Category: Health Topics

January 25, 2015

condomSexually Transmitted Diseases, or STDs, are usually spread from one person to another through sexual intercourse. STDs may be asymptomatic (not show any symptoms) in many individuals. In fact, many of the people who have a STD are unaware of it and therefore do not seek treatment, increasing the risk of infecting their partners. For this particular reason, the term STIs, or sexually transmitted infections, is commonly used today. It is extremely important for individuals who are sexually active to be regularly screened for STDs, because an infected person may pass on the infection to another before showing symptoms of a disease.

Who is at risk for STDs?

Anybody can contract a STD. The most at risk group are young teens and adolescents ages 15-24.  Factors that increase the risk for getting STDs include:

  • Unprotected sex
  • Multiple sexual partners
  • Having sex with a partner whose sexual history you do not know
  • Becoming sexually active at a young age
  • Tobacco and alcohol use
  • Stress and other viral or bacterial infections at the same time


Transmission of STDs:

STDs are usually transmitted through sexual intercourse, including oral, anal, and vaginal sex. Some infections can be transmitted through non-sexual or intimate skin contact.

Prevention of STDs:

While the only way to completely prevent getting STDs is to abstain from sex or not have sex, you can significantly reduce the risk of exposure by using a condom and practicing safe sex.


Testing for STDs:

Even if you do not experience any signs or symptoms, routine testing is an important way to protect yourself against STDs. An annual physical or gynecologic exam usually does not include STD testing unless requested by the patient. Certain types of STDs can be tested together in one screening, while others may require different methods or schedules. Read the articles on common STDs for details, and be sure to discuss with your health care providers about your individual needs. If STD testing is not covered by your insurance, check with your county public health clinic or local Planned Parenthood office.

If tested positive for an STD, encourage your sexual partner or partners to get tested. Also consult with your doctors right away to make plans for further testing or treatments.

* San Francisco City Clinic:

*STD Test:


Helpful Resources:



Common STDs:

  • Chlamydia
  • Crabs
  • Genital Warts
  • Gonorrhea
  • Hepatitis A, B, C
  • Herpes
  • Syphilis




What is it?

Chlamydia is the most common STD, caused by the bacterium Chlamydia trachomatis. Women are more likely to have the disease mainly because more women are being screened for the infection.

Signs and Symptoms:

Many infected individuals show no symptoms and are unaware of the infection. If symptoms do occur, they usually appear within 1 to 3 weeks after exposure. In women, the bacterium initially infects the urinary tract. Infected women might experience an abnormal vaginal discharge or a burning sensation when urinating. When the infection spreads, symptoms include lower abdominal pain, low back pain, nausea, fever, bleeding, and pain during intercourse. Symptoms in men may include abnormal discharges from penis or a burning sensation when urinating. Infected individuals may also feel burning and itching around the opening of the penis. Pain and swelling in the testicles are uncommon. Men or women may also get chlamydial infection in the rectum, which can cause rectal pain, discharge, or bleeding. Chlamydia can also be found in the throats of women and men having oral sex with an infected partner.


Chlamydia can be tested along with gonorrhea (another STD) through either a urine sample or a swab of a potentially infected organ: the cervix in women or penis in men, for example.

Medical Complications

If left untreated, chlamydia can cause serious problems in the reproductive organs. For women, the most common result is pelvic inflammatory disease (PID).  The damage, in turn, can lead to chronic pelvic pain, infertility, and potentially fatal ectopic pregnancy (pregnancy outside the uterus). Complications for men, although rare, can also lead to infertility. Chlamydia also greatly increases the risk of becoming infected with HIV (AIDS virus).


The usual treatment for chlamydia is antibiotics, which requires a doctor’s prescription.






What is it?

Crabs is the common term for a lice infection that is usually found in the pubic hair of humans. The organism responsible for pubic lice is Pthirus pubis. Barely the size of a pinhead, lice are parasites that feed exclusively on blood. Infection of other areas such as the head or body is caused by similar species of lice.

Signs and Symptoms:

The main symptoms of crabs are itching and burning of the infected areas. The infection may also spread to other moist areas such as the armpits. Many people who have crabs claim that the itching worsens at night.


Diagnosis includes an examination of the pubic area. Presence of lice or lice eggs indicates an infection.


The source of infection for pubic lice is intimate, skin-to-skin contact with an infected person. Actual sexual intercourse is not necessary for the spread of pubic lice. Pubic lice can also be transmitted by contact with contaminated belongings such as towels, bed sheets, or clothing.


Pubic lice can be treated at home with Permethrin 1-5%. These products are available over-the-counter without a prescription at a local drug store or pharmacy. After a 10 minute application of the infected area, rinse off with warm water. Next, remove eggs using a fine comb, which can also be obtained commercially. Be sure to do a follow-up application 7-10 days later to kill off any lice that may have hatched after the initial treatment. The itching, which is a result of hypersensitivity to lice saliva, can be treated using anti-histamine allergy medications such as Benadryl. Talk to a doctor or pharmacist for details.



Genital Warts


What is it?

