HCV+ Teen Tells It

24 02 2011

My name is Sabina, I live in San Diego, and I’m 15 years old. I have had hepatitis C (HCV) for about 13 years now and I have just recently decided to get rid of it and started treatment.

On MLK day I’m happy to say that I celebrated my first full week of being on the treatment. And let me tell you it wasn’t as bad as I thought it would be.

I started the treatment on January 10, 2011, and now I take two drugs. Every Monday I have to give myself a shot at night. When I was about to get my first shot, I was so nervous and scared. I thought the needle was going to be inches big but it wasn’t. The needle was an inch if not half an inch big. And it didn’t hurt one bit. But still I’m scared for every Monday to come.

Every morning I take pills after breakfast, and in the evening I take another dose after dinner. And so far I haven’t gotten any serious symptoms. Though everyday I get headaches in the evening that really hurt, but as I was doing some research I found out that it’s better that you don’t take medicine to try to make it better. Instead you should eat and drink lots of water, and it really does help.

From talking to people that have gone through the process before, some tips I learned were carrying a water bottle around with you is smart so you can always have water to drink, to not overreact if something happens because its happens to everyone, and to make sure you tell your parents everything from itchiness to headaches to how you’re feeling.

Something that I’m always concerned about is forgetting to take my pills every morning and evening. But you don’t need to worry about that. You should know that if you forget to take your pills in the morning you should never take 4 that night at once. All of that medicine at once can put a dent into your body.

Another thing that I’m worried about is my sports. But I was told from the doctor that after a few months I should be ready to go back to my everyday activities and sports. I’m a volleyball player and club season is coming up, and the doctor says I should be healthy enough to play. Great news, huh? So if you are a sports person don’t stress about not playing.





Teens Score High On Tests and Sex!

22 11 2010

We were scanning headlines the other day and ran across this one on Time.com: Teen Sex Not Always Bad For Grades.

What a relief! As parents, this is what concerns us about our teens having sex.  “Sure,” we boast, “Hannah’s having sex, but  that little highschooler is cranking out As like there’s no tomorrow!”

This study, presented at a recent American Sociological Meeting, confirmed that teens having sex while in a “serious” relationship did much better in school than teens having casual sex.

Does this mean we should be rooting for a committed relationship for our kids? Or rooting for a time machine to take us back before these gosh darn people presented their findings?

What we really fear is that our teens will find out about this and adopt it as their new slogan: Sex = Good Grades!  Wootwoot!

This is a conundrum for us.  Our organization supports science-based information.  We applaud the study—the effort put forth to bring us this piece of information.  But, we are also parents, and many of our offspring are (gulp) teenagers.

We don’t care that having sex while in a “serious” relationship doesn’t affect grades.  It can affect one’s STI status, and make one a parent before the baby fat has gone from one’s cheeks.

This may sound strange but, moms and dads, if your pimply-faced darling’s grades start to improve, maybe it’s time to worry.





Teens, Vaccines, and Media

26 07 2010

How do I communicate with teens? This question hounds most providers as well as parents and teachers. Thanks to excellent research by the Kaiser Family Foundation and PEW Research Center, we know some of the answer lies in the latest media trends and technologies.

But what about health information? Most parents have to walk the line between gatekeeping and educating their teens about their own health and wellness. Nowhere is this juggle more apparent than in the realm of teens and vaccines.

According to CDC, teens 18 and under need Tdap, meningococcal, seasonal flu, and HPV vaccines, as well as to stay current with other childhood vaccines.

In 2008, CDC launched a pre-teen vaccine campaign, impressing on caregivers the importance of vaccinations for this age group as well. The host of recommended vaccines protect against diseases such as whooping cough, HPV, meningitis, pneumonia, and others.

Reaching Our Teens

Communicating the importance of vaccinations to teens isn’t just a matter of laying out the facts. Programs like GetVaxed, PKIDs teen and young adult site, attempt to reach adolescents using colorful, short, pithy health messages with extra punch and color.

