The Health Center provides Self Care Information for the following topics:
- Colds and Flu
- Menstrual Cramps
- Lacerations, Abrasions, and Blisters
- For more health topics go to GoAskAlice
At least 90% of people have headaches. Types of headaches vary, and so do the methods used to treat them. It is important to recognize the kind(s) of headaches you are having and to treat them appropriately, and know when to get medical help.
The most common type of headaches are Muscle Contraction or Tension Headaches. They occur when muscles in the head, neck, upper back, or face are tensed for a long time. A tension headache may be set off by physical stress (such as hunching over your desk for several hours or clenching your teeth as you sleep), by mental stress (such as boredom or concentrating for too long without a break), or by emotional stress (such as depression or anxiety). This pain occurs on both sides of the head and is often associated with achy shoulders and neck. The pain is often described as a dull ache, a band tightening around the head or a tightness beginning at the back of the head and coming over to the forehead.
Migraine (Vascular) Headaches are linked to changes in the blood flow to the brain. These headaches can be triggered by hormonal changes that occur during menstruation, pregnancy or menopause, or when using oral contraceptives. Other possible triggers include physical or emotional stress, certain foods (such as chocolate, wine or aged cheeses), changes in the weather and too much or too little sleep. A migraine can cause moderate to severe pain, usually throbbing, on one side of the head. Nausea/vomiting, tingling or numbness in the lips and/or face, sensitivity to light and dizziness are also associated with migraines. They may be preceded by a visual or olfactory “aura” or warning prior to the onset of pain.
Headaches can be warning signs. Only about 2% of all headaches are caused by injury or disease. Tests can show which ones are serious. You should be evaluated by medical personnel if you experience any of the following associated with a headache: sudden severe pain, fever, stiff neck, visual disturbances, confusion, loss of consciousness, loss of coordination, or if headache persists despite treatment with mild analgesics (such as Aspirin, Tylenol, or Advil).
Usual methods for treating headaches include:
- pain medications (analgesics such as Tylenol or Advil)
- relaxation exercise
- diet changes
- biofeedback and/or massage
Other treatments may be recommended by your physician.
Do you have a fiery, fluctuating fever with fatigue that you can’t fathom deep in your very fiber? Is your focus fuzzy? Are you faint? Are you frail from freezing one minute and feeling flushed the next? Do you feel like a fragile fossil that can’t function?
Influenza starts suddenly with symptoms that may include:
- fever over 100.5 degrees
- a dry cough
- aches and pains
- sore eyes
- runny nose
- sore throat
- burning pain in the chest
- “Hits you like a Mack truck”
- Spreads by person-to-person contact
- Spreads by airborne droplet spray contamination: coughing, sneezing
- Incubation Period (the time it takes your roommate to catch it from you): 48 hours
- Acute symptoms usually last two or three days it may take five or ten days to resolve.
- Weakness, sweating and fatigue may last for weeks.
Type B acts like a cold; it is difficult to distinguish between the two.
- Antibiotics do not help since the infection is viral.
- Secondary bacterial infections may require antibiotics.
- Last year’s flu vaccination won’t protect you from this year’s outbreak.
- Rest 24-48 hours after temperature returns to normal.
- Drink fluids: avoid milk, dairy products, and cold drinks.
- Hot drinks help break up the congestion (good old chicken soup).
- Keep warm and dry.
- Follow other cold-type remedies.
- Use a non-aspirin pain reliever (such as Tylenol).
Menstrual cramps (dysmenorrhea) may occur just before or at the beginning of menstruation and may continue for several days. Cramps are considered to be caused by hormonal changes. Weight gain, breast tenderness, irritability, headache, bloating and depression are other symptoms that women may experience before or during menstruation.
- Ibuprofen (Advil) is very effective in relieving any type of muscle cramps, including menstrual cramps. If you are allergic to aspirin or ibuprofen, Acetaminophen (Tylenol) is an alternative.
- Providing heat to the abdominal area or lower back with a heating pad or warm bath often relieves intense cramps.
- Engaging in light aerobic exercise (such as walking or swimming) will help to relieve mild to moderate cramps.
- Eat food high in Vitamin B6 (banana, tuna, broccoli, lentils), Vitamin C (citrus fruits, green peppers), and Magnesium (whole grains, soy beans, spinach, fish).
You should return to the Health Center if:
- Pain is more severe than usual
- Bleeding is unusually heavy as compared to normal flow
- Menstruation is absent when it should normally occur
Lacerations and abrasions are breaks in the continuity of the skin.
Abrasions are generally caused by scraping of the skin’s outer layers hard enough to damage it. Bleeding is usually limited to oozing of blood from ruptured small veins and capillaries. If there is foreign matter (such as dirt or gravel) embedded in the skin, it must be properly removed to avoid permanent scarring and/or contamination and infection.
- Cleanse the area well with mild soap and warm water. Wash your hands before cleansing your wound to avoid the spread of bacteria (germs) into a new wound. It is important to clean the skin around the wound to remove other dirt and oils that may enter the wound. Clean this area with soap and water also, rinse well and pat dry.
- Apply an antibiotic ointment (Bacitracin, Neosporin). Ointments are often promoted as aids in healing. They do not speed healing and should be used sparingly. A thin layer should be applied 3-4 times a day after cleansing. Do Not Use Ointment On A Puncture Wound .
- Cover with a clean, dry dressing (band aid or gauze pad). This will help to keep further bacteria out of the wound and prevent infection. It is important that wounds be kept clean and dry. Change the bandage at least once a day (more often if it becomes wet or dirty.)
- When the abrasion has formed a dry, tough scab the bandage may be left off unless the wound is located in a vulnerable place where the scab may be knocked of.
- If the abrasion becomes more painful or if you notice an increase in drainage, swelling, redness, or pain, come to the Health Center right away.
Lacerations result from cuts or tears in the skin and are caused by sharp objects. The degree of bleeding depends on the depth and extent of a cut. Deep cuts may involve large blood vessels and may cause extensive bleeding. They may also damage muscles, tendons, and nerves.
- Cleanse wound thoroughly with mild soap and warm water.
- Control bleeding by applying pressure directly to the wound with a clean cloth or gauze for several minutes.
- Once bleeding has stopped, apply a clean dry dressing and keep covered for 24 hours. After that, change the dressing at least once a day (more often if dressing becomes wet or dirty).
- Ointments are unnecessary unless wound is extremely dirty. Then use sparingly 2-3 times a day after cleansing. Do Not Use Ointment On A Puncture Wound!
- If you are unable to stop the bleeding, come to the Health Center immediately.
Blisters are collections of fluid below or within the epidermal layer of skin. Do Not Open Blisters! If the blister opens, treat it like an open wound. Some common causes of blisters are sunburn, friction from shoes, and burns.
To help prevent or lessen the severity of blistering caused by heat, apply cold soaks or compresses to the area immediately. Continue until “burning” eases.
- Keep the area clean and dry. Cleanse gently with soap and water. Pat dry with towel.
- Soak blister in warm water for 15-20 minutes 3-4 times a day.
- If the blister is intact (not broken), keep it covered with a clean, dry, sterile dressing (band aid). (Do Not Open Blisters!)
- If the blister has broken, apply Bacitracin Ointment and cover with a clean, dry, sterile dressing.
- If you notice increased drainage, swelling, redness, or pain, come to the Health Center immediately.