Genital warts or venereal warts are wart-like growths on the genitals caused by Human Papilloma Virus (HPV). Genital warts are one of the most common types of STDs. Genital warts are small, flesh-colored or gray lesions on the penis, vagina, anus, or surrounding skin. They may be as small as 1 millimeter or may cluster into larger cauliflower shape. Genital warts can also develop in the mouth or throat of a person who has had oral sexual contact with an infected person.

Signs and Symptoms:

Symptoms are rare, but they can include itching or discomfort in the genital area, abnormal vaginal bleeding with intercourse, increased dampness in the area of the growths, and increased vaginal discharge.


Diagnosis is made based on visual inspection or biopsy of the warts. Women are recommended to receive routine exams to screen for this and other sexually transmitted diseases. Talk to your doctor about the right screening schedule for you.


Genital warts can spread through skin-to-skin contact with any infected part of the body, but using a condom can significantly reduce the risk of contracting the virus. If warts are visible on the genital area, avoid sexual contact until the warts are treated. If you have developed genital warts for the first time, inform your sexual partner so that he or she can been screened for the infection.


A vaccine called Gardasil offers protection against HPV strains 6 and 11, which are the types of HPV that are responsible for 90% of genital wart cases. Gardasil also blocks HPV types 16 and 18, which are not associated with genital warts but are the cause for 70% of cervical cancer cases. This vaccine is recommended for girls ages 11 and 12, as well as females ages 13 to 26 who have not yet received the vaccine. Vaccination includes a series of 3 injections over a 6-month period. To be most effective, the vaccine should be given before a person starts to have sex, because it only works to prevent HPV infection and will not treat an infection that is already there. It is also important to understand that this vaccine does not protect against all types of HPV, and it would not completely prevent genital warts. Routine screenings are still necessary.


Although the underlying virus cannot be completely eliminated, your doctor can help you clear an outbreak of warts with medications or surgical treatment. Don’t try to treat genital warts with over-the-counter medications, as they are not intended for use on the genital area and can cause even more pain and irritation.





What is it?

Gonorrhea, commonly referred to as “the clap”, is the second most common STD after chlamydia. The highest reported rates of infection are among sexually active teenagers and young adults. Gonorrhea is caused by Neisseria gonorrhoeae, a bacterium that can grow and multiply easily in the warm, moist areas of the reproductive tract in both men and women. The bacteria can also grow in the mouth, throat, eyes, and anus. Therefore, the spread of gonorrhea usually follows after contact with those infected regions. Gonorrhea can also be spread from mother to baby during delivery.

Signs and Symptoms:

Just like chlamydia, those infected with gonorrhea show little or no symptoms or signs of infection. In men, signs or symptoms may appear 2-5 days after infection; while some others can take as long as 30 days to appear. Symptoms and signs include a burning sensation when urinating, or a white, yellow, or green discharge from the penis. Sometimes men with gonorrhea get painful or swollen testicles.

In women, the symptoms of gonorrhea are often mild, and most women who are infected have no symptoms. Even when a woman has symptoms, they can be so non-specific as to be mistaken for a bladder or vaginal infection. The initial symptoms and signs in women include a painful or burning sensation when urinating, increased vaginal discharge, or vaginal bleeding not due to menstrual periods. Women with gonorrhea are at risk of developing serious complications from the infection, regardless of the presence or severity of symptoms.

Symptoms of rectal infection in both men and women may include discharge, anal itching, soreness, bleeding, or painful bowel movements. Rectal infection may have no symptoms. Infections in the throat may cause a sore throat or no symptoms at all.


Gonorrhea can be tested along with Chlamydia (another STD) through either a urine sample or a swab of a potentially infected organ: the cervix in women or penis in men, for example.

Medical Complications:

If left untreated, gonorrhea can cause serious and permanent health problems in both women and men. In women, gonorrhea is a common cause of pelvic inflammatory disease (PID).  PID can lead to chronic pelvic pain, infertility, and a life-threatening condition known as ectopic pregnancy (pregnancy outside the uterus). Complications for men, although rare, can also lead to infertility.

Gonorrhea can spread to the blood or joints. This condition can be life threatening. In addition, people with gonorrhea can contract HIV, the virus that causes AIDS more easily. HIV-infected people with gonorrhea can transmit HIV more easily to someone else than if they did not have gonorrhea.


In most cases, once detected, gonorrhea can easily be treated with antibiotics. If symptoms continue even after receiving treatment, the patient should return to the doctor to be reevaluated.





What is it?

Hepatitis comes from the Greek word for inflammation of the liver. There are seven different strains of the hepatitis virus (A through G). Strains A, B, and C are the ones that can be transmitted sexually. All forms of hepatitis attack the liver.

Signs and Symptoms:

While it takes weeks or even months for symptoms to appear, the infected person will become ill and develop symptoms when the disease begins to impair liver functions. Symptoms of hepatitis include:

  • Short, mild, flu-like illness
  • Nausea, vomiting and diarrhea
  • Loss of appetite
  • Weight loss
  • Jaundice (yellow skin and whites of eyes, darker yellow urine and pale feces)
  • Itchy skin
  • Abdominal pain


Blood tests are used to detect the presence of hepatitis A, B, or C. If the result is positive, a liver biopsy may be recommended by your doctor to determine the severity of the disease and treatment options.

