Tag Archive | "health"

Mono — What is it and how to identify it

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Mono — What is it and how to identify it


Mononucleosis is commonly nicknamed the “kissing disease” on college campuses. As it turns out, the name isn’t that far from the truth.

“I always hear about people who say they got mono in college,” said human development and family studies freshman Claire Lynch.

The seemingly elusive illness is transmitted through the exchanging of saliva – which includes sharing drinks, eating utensils, lipstick or lip gloss—and yes, even kissing. Its symptoms vary in commonality from person-to-person, making it difficult to identify.

“Typical symptoms of infectious Mononucleosis include fever, sore throat, swollen lymph glands in neck and fatigue,” said Dr. Suman Kashyap, Associate Director of Clinical Affairs from Olin Health Center at Michigan State University.

Kashyap said mono is most common in young adults starting at age fifteen. The illness can be erratic on a college campus where the average age group ranges from 17 to early twenties.

The earliest indicators include fever, nausea or loss of appetite and headaches. The appearance of these symptoms ranges from four to six weeks after initial exposure, according to a brochure from the American College Health Association, which is given to students at Olin Health Center following a diagnosis of mono.

Michigan State senior Lauren Starr has been experiencing symptoms of mono for about five weeks. She described the illness in one word—exhausting.

“My worst symptoms have been my extreme exhaustion and fatigue as well as the symptoms I experienced just after getting diagnosed, which included a persistent fever, sore throat, and swollen glands in my neck and spleen,” said Starr.

Starr said that mono has kept her from carrying out her normal routine. Her biggest battle—not being able to be physically active.

“I have not been able to work out which is something that I am used to doing every day,” Starr said. “There is potential for the spleen to rupture if it is hit or aggravated when someone has mono, which can be life threatening if it were to rupture.”

Dr. Kashyap reinforced Starr’s statement, saying it is a physician’s recommendation to wait at least four to six weeks after initial diagnosis before continuing with normal physical activity.

When it comes to a full recovery, not many medications are able to combat the illness—it takes more than a simple prescription to recover.

“Maintenance of adequate fluids and nutrition is important,” Dr. Kashyap said. “It is advised to get extra rest, but bed rest is unnecessary. Some medications may be required only if complications develop.”

Olin Health Center sees an average of 180 to 200 cases of mono in a year. It doesn’t occur more frequently in one season over another, so transmission of the illness can occur year-round.

According to the American College Health Association, if you have symptoms that are similar to those stated above, it might not mean you have mono, but it is encouraged to see a health care professional to be evaluated.

“Mono has affected every aspect of my life and I can’t wait until I am back to normal health,” said Starr.

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Feeling tired? More sleep may help college students succeed

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Feeling tired? More sleep may help college students succeed

With all-nighters and the tendency to have irregular sleep schedules, college students are not getting the sleep that they need to do their best. But experts say the amount of sleep a college student should get each night is mostly related to their class workload.

Clinical psychologist Michael Breus, who has studied sleep disorders for 14 years, said that college students need 10 hours of sleep on average, but notes there really is no true estimate for the amount of sleep a student needs due because it depends on individual factors.


“The big thing for college students is keeping the schedule the same,” he said.

Breus said what students do not realize is that sleeping in on weekends is actually unhealthy and creates a feeling of jetlag during the week.

“The internal biological clock needs to be the same,” he said. “If you wake up at 7 a.m. during the week, you need to wake up at 7 a.m. on the weekend.”

Breus said if students are waking up early on the weekdays for class and sleeping in on the weekends, the brain loses a sense of pattern that establishes when it needs to sleep.

Loss of patterns can have consequences, like failure to store what students may spend hours studying into their memory.

“One of the things we know is in fact that memory in particular is affected by REM, which is the stage of sleep we move short term memory to long term memory,” Breus said.

He said if a student doesn’t get any sleep at all, there is no time to store the studied information, rendering all-nighters useless.

But for students, cramming before a test may trump a good nights sleep.

“I can tell you, I pulled an all-nighter for my bio exam last semester and took a nap for half an hour before and got a 4.0,” said pre-nursing sophomore Katherine Armstrong. “But no sleep at all is no good because I have fallen asleep during a test.”

Economics sophomore Grant Chen said he is a night owl, and usually gets about six to seven hours a sleep a night and still functions properly in school.

“I don’t generally study past midnight and generally, I don’t stay up late to study,” Chen said.

