Nervous about your beach-bound college student this Spring Break? If so, you’re not alone. SB2022 has definite potential for over-the-top “rebound partying” that could lead to a series of poor choices and outcomes, so let’s talk about some things that might help prevent some heartache, and be sure to share with your favorite young adult, because many of them are nervous, too. Note: This post is about student choices and does NOT address COVID concerns.
First, however, let me reassure you that roughly a third of college students happily choose NOT to drink (or have sex or use drugs for that matter), and another third drink responsibly. These young adults often carry the somewhat self-imposed but very real burden of dealing with their intoxicated or incapacitated friends, which can be overwhelming and suck the fun out of their own experience. Hats off to this group for their kindness, but let’s also remember these students are typically not trained medical professionals, so they can easily get in over their head as they try to help– especially because they feel obligated to be the problem-solver. If this is YOU or YOUR kid, please remind them they are not responsible for everyone else’s choices, and to seek help immediately when they are uncomfortable or simply unsure what to do.
Let’s start with ALCOHOL:
- Trust me, young adults know not to drink and drive (way better than their parents) so we are good there, but I bet they would appreciate an UBER or LYFT gift card.
- Have an EXIT strategy! Make firm plans about who you are leaving with, and have a CODE word with your friend group that means “I want to leave immediately,” no questions asked. If all else fails, “accidentally” spill a drink on yourself (or your overly intoxicated friend) and insist on leaving to get cleaned up.
- NEVER mix alcohol with pain pills like oxycodone or sedatives like Xanax or Valium- this is DEADLY. Learn more through the 525 Foundation.
- For those who choose to drink, I strongly encourage they stick to single serving-sized bottles of wine, or cans of beer or hard seltzer (like White Claw). These have the advantage of knowing exactly what is in them (vs a hand-poured mixed drink) and unless these beverages are aggressively chugged, most people will self-regulate their consumption as they feel slowly buzzed and physically full, thus tending not to get super intoxicated. Shots, however, with their tiny volume, are simply consumed too fast and too often, which shoots your blood alcohol through the roof…and leads us to the next discussion.
- “Black out” vs “brown out” vs. “passed out”. Passed out means unconscious. Brown out means you have spotty memories, and black out means you have actual memory gaps (from minutes to hours.) Absolutely nothing friends tell you will “trigger” you to remember, because your blood alcohol level rose so quickly, it turned off your brain’s ability to MAKE memories. Keep this in mind as you read the next section.
Sex- a few key points:
- Any form of physical intimacy requires not just lack of “no”, but presence of freely given, enthusiastic, ongoing, verbalized consent.
- If you are drunk, high, or otherwise impaired, you cannot give consent.
- If someone is “blackout” drunk, they MAY NOT initially appear impaired, meaning they may not have slurred speech, staggering, etc. If you are intimate with this person and their brain is not creating memories, they will also have NO MEMORY of whether or not they gave consent.
- Take home message, as well-stated by attorney Jonathan Cristall, author of “What They Don’t Teach Teens”, is that if you are even remotely questioning whether or not someone might be intoxicated, assume they ARE impaired and therefore unable to consent.
- Birth control pills are most effective when taken the same time every day. Many pills are missed, delayed, or even vomited in prolonged party situations like spring break.
- Condoms are excellent protection against STDs…when they are used, and used consistently. The most common failure of condoms is not breakage but lack of use. This includes oral sex (yes, that’s why flavored condoms were invented.) And yes, you can get STDs like genital herpes from receiving oral sex if there is no barrier.
- Young women are fertile. Use two forms of birth control if conception is possible.
Spring breakers often make impulsive individual or group decisions to get inked, so have a discussion now if this concerns you.
- Good news-tattoos rarely develop significant infections (between 0.5-6%). More may develop allergic or inflammatory reactions. Avoid red ink, as it is most likely to cause an allergic reaction due to its mercury sulfide.
- Removing tattoos is more expensive, painful, time-consuming and imperfect than most people realize.
- Biggest regrets:
- Inking the name of your significant other (who may not remain significant)
- Choosing a Chinese character or foreign word that is not what you thought it was-check with at least three native speakers first!
- Choosing a location that cannot easily be hidden with clothing or hair
- Start with a real henna tattoo (reddish-brown, takes time to apply) so you can live with it and see what changes you would make before it’s permanent.
- Many beach locations offer “black henna” semi-permanent tattoos that are quickly painted on and last a couple weeks. If you are one of the unfortunate 6% of North Americans that react, you may end up with itchy red bumps/blisters a few days to a week later.
- Sunscreen: Let’s USE it! How much? A SHOT GLASS worth of sunscreen, reapplying that amount every two hours. Let’s be clear, one bottle or tube should last a day or two, not the whole week!
- If you are taking prescription medications, especially antibiotics, be aware if they could make you photosensitive. Some of the most severe sunburns come from young adults who take daily antibiotics for acne and didn’t cover up or sunscreen adequately.
- Water safety- be VERY aware of strong currents and always have a friend with you while you are in the ocean. Obviously do not swim if you are intoxicated/impaired, and look out for others who might do so.
- Fever blisters- (cold sores/oral herpes simplex) outbreaks are often triggered by intense UV exposure. Be sure to use lip protection with 30 SPF, reapply often, and be sure to bring your prescription antiviral medication with you.
- “SEA LICE”- tiny jellyfish larvae (aka “no see ’ems”) can float in large yet nearly invisible swarms in the shallow water along the coast of Florida, typically more common March- August. Look for warning signs on the beach. If you feel burning/stinging under your swimsuit (literally hundreds can get trapped in your swimsuit fabric) get out of the water and carefully take off your suit asap. Do NOT rinse off in a shower with your suit on, as that will trigger the trapped larvae to sting. Applying vinegar may help neutralize the toxin and reduce the stinging. After that, apply topical hydrocortisone and take antihistamines as needed.
BOTTOM LINE: An ounce of prevention is well worth a pound of cure for Spring Break beach vacations! Next post we will tackle the Rocky Mountain “HIGH” Ski Vacation challenges.
PS. If you’d like to learn more about any of these topics or the many injuries, accidents and anxieties that relate to young adults, please check out the new edition of The ULTIMATE College Student Health Handbook, just released March 1, 2022!