By The Gallatin City-County Health Department’s Communicable Disease Program
PANAMA CITY, FL—Following a week long vacation in Florida, local sexually transmitted disease gonorrhea announced it had an awesome time during this year’s spring break. “Oh man, PCB was the best—I was at a new party practically every night and met a ton of cool people,” said the common bacteria-based genital tract infection, noting that most of the dozens of coeds it encountered at a local Days Inn were so drunk they probably barely even remember meeting the contagious disease. “I mean, some of the people you meet during spring break are cool to hook up with for one or two nights, but I’m always looking for the relationships that last for life. Those are what really count.” Gonorrhea went on to say that while spring break may be over, it definitely plans to get back in touch with that blonde from Ohio State sometime very soon.
Last year in Gallatin County, we had 70 cases of Chlamydia the 10 weeks before spring break and 103 cases in the 10 weeks after spring break. Hmmm…
Spring Break should be a fun respite from the stress of college. It’s a time to relax with your friends and unwind from a hard semester of studying. But it’s also a time to continue making smart choices.
According to a study published in the Journal of American College Health1, the average male reported consuming 18 alcoholic drinks a day and females had an average of 10 alcoholic drinks per day while on Spring Break. Additionally, about half of the people in the study reported drinking until they got sick or passed out.
Excessive alcohol consumption has been repeatedly linked to unprotected sex, unplanned sexual activity and sexual/physical assaults2. Being in an altered state makes it harder to make smart decisions about your body and your health. Two researchers out of Arizona State University3 found that pre-Spring Break intentions determined behavior. If you and your friends plan to drink excessively and have casual sex, then you will probably do just that. You could use this to your advantage though and make a plan with your friends to not drink excessively and not participate in casual sex. Instead, try to incorporate activities into your day that aren’t centered around drinking; this will create some nice memories with your friends that you can actually remember.
When you do go out to bars and parties, hold on to your drink and use your hand to cover it. This will make it harder for someone to add something to your drink. Don’t accept drinks made by someone else, who knows what they put in there.
If you decide to have casual sex, DO use a condom, however, a condom may not protect you from HPV, warts, or herpes. You may also want to consider bringing emergency contraception with you. If you made some bad choices during spring break, you should be screened for STDs when you get back. Remember that you can have chlamydia or gonorrhea and not have any symptoms, so don’t be lulled into a false sense of security if everything seems OK down there.
Look out for yourself and your friends. It is up to you to be proactive and make smart decisions, which will keep you from partying with gonorrhea like the blond from Ohio State.
- George L. Smeaton PhD , Bharath M. Josiam MS & Uta C. Dietrich MS (1998) College Students’ Binge Drinking at a Beach-Front Destination During Spring Break, Journal of American College Health, 46:6, 247-254, DOI: 10.1080/07448489809596000
- Wechsler H. Binge drinking on America’s college campuses. Cambridge: Harvard School of Public Health, 2001
- Apostolopoulos Y, Sonmez A(2002) HIV-risk behavior of American spring break vacationers: a case of situational disinhibition? International Journal of STD and AIDS, 13: 733-743