Medical Care

Rutgers University Student Health Services staff of doctors, nurses, and nurse practitioners, encourages all students to have periodic age-appropriate health assessments, address outstanding issues, provide anticipatory guidance and counseling as needed. Examinations include history review, current concerns, a thorough physical examination, laboratory screening tests, appropriate cancer-screening tests, and at times medical condition-specific tests. Primary care also includes evaluation, testing and treatment for accidents or illnesses, acute or chronic.

Rutgers Newark Student Health Service is NOT an emergency room. Life-threatening emergencies are best handled at an emergency facility. Call 911 for emergency transport or go directly to a hospital emergency room. Students presenting to the health center with an acute problem, needing immediate attention will be triaged, assessed and managed accordingly or transferred (usually via ambulance) to the nearest emergency room if necessary.

Primary Care

  1. What is a Physical Exam?

Physical exams include in-depth evaluation of one's lifestyle, social habits, sexual activities, mental health status, nutrition and fitness, general health history, family history, and evaluation of any complaints or worries. The student is examined thoroughly.

In addition, basic laboratory studies such as a routine blood count, to rule out anemia, complete metabolic panel to measure liver, kidney, general metabolism, and other parameters, lipid panel, to measure cholesterol and triglycerides, and STD/HIV tests. Where applicable, cancer-screening tests are recommended. Counseling regarding smoking cessation, alcohol, drugs, nutrition and fitness, stress, sexuality, and more, is offered. Primary care may include follow up visits for smoking cessation, nutrition, exercise program, or medical concerns. Make an appointment.

  1. Who should have a physical exam?

These are advised often for programs, such as nursing or other scholastic programs which require interaction with clients, study abroad, pre-participation sports, jobs, periodically for healthy adults, or for students with health concerns. As a routine, a complete physical exam is encouraged every 3-4 years for healthy adults, or more often if risk factors are identified.

Medical Care Questions & Answers

  1. When should I see a medical provider in case of illness?

Any illness accompanied by a fever over 102 degrees, severe headache, difficulty breathing. Worrisome pain, or change in an individual's ability to walk, talk, or respond to their environment should be evaluated by a clinician promptly. The health center staff will see you immediately, or, if you are away, or at a distant site, or the health center is closed, you will be covered for emergency services as stipulated in your student insurance policy, or other insurance policy. You may call our Off Hours Nurse Hotline, if you have further questions. Tel:  1-866-221-9674

  1. When do I need antibiotics?

Antibiotics are only effective against bacterial diseases, such as strep throat, urinary tract or chlamydia infections. The great majority of episodic illnesses are viral. Antibiotics are powerless against viruses, which are best treated by drinking extra fluids, getting adequate rest, and using over-the-counter medications to relieve symptoms and support your body's defenses against viruses.

  1. What is the best treatment for a sprained ankle?

The severity of the sprain will determine the treatment for this very common injury. A relatively minor sprain can benefit from the RICE technique at home: Rest (keep your ankle immobilized), Ice (apply for 20 minute increments, 3-4 times daily), Compression (use ace-wrap), and Elevation (elevate your ankle above your heart). RICE helps control swelling and facilitates drainage of excess blood and fluid for a few days until you feel like you can slowly begin putting weight on your bad ankle again. Then, you can slowly return to activities that put stress on your ankle, such as playing sports or exercising. It may help to wear an ankle brace or tape your ankle for a while after your injury. This will provide some additional support and help prevent re-injury. Over-the-counter pain relievers can also help stop swelling and reduce pain.

If the sprain is more serious, you can still use the RICE guidelines at home, but it might take a longer time to heal and you should seek professional care for evaluation. It may take several weeks or even months to return to activities that require a lot of turning and twisting from your ankle. A sprained ankle can happen whenever the foot twists, turns, or rolls beyond its normal position, which stretches or even tears the ligaments in your ankle. Ligaments are elastic structures that stabilize and hold joints in place. For a complete tear/rupture of a ligament, the road to recovery can include immobilization, a short leg cast, walking-boot, or a cast-brace for several weeks, or even, possibly, surgery. It’s a good idea to visit the Rutgers University Health Center to have it checked out if your injury does not respond to the RICE treatment within a few days and to make sure it is not something more serious.

To help prevent future sprains, it helps to warm up before you exercise and to wear proper and comfortable footwear.