Hepatitis A is the most common type of hepatitis. It is transmitted through the ingestion of infected fecal matter. The infection occurs mostly in developing countries with unsanitary living conditions. Sexually, hepatitis A is usually passed on through oral to anal sex. There is no specific treatment to cure this infection, but there is a vaccine to protect against hepatitis A.



Hepatitis B

The symptoms for hepatitis B are very similar to hepatitis A except that they can cause chronic illness and permanent damage to the liver.  Hepatitis B is transmitted by blood. An infected mother can pass on the disease to her baby while giving birth. Hepatitis B can also be transmitted through unsterilized needles for body piercing, tattoos, and acupuncture, or through unprotected sex with an infected person. There is a vaccine to protect against hepatitis B.

For chronic hepatitis B infection, there is no treatment at this time to completely cure the infection. However, there is a list of medications approved by the FDA (Food and Drug Administration) to stop the hepatitis B virus from multiplying. Not all chronically infected persons need to be on medications, and certain medications do not work for all individuals. If you have developed chronic hepatitis B, it is important for you to see your doctor routinely to monitor your liver function and progression of the disease. You doctor will inform you when drug treatment becomes necessary.



Hepatitis C

Hepatitis C is more difficult to treat than hepatitis A and B and usually leads to chronic illness. Hepatitis C is usually transmitted through blood. This most often occurs when sharing infected needles to inject drugs and in developing countries where blood used for transfusion is not screened. Transmission can also occur through unprotected sex with an infected person. An infected mother can, although rarely, pass it on to her child at birth. There is currently no vaccine to protect against hepatitis C but there are drugs to help treat the infection.

Not all individuals infected with hepatitis C need to receive treatment. If drug therapy is needed, there are several FDA-approved medications that help clear the virus from the body. These medications have side effects and may not be appropriate for every patient. Discuss with your doctor about the need for treatment, and the pros and cons of each option.



What is it?

Herpes is a disease caused by the Herpes Simplex Virus type 1 (HSV-1) or type 2 (HSV-2). Oral and genital herpes are the two most common forms. Oral herpes causes blisters, commonly called cold sores, to form on the face and around the mouth. Genital herpes, on the other hand, has no or minimal signs or symptoms. Most people with herpes never have sores, or they have very mild signs that they do not even notice or they mistake the sores for insect bites or another skin condition. When more serious signs do occur, they typically appear as one or more blisters on or around the genitals or rectum. The blisters break, leaving a tender sore that may take two to four weeks to heal the first time they occur. Typically, another outbreak can appear later on (weeks or even months after the first outbreak), but it is almost always less severe and shorter than the first outbreak. The number of outbreaks tends to decrease over a period of years. After the initial infection, the herpes virus hides away in sensory nerves where it usually remains dormant until another outbreak. The causes for these recurrences are unknown although some studies point to stress as a possible trigger.


If you have outbreaks that you suspect are due to herpes, your doctor can scrape a small sample from the blisters for further examination. A blood test can also help to diagnose a herpes infection.


Herpes is usually transmitted through contact with an open sore. This usually involves intimate contact with the infected area from vaginal, oral, or anal sex. However, there are cases where the virus is passed from an infected person who does not have a visible sore and may not know that he or she is infected.

Prevention and Treatment:

There is currently no cure for herpes; no vaccine is available to prevent or eliminate this disease. However, medications can be taken to reduce the risk of spreading the virus and to help ease the painful symptoms. Condoms can also greatly reduce the rate of transmission.  However, its effectiveness is limited, as it usually does not completely cover all blisters around the genitals.





What is it?

Human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) is a destructive virus that attacks the body’s immune system.

Who is at risk?

Anyone of any age, race, gender, or sexual orientation can be infected with HIV. And similar to the other STDs, certain sexual behaviors, such as having unprotected sex or multiple sexual partners, increase one’s risk of infection. HIV/AIDS has become a pandemic (widespread) disease, not only in the U.S. but also worldwide.

Signs and Symptoms:

After an initial HIV infection, some people show no signs or symptoms, while others show flu-like illnesses, including fever, headache, sore throat, and swollen lymph glands. Early symptoms usually disappear within a few days or weeks, and then the infected person may remain symptom-free for as long as 10 or more years. During this period of time, however, the virus continues to attack the body’s immune system, making the body less able to defend against other infections. The infected person may experience swollen lymph nodes, fever, diarrhea, weight loss, or cough and shortness of breath.

In a later and more advanced stage of HIV infection, some individuals develop AIDS—acquired immunodeficiency syndrome—which is a potentially fatal condition resulting from an impaired immune system. The person may experience persistent fatigue, shaking chills or severe fever, soaking night sweats, swollen lymph nodes, chronic diarrhea, and others. Without the proper means to protect itself, the body also becomes extremely vulnerable to infections and diseases, including cancer.


Diagnoses are made by testing the blood or oral mucus for presence of antibodies to the virus. Since it takes the body 2 to12 weeks after exposure (or up to 6 months for some people) to develop the antibodies, tests received within this time period may not be able to detect all cases of infection. If you think you have been exposed to HIV, and your test results are negative, be sure to get retested in 3 to 6 months.


