Health Center offers spring break health/safety tips


washing hands

According to SRU’s Kristina Benkeser, director of Student Health Services, the three most important words when traveling are “wash your hands."

Feb. 24, 2016

SLIPPERY ROCK, Pa. - With spring break just around the corner and many students planning to head to destinations around the country and the globe, Student Health Services has some tips for safe and healthy travel.

"It is all about location, location, location," said Kristina Benkeser, director of Student Health Services. "Whether a student plans on hitting the slopes, participating in a service learning trip, or heading out of the country, it is wise to be aware of health and safety issues."

More than 300 students and 20 faculty will participate in March 7-11 spring break academic seminars in various countries around the world, including Spain, England, Italy, Sweden, Czech Republic and Peru. Other SRU students will be traveling to various U.S. sites for service work and some will just be heading out for some well-deserved rest and relaxation.

kris benkeser


Benkeser said the Center for Disease Control has a comprehensive, location specific guide for travelers available at: Click on the traveler's health button to access the CDC recommendations for staying healthy.

Before leaving the country, Benkeser said students and faculty should verify that their immunizations are current. Compare your immunization record to the CDC guidelines for the location that you are visiting and update as necessary, she said.

"Student Health Services is happy to assist you in determining if your immunizations meet CDC recommendations and referring you for obtaining travel specific vaccines (yellow fever, etc.)" she said. "This is the perfect time to get a flu shot if you haven't done so already. The savvy traveler will put a copy of their immunizations with their travel documents."

The three most important words when traveling are "wash your hands."

"Our main message is hand washing and personal hygiene. You should wash your hands or use ant-bacterial gel frequently," said Renee Bateman, SRU health promotion coordinator of Student Health Services.

"People need to understand they should wash their hands or use gel before they eat, after they shake hands with someone or anytime you could potentially pick something up from somebody else," she said. "Anti-bacterial gel is just as good at preventing cold and flu as washing your hands."

She said students should contact their medical insurance company to determine how their health coverage works while traveling, and make sure they place a copy of insurance information with their travel documents.

The highest-profile health concern this winter has been the Zika virus. The CDC says women who are pregnant or expect to get pregnant should not travel to countries where the mosquito-born zika virus has been transmitted. The CDC has issued a travel alert to Brazil, Colombia, El Salvador, French Guiana, Guatemala, Haiti, Honduras, Martinique, Mexico, Panama, Paraguay, Suriname, Venezuela and Puerto Rico.

Although none of SRU's spring break trips include these regions, Bateman said one can never be too cautious and should take precautions. "Use mosquito spray and cover your body from head to toe," she said.

Bateman said students should take special care before their scheduled trip, especially regarding vaccines. It takes 14 days for the flu vaccine to become active, meaning students who did not get a flu vaccine in the fall should get one three weeks before traveling. The health department or health care provider can also help and support students who need information about vaccines prior to travel.

renee bateman


Bateman said travelers should make sure they have all their medications refilled and carry their meds onto the plane, in case the airlines lose luggage. Refilling prescription in foreign countries can be difficult.

"Sometimes forgetting medicines could cause several problems," she said. "Some students do that just traveling to campus. We notice during the first week that there are a lot of phone calls about somebody who has moved to campus but left all their meds at home. Check your medicine. Make sure you have enough for the entire time you travel."

Bateman said students should not go sightseeing on their own or leave a drink unattended. If it can't be avoided "get a new drink just in case somebody puts something in it," she said.

Other safety precautions are to make sure you have all the identification you need, money, maps, directions and a cell phone (check with your carrier if you are traveling abroad to determine what services are available and cost). Students should make sure their parents have all the information about their trip, flights and hotels.

If traveling to a cold-weather destination, students should layer their clothing and remove wet clothing as a precaution against hypothermia. In warm climates, they should use sunscreen, wear natural fabrics such as cotton and use sunglasses to ward off UV rays. In both areas, students should hydrate often. Signs of dehydration include lightheadedness, she said.

She said students should not share drinks or food. Signs of alcohol poisoning include blue or ashen skin color, unconsciousness and slow breathing.

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