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Spring break

* Spring Break begins Saturday, Feb. 28

The University of Maine’s Safe Campus Project, Substance Abuse Prevention Services and Public Safety have released the following tips for keeping safe while away on Spring Break.

Dehydration

Alcohol and increased exposure to the sun dehydrate the body. Drink non-alcoholic and non-caffeinated beverages to replace lost body fluid. Signs of dehydration include dizziness (especially if consuming alcohol), an imbalance of potassium and sodium chlorides (which leads to arrhythmia), weakness, muscle spasms, passing out and confusion. Warning signs of pending dehydration are dark urine or infrequent urination.

Hangovers

Everyone knows the symptoms of a hangover: Headaches, vomiting or nausea, “cotton mouth” and fatigue. Many do not know that a hangover is a mild form of alcohol withdrawal. Some symptoms are a rebound effect of alcohol on the nervous system. Other symptoms are due to a depletion of glucose and oxygen to the brain. Just remember, drinking too much too quickly on an empty stomach is a formula for a hangover.

To avoid a hangover, reduce alcohol consumption, sip rather than gulp your drinks, have food in your stomach when you drink, pace your drinks (one drink per hour for men and 1.5 hours for women), never mix alcohol with prescription or illicit drugs (especially depressant drugs like GHB), alternate a non-alcoholic drink between alcoholic drinks, and do not pressure yourself or others to drink more.

Sex and alcohol don’t mix

Alcohol and sex can make for an unsafe combination. While a small amount of alcohol acts as a “social lubricant,” more alcohol brings forth a drastic change in the physiology of the sexual response: In men, less intense orgasms, difficulty in obtaining and maintaining an erection, erectile impotence, ejaculatory impotence and painful ejaculation. In women, increased alcohol brings less intense orgasms, fewer or no orgasms, lassitude and loss of lubrication, which in turn produces painful intercourse. Too much alcohol contributes to miscommunication and misreading intent, which can lead to unwanted sex or rape and the possibility of STDs. Never put your drink down and then drink it. Also, never accept a drink that you didn’t see the bartender make. Alcohol is not a good mixer for sex.

When you’ve had too much

Signs and symptoms of alcohol poisoning include:

-Unconsciousness or semi-consciousness.

-Slow respiration of eight or fewer breaths per minute or lapses between breaths of more than eight seconds.

-Cold, clammy, pale or bluish skin.

In the event of alcohol poisoning, these signs and symptoms will most likely be accompanied by a strong odor of alcohol. While these are obvious signs of alcohol poisoning, the list is certainly not all inclusive.

If you encounter a person who exhibits one or more of these signs and symptoms, call 911, gently turn the intoxicated person on his/her side and maintain that position by placing a pillow in the small of the person’s back. This is important to prevent choking, should the person vomit. Stay with the person until medical help arrives. If a person appears to be sleeping it off, it is important to realize that even though a person may be semi-conscious, alcohol already in the stomach may continue to enter the bloodstream and circulate throughout the body. The person’s life may still be in danger. If you are having difficulty in determining whether an individual is acutely intoxicated, contact a health professional immediately – you cannot afford to guess.

Extra Tips

Here are some other safe Spring Break tips to keep in mind while out and about during the next two weeks:

-Decide in advance what and how much you will drink.

-Plan on how you will refuse alcohol or drugs once you’ve reached your limit.

-Know what will happen if you violate state or local laws, especially in a foreign country.

-Use a designated driver or choose public transportation if you’ve been drinking (bring some extra cash if you choose the latter).

-While at a hotel/motel, keep your door locked. Look through the peephole before answering the door. Don’t open it for a stranger. If someone claims to be staff, call the front desk for verification.

-Be cautious when leaving valuables in your hotel/motel room.

-Use the buddy system when leaving the room for any reason.

-Use traveler’s checks or ATMs as well as some cash

-If you don’t want to have sex with someone, say no and leave the situation.

-Attend large parties with friend and plan to leave with the same friends.

-Tell someone where you are going and when you expect to return.

-Watch out for rape drugs. Don’t leave your drink unattended. Don’t accept open drinks from strangers. It’s like your luggage at the airport – keep it with you at all times.

-If you decided to have consensual sex, remember to use protection.

-Avoid sun exposure during the hottest hours of the sun’s rays and avoid over-exposure.

-Apply sunscreen with an SPF of at least 15, paying special attention to the face, nose, ears and shoulders. Re-apply after swimming and sweating. Remember, you can get sunburned even if it is cloudy.

-Use sunglasses with UV Protection.

-Drink plenty of water, non-carbonated, and non-alcoholic drinks, even if you do not feel thirsty.

-Stay within the designated swimming area and ideally within the visibility of a lifeguard.

-Bring a buddy when swimming.

-Be aware of rip currents. If you should get caught in a current, don’t try to swim against it. Swim parallel to shore until clear of the current.

-Use common sense – if the waves look dangerous, they probably are.

-Jellyfish cause intense burning. Lifeguards know the first aid procedure for reducing the pain.

-Seek shelter in case of storm. Get out of the water. Get off the beach in case of lightning.

-Watch out for traffic – some beaches allow cars. If you’re driving, obey the speed limit.

And most of all, use common sense. Enjoy yourself, have fun, relax and we’ll see you back here in class March 14.