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College Health

College life involves excitement, along with new challenges, risks, and responsibilities. You are meeting new people, learning new things, and making your own decisions. It can sometimes be stressful. You have to deal with pressures related to food, drink, appearance, drugs, and sexual activity.

There are steps you can take to stay healthy and safe while you're in college:

  • Eat a balanced diet
  • Get enough sleep
  • Get regular physical activity
  • Maintain your health with checkups and vaccinations
  • If you decide to have sex, practice safe sex
  • Make smart choices about alcohol and drugs
  • Get help if you are stressed or depressed

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

Concussion

A concussion is a type of brain injury. It involves a short loss of normal brain function. It happens when a hit to the head or body causes your head and brain to move rapidly back and forth. This sudden movement can cause the brain to bounce around or twist in the skull, creating chemical changes in your brain. Sometimes it can also stretch and damage your brain cells.

Sometimes people call a concussion a "mild" brain injury. It is important to understand that while concussions may not be life-threatening, they can still be serious.

Concussions are a common type of sports injury. Other causes of concussions include blows to the head, bumping your head when you fall, being violently shaken, and car accidents.

Symptoms of a concussion may not start right away; they may start days or weeks after the injury. Symptoms may include a headache or neck pain. You may also have nausea, ringing in your ears, dizziness, or tiredness. You may feel dazed or not your normal self for several days or weeks after the injury. Consult your health care professional if any of your symptoms get worse, or if you have more serious symptoms such as:

  • Convulsions or seizures
  • Drowsiness or inability to wake up
  • A headache that gets worse and does not go away
  • Weakness, numbness, or decreased coordination
  • Repeated vomiting or nausea
  • Confusion
  • Slurred speech
  • Loss of consciousness

To diagnose a concussion, your health care provider will do a physical exam and will ask about your injury. You will most likely have a neurological exam, which checks your vision, balance, coordination, and reflexes. Your health care provider may also evaluate your memory and thinking. In some cases, you may also have a scan of the brain, such as a CT scan or an MRI. A scan can check for bleeding or inflammation in the brain, as well as a skull fracture (break in the skull).

Most people recover fully after a concussion, but it can take some time. Rest is very important after a concussion because it helps the brain to heal. In the very beginning, you may need to limit physical activities or activities that involve a lot of concentration, such as studying, working on the computer, or playing video games. Doing these may cause concussion symptoms (such as headache or tiredness) to come back or get worse. Then when your health care provider says that it is ok, you can start to return to your normal activities slowly.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

Critical Care

What is critical care?

Critical care is medical care for people who have life-threatening injuries and illnesses. It usually takes place in an intensive care unit (ICU). A team of specially-trained health care providers gives you 24-hour care. This includes using machines to constantly monitor your vital signs. It also usually involves giving you specialized treatments.

Who needs critical care?

You need critical care if you have a life-threatening illness or injury, such as:

  • Severe burns
  • COVID-19
  • Heart attack
  • Heart failure
  • Kidney failure
  • People recovering from certain major surgeries
  • Respiratory failure
  • Sepsis
  • Severe bleeding
  • Serious infections
  • Serious injuries, such as from car crashes, falls, and shootings
  • Shock
  • Stroke
What happens in a critical care unit?

In a critical care unit, health care providers use lots of different equipment, including:

  • Catheters, flexible tubes used to get fluids into the body or to drain fluids from the body
  • Dialysis machines ("artificial kidneys") for people with kidney failure
  • Feeding tubes, which give you nutritional support
  • Intravenous (IV) tubes to give you fluids and medicines
  • Machines which check your vital signs and display them on monitors
  • Oxygen therapy to give you extra oxygen to breathe in
  • Tracheostomy tubes, which are breathing tubes. The tube is placed in a surgically made hole that goes through the front of the neck and into the windpipe.
  • Ventilators (breathing machines), which move air in and out of your lungs. This is for people who have respiratory failure.

These machines can help keep you alive, but many of them can also raise your risk of infection.

Sometimes people in a critical care unit are not able to communicate. It's important that you have an advance directive in place. This can help your health care providers and family members make important decisions, including end-of-life decisions, if you are not able to make them.

Croup

Croup is an inflammation of the vocal cords (larynx) and windpipe (trachea). It causes difficulty breathing, a barking cough, and a hoarse voice. The cause is usually a virus, often parainfluenza virus. Other causes include allergies and reflux.

Croup often starts out like a cold. But then the vocal cords and windpipe become swollen, causing the hoarseness and the cough. There may also be a fever and high-pitched noisy sounds when breathing. The symptoms are usually worse at night, and last for about three to five days. Children between the ages of 6 months and 3 years have the highest risk of getting croup. They may also have more severe symptoms. Croup is more common in the fall and winter.

Most cases of viral croup are mild and can be treated at home. Rarely, croup can become serious and interfere with your child's breathing. If you are worried about your child's breathing, call your health care provider right away.

Dislocated Shoulder

What is a dislocated shoulder?

Your shoulder joint is made up of three bones: your collarbone, your shoulder blade, and your upper arm bone. The top of your upper arm bone is shaped like a ball. This ball fits into a cuplike socket in your shoulder blade. A shoulder dislocation is an injury that happens when the ball pops out of your socket. A dislocation may be partial, where the ball is only partially out of the socket. It can also be a full dislocation, where the ball is completely out of the socket.

What causes a dislocated shoulder?

Your shoulders are the most movable joints in your body. They are also the most commonly dislocated joints.

The most common causes of shoulder dislocations are:

  • Sports injuries
  • Accidents, including traffic accidents
  • Falling on your shoulder or outstretched arm
  • Seizures and electric shocks, which can cause muscle contractions that pull the arm out of place
Who is at risk for a dislocated shoulder?

A dislocated shoulder can happen to anyone, but they are more common in young men, who are more often involved in sports and other physical activities. Older adults, especially women, are also at higher risk because they are more likely to fall.

What are the symptoms of a dislocated shoulder?

The symptoms of a dislocated shoulder include:

  • Severe shoulder pain
  • Swelling and bruising of your shoulder or upper arm
  • Numbness and/or weakness in your arm, neck, hand, or fingers
  • Trouble moving your arm
  • Your arm seems to be out of place
  • Muscle spasms in your shoulder

If you are having these symptoms, get medical treatment right away.

How is a dislocated shoulder diagnosed?

To make a diagnosis, your health care provider will take a medical history and examine your shoulder. Your provider may also ask you to get an x-ray to confirm the diagnosis.

What are the treatments for a dislocated shoulder?

The treatment for dislocated shoulder usually involves three steps:

  • The first step is a closed reduction, a procedure in which your health care provider puts the ball of your upper arm back into the socket. You may first get medicine to relieve the pain and relax your shoulder muscles. Once the joint is back in place, the severe pain should end.
  • The second step is wearing a sling or other device to keep your shoulder in place. You will wear it for a few days to several weeks.
  • The third step is rehabilitation, once the pain and swelling have improved. You will do exercises to improve your range of motion and strengthen your muscles.

You may need surgery if you injure the tissues or nerves around the shoulder or if you get repeated dislocations.

A dislocation can make your shoulder unstable. When that happens, it takes less force to dislocate it. This means that there is a higher risk of it happening again. Your health care provider may ask you to continue doing some exercises to prevent another dislocation.