Translating health messages, pithy or not, into action is a science that interests many, especially given the evolution of information-sharing with the onset of online and mobile technologies.  In a subsection of the Internet and American Life Report, Pew Research Center tracks the way teens use technology to communicate and get information.

As teens increasingly turn to texting as their preferred method of communication, parents and health providers would be wise to consider ways to text out health and prevention messages.

According to Pew, using texts to educate teens about STD prevention can be effective, though no data exists currently that addresses text immunization messages.

Given the importance of teen and pre-teen vaccination, it’s clear that parents and immunization educators would benefit from more outreach efforts targeting the favored language of teens (texts, Facebook, and the mobile Web).

The Kaiser Family Foundation’s report, Generation M2: Media in the Lives of 8 to 18 Year Olds concludes that in the past few years TV as a messaging medium has largely been replaced by the Internet and mobile technology.

Parents and providers are still the trusted purveyors of immunization information for teens, but we need to adapt how we share that information with them to ensure receipt.

 





Not My Teenager! Right?

26 02 2010

Sometimes I hate reality. I have a teenage girl and I don’t want to think about STIs, but, I also don’t want to risk her health.

Turns out, teenage girls aren’t getting screened early enough for sexually transmitted infections (STIs). They’re getting infected and passing that infection on to their partners.

Recommendations based on recent studies are to screen girls within a year of their first sexual experience.  If they have an STI, they should be retested every three to four months until they become infection-free.

Prevention strategies include early sex education and routine HPV vaccination for 11 and 12 year olds.

One study examined rates of sexually transmitted infections occurring among girls in U.S. cities.  The study found that half of these teenagers had at least one of three common STIs (chlamydia, gonorrhea and trichomoniasis) within the first two years of becoming sexually active.

The study also reported that in 25% of cases, the girls became re-infected with the same STI within four to six months of completing treatment.  Seventy-five percent of the girls reported receiving treatment for at least one more STI during the two years that followed their first infection.  Four years after getting their first STI diagnosis, 92% of the girls had experienced at least one additional STI.

Another study examined a group of 838 girls aged 14-19 and found that 24% of them had had at least one of five common STIs (gonorrhea, chlamydia, trichomoniasis, herpes simplex virus type 2, and human papillomavirus).

Among those girls who admitted to being sexually experienced, the rate of past or present STI infection was 37.7%.  The study also confirmed that for these girls, the STI infection often occurred within the first year of becoming sexually active.  Twenty percent of girls who reported only one partner in their lifetime reported they’d had an infection.

Do you have a daughter?  Talk to her about STIs and how to prevent infection.  Do it even if you think she will not have sex before marriage.  Do it even if she’s already sexually active. If she is active, get her screened for infection so that treatment can be given, should it be necessary.

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Kids and Sex, Gotta Have That Talk

15 02 2010

We have got to talk to our kids about sex (and related topics).  They’re going to snicker and act goofy or scowl and pretend to be annoyed, but they won’t run screaming from the room.  That’s because they want to know!

And we have to do it sooner rather than later.

On four separate occasions over the course of a year, 141 families of children aged 13-17 were surveyed concerning the timing of their chats about sexual topics.

Researchers found that over 50% of the teens had already experienced genital touching by the time their parents talked with them about birth control, sexually transmitted diseases and condom use.

More than 40% of the teens had already had intercourse by the time their parents talked with them about sexually transmitted diseases, condom use, choosing birth control and what to do if your partner refuses to wear a condom.

Why do we as parents allow this to happen?  Research suggests that we don’t have an accurate sense of where our children are in the stages of sexual exploration.

We all know that kids are exposed to sexual images and ideas through movies, music, magazines, and television at ever earlier ages.  This influences them in ways we parents may not be prepared to anticipate.

We want to protect our kids.  Most parents aren’t willing to bet their child’s health or life on an assumption that the child will abstain from sex until the parent thinks he or she is ready.

Experts suggest starting the conversation two years earlier than the age we think is appropriate. Don’t wait until just before we think the child is ready to explore sexual contact.

