Focus Areas for Every Collegiette Woman's Health

Keeping up with your health can seem like a monumental task since there are so many factors to consider, from making annual doctor’s appointments to wearing sunscreen often, and in between. It doesn’t help that many health recommendations can vary on who they apply to since things like gender, age, and more come into play. When should you see an eye doctor? Why shouldn’t you take vitamins and supplements without consulting a doctor? How can the average college woman be assured that she is caring for herself in the best way possible? I explored some of these areas and have created an aggregated list of the most important focus areas for collegiettes, complete with facts from the U.S. Food & Drug Administration and the Office on Women's Health in the Office of the Assistant Secretary for Health at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.



1. Keep up with doctor’s appointments.

The Office of Women’s Health recommends seeing your doctor once a year for a routine physical and having conversations on the topics of contraceptives, weight/diet/physical activity level, alcohol and tobacco use, family medical history, and more. This is done in order to keep you aware of relevant health risks and to help you to develop a better understanding of your overall health. These conversations can be good reminders to sleep more or to eat a more balanced diet. These appointments are also intended to check that your vaccinations are up-to-date and to conduct any tests that need to be done. The Office of Women’s Health recommends asking your doctor about the following: Blood pressure, Chickenpox, Cholesterol, Flu, Hepatitis B and hepatitis C, HIV, HPV vaccine, Measles, mumps, and rubella, Pap (21 and older*), Sexually transmitted infections (including chlamydia and gonorrhea tests for women 24 and younger*), Tetanus, diphtheria, or whooping cough, and Tuberculosis.


2. Understand any medications you take.

The FDA has lots of helpful tips for using medications correctly and safely, ranging from the more obvious pain medication, to even information on drugs including supplements and vitamins. They recommend asking questions about any medications you are prescribed and keeping an up-to-date list of any medications or supplements you take. The more obvious information they share is following the directions on any medications you take, which includes checking for the expiration date. They also recommend storing and disposing of prescription medications securely.

The FDA recommends asking your doctor before taking dietary supplements, including vitamins, minerals, herbs, and amino acids. Many products are simply too good to be true, so be sure to read up on a product before choosing to integrate it into your routine. In addition, be aware that the FDA only takes action towards products after they are for sale, meaning they do not review and approve the safety of products before they are sold. Since we are also in the middle of cold and flu season, monitor how much acetaminophen you are taking. Too much of this can cause severe liver damage, from a seemingly helpful medication. When taking medications that contain antihistamines in the spring, be sure to also check up on the dosage since they can make you drowsy. You can find information from the FTC on a specific drug here.


3. Use safe cosmetics.

The FDA gives some basic information on their website regarding understanding cosmetic labels:

  • Hypoallergenic: Do not assume that the product will not cause allergic reactions. FDA does not define what it means to be labeled ‘hypoallergenic’.

  • Organic or Natural: The source of the ingredients does not determine how safe it is. Do not assume that these products are safer than products made with ingredients from other sources. FDA does not define what it means to be labeled ‘organic’ or ‘natural’.

  • Expiration Dates: Cosmetics are not required to have an expiration date. A cosmetic product may go bad if you store it the wrong way like if it is unsealed or in a place that is too warm or too moist.

Some general tips include following directions on labels and only applying products where they are meant to go (example: don’t put lip liner on your eyes). If the color or smell of a product changes, throw it out. Makeup products have a shelf life that varies, so be sure to check the label when you’re unsure. In addition, do not share makeup products since this can spread harmful bacteria, especially with the eyes. If you have a bad reaction to a cosmetic product, you can report it to the FTC so that they can investigate and work to keep others safe.


4. Monitor your health and visit a doctor when needed.

It’s better to play it safe and visit a doctor if you have a health concern that arises. Ignoring a problem or pretending it doesn’t exist can be tempting when you’re a busy college student; however, you could be ignoring a serious problem. Never let someone belittle you for having concern over your wellbeing; it’s important to feel comfortable. Most people end up seeing an eye doctor for the first time when they realize that they can’t see as well as they did before. In addition, you can proactively start to treat a cold if you get recommendations on medication or supplements from a specialist. Your health should be your priority and you have a right to speak up when something doesn’t seem right.


5. Don’t miss out on easy health fixes.

Consider some of the easier health fixes when thinking about your wellbeing. For example, avoiding smoking and abstaining from drinking alcohol in excess can benefit you. Indoor tanning creates a risk for cancer because of harmful UV rays, so the FDA recommends avoiding tanning booths and wearing sunscreen when outdoors in the sun. Getting seven to nine hours of sleep each night is a healthy goal to take on, according to the Office of Women’s Health. In addition, they recommend getting at least 30 minutes of physical activity each day. Even something as small as taking a walk can give you a workout and improve your mood. Lastly, think about your mental health. Finding the time to take a break and relieve stress productively can make all the difference in your life.



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