Tips for a safe spring break

University staff members identified some risks and how to avoid them.

Yelena Kibasova

Jennifer Comeau, a French studies sophomore who is planning to work during next week’s break from classes, is aware spring break can be a dangerous time for some students.

“(Students need) to use common sense and know what (they) are getting into,” she said.

Comeau said she is not worried about the choices her vacationing friends will make.

But University staff members are concerned some students are not fully aware of the risks that come with the freedom of spring break.

Drinking

High-risk drinking during spring break can lead to negative consequences.

One of the biggest concerns about partying is that students underestimate how intoxicated they are, said Dana Farley, director of health promotion at Boynton Health Service.

“As their (blood alcohol) level increases to over .12 Ö about 90 percent underestimate their level of intoxication,” he said.

At this level of impairment, students tend to make bad decisions and are more vulnerable to crime, he said.

“They’re doing things that they normally wouldn’t do when they’re sober or at a lower level of intoxication,” Farley said. “So that’s when thinking about hitting golf balls across University Avenue seems like a good idea, or sawing off a parking meter seems like it would be fun.”

Farley said students need to learn to pace and monitor their drinking.

“When you ask students what they like about drinking, the things they like Ö are usually Ö at lower blood-alcohol levels,” he said.

Farley said students can learn a lesson from University seniors, who often focus on the social gathering and having fun, instead of getting drunk.

“You’re going to enjoy the evening and remember the evening,” he said.

Farley recommended avoiding shots and drinking games, which can cause rapid intoxication.

“Nobody likes the taste of vomit,” he said. “Nobody likes to not know what happened last night.”

Sex

Spring break parties can lead to unintended promiscuity. Students risk contracting sexually transmitted infections for the thrill of a one-night stand.

Dave Golden, director of public health and marketing for Boynton Health Service, said students often count on the odds that they won’t catch an infection.

“But eventually their luck is going to run out,” he said. “That we clearly, clearly see.”

Golden said Boynton gets more students coming in with sexually transmitted infections, such as chlamydia, after spring break.

“A great predictor for a sexually transmitted infection is the number of sexual partners that the student has,” he said.

Golden said he realizes thinking about consequences often can be difficult, but he warned that for those who don’t, “the outcome can be really awful.”

Golden encouraged staying abstinent or using appropriate protection and avoiding the combination of alcohol and sexual acts.

“The overall number of negative consequences combined with high-risk alcohol use is just phenomenal,” Golden said.

Tanning

One of the fastest growing groups of skin cancer patients are women 35 and younger. This might be why dermatologists don’t support tanning.

“We’re anti-tanning,” said Matthew McClelland, a resident of dermatology. “Tanning is a sign of sun damage.”

He warns that long sun exposure can lead to skin cancer.

“People who are young don’t think about skin cancer down the road, but melanoma can be fatal,” McClelland said.

Tanning booths can be used as a way to acclimate the body before a vacation, but they also might increase the risk of cancer.

McClelland said the best protection is sunscreen with a sun protection factor of 30 or greater.

“It’s important to reapply every two hours or so – more frequently if you’re swimming – and to put it on about half an hour before you go out in the sun so it can soak in,” he said.

Dermatologists also recommend avoiding the peak sunny hours of 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.

McClelland said it usually takes 20 to 30 years after someone has a really bad case of sunburn to develop skin cancer.