Tag: college

I Love College, But Eyes Don’t

By: Shauna Ayres MPH: Health Behavior candidate 2017

Do you find yourself rubbing your eyes for relief in order to get through those last few pages of a journal article? The typical college student spends many hours each day reading and or staring at a screen. This is referred to as “near work” or activities that require your eyes to focus on text, pictures, or objects about arm’s length or closer. According to the American Academy of Ophthalmology, humans normally blink about 15 times per minute, but when engaging in near work, the number of blinks reduces to 5-8 times per minute which often results in eye strain. Eye strain is characterized by red, dry, and tired eyes, blurry or watery vision, headaches, and/or fatigue. There are a number of eye ergonomic tricks you can do to reduce the severity of eye strain when you can’t reduce the number of articles you have to read or assignments you have to complete.

  1. Sit about an arm’s length from your laptop or computer screen and position it so you are looking slightly downward.
  2. Glass screens cause glare. Try to reduce glare by using a matte screen filter.
  3. Take a break and practice the “20-20-20” rule: every 20 minutes, look at an object at least 20 feet away, for at least 20 seconds.
  4. Use eye drops when you feel your eyes are dry.
  5. Adjust the room lighting so that your screen and surrounding light are of equal brightness.
  6. Increase the contrast on your screen.
  7. If you wear contacts a lot, consider wearing your glasses more, never sleep in your contacts, and always clean them properly.

If you experience eye strain persistently, you should see an eye doctor for an eye exam and professional advice. If you wear glasses, contacts, or have any history of eye problems you should see an eye doctor once a year. If you don’t have any history of eye problems or troublesome symptoms, you should see an eye doctor every two years. Eyes are a very important organ and their health is often taken for granted until something goes wrong. So stop reading this and practice the 20-20-20 rule now.

For more information about eye health go to http://www.aoa.org/.

Stress and Finals Week: We are on the Home Stretch

A quick search on google using the key words “stress,”  “finals” and “health” comes up with over 840,000 “hits” or pages and some scholarly articles.  Do you think that this is a hot topic? As the end of the semester approaches for the University of North Carolina and other schools, it is time for final exams and, with those, the stress level increases.  Many of the pages on the google search contain recommendations from various universities on how to handle the stress of finals.  What has this academic world come to? Are we putting too much pressure on the young adults?

Caffeine can become a dietary staple to enable students to sleep less to study more.  Different sources have different opinions on whether caffeine consumption is good or bad before or while studying for finals, but it is a fact that it is beneficial for the coffee companies.  It seems that everyone you see has a cup of some form of caffeinated beverage in their hand as you walk through campus.  Is it bad to be consuming large amounts of caffeine? Should it be consumed in moderation or not at all?

I do not know about you, but I can definitely see the benefits when I drink coffee or other caffeinated beverages. I feel more awake and alert and I definitely can stay up later studying. Caffeine is my friend during finals. I find it hard to try and relax in this time of extreme stress.  It seems practically impossible to take an hour or half an hour away from studying to do yoga or other beneficial tasks as described by the university pages on how to deal with finals stress.  To complicate matters further, as a person with Type 1 diabetes, stress also interferes with my blood sugar levels, which only adds more stress.  What do you do to deal with the end of the semester stress?  If you are not in school, how do you deal with your high stress situations?

Photo Credit: Florian Simeth


An enema? of Alcohol? Really?

A University of Tennessee student was recently hospitalized after partaking in a night of butt chugging. Butt chugging? You read it correctly. This is a term used to describe when an individual uses a funnel or tube as an enema and transfers alcohol directly into the blood stream; this apparently allows the alcohol to bypass the stomach and in turn gets the person drunker at a faster rate. Unfortunately, soaking candy and fruit in alcohol (as I did in college) no longer excites the average college student and they have begun seeking alternative drinking methods. According to Discovery Fit & Health, parents now in addition to worrying about beer bongs and drinking games, have to worry about their children ingesting liquid nitrogen or soaking tampons in alcohol and inserting them in their bodies.