Chen said if he does stay up late, he takes a nap during the day to catch up on sleep.

Chen said he does not believe less sleep directly affects college students’ academics in a negative way. In fact, he said he believes more sleep could be harmful.

“Some people can’t get up for class,” he said. “My roommate misses his classes and sleeps all day.”

Breus said that those students who are getting too much sleep could experience health issues.

He said a person’s age and overall health, however, are probably the other two most significant factors to determine how much sleep a person needs per night.

“Not enough sleep can lower the immune system,” Breus said. “We know sleep deprivation stresses the immune system. Sleep affects every organ in the body.”

Breus said relaxing before going to bed is needed for the body to get the appropriate benefits of sleep.

“People should understand it is like slowly pulling your foot off the gas and putting it on the brake,” Breus said. “You have to allow the body to wind down before sleep.”

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Flu shot may not be the best way to prevent the illness

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Flu shot may not be the best way to prevent the illness

Flu Season: a time full of coughing, doctors’ visits and lots of tissues. At a large school like MSU, the question on many students minds is whether or not it’s worth getting the flu shot this late in the season.

For sophomore Valerie Morel, getting the flu shot this year was never in question.

Photo credit: Julia Grippe

“I’m pretty sure I have gotten the flu shot every year.” Morel said. “This year in particular I know a lot of people around campus are getting sick and I wanted to give myself the best possible chance of not catching the flu.”

Unlike Morel, sophomore John Seno doesn’t plan on getting a flu shot this year.

“I haven’t gotten a flu shot in a long time. I think the last time was when I was in elementary school and my mom made me,” Seno said. “I haven’t gotten sick yet so I don’t regret my decision.”

Seno said the only way he will get a flu shot this year is if his friends or roommates start getting sick. Until then, Seno just plans on “using common sense” and avoiding those who are sick.

For some, the vaccination has never been worth the risk. Sophomore Jessica Arnold has never gotten a flu shot, but with plans to travel to Liberia this spring, she thought she may need to get the flu shot to prevent herself from getting sick overseas.

“I went to the MSU Travel Clinic to get my flu shot, but they advised me not to,” Arnold said. “They said I should be fine because I’ve never gotten the flu and I’ve never gotten vaccinated before.”

Like many, Arnold is skeptical of vaccines and the ability they have to prevent a person from getting sick. Vaccines have never been a priority for Arnold because she believes the side effects of the vaccine often don’t outweigh the benefit.

According to Dawn Boechler, nursing administrator at Olin Health Center, getting the flu shot typically reduces a person’s risk of contracting the flu by about 60 percent, so she said it is important that students still get vaccinated. She said it is especially important for high-risk patients, such as people with diabetes and asthma, to get their flu shot because they are at a greater risk for complications from the flu than the average person.

Cough, fever, headaches and soreness at the injection site are some of the possible side effects of the flu shot, according to the Center for Disease Control (CDC). While the symptoms are similar to the side effects, according to the CDC a person cannot get the flu from the vaccine.

Inevitably, some students will get sick. When this happens, Boechler said there are steps students can take to make sure they get better quickly while making sure their disease doesn’t spread. When a student first gets sick, they can call the 24/7 nurse information phone line at 517-353-5557 through Olin Health Center and talk to a nurse who can help assess whether they need to see a doctor or not.

Besides the nurse information line, students can visit Olin Health Center located at 463 East Circle Drive or one of the four neighborhood clinics around campus (127 South Hubbard Hall, W-9 West McDonel Hall, 148 Brody Hall and to get treated for their illnesses. In addition to getting treated for current illnesses, flu shots are still available at Olin Health Center.

Flu shots are still available throughout the Lansing area. Photo credit: Julia Grippe

Basic health measures like washing your hands or using hand sanitizer can also help prevent the spread of the flu and other diseases, said Boechler.

“Kindergarteners have it right… Students need to cough or sneeze into their elbow in order to prevent the spread of germs,” Boechler said.

There are still ways for people to prevent themselves from getting sick even if they choose not to get vaccinated this year. MSU Coordinator of Health Education Dennis Martell said one of the best things students can do to prevent themselves from getting the flu is eating a well-balanced diet, getting 8 hours of sleep a night and limiting stress and anxiety.

Because MSU is one of the largest universities in the United States, students need to take precautions so they don’t get sick or get their peers sick.

“Do not go to class if you have a fever,” said Martell. “Stay home and wait until it has been gone for 24 hours.”

