Off to College? Packard Children’s Adolescent and Young Adult Specialist Has Health Tips

Off to college for the first time? Returning for another year? While it’s a time of exciting classes, new relationships and future plans, there are definitely health dangers to watch out for, says teen and young adult health specialist Sophia Yen, MD, MPH.

That’s why Dr. Yen and other members of the Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital Teen and Young Adult Clinic recommend “off-to-college” health checkups. Below are a few of the topics and tips she shares in these appointments.

“We urge all college students to get vaccinated against these diseases: tetanus, diphtheria and pertussis (Tdap); meningitis; and human papillomavirus (HPV), which is the No. 1 sexually transmitted infection (STI) in the United States. Even if a college student has only two sexual partners in his or her lifetime, they have a 70 percent or higher chance of contracting one of the four HPV strains if they haven’t received the vaccine,” says Yen, who is also a clinical assistant professor of pediatrics at the Stanford School of Medicine.

“In addition, all sexually experienced individuals under the age of 26 should get tested for chlamydia every year,” adds Yen, noting that 80 percent of people who have chlamydia – a sexually transmitted infection – don’t know that they have it and do not have symptoms.

Effect of digital devices on sleep
“If students want an academic edge, I recommend that they create an ‘electronic-free sleep oasis’ from 10 p.m. to 6 a.m., and turn off all cell phones, tablets, MP3 players, etc.,” Yen says. “If a student thinks someone may potentially call them, they will not fall into a deep sleep, which can affect academic performance.”

Surviving the parties
Though it is illegal for people under the age of 21 to drink alcohol, teens and young adults often find themselves surrounded by drinking at parties. In these scenarios, Yen offers two top tips: “One, never accept an open drink; and two, always go to parties with a buddy – that way, you can always look out for each other in case one of you is slipped a drugged drink or someone drinks too much,” she cautions.

“Thousands of young men and women are sent to emergency rooms in the U.S. every year from drugged drinks. If college-aged kids have a buddy when they go to parties, they will be in a better position to look out for dangerous individuals and not behave dangerously themselves. Also, alcohol impairs your judgment. That’s why it’s important for everyone who chooses to drink to drink responsibly.”

In an “off-to-college” checkup, contraception is likely to be a topic. “Sixty-three percent of high school seniors have had sex. I recommend both young men and women be aware of different types of emergency contraception and how they work,” Yen says. “We also provide the latest information about the importance of safe sex and preventing STIs and unplanned pregnancies.”

“Overall, college is a great time for a fresh start on your health,” she adds. “Take care of your acne, exercise, get contacts instead of glasses – whatever you want to do for your health, now is a good time to address it.”

Dr. Yen is a board-certified specialist in adolescent medicine at Packard Children’s. Her research interests include emergency contraception — knowledge and use by high-risk youth/college students — and accuracy of health websites on adolescent reproductive health. Find more information on the Teen and Young Adult Clinic at Packard Children’s here.

Media contact:
Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital
Winter Johnson, 650-498-7056


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