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The University of Alabama

UA Matters: Having a Healthy Spring Break

Dr. Jennifer Clem

Dr. Jennifer Clem

It’s almost that time of year — spring break. While it’s definitely an occasion to let loose and have some fun, anyone planning on enjoying the much-awaited break should also use some caution.

The University of Alabama’s Dr. Jennifer Clem offers several tips on how to have a healthy and safe spring break.

  • Be smart about alcohol. Even on spring break, the legal drinking age is 21. If drinking alcohol is part of your break, never mix alcohol with driving, boating, swimming or diving. Alcohol-related motor vehicle crashes kill someone every 31 minutes and injure someone every two minutes. Whether you realize it or not, alcohol does impair your judgment and actions.
  • Protect yourself from the sun. If you take a few simple precautions, you can have plenty of fun in the sun this spring break. Excessive and unprotected sun exposure causes premature aging, permanent skin discoloration and skin cancer. Even one severe sunburn increases your risk of melanoma, a potentially deadly form of skin cancer. So, always wear sunscreen with at least SPF 15, reapply every two to three hours, and utilize hats, umbrellas and beach tents. For eye protection, wear wraparound sunglasses that provide 100 percent UV protection.
  • Watch your step.Women are more likely to be victims of sexual violence than men, so take control of your personal safety. Do not use alcohol or other substances that impair your ability to consent and protect yourself. Make a pact with trusted friends to watch out for each other’s safety, wherever you are during your break.
  • Protect your body. Spring break frequently presents opportunities for high-risk behavior, including unprotected sex. The only absolute way to protect yourself from sexually-transmitted diseases and unintended pregnancy is to not have sex. Latex condoms are somewhat protective and should be used 100 percent of the time during intercourse.
  • Get there safely. There are three things you can do to stay safe in a motor vehicle: wear your seatbelt, wear your seatbelt and wear your seatbelt. When boating, wear your life jacket, and know how to swim. If planning a trip, find out what vaccinations are recommended and what type of climate/terrain is expected.Think about any necessary equipment, such as insect repellent, first aid kits and sturdy shoes.
  • Be active and eat healthy. You may have spent the last few weeks or months sitting in class, hunched over books or working at a computer. Take this opportunity to resume an active lifestyle by engaging in fun activities, such as walking, dancing, swimming, Frisbee and volleyball. Ditch the unhealthy study snacks, and resume a well-rounded diet that includes plenty of fruits/vegetables, low-fat dairy products, whole grain products, lean meats and legumes. Try to drink two liters of water daily, and avoid sugar-sweetened beverages.

Clem, a physician, is an assistant professor in the department of family medicine in UA’s College of Community Health Sciences.uamatters_logo-thumb

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UA Matters is a weekly posting that offers information and tips on consumer issues facing Alabamians. The information is available to reprint in your publication free of charge. Also, access to subject matter experts is available upon request. For more information, contact Kim Eaton at 205/348-8325 or>.

The University of Alabama, a student-centered research university, is experiencing significant growth in both enrollment and academic quality. This growth, which is positively impacting the campus and the state's economy, is in keeping with UA's vision to be the university of choice for the best and brightest students. UA, the state's flagship university, is an academic community united in its commitment to enhancing the quality of life for all Alabamians.