A person infected with HIV can transmit the virus to others at any time, even when no signs or symptoms are shown. HIV can be spread through:

  • Unprotected sex – Vaginal, oral, or anal.
  • Sharing needles – Needles for drugs, blood, or tattoos
  • Receiving infected blood – Although almost all blood in developed countries like the U.S. are screened for HIV
  • Mother to child – Through birth or breast milk.


Because there is no cure for AIDS, prevention is the best weapon. Minimizing high-risk behaviors will help reduce the risk of exposure. Use a condom during sex. At a tattoo parlor, be sure to check if needles are sterilized before they are used again. If you are an expectant mother with HIV, talk to your doctor about what your options are.

All adolescents and adults ages 13 to 64 should receive routine testing, and yearly testing is recommended for those at high risk of infection. If tested HIV-positive, talk to your doctors right away about treatment options and encourage your sexual partner or partners to be screened.


While there is currently no vaccine or cure for HIV or AIDS, medications can be taken to limit the growth of the virus, helping to prolong the life of the infected person.

Helpful Resources:




What is it?

Syphilis is a sexually transmitted disease (STD) caused by the bacterium Treponema pallidum. The latest statistics show that the number of cases of syphilis is on the rise.

Signs and Symptoms:

Early signs of syphilis include one or multiple lesions (called sores) on the site of infection, which usually occurs around the genitals but can also be around the lips and in the mouth. The sore is usually firm, round, small, and painless, and typically disappears without treatment. However, the underlying disease remains and may later progress to cause rash on other body parts. In some people, the bacteria just remain latent (dormant) in the body for years without causing further signs or symptoms. But if left untreated, the infection can lead to complications including organ damages, gradual blindness, movement disorders, paralysis, and even death. The presence of syphilis also increases a person’s risk, by 2 to 5 folds, of getting and transmitting HIV.


If you have sores that you suspect are due to syphilis, your doctor can scrape a small cell sample from a sore for further examination. During the latent period when there are no signs or symptoms, blood tests can be used to diagnose an infection.


Syphilis is passed on through contact with the lesions (the sores) of an infected person. Rarely, the infection can be passed from a mother to her child during birth. Many people infected with syphilis do not have any symptoms for years, and when symptoms do appear they are usually mild or are confused with symptoms of other diseases. As a result, transmission usually occurs from people who are unaware of their infection. Getting screened regularly, and encouraging your partner to do the same, can significantly help prevent the spread of syphilis, as well as other STDs.


Early diagnosis can be easily treated with penicillin or another antibiotic. If left untreated, however, the disease can lead to serious complications or death.

January 25, 2015

Why is it important to know?

Sexual activities can lead to not only unwanted pregnancy but also a list of STDs (Sexually Transmitted Diseases)—some of which can be fatal. Today STDs are at epidemic proportions, and young people are the ones at the highest risk. Unfortunately, many teenagers are unaware of the dangers they face and do not take the initiative to learn about sexual safety until it is too late. To reduce your own risk of getting STDs and pregnancy, it is extremely important for you to learn to protect yourself!


Principles of Safer Sex:

  • Seriously consider whether you want to have sex
  • Prevent exposure to blood, semen, vaginal and other bodily fluids
  • Cover up body parts that could be infectious
  • Always use a condom, and use a new one every time
  • Be in a monogamous relationship
  • Make sure both you and your partner get tested for STDs
  • If you or your partner have/has contracted a STD, receive treatment immediately and do not have sex until your doctor says it’s okay

We use the term safer instead of safe because sexual activities can never be completely free of risk. The only way to entirely avoid STDs and unwanted pregnancy is abstinence (not having sex). Nevertheless, if you do choose to engage in sexual activities, complying with the above principles is essential to protect yourself.


Alternative Ways to Show Affection:

While the subject of sex may be over-emphasized in today’s media, there are many other ways for people in a relationship to show love. In fact, many people find these alternatives just as sexy and enough to express their love for each other:

  • Kissing
  • Dancing
  • Hugging
  • Touching
  • Massaging
  • Cuddling
  • Saying warm and tender things to each other
Posted in Health Topics, Sexual Health by CCHRC | Tags: , , , ,
January 25, 2015

Menstruation, or period, is the shedding of a woman’s uterus lining. Each month, one of the ovaries releases an egg. This is called ovulation. At the same time, hormonal changes prepare the uterus for pregnancy. If ovulation takes place and the egg is not fertilized, the lining of the uterus sheds through the vagina and passes out the body (this is the blood that you see). Menstruation is part of the menstrual cycle. A cycle is counted from the first day of one period to the first day of the next period. The average menstrual cycle is 28 days long. If a woman does not have a period for 90 days, she should see the doctor to check for pregnancy, early menopause, or other medical problems.

On an average, girls get their first menstrual period between 8-13 years old. The first menstrual period typically starts two to two-and-a-half years after breast development begins. Periods can be light, moderate, or heavy, and the length of the period also varies from woman to woman. Most periods last from 3 to 5 days. During the early years of menstruation, girls usually have “medium” menstrual flow; most report changing a pad approximately 3 to 6 times a day.