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Make a Healthy Hummus

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Make a Healthy Hummus

Emily Lawler, The Big Green’s own multimedia editor, has precisely one hour to cook every day. She has become an expert at making delicious, healthy meals in a small amount of time. In this video, Emily shares how to create a healthy hummus in less than 30 minutes!

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Cafeteria Safety

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Cafeteria Safety

While MSU educates nearly 45,000 students per year, the university’s cafeterias feed approximately 150 times as many mouths.

MSU feeds approximately six million people each year, nearly 25,000 people per day, said Associate Director of Residential Dining Bruce Haskell.

A student goes through the salad bar in Yakeley's cafeteria (photo credit: Emily Lawler).

Many students first view the massive cafeterias as an endless array of options, putting the home cooked dinner table to shame. Others notice the dangers of overeating or contamination often associated with feeding such large numbers of people.

“There were more choices than I expected there would be, so it was exciting eating in the dorms at first, but getting sick my freshman year made me aware of the less appealing side to dorm food,” said biosystems engineering sophomore Matt Crowder.

Crowder was one of 29 MSU students affected by the E. Coli outbreak in East Complex in fall 2008 from a commercial lettuce contamination.

“I would not wish E. coli on my worst enemy,” he said. “It was the worst sickness I’ve ever had.”

MSU division of residential and hospitality services collaborating with the Ingham County Health Department reacted immediately to the outbreak, pulling together all infected students to work on determining the source of the contamination.

“I spent five days in the hospital, and the health department visited me there to interview me about exactly what I ate for the last week,” Crowder said.

MSU’s response to the E. coli outbreak was crucial; the university immediately informed students through e-mail and provided updates on their website.

“We took every precaution,” Haskell said. “We even pulled turkey because many of the sick students said they had eaten turkey sandwiches with lettuce. We went through a lot of testing looking for a common thread.”

The Detroit-based vendor, Aunt Mid’s Produce Company, was eventually identified as the source of the outbreak.

“I first became aware of the E. coli outbreak on Sept. 15, and we did not reintroduce lettuce from a different company until Nov. 11,” Haskell said.

Although it was the first MSU residence hall contamination in 30 years, the contamination was covered nationally in the days following the outbreak.

“We took a big hit on that even though E. coli was happening all over the country, but the whole experience taught us a lot so when the Norovirus hit in April we were prepared,” Haskell said.

Norovirus, the second outbreak of the academic year, hit Shaw Hall on Apr. 1.  Approximately 30 students were hospitalized with Norovirus symptoms.

“Norovirus wasn’t foodborne, but to be safe we switched to full service of most every item to prevent cross contamination with students in Shaw and installed hand sanitizer dispensers,” Haskell said.  “We provided sick packets to residents so they wouldn’t have to leave their rooms; we were just taking care of our residents, really just doing our jobs.”

The campus cafeteria system had two bacteria breakouts in the 2008-2009 school year (photo credit: Emily Lawler).

As an effect of the two recent dorm-related illnesses on campus, students often relate bulk foods to dangers and recalls.  According to MSU food science professor Elliot Ryser, cafeteria food served in bulk is no more likely to be contaminated than any other food source.

“When feeding a large number of people it is easier to notice contamination,” Ryser says.  “If 400 people eat potato salad in a cafeteria, you can see the outbreak, but if 400 people buy potato salad at a grocery store and scatter and serve it to people in their homes, then it’s harder to tell where the contamination came from.”

While bulk food is not more susceptible to contamination, it is easier to detect when contaminations do occur, allowing for action to control the problem.  MSU has been known to react quickly when problems do occur.

“We live in a day in age where there are occasionally recalls and we follow very strict protocols on what to do if they occur,” said Joe Petroff, MSU residential and hospitality occupational health and safety officer.

Preventing outbreaks starts with the training and enforcement of food handling procedure.

“Before the food is put out it is as safe as any other source of food; it becomes dangerous when it sits out and is handled,” Ryser said.

MSU follows the Michigan Department of Agriculture’s food codes for food storage and handling and are inspected regularly. All MSU food service employees go through an extensive training when they are hired as well as an annual recertification, said Petroff, who is responsible for training residential employees.

“All employees go through a significant training to learn how to handle food and keep things clean and safe.  The staff is well-informed not to come to work if they show any sings at all of illness and are not penalized for that,” he said.

While food contamination is a main concern of students and staff, cafeteria food safety also encompasses the sustenance of the menus and nutritional value of the food offered in the MSU cafeterias is continually developing.

