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:

Stings

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).

Bites

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 womenshealth.gov.

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 womenshealth.gov

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.

Five Ways to Make the Most of Your Summer

Take a class. Whether you’re staying in Lincoln for the summer or going home, you can use this time to continue making headway on your degree. Some people prefer to learn in this format since classes are condensed into a shorter period of time and you can focus on just one subject.

Strengthen your relationships. Spending the school year away from old friends and family can be difficult. Even if you’re from town, we’re often so busy it can be hard to keep in touch. Take advantage of this time together to catch up and make some new memories.

Start a new hobby. Hobbies can help you make new friends, reduce stress, and increase positive emotions. Whether you want to learn to knit, code, blog, or play softball, a summer break can be a great time to start a hobby or skill you’ve been dying to try.

Read a book for pleasure. When was the last time you read a book that wasn’t assigned for a class? It can be hard to fit in time for reading for fun during the school year. Use the leisure time you have by the pool to catch up on your book list. The same principle can be applied to movies and/or documentaries. Instead of re-watching The Office for the third time, check out some classic films or a documentary that will expand your worldview on Netflix.

Gain work experience. Getting a summer internship or job in your field of study can be a great resume builder for after graduation. If you don’t have employment lined up yet, even positions in seemingly unrelated fields can have transferable skills. Visit Career Services for tips and tricks on phrasing for your resume.

Whatever your plans, the UHC staff wishes you a safe, happy and healthy summer break!

How to Navigate End-of-Semester Roommate Conflict

By Danielle Parrish, LIMHP

If you haven’t already, you can start your countdown to the end of the semester. During this time, some of you may be experiencing end of the year stress. This may be caused not only by deadlines and exams, but possibly by roommate struggles as well.

The final weeks of the semester may not be the end of your relationship with your roommate, but remember this is not the time to work through every detail of every annoyance you’ve ever had with them.

Instead, focus on a temporary, solution-focused plan to get you both successfully through finals week (Later you can work through those bigger issues that have been brewing over time — Counseling and Psychological Services can help you with that, too!):

  1. Communicate – Set clear expectations by being open, direct and respectful ahead of time about what you need in order to be successful. Then, ask them what they need and really listen! This sets the stage to allow for ongoing dialogue to keep each other on track and to remind your roommate if they are not respecting your needs during times of high stress.
  2. Have a plan – Post a schedule of each of your final exams/projects so you can each be aware of the others’ level of stress throughout the coming weeks.
  3. Take accountability for YOU by practicing good self-care – Prioritize your sleep, nourish your body, stay physically active, shower(!), meditate, listen to relaxing music, spend time with friends and laugh.
  4. Support your roommate – Remember that they are stressed, too, and be there to support them, but also know your limits. Encourage them to rely on their friends and family and to reach out for professional support if needed.
  5. Get out of the room/apartment/house – Whether it’s a walk in the fresh air, a study session at the library or a coffee break downtown, just make an effort to change your scenery and take breaks from your roommate.
  6. Apologize when appropriate – We all make mistakes. If you’ve been the person who has taken out your stress on an unsuspecting, undeserving roommate, apologize! Then take some time to relax and do something fun together: watch Netflix, get ice cream or sit by the fountains at the Union.

CAPS is here if you need to talk. We offer individual counseling, free support groups, therapy groups and much more. Schedule an appointment by calling 402.472.7450.

Beat End-of-Semester Anxiety With These Tips

By Kylie (Xiping) Qiu, M.S., PLMHP

Our mind is like a wave. We can’t control the wave, but we can always learn how to surf.

No matter how busy we are, we all brush our teeth on average six minutes a day. We never question this routine, and yet when it comes to maintaining our mental health, many of us don’t do this until we are forced to because of a common reason — “I don’t have time.”

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But if we’re honest, this isn’t exactly true because we don’t skip brushing our teeth when we are busy. It all comes down to priorities.

We have to recognize that preventive care is just as important for our mental health as it is our physical health. Don’t wait until you have a mental break down to learn stress management!

How stress affects the body

Stress is our body’s response to a life-threatening situation, like suddenly stumbling across a venomous snack on a hike. On an abstract level, exams are the “life-threatening danger” for students.

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No one can avoid stress, but we can avoid anxiety. Our mind is like a wave. We can’t control the wave, but we can always learn how to surf.

To reduce our anxiety level while experiencing stress, we have to calm down first.

Be a bridge builder

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When “fighting” with finals, the sympathetic nervous system (SNS) is aroused by stress, anger or fear, which accelerates the heart rate, constricts blood vessels and raises blood pressure — the physical feelings of anxiousness. When the sympathetic nervous system is working, our parasympathetic nervous system (PSNS) is on leave. PSNS slows the heart rate, increases intestinal and glandular activity and relaxes the muscles.

SNS and PSNS are like two workers with their own shifts on duty. When one is always in charge and prohibits the other to work, it breaks the system’s balance. To make matters trickier, these two workers don’t talk to each other.

Don’t lose hope! The secret is that we were all born with the ability to manage and build bridges between those two workers. We do this by controlling our breathing and managing our judgmental thoughts.

Breathe to achieve mindfulness

Consider your natural breathing. Is it fast or slow? Deep or shallow? Stable or unstable? Breathing deeply and slowly can activate our PSNS. Intentionally do this whenever you can.