  1. The muscles in my back become sore as I am seated at my desk while studying. What should I do?

Poor posture can lead to back pain. However, there are other causes of this problem. Back pain can be caused by a number of things including chronic stress (causing your back muscles to tense up), tight hamstring muscles (shifting weight from the pelvis to your lower back), and back injuries among other factors. Lack of exercise, improper sleeping positions, incorrect lifting, smoking, and being overweight can all put you at risk for back pain or injury.

Here are some simple things you may want to try in order to prevent and relieve back tension and tightness:

1. Get your workstation in tip-top shape. Are you hunched while reading or while working on your computer? If working on a computer, it’s best to have the monitor at eye level and the computer screen directly ahead. Keep your elbows bent near 90 degrees. In addition, keep the mouse comfortably close to your keyboard, avoid slouching, and place the monitor 18-28 inches away from your face. When you are sitting and studying, your lower back needs to be flat or slightly rounded outward. Your knees need to be slightly higher than your hips, with both feet planted firmly on the floor. A footrest can help keep your knees at a comfortable position.

2. Take regular breaks. When you are studying, take frequent breaks and stretch your body every fifteen or twenty minutes. Also, rest your eyes and change your position often.

3. Keep stress in check. Stressors, worry, and anxiety all produce muscle tension. It's part of the natural fight-or-flight response, and is one of the ways that our bodies respond to pressure.

4. Get plenty of physical activity, and do not forget about your core muscles. Strengthening your core with regular exercise can help prevent back pain or keep it from becoming long term. Additionally, regular exercise can help maintain a healthy weight, which can also help prevent back pain since obesity is often associated with back pain.

5. Heating pads, warm moist towels, or heat creams can be used to help relax stiff joints and muscles. In addition, over-the-counter painkillers such as acetaminophen or NSAIDs (Non-Steroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drugs) can help relieve symptoms of a tense and tight back.

If your back tension and tightness does not subside after three to four days, you may want to speak with a healthcare provider. Additionally, if the tightness worsens or turns to pain, talking with your healthcare provider at the Rutgers University Health Center is strongly advised.

  1. I keep vomiting and have diarrhea. What should I do?

It depends on what is causing your problem. While a common cause is a gastrointestinal virus, without a diagnosis from a health care provider, it is possible that your vomiting could be caused by multiple things, among them, food poisoning, a migraine, motion sickness, allergy and alcohol or more serious causes – meningitis, concussion, or other brain disease, gastrointestinal bleeding. Given that the visible symptoms of these illnesses are similar, consult a health care professional to provide a more conclusive diagnosis. Meanwhile, there are various ways to facilitate the healing process. It is recommended to:

1. Get a lot of rest and take it easy.

2. Stay hydrated; take small sips of cold, clear, carbonated or sour drinks, such as ginger ale, lemonade, water, or mint tea.

3. Gradually begin to eat easy-to-digest foods such as soda crackers, toast, gelatin, bananas, rice, and applesauce.

4. Avoid dairy products, caffeine, alcohol, nicotine, and fatty or highly seasoned foods.

5. Be cautious with medications, which can make your stomach more upset.

While most people recover uneventfully from a bout of vomiting or diarrhea, some may become more ill. It is very important to avoid dehydration. In the most severe cases, a person may become confused, unconscious, and/or experience seizures. Continue to sip or drink liquids and not worry about eating until you are clearly on the mend. Sports drinks should be avoided because they have a high concentration of sugar, which can actually cause or aggravate diarrhea. Signs and symptoms of dehydration include:

Dry, sticky feeling in the mouth, dry eyes or few tears when crying, peeing only tiny amounts of dark yellow urine, dry skin, sunken eyes , fatigue, extreme weakness, and dizziness , thirst, headaches.

If you are dehydrated, start by sipping just a tablespoon of replacement fluid every 15 minutes. When you can hold this down, you can push the time to every 10 minutes, and then every 5 minutes. Then very gradually increase the quantity.

If you contracted a “stomach bug”, it is wise to speak with your healthcare provider. Most "stomach bugs," or gastroenteritis, run their course within 24 - 36 hours, but not until they've caused plenty of discomfort, pain, and even misery. You may have a bacterial infection that will require antibiotics, or some other complication that will require medical treatment. It is always best to come to the Rutgers Health Center or Emergency Room during off-hours, to be evaluated, especially if you have any of the following:

Can't hold anything down for more than 24 hours, have a fever higher than 101.5 F (38.6 C), have severe abdominal pain or cramping, feel faint or woozy, notice blood, red or black, in your stool or vomit, show signs or symptoms of dehydration as per above.