During menstruation, the uterus, which is a muscle, contracts and relaxes more than it does at other times in the month. This can produce the uncomfortable feeling of cramps. Using a heating pad or hot water bottle may help ease some of the discomfort. Taking over-the-counter pain relievers such as naproxen, ibuprofen, or acetaminophen may also help. Do not take aspirin, as aspirin usage has been linked to a deadly disease known as Reye’s syndrome in children and teenagers. Reye’s syndrome affects all organs of the body, specially the liver and brain. Other discomforts during menstruation include breast tenderness, bloating, headaches, fatigue, mood swings, and food cravings. Some women will experience these symptoms more than others, and not every woman will experience all of these symptoms.

You should track your period on a calendar to have some idea of when it will start. Remember to carry a few pads with you to school or work a day or two before your period is due to begin. You should also keep sanitary products in stock at home.


Menstrual Products


Menstrual pads are disposable rectangular pieces of material that attach to the insides of underwear to absorb menstrual flow. Pads often come with adhesive backings and “wings” (extra material on the sides that fold around the underwear) to hold them in place.

The shape, absorbency, and lengths may vary depending on the manufacturer, but there are several different types of menstrual pads:

  • Panty liner: Designed to absorb very light menstrual flow or vaginal discharge.
  • Ultra-thin: Very thin pad, which may be as absorbent as regular pad but less bulky.
  • Regular: Middle range absorbency.
  • Maxi/ Super: Larger absorbency, useful for the start for the menstrual cycle when menstruation is often the heaviest.
  • Night: A longer pad to allow for more protection while the wearer is lying down, with absorbency suitable for overnight use.
  • While some pads are labeled fragrance-free, others may come with light deodorant to cover any menstrual odor, but deodorizing substance may cause irritation in some women.



Unlike pads, which are worn externally, tampons are cylindrical material to be inserted into the vagina to absorb blood. Each tampon has a string attached to one end for ease of removal, and may be packaged inside an applicator (a plastic or cardboard tube) to aid insertion. Tampons also come in different absorbency ratings.


Keep Clean

Remember to wash your hands before and after using a pad or tampon. It is also very important that you change the pad or tampon at least every 4-6 hours and avoid tampon usage over night. Leaving a tampon in the body longer than recommended increases the risk of toxic shock syndrome (TSS), a rare but potentially fatal disease caused by bacterial infection. Symptoms of TSS include high fever, vomiting, diarrhea, extreme weakness, diffuse rash, and others. Seek medical advice immediately if needed. However, TSS is very rare. Most women never become ill from using tampons, especially if they change tampons regularly.

Posted in Sexual Health by CCHRC | Tags: , , ,
January 25, 2015

What is Cervical Cancer?

The cervix is the lower part of the uterus, and cervical cancer is one of the most common cancers that affect a woman’s reproductive organs. Cervical cancer is caused by various strains of a virus called human papilloma virus (HPV), some of which are also responsible for causing genital warts in both men and women.  HPV is transmitted through skin-to-skin contact, especially during sexual intercourse. Most women’s immune systems are able to fight the infection, but in a small group of women, the virus survives for years in the body and eventually changes some of the cervical cells into cancer cells.


Routine Screenings and Early Detection of Cervical Cancer:

Cervical cancer can usually be found early by routine Pap smears (or Pap tests). During a Pap smear, a small cell sample is collected through a quick swabbing or brushing on part of the cervix, and the sample is examined in a laboratory to look for abnormalities. In the precancerous stage, abnormal cells are found only in the outer layer of the cervix and have not invaded deeper tissues. If untreated, the abnormal cells may change into cancer cells, which may spread into the cervix and surrounding organs. Conditions caught early at the pre-invasive stage are rarely life threatening and typically require only treatment at the doctor’s office. Early detection greatly improves the chances of successful treatment and prevents early cell abnormalities from becoming cancerous. All women are recommended to receive routine Pap smears within three years after the first sexual intercourse, or no later than age 21.


Avoid Being Exposed to HPV:

Avoiding exposure to HPV can prevent most pre-cancer of the cervix.  HPV infection can have no symptoms for years in both men and women; someone can have the virus and pass it on without knowing. Similar to other STDs, abstaining from sex or practicing safe sex can help reduce a woman’s risk of getting infected:

  • Delay first intercourse until older
  • Limit the number of sexual partners
  • Always use condoms
  • Avoid having sex with someone who has had many other sexual partners

Vaccination Against HPV:

Various strains of HPV are responsible for most cases of cervical cancer. Gardasil is a vaccine designed to block HPV types 16 and18, which are currently the cause of about 70% of cervical cancer cases. The vaccine also blocks HPV types 6 and 11, which are not associated with cervical cancer but are responsible for 90% of genital wart cases.

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved Gardasil, and it is recommended for girls ages 11 and 12, as well as females ages 13 to 26 who have not received the vaccine. Vaccination includes a series of 3 injections over a 6-month period. To be most effective, the vaccine should be given before a person starts to have sex, because it only works to prevent HPV infection and will not treat an infection that is already there. It is also important to know that the vaccine does not protect against all cancer-causing types of HPV. Routine screenings, therefore, are still necessary.

Side effects caused by the vaccine are rare. The most common complaint is soreness at the injection site on the upper arm. Flu-like symptoms may also occur but are usually mild. Please consult with your doctor before deciding if the vaccine is right for you.