Sexuality is natural, it’s a part of being human, and it’s not just about sex.  Sexuality encompasses gender, interactions with the opposite sex, how men and women and boys and girls express emotion, body image, intimacy, and sexual orientation.

The kids may not listen when we tell them to take out the trash, but 63% of teens say being able to talk to their parents about sex makes it much easier to postpone sexual activity and avoid teen pregnancy.

Wooohooooo!  Parents doin’ the happy dance!

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To Veg Or Not To Veg

22 09 2009

If my teenager told me, her pork-lovin’ mama, that she was a vegan, I’d slam my sausage down and tell her to glue her fanny to a chair until I got a dictionary.

Turns out vegans don’t consume animal food – not even dairy products.  They don’t even wear leather shoes.

OK, first thing any involved parent will think about is: How is this going to affect my life?  Will I have to cook two meals, one vegan and one for regular people?  Just how much of a pain is this going to be and when is she moving out?

Oh, and how healthy is this lifestyle choice anyway?  (Yes, I eventually got there.)

If your teen is exploring vegetarianism or even veganism, here’s some animal-free food for thought.

The American Dietetic Association says that vegetarian and vegan diets can be healthy for people of any age, even for children. These diets are generally low in saturated fats, lower in cholesterol, and higher in fiber. These factors put vegetarians and vegans at much lower risk of obesity, heart disease, and type II diabetes than most meat lovers.

Vegetarians usually omit meat, poultry, and seafood from their diets, while vegans eliminate all animal products, including eggs and dairy, although there are vegetarians who eat fish and poultry and vegans who love their egg whites.  Apparently there’s room for personal choice.

Teens, whether meat-eating or not, are infamous for poor eating habits. Vegetarian and vegan teens, like all teens, need parental support in making healthy food choices. The key to a healthy vegetarian diet, like any diet, is variety. Parents should be aware of the vitamins and minerals that may be lacking in a vegetarian diet, particularly if variety is sparse.

Vitamin B12 is important in the formation of red blood cells and maintaining a healthy nervous system, and it’s essential for proper growth. A B12 deficiency can cause irreversible nervous system damage. Naturally, this vitamin is only found in meat, eggs, and dairy products, so look for fortified soymilk, cereals, or nutritional yeast if your child is vegan. Many meat-substitute products also contain B12.

Calcium is an essential mineral for many body functions. Blood clotting, muscle function, and the nervous system require calcium. When the body lacks calcium for these functions, it draws on calcium stored in the bones, leading to decreased bone density and possible fractures. Besides dairy sources, calcium is found in soymilk, calcium-fortified juice, soybeans, tofu, broccoli, and many other vegetables.

Vitamin D plays a vital role in regulating many organ systems and endocrine functions, as well as maintaining bone structure. Fish, eggs, and milk are great sources of vitamin D. As little as fifteen minutes of sun a day on the skin can provide some vitamin D. Fortified soymilk, juices, and cereals provide vitamin D, but a supplement for vegans is probably a good idea, especially in the winter months.

Iron is essential for oxygen transport in the body, as well as for the production and survival of all cells in the body. Green leafy vegetables, tofu, beans, fortified cereals, and meat-substitutes contain iron. The problem is that the body does not absorb iron from these sources as readily as it does from animal sources. Menstruating females and other teens may benefit from an iron supplement.

Zinc has numerous functions in the body and plays a role in nervous system function and reproductive organ growth. Red meats contain a lot of zinc, but it’s also found in wheat, beans and many seeds. Too much zinc can be harmful, so use care when considering a zinc supplement.

Proteins are made of amino acids that are essential for almost every body function. Surprisingly, nearly all vegetarians get enough protein. A vegetarian or vegan teen should eat a balance of legumes, nuts and seeds, vegetables, and whole grains every day. Eggs and dairy provide plenty of protein, if that’s part of their food plan.

If your teen announces he’s become a vegan, then yes, it’s going to mean more work for you.  But, with a little help from you, his doting parent, he’ll be eating foods that are good for him and, bonus, you don’t have to fork out the bucks for leather anything anymore!

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