  1. If I am anemic what are the adverse effects of this condition?

Anemia is defined as not having enough healthy red blood cells to bring the needed amount of oxygen to serve the cells of your body. Some people with anemia do not notice any adverse effects. Some students know they are anemic, but ignore it because they think they have “always been anemic.” They do not understand that anemia affects their health, and may be treated by simple measures. Many Rutgers students are diagnosed with anemia when they obtain a screening blood count (CBC). This test is routinely offered as part of our clinical exams. Some important signs and symptoms of anemia may include:

Fatigue, Weakness, Pale skin, Shortness of breath, fast or irregular heartbeat, Chest pain, Dizziness, Fainting, Concentrating difficulties, Cold hands and feet, Headache and Depression.

Anemia may indicate an underlying health issue. There are many different kinds of anemia, each caused by different things such as nutrient deficiencies, excessive bleeding, infection, cancer or genetic disorders. Risk factors for anemia include:

1. Diets low in certain nutrients (such as iron, folate, vitamin B-12, each of which help to build healthy red blood cells).

2. Intestinal disorders which may limit your ability to absorb key nutrients (such as those mentioned above).

3. Menstruation which causes the body to lose red blood cells.

4. Pregnancy which requires your body to provide enough iron to grow red blood cells for both you and your growing fetus.

5. Chronic conditions such as ulcers, cancer, kidney failure, or liver failure, all of which can lead to loss of red blood cells.

6. Families with histories of having inheritable anemia (such as thalassemia and sickle cell disease) are at an increased risk of being affected by anemia.

While there is nothing that can be done to prevent or cure genetically-based anemia like thalassemia and sickle cell disease, other types of anemia can be treated or avoided by maintaining a healthy and varied diet. For this purpose, experts recommend diets that limit alcohol and are rich in:

1. Iron: found in meats, beans, lentils and dark leafy greens.

2. Folate: found in citrus fruits and juices, dark leafy greens, bananas, and fortified breads, pastas, and cereals.

3. Vitamin B-12: found in meat and dairy products and often in fortified soy products.

4. Vitamin C (which aids iron absorption): found in melons, berries, and citrus fruits.

If you suspect that you have anemia, you may want to schedule an appointment at the Rutgers University Health Center for testing, counseling, and treatment. Give us a call at 973-353-5231

  1. What is the best advice on how to apply sunscreen so that I will avoid skin cancer?

That is a great question. Our good friends at the American Academy of Dermatology offer us the following five tips on this very important topic:

Sunscreen can protect your skin against skin cancer and premature aging. However, it is not as effective unless it's applied correctly. Follow these tips from dermatologists when applying sunscreen.

1. Choose sunscreen that has an SPF of 30 or higher, is water resistant, and provides broad-spectrum coverage, which means it protects you from UVA and UVB rays.

2. Apply sunscreen generously before going outdoors. It takes approximately 15 minutes for your skin to absorb the sunscreen and protect you. If you wait until you are in the sun to apply sunscreen, your skin is unprotected and you can burn.

3. Use enough sunscreen. Most adults need at least one ounce of sunscreen, about the amount you can hold in your palm, to fully cover all exposed areas of your body. Rub the sunscreen thoroughly into your skin.

4. Apply sunscreen to all bare skin. Remember your neck, face, ears, tops of your feet and legs. For hard‐to‐reach areas like your back, ask someone to help you or use a spray sunscreen. If you have thinning hair, either apply sunscreen to your scalp or wear a wide‐brimmed hat. To protect your lips, apply a lip balm with a SPF of at least 15.

5. Reapply sunscreen at least every two hours to remain protected, or immediately after swimming or excessively sweating.

People who get sunburned usually did not use enough sunscreen, did not reapply it after being in the sun, or used an expired product.

Your skin is exposed to the sun's harmful UV rays every time you go outside, even on cloudy days and in the winter. So whether you are on vacation or taking a brisk fall walk in your neighborhood, remember to use sunscreen.

REMEMBER ALSO - some medications can cause sun sensitivity reactions – extensive rashes on body parts exposed to the sun – this includes Sulfa, all derivatives of Tetracycline, such as Doxycycline, Minocin, and NSAIDs such as Ibuprofen, Motrin, Aleve, Naproxyn. Check medications you are taking to note if they caution against sun exposure.