For more information on HPV vaccine:

January 25, 2015

The inside of the breast is made up of fatty tissue and milk-producing glands called mammary glands. Breast development begins with puberty and is caused by the changes in hormone levels in your body. The timing of breast growth is determined by heredity and nutrition. On the average, breasts begin to grow when girls are around 10 years old, although some girls start earlier and others later. The age at which breast development begins does not affect the final size of the breast. Breast shape and size are determined mostly by heredity and usually stay the same once development is complete (which takes 3-5 years). However, excessive weight loss or gain, and pregnancy, may cause changes to the breasts. A girl may find her breasts to be uneven in size during development. This is normal. The breasts will be about the same size as the girl gets older, usually by age 20. You can check with your health care providers for further information.


January 25, 2015

What Is Overweight?

Overweight refers to an excess of body weight compared to set standards. The excess weight may come from muscle, bone, fat, and/or body water. One scientific tool to estimate a healthy body weight is a Body Mass Index (BMI), which is a measurement that compares a person’s weight and height. For children and teens, age and gender are also taken into consideration. For adults, a BMI of 25.0 to 29.9 is considered overweight, and a BMI of 30 or over is considered obese. For Asian adults, a BMI of 23.0 to 27.4 is considered overweight, and a BMI of 27.5 or over is considered obese.

To calculate your BMI and see what it means to you:
For adults and teens –


What Is a Healthy Weight Loss?

Studies show that people who lose weight gradually and steadily (about 1-2 pounds per week) are more successful at keeping the weight off. Healthy weight loss is not just about a diet or program. It is about an ongoing lifestyle that includes long-term changes in daily eating and exercise habits. In the process, it is extremely important for you to have a properly planned diet, which should not only limit your calorie intake but also, more importantly, provide you with all the nutrients you need to stay healthy.


How To Lose Weight On A Healthy Diet

The key is to avoid high-calorie items and eat a variety of healthy foods. A healthy diet should:

  • Be within your daily calorie needs
  • Emphasize fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and fat-free or low-fat milk products.
  • Include lean meats, poultry, fish, beans, eggs, and nuts.
  • Be low in saturated fats, trans fats, cholesterol, salt, and added sugars.

Stay away from junk food and impulse eating. Try to keep a “food diary” for a few days. This is a good way to become more aware of what and when you are eating and to help yourself avoid unhealthy eating habits.

 Good Eating Habits

Most overeating is due to bad habits. Good eating habits help you to counteract the tendency of gaining weight.

  • Eat regular meals, including breakfast.
  • Chew your food slowly.
  • Watch portion sizes.
  • Stop eating when you feel full (Don’t insist on cleaning your plate).
  • Skip the desserts.
  • Drink at least 8 glasses of water each day.
  • Make plans for what you are going to eat.
  • Avoid eating when you are not hungry.


Burning Calories With Exercise

When combined with a good diet, daily exercise increases the rate of weight loss and improves your general physical wellbeing.

  • Exercise for about 60-90 minutes a day, for at least 5 days a week.
  • Try a variety of sports: walking, running, hiking, biking, skating, swimming, dancing, basketball, tennis, and group exercise classes.
  • Have specific plans: Instead of  “exercise more,” tell yourself to “Walk for 60 minutes a day, 3 days a week for the first week.”
  • Walk or ride a bicycle instead of riding in a car.
  • Use stairs instead of elevators.


Other Tips:

  • Set realistic goals.
  • Focus on lifestyle changes that you can maintain.
  • Limit the time spent watching TV, playing video games, and on the computer.
  • Participate in meaningful extracurricular activities to keep your mind off food.
  • Remind yourself again and again of your original motivation and the health benefits of weight loss.


Helpful Resources:

January 24, 2015


Sports injuries are the number ONE reason for emergency room visits among youth. The majority of these injuries are mild, but they can cause great inconveniences to the injured person. With proper precautions, many of these injuries can actually be prevented.


Common Sports Injuries:

  • Bruises – Injuries in which the capillaries are damaged, allowing blood to seep into the surrounding tissues.
  • Sprains – The pulling or tearing of the ligaments that join the ends of bones together. Sprains commonly affect the ankles, knees, and wrists.
  • Strains – The pulling or tearing of muscles or tendons (the tissues that attach the muscles to the bones).
  • Bone fractures – The cracking or breaking of bones.
  • Dislocation of joints – The bones in a joint become displaced or misaligned. It is often caused by a sudden impact to the joint.
  • Tearing of the Achilles tendon – The Achilles tendon is the large group of tissues that connects the calf muscles to the heel.
  • Overuse injuries – Injuries such as “runner’s knee” and “tennis elbow,” that are due to overuse of a body part when participating in a certain activity.


What is the Difference between Acute and Chronic Injuries?

  • Acute injuries usually occur suddenly while playing sports or exercising. They may result in sudden and severe pain, the inability to bear weight on a limb, or move the affected body part.
  • Chronic injuries usually result from overuse of one body part over a period of time. Symptoms of chronic injuries include pain during a physical activity and soreness and a dull ache when at rest.