“Studies that I have done have shown students eat healthier in the residence halls than when living in off campus,” said Sharon Hoerr, a food science and human nutrition professor. “It is very possible to eat very healthfully in the residence halls; people just need to make some choices.”

While the cafeterias offer healthy options, the options force students to make difficult decisions regarding maintaining a healthy diet.

“Understanding what is healthy helped me have a balanced plate while my friends had entire plates of mac and cheese with Cheetos on the side,” said Nicole Goldman, a food science senior and former president of the Food Science Club. “My plate was always balanced, and the dorms make that easy with so many choices like the large salad bars with lots of fruits and veggies.”

The 13 MSU dinning halls aim to provide healthy options as well as the typical college cafeteria staples.

“People say that want to eat healthy but burgers and pizza still rule, so healthy is a hard thing to nail down; it is always different what people consider healthy,” Haskell said. “People acquaint healthy with fresh, so we have a lot of made to order food.”

The cafeterias follow the American Cancer Society’s “The New American Plate” as a nutritional tool and aim to buy local fresh food including entirely Michigan grown apples and are working towards Michigan meat products and more fresh than frozen vegetables.

“I like that you can see people making the food, and it’s not in a back room somewhere; everyone can see it, so that makes you feel more comfortable about what you’re eating,” Crowder said.

While there are healthy options, making the nutritious choice can seem daunting.  Maintaining a healthy diet while eating in cafeterias has less to do with what you put on your plate and more with how much of it, Hoerr said.  Controlling potions can be difficult in the cafeteria setting, but portion size is crucial for a healthy lifestyle.

“Portion size and eating rate are most important; anything in access causes serious problems,” she said.  “With unlimited service there is a risk of over eating since students feel they need to eat their money’s worth.”

Whether they frequented the soft-serve ice cream or stuck to the salad bar, most students agree the convenience of prepared meals anytime of the day is missed once they shift to off campus living.

“Living off campus I definitely miss the dorm food but less for its quality and more for its convenience,” Goldman said. “I liked that there was a wide variety of foods available to me at any time in the day because sometimes I’m just too tired or busy to cook.”

Tips for Staying Hot and Healthy While Eating Dorm Food from Food Science and Human Nutrition Professor Sharron Hoerr:

1) Slow it Down and enjoy it:  “Eating slowly helps, try to take at least 20 min to finish meal,” she said.

2) Good-bye Trays: While many cafeterias are going trayless, even if yours is not choose not to use one to help control your potions.  “Going trayless helps because can only eat what you can carry.”

3) Save the best for last: “If you eat your veggies and fruit first you are less likely to overeat.”

4) Slow down with the Cheese: “I notice that cheese is something that students love to use and using it as more of a flavoring agent rather than something you’re going to fill up on would be smart since it has so many calories.”

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Free Falling for Food

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Free Falling for Food

It’s college, right? When textbooks run $500 a semester and paying a parking meter is difficult, some students are looking for ways to eat for free. A growing number of MSU students are finding an alternative way of getting their groceries, and let’s just say this practice requires a strong stomach.

Dumpstering or dumpster diving is, well, exactly how it sounds. It has become a bi-monthly routine for some students. The downside is climbing into dumpsters and rifling through garbage to possibly find a couple of unharmed cans of soup or a bag of partially bruised apples.

“My experience was kind of a letdown,” said Katie Adams, a professional writing senior, of her first unsuccessful dumpster diving trip.

When the concept was explained to me, I imagined opening a dumpster to find bags of bagels, loaves of bread or boxes of unharmed rolls. I pictured them being available to reach from the bin and take home to toast for breakfast the next morning. This, however, was not the case when I — excuse the pun– dove into the challenge. After three dumpsters full of empty cups, plastic bags and coffee-stained boxes, I found the ends of a few bread loaves mixed in with other trash. I was an amateur, at best. I gave up my first attempt at freeganism after three hours and five dumpsters filled with nothing but garbage. 

The upside, however, is free groceries, and potentially a lot of them.

“The trick is to be systematic,” Adams said. “Some of my friends who do it all of the time get a whole trunk full of bread. I guess you just have to pick the right place and time of day and hopefully you’ll get lucky.”

Jessica Checkeroski, a studio art senior, is a bit more dedicated to the cause. She doesn’t consider herself a freegan, though she goes dumpstering about twice a month.