Manage your judgmental thoughts

Thoughts like “I need to skip this chapter because I don’t have time” or “I just couldn’t focus” help you make a decision, which is the type of thoughts we need. Judgmental thoughts like “I am stupid” or “it’s my fault that I didn’t study well enough throughout the semester, and see this is the consequence…” won’t help you manage stress because they hurt your self-esteem and confidence.

The three steps to thought management are:

  1. Recognize judgmental thoughts
  2. Observe your thoughts like a third party instead of reacting in your typical ways
  3. Let the thoughts go without reaction

You might say, “I couldn’t let it go.” That’s OK because you tried. You will build more skill and tolerance if you try it repeatedly.

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What else can I do?

  1. Educate yourself on stress management and take time to balance SNS and PSNS
  2. Evaluate yourself by scoring your anxiety or fear on a scale of one to 10 (10 being the most overwhelming) at least once a day
  3. Practice breathing skills instead of watching your cell phone during your study breaks. Intentionally slow down your breathing and make it as deep as you can, but don’t hold your breath. Follow these instructions:
    1. Sit comfortably. Devote 100 percent of your attention on your breathing. Breathe in all the air until your lungs are filled and then breathe out slowly until there is no air left. Repeat this five, 10 or 20 times.
  4. Repeat breathing skills until you feel much calmer or less stressed
  5. Manage your judgmental thoughts
  6. Plan six minutes in your daily schedule to focus on your mental health, just like brushing teeth
  7. Learn more stress management tips when you complete your final because you deserve to feel less stressed during your next finals preparation

If you need help managing your stress, talk with us. We can help. Make an appointment with Counseling and Psychological Services by calling 402.472.7450.

My friend was sexually assaulted. What do I do?

By Jamie Porter, health promotions analyst

Because one in five women and one in 16 men will be sexually assaulted in college, it’s highly likely you already know someone who has been sexually assaulted. If you don’t think you know anyone who has, they may not yet have told you about this very personal trauma they’ve experienced, or you will meet someone in the future.

If and when someone discloses to you that they’ve been sexually assaulted, it can be difficult to know what to do. Here’s how you can help a friend who has been sexually assaulted:

Believe them

It’s a myth that people often lie about being assaulted. Research shows reports of sexual assault are substantiated just as often as reports of any other crime. Since we don’t doubt someone when they say their car has been broken into, we shouldn’t doubt someone when they say they’ve been sexually assaulted.

Respond carefully

You may be the first person that your friend has told about this. How you respond may determine if and how they get help. Some good things to say are “I’m sorry this happened to you,” “It’s not your fault,” and “I believe you.”

Listen

When you hear that something so traumatic has happened to your friend, it can be easy to want to jump in and start making suggestions or asking specific questions. Instead, sit back and thank them for trusting you with this information. Don’t ask overly intrusive questions about the assault unless they tell you themselves. Some good open ended questions that will require you to listen more are “how are you feeling?”, “how can I help?”, “how would you like to go forward?”.

Familiarize yourself with resources available

No one expects to be sexually assaulted. However, knowing the resources available to survivors can be extremely helpful in a time of crisis. You can learn about resources available to survivors through the Victim Advocate. Don’t forget to check out reporting options and confidential support available on campus.

Offer them resources and options, but let them make the final decision

Someone who has experienced a sexual assault wasn’t allowed to make decisions about their body and their lives when they were assaulted. By following your friend’s lead, you’re helping to give them control over their lives.

Support them in their decisions

If they choose to speak with a Victim Advocate, offer to walk with them to the appointment. Drive them to the emergency room if they want a Sexual Assault Nurse Examination (SANE) kit completed to collect forensic evidence. Let them know that you are here to talk if they need.

Take care of yourself.

While you’re trying to address your friend’s needs, it can be easy to forget your own. Hearing the details of an assault can bring up lots of different feelings and reactions. Counseling and Psychological Services at the University Health Center is great resource to support you through this.

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There are some situations that may make knowing what to do more difficult or complex. Keep reading for some additional guidance in tricky situations: 

If you know the accused…

This is more likely than you think as 90 percent of sexual assaults in college are committed by someone that the victim knows. When you know both the victim and the perpetrator, strong and conflicting feelings can arise. It might help to speak with someone in CAPS or a victim advocate to help process these feelings and create a plan for moving forward. When responding to your friend who has disclosed this to you, recognize what your role is. It’s your job to support your friend in a time of need by offering options and a listening ear, not to confront another person or to investigate what has “really” happened.

If your role or position on campus requires you report the assault to the Office of Institutional Equity and Compliance or a supervisor…

Let your friend know about this limit to confidentiality as soon as possible. When following your reporting procedures, give your friend as much control over the situation as possible. Ask if they would like to report themselves, with you as a support person, or if there is another option that works better for them.

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These tips are just some general ideas to help you help a friend. Every situation is different. If you’re unsure of what to do or the best way to proceed, the Victim Advocate also meets with people who are trying to support their friends who have experienced sexual assault. Email the Victim Advocate or call 402.472.0203.

Remember, you won’t be able to fix everything or maybe even anything, but you will be able to let your friend know you are there for them and will be with them through their journey of healing — however that may look.