Tips for Preventing Sports Injuries:

  • Be sure to wear all the required safety gear every time you play or practice.
  • Know how to correctly use your equipment.
  • Understand and follow the rules of the sport.
  • Always warm up and stretch before playing.
  • Do not bounce when stretching.
  • Land with your knees bent when jumping.
  • Gradually build up to the length and intensity of exercise that you are aiming for.
  • Know when to stop. Do not over-exert yourself.
  • Cool down with mild activities after any sports or workouts.
  • Change your activities so that you use different muscle groups.
  • Avoid playing when very tired or in pain.
  • When exercising on the streets, such as walking, running, riding bikes, and rollerblading, make sure you obey the rules of the road and have fluorescent patches on your clothing if it’s dark outside. Use iPods with caution as these devices can take your attention away from the surrounding environment and block other sounds that might alert you to danger.


Keep Your Body Hydrated:

As you sweat in playing sports, you should drink equal amounts of fluid to maintain your body’s hydration level. Usually 1 to 1.5 liters of fluid (about 4-6 cups) is needed for each hour of intense sport activity. You should drink fluids before, during, and after playing sports. It is also better to drink frequently, in small amounts, to avoid stomach cramps from drinking large amounts of fluids at once. Avoid beverages containing carbonation and caffeine, because these substances dehydrate the body.

Common symptoms of dehydration include:

  • Thirst
  • Weakness
  • Headache
  • Dark-colored urine


Treating Injuries:

For severe injuries, seek medical attention immediately. Timely and appropriate treatment reduces the risk of complications and speeds up the recovery. You should contact your doctor when:

  • The injury causes severe pain, swelling, or numbness
  • The joint feels abnormal or unstable.
  • The injured part is unable to tolerate any weight.
  • An old injury hurts or swells.


For a mild strain, sprain, or swelling, you can try to treat the injury at home using the R.I.C.E. method. But if your injury does not improve or worsens after 3 days, you should contact your health care professional.

  • Rest – Rest the injured area for at least 24 to 48 hours. While you are healing, try not to stress the injured area.
  • Ice – Apply an ice pack to the injured area for 20 minutes several times a day. Take the ice off after 20 minutes to avoid cold injury.
  • Compression – Apply mild and even pressure on the injured area to help reduce swelling. One common method is to wrap the injury with bandages. Ask your doctor what is best for your injury.
  • Elevation – Elevate the injured area on pillows when you’re sitting or lying down to help reduce swelling.


For Information on Specific Sports or Conditions:

January 24, 2015

IMG_9980What Is Vegetarianism?

Vegetarianism is the practice of a diet that excludes meat, poultry, and fish (including other seafood). There are several variations of vegetarianism, some of which also exclude eggs, dairy foods, or other animal by-products:

  • Lacto-vegetarians: Eat dairy products, but no meat, poultry, fish, or eggs
  • Ovo-vegetarians: Eat eggs, but no meat, poultry, fish, or dairy products.
  • Lacto-ovo vegetarians: Eat dairy products and eggs, but no meat, poultry, or fish.
  • Vegans: Do not eat any animal products.


Why Do People Become Vegetarians?

There are many reasons why people choose to follow a vegetarian diet, some of which include:

  • Food likes and dislikes
  • Animal rights concerns
  • Religious or cultural beliefs
  • Diet and health concerns
  • Family decision

These are acceptable reasons for choosing not to eat meat. It is important to note that in some cases, the decision to avoid meat or to be on an overly restrictive diet can be an early sign of an eating disorder, which is a negative eating behavior that affects one’s physical and mental health. If you have questions or concerns about your diet, talk to your health care provider for professional assistance.


Is It Healthy To Be a Vegetarian?

Being a vegetarian can be either helpful or harmful to your health, depending on whether you get proper nutrition. A properly-planned vegetarian diet is able satisfy the nutritional needs for all stages of life, and can significantly reduce the risks of developing high blood pressure, diabetes, heart diseases, and some types of cancer. This is true provided that you continue to eat a variety of healthy vegetarian foods, and do not substitute potato chips and candies for meat.


How Can I Make Sure That I Am Getting Enough Nutrients As a Vegetarian?

The key to a healthy vegetarian diet is to eat a variety of foods including vegetables, fruits, grains, nuts, seeds, and soy products. If the diet is not properly planned, vegetarians may not get enough vitamins and minerals that are found in dairy products, eggs, meat, poultry, and fish. These include calcium, iron, vitamin B12 and vitamin D. You also need to have enough protein. Discuss with a registered dietician or other health professionals about an eating plan that works best for you and whether a vitamin/mineral supplement is helpful for you. Below is a list of important nutrients and their sources.

  • Protein: Dried peas and beans, nuts, seeds, peanut butter, tofu.
  • Calcium: Leafy greens, broccoli, tofu (made with calcium sulfate), dried beans, fortified soymilk and fortified orange juice.
  • Iron: Dried beans, oatmeal, spinach, iron-fortified cereals and bread.
  • Zinc: Wheat germs, nuts, fortified cereals.
  • Vitamin C: Citrus fruits and juices (oranges, tangerines, grapefruits), peppers, strawberries, kiwi
  • Vitamin B12: Eggs, dairy products, fortified cereals and breads.
  • Vitamin D: Milk, fortified soymilk, fortified cereals


Vegetarian Recipes:

January 24, 2015

827899_15465114 (1)It’s summer, time to hit the beach or tanning salon for that perfect tan. Few things are more satisfying than your friends noticing how much time you spent on your tan and complimenting you on your luscious bronze glow. Why does something like our skin tone matter so much? Is it because a pale or an untanned skin triggers images of  nerds who spend their entire summer indoors playing video games?