“I look for bread, fruit, and vegetables. Anything else like cereal or vegan hot dogs is just a nice surprise,” said Checkeroski.

Sticking mainly to grocery stores with compactors or bakeries, Checkeroski doesn’t feel nervous about the cleanliness of the food that she picks up because most of it is packaged or surrounded by other food.

“[It’s] like finding a garbage bag of just bagels or a box of just potatoes,” she said.

Checkeroski won’t just take anything, though.

“If something looks gross, it probably is. I used to think the idea of taking food out of a dumpster seemed unsafe but once I went, I realized that the food isn’t in that bad of shape at all. Especially now that it is winter, my logic is that if it is frozen its shelf life is longer.”

Checkeroski has never known anyone to get sick from the food they’ve found on a dumpster dive but understands why it won’t sell in stores.

“I get why the food can’t be sold – bruises, freshness, too ripe – but [for it] not to be used is wasteful,” said Checkeroski.

In regards to issues of legality, Checkeroski has never experienced any problems, though she has heard of others who have.

Hannah Nowicki, an employee at Great Harvest Bread Company in Okemos, had never heard the term freegan before, but she has heard stories of college students rummaging through their dumpster after hours.

“About 2 to 3 months ago we were taking out the garbage while closing down for the night, and the girls found some students digging through the dumpster,” said Nowicki.

Since Great Harvest Bread Company gives their extra bread to soup kitchens in the area, the students could not have been finding much more than a few loaf ends.

“My friends who were working told them that they wouldn’t find anything, but the students refused to leave. The police were called because they were trespassing,” said Nowicki.

Checkeroski feels that the food she finds in dumpsters is fair game.

“Once something is in the trash, let me decide if the risk is worth taking or not,” she said.

Freeganism isn’t just about dumpster diving. It is an entire lifestyle based off of surplus food and materials that are put to waste daily by consumers and manufacturers. The freegan movement was started in the 1990s as part of the environmentalist and anti-globalization trends happening at the time and has grown quite large in New York, Los Angeles and London — where foraging waste is called bin-diving or skipping.

According to freegan.info, those who first practiced freeganism still purchased items. They tried to boycott major companies that tested products on animals, violated human rights or abused the environment, qualities that didn’t set them apart from most activist groups of their kind. After realizing that every purchase they made was still “supporting something deplorable,” freegans took on a new, unique set of principles. By almost fully rejecting the entire economic system, freegans maintain the concept of boycotting all things mass-produced, animal tested or environmentally unfriendly.

Although dumpster diving is the most common practice, many freegans are also vegans. Vegans chose a diet that consists of only animal-free foods for political and health reasons. Freegans often adopt this lifestyle for the same reasons but also because a cruelty-free diet is more economical than one that includes animal products.

Freegans aren’t alone in their quest for free food. Some students who do not wish to dig through garbage have applied for bridge cards as a way of avoiding the cost of groceries. Bridge cards are like electronic food stamps and are offered by the federal government to anyone who qualifies (qualifications vary from state to state).

“I would say most of the people who have it need it. It’s hard to say exactly who does,” said Alan O’Donnell, a human biology senior. “Technically, I’d probably survive without it, but it definitely helps.”

Applications can be filled out online, and they ask questions about personal income but not about parents’ income or whether the applicant is claimed as a dependant. Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) is an entitlement program, meaning anyone who applies and meets the requirements will automatically be given a bridge card. The idea is that the card will help facilitate the costs of monthly spending on groceries and not be the sole means for providing food.

The card is issued by household, so everyone who applies is given a different amount to spend each month depending on his or her income. Bridge card owners cannot purchase alcohol, cigarettes or household items (including toothpaste), and are limited by the amount they are given by the government.

According to Marie Boyle and David Holben in their book, Community Nutrition in Action, one of the drawbacks of the card is that it does not necessarily allot enough money to buy nutritional items, so the USDA and the DHHS are concerned that bridge card users cannot afford to follow the dietary guidelines that they set for Americans. Because of this, these organizations are rallying to give more money to people with bridge cards, which could mean a lot to students who struggle to make ends meet.

Though my first experience with freeganism didn’t yield anything but a few photos of garbage, I feel like the dumpster divers are on to something. If you can stomach the idea of getting into a pile of trash, you can walk away from the experience with food for the week or at least a story to tell friends. Then again, not everyone is cut out for the freegan lifestyle – I stopped trying after a few hours and ended up at Noodles & Company. Inside, that is.

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