benefits of sleep include stress reduction, improved focus and concentration and a boosted immune system. Aim for seven to nine hours of sleep per night.

Don’t let stress sneak up on you

Adequate sleep and good nutrition are two of the most important ways to decrease stress, anxiety, headaches and many physical complaints. If you feel overwhelmed by the stress in your life, seek out a counselor who can help guide you in ways to manage your stress. It’s all about coping and succeeding! Counseling and Psychological Services is here for you. To make an appointment, call 402.472.7450.

Get active

Exercise is a great way to relieve stress, improve focus and concentration and increase energy. Also, it’s just plain good for your heart and body. You don’t have to go to a gym to enjoy the benefits of increased activity; take a walk, go swimming or ride a bike. For more information on the benefits of and ideas for physical activity, visit

Don’t neglect your sexual health

STD testing is recommended any time you have a new sexual partner. Condom use is a good way to prevent most STDs, but it does not guard against Herpes or Human Papilloma Virus (HPV). 

Stay current on your immunizations

Get an annual flu shot. Consider getting Gardasil, a three-shot series of immunizations that helps protection from HPV, the leading cause of cervical cancer and genital warts. Check your tetanus shot status; you need one every 10 years.

For more wellness tips, follow our blog!

Four Tips for Safe International Travel

By Szuhua Lambdin, APRN

When planning for your trip oversees, don’t become so wrapped up in getting the necessary travel documents, booking your flights and planning your activities that you neglect the equally important task of planning to take care of your health during your travels.

Here are a few tips to remember as you prepare for your trip:

Take time to research your destination. Are there any health risks in the area? Is it prone to certain natural disasters? Are there any safety or security concerns? Consider how these answers might affect your travel plans or your behaviors while you visit.

Schedule an appointment with a travel medicine provider before your trip. Do this at least four to six weeks before you leave. He or she can help ensure you have the necessary immunizations and advice you need to have a safe, fun trip. Be prepared to discuss where you are traveling in a particular country, your trip’s length, any planned activities and your personal medical history. The University Health Center’s Travel Clinic is open to Nebraska students, faculty and staff as well as all members of the local community. Call 402.472.5000 to schedule an appointment.

Don’t let illness or injuries on your trip catch you off guard. Check your health insurance plan to see if it will cover health needs abroad. If not, consider purchasing additional travel health insurance. Know and be able to identify common travel ailments. It’s also recommended that you understand the signs and symptoms of illness so you can act quickly if something happens on your trip. Discuss these signs and symptoms with your provider during your pre-travel health appointment.

Although it may seem obvious, remember to continue practicing healthy behaviors during your trip:

  • Use sunscreen and insect repellant
  • Stay hydrated
  • Eat a balanced diet
  • Limit alcohol intake
  • Wear protective gear when doing adventurous activities
  • Wear a seatbelt
  • Understand and follow your destination’s laws and customs

For more helpful tips and information, visit the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the U.S. Passports & International Travel websites.

Whooping Cough: What You Need to Know

Although pertussis, or whooping cough, is most commonly associated with babies, college students are just as susceptible.

Pertussis causes intense fits or spells of coughing and is known for the whooping sound made as air is inhaled. Thousands of new cases are reported each year in the U.S. Symptoms can last for weeks, and in some cases, the coughing can be so intense that eating, drinking or even breathing is difficult.

Although many have been vaccinated for whooping cough, these vaccinations aren’t 100 percent effective. The vaccine wears off over time, so those without a booster may spread the illness. Even those who have had a booster could catch it during intense local outbreaks.

How do I know if I have it?

Whooping cough is caused by a bacterium called Bordetella pertussis and is spread through droplets in the air caused by sneezing and coughing. Once the bacterium is present in the airways, they begin to swell and the body produces mucus. What starts like a common cold eventually evolves into a severe cough.

Symptoms are grouped into three stages

  • Stage one: Mild cough, low-grade fever, runny nose
  • Stage two: Worsening cough that is dry, harsh and ends with a whoop sound; cough that may cause vomiting; coughing started by many different actions (eating, talking, etc.)
  • Stage three: Vomiting and whooping sound cease, cough decreases after six weeks

How can I get better?

Because whooping cough symptoms look like other medical conditions, it’s important you visit a health care provider for diagnosis. Whooping cough can be confirmed with a culture taken from the nose.

Your age, medical history and severity of the condition can determine treatment. Hospitalization may be ordered for sever cases. Antibiotics likely will be given to prevent the spread of infection to others. Rest, fluids and fever control are recommended.

How can I prevent it?

If you didn’t have a booster, called Tdap, as a pre-teen, get one now. When it’s time for you to get your regular tetanus booster (recommended every 10 years), get a Tdap instead.

When you have a cough, remember to cover it with your sleeve or a tissue to prevent spreading germs and wash your hands often.

If you suspect your symptoms are worsening, see a medical provider. Early treatment prevents the spread of whooping cough, so don’t put off scheduling an appointment. Call 402.472.5000 to be seen at the University Health Center.