Dark skin vs Fair skin

In the American society,  we associate tans with sexy supermodels, athletes and movie icons. Having a great tan is often considered a symbol of good health.  A tanned skin is a way to identify our social hierarchy, kind of like the different insignias to differentiate between military ranks. Sporting a tan shows that you have the time and money to lay around all day in the sun instead of being stuck in the office all day trying to pay off the bills.

However, in the Chinese culture, the exact opposite is true. Here, the fair skinned is the prized possession. Tans are associated with those who must labor all day under the hot sun. People who have these lower paying jobs (e.g. famers or construction workers) are seen as members of the lower class. On the other hand, having fair skin means that you either have a high paying job in an office building, or are rich enough not to be out working under the beating sun. A person’s skin tone reflects their standing in society.

Because of these very different viewpoints, conflicts often arise between Chinese teenagers who have grown accustomed to the Western culture and their parents who still hold the more traditional views. Cultural conflicts are a touchy subject and not easy to resolve. However, there are some serious health concerns about  sunbathing that should make you think twice before going out to get a suntan.


Dangers from the sun

Tanning greatly increases your risk of developing skin cancer. There are over 1 million new cases of skin cancer every year, with the main culprit being sun exposure. The sun’s rays can also penetrate deep into your body, damaging your immune system as well as causing premature skin aging. The major difference between your skin and that of your parents’ has to do with sun exposure.


Does getting a tan protect my skin from sunburn?

Any sort of tanning is a sign of skin damage. When UV rays hit you, they damage your skin cells. In response, the skin cells produce the dark pigment, melanin, to prevent any further damage. Melanin is the compound that causes your skin to darken and produce the tan. Contrary to popular belief, getting a tan will not protect your skin from sunburn or other skin damage. The extra melanin in tanned skin provides a Sun Protection Factor (SPF) of about 2 to 4; far below the minimum recommended SPF of 15.


How to protect your skin against sun damage

When you go hang out on the beach, shoot some hoops, or swim, be sure to apply sunscreen that has an SPF rating of at least 15 before you head out. Always reapply every 2-3 hours, especially after swimming or heavy sweating. Also make sure that you use a broad-spectrum sunscreen that blocks both UVA and UVB rays.


Are indoor tanning booths safe? 

You may see that some indoor tanning salons advertise that they have a safer tanning method. The truth is that they are still exposing you to dangerous and damaging UV radiation. In fact, many states feel that indoor tanning salons are dangerous enough to ban minors from using them.


How to get a safe tan 

If you’re still looking for that perfect glow for your skin, but don’t want to risk the chance of getting skin cancer, try sunless tanning products that you can apply onto your skin or salons that offer airbrush tanning. These are the only methods that are considered safe.


Where to find more information on skin cancer prevention

January 24, 2015

How Fast Does Hair Grow?

Hair on the scalp grows about 0.3 to 0.4 millimeter per day or about 6 inches per year. Unlike other mammals, human hair growth and shedding is random and not seasonal or cyclical.


What Can Hurt Your Hair?

  • Excessive sun exposure
  • Exposure to sea water or chlorine in the swimming pool
  • Use of curling or hair straightening irons
  • Excessive heat when blow drying
  • Excessive and hard brushing
  • Chemicals in styling products.
  • Chemicals for hair coloring, straightening, and permanent waving


What Are “Split Ends”?

Split ends are, literally, splitting of hairs at the ends. It is typically caused by over-use of styling chemicals, frequent or excessive rubbing while washing the hair. Although split ends cannot be completely prevented, routine haircuts and careful washing/styling habits will help improve the appearance of your hair.


What Happens When I Dye My Hair?

The hair shaft consists of layers of structured proteins (keratins) and protective oils. In order for hair color to be changed, the natural oils have to be partially removed by a bleaching agent and the keratin layers have to be “softened,” so that the coloring agent is able to penetrate and stain the cortex keratins with the desired color. Together, these changes make the hair shaft “drier” and more brittle. Frequent hair-color changes (more than once in 4 to 6 weeks) may result in damages such as split ends, dryness, and difficulty in brushing which cannot be reversed.

Is It Normal for Hair to Fall Off When Brushing?

Absolutely! A healthy person with a full head of hair will shed on average 50 to 100 “dead” hairs per day. Shedding can be influenced by factors such as age, change in hormones, nutrition, skin disease, stress, exposure to radiation and certain chemicals. However, losing a small amount of hairs on a daily basis is normal.


Tips for Brushing Your Hair:

  • Don’t believe in the “100 strokes a day” myth; excessive brushing causes more harm than good.
  • Never back-brush or backcomb hair; follow its natural direction.
  • Use a wide-toothed comb instead of a brush.
  • Be patient and careful when working through tangles.