How can we relay the dangers of these new drinking methods to students? Recently, there has been a campaign to stop teens from playing the choking game. By simulating suffocation through strangulation individuals get a “rush”. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) report children as young 6 years old have been dying from playing the game since 1995. Why has it taken so long to address the problem nationally?

Underage drinking on college campuses is darn near impossible to stop. However, it may be worthwhile to encourage safer drinking methods. Let’s hope it does not take 10 years to address THIS problem. What will students come up with next? Butt-chugging I think tops the cake!


Image Source: http://www.ehow.com/about_4690477_enema-equipment.html

Ask the expert

I sat down a day after Thanksgiving with my sister, a college sophomore, to talk about how college students access health information and communicate about health. As professionals in public health we struggle with how to reach different populations more effectively, so I wanted to ask a representative of one constituency (college students) her thoughts on how we’re doing targeting her peer group. Below are excerpts from our conversation:

L: Where do you get your health information from?

S: From my older sister who is studying public health and is very involved in the nutrition world. And from my mom as well who is also in the same profession.

L: Is there any information your family doesn’t provide that you would like access to?

S: If I’m curious about something I can easily go and find it online.

L: Where would you like to get your health information from?

S: It would be nice if there was an easy update system. Maybe an email or something. Something that I don’t necessarily have to go looking for. And it would be nice if dinning halls posted where the food came from or specific nutrition facts for each type of food. That would be really useful.

L: If you were going to reach out to all your peers about any health topic (nutrition, sexual health, etc) what medium would you use?

S: We do sidewalk campaigns and posters on campus. An influential speaker on a certain topic would draw a particular crowd (already interested). If you sent it through email many people would ignore it. There is no common forum space that a large proportion of the student body reads.

L: What about a student newspaper?

S: Its one way to go about it, but I personally think that few students regularly read the paper. The information that everyone knows about is peer-to-peer, word of mouth. A lot of it is through Facebook, but I don’t know if there is a way to engage with Facebook with health.

L: How about blogs?

S: There isn’t a common [to the university] blog that enough students read. There are enough health blogs out there that are really well done, and a group of friends might all read one blog, but that’s confined to a small group of people and their network. There is no communal online space [at my university]. 

S: I think there should be somewhere where students are free to communicate maturely and respectfully that would be used properly that would create inter-club, inter-group discussion. I don’t know if that would be the solution for this particular problem (‘hey guys we’re all eating wrong’), but it’s definitely a place to start a conversation and get something going.


Do you work with college students, or are you a college student yourself? How do you access health information, and what would be a better way to reach this audience? Are online forums the answer? Or text message alerts about health? How could Facebook be harnessed to reach out with important health information to college students?

Tablet computer

College health centers go high tech

A recent MSNBC story highlights a growing trend at campus counseling centers: the use of technology to help handle an overload of patients. AP reporter Marth Irvine spoke with health professionals at multiple U.S. campuses and found that,

To help deal with the demand, more campus counseling centers are using computerized questionnaires, some that generate color-coded charts, to help them flag a serious problem more quickly than traditional paper-and-pencil evaluations… Many counselors say high-tech methods like these appeal to students, who are often more comfortable communicating with smart phones, iPads and laptops.

Psychologists interviewed in the article noted that the computerized feedback is often more forthcoming than what patients are willing to say in person, especially if they are not entirely comfortable with their therapists. Fifteen schools are using an electronic program called the Behavioral Health Measure, or BHM. Developed by a psychology professor, it has both short and long versions, depending on the waiting room time. Additionally, reports Irvine,

A psychiatrist at Johns Hopkins has developed a free service called Mood 24/7 that sends a daily text message to its users, asking them to rate their mood on a scale of 1 to 10. The data can then be accessed by the user, their mental health counselor and even family and friends.

What do you think of this use of technology to treat college students for mental health problems? What are the possible drawbacks? How could it be expanded outside of the counseling and psychological health realm to serve other health problems prevalent in the higher education setting?