There is no doubt that a week on a sunny Florida beach without exams, stress or Indiana weather sounds like a good deal to many Purdue students. With a few safety precautions, students can enjoy Spring Break to the fullest without encountering any issues.
During Spring Break, the average number of alcoholic beverages consumed jumps to 18 drinks per day for men and 10 drinks per day for women, according to the Journal of American College Health. With binge drinking comes the risk of alcohol poisoning, which can be avoided if you know the warning signs.
Symptoms of alcohol poisoning include confusion, slow or irregular breathing, fading in and out of consciousness, vomiting and seizures. Alcohol poisoning can also reduce a person’s gag reflex, causing someone to be at risk for choking on vomit if left alone on his or her back. Contrary to popular belief, alcohol poisoning cannot be “cured” with black coffee, a cold shower or sleep, and cannot be walked off. The safest and best option is to call 911.
For Spring Breakers headed to Central and South America for leisure or mission trips, the Zika virus may already be on some students’ radar. The Zika virus is transmitted through mosquito bites, and infected individuals show either mild symptoms such as a fever or rash or may not show any symptoms.
The Zika virus poses the greatest threat to pregnant women since the virus has been linked to microcephaly, a birth defect that results in an underdeveloped brain in babies. Experts postulate that men can transmit this virus through sexual intercourse if infected.
Pamela Aaltonen, an associate professor and associate head of the School of Nursing, recommends finding an insect repellent with the ingredients IR3535, KBR 3023, or DEET in a concentration of 30 percent or less.
“It will be challenging for 'Spring Breakers' to follow this recommendation, which is to wear long sleeves, light colored pants and shirt,” Aaltonen said. “Tuck (your) shirt into pants, and pants into socks to cover gaps. If using sunscreen, repellent should be applied after the sunscreen. Consider traveling with your own bed net if going into more rustic areas.”
Aaltonen explained that when people from all different places collect in one crowded location, there’s a greater opportunity to transfer diseases. With mumps popping up on college campuses and the CDC reporting elevated STI rates during Spring Break, keeping up with immunizations and practicing safe sex can help reduce transmission rates.
If students suspect they might have contracted an STI over break, PUSH will have free STI testing for HIV, gonorrhea and chlamydia on March 24 from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Students can book an appointment online now and throughout Spring Break.
Sexual assault can occur during Spring Break, and unfortunately, the instances of alcohol-related assaults also increases. According to the Kaiser Family Foundation, 46 to 76 percent of date rape cases involve alcohol consumption by the victim, perpetrator or both.
Monica Bloom, the inaugural director for the Center for Advocacy, Response and Education (CARE) said that how a student chooses to handle an instance of assault is ultimately up to them, but assistance is available by phone, even while Purdue students are on break, by calling 765-495-CARE during business hours or 765-495-HELP after hours.
Bloom strongly recommends seeking medical care at the local hospital where the instance of assault occurred to receive emergency contraception or treatment for potential STIs. If a student chooses to report the instance to local police, forensic examination can be performed to preserve evidence. Once returning to campus, students can seek counseling and assistance through CARE, which is temporarily held in Cary Quad, Room B32. Walk-ins are available, but making an appointment by phone ensures an advocate will be available to meet.
“Sexual assault can have a long lasting effect on a survivor,” Bloom said. “Seeking support following an assault is an important step in helping you to cope with the emotional and physical impact of the assault and to regain a sense of control over your life.”
Letting your guard down
Sometimes students’ greatest risk is abated common sense.
“We absolutely understand that Spring Break is a time to unwind from the whole semester; we all love our vacations,” said Eric Chin, captain of special services for the Purdue University Police Department. “We would just really caution people not to let their guard down.”
Chin explained that when Spring Breakers travel, it’s tempting to want to relax and not think about potential dangerous circumstances. However, having a plan in place will help ensure safety. Being proactive and not being too trusting of new people will prevent not only risky situations but inconvenient ones as well, like getting lost or becoming a victim of robbery.
“When you go out to bars, be cautious of who you’re speaking with,” he said. “Know what you’re getting into before you hop in a cab. Research your hotel and the management there. When it comes to befriending people, trust your senses.”
Chin encouraged Purdue students who are victims of a crime over Spring Break to report the incident to the police department in the city where the crime took place. However, the Purdue Police Department can assist with contacting the appropriate law enforcement agency if students decide to report a crime after returning to campus.
“It’s your entire right to not report an instance to law enforcement,” Chin said. “But we highly recommend using the university resources available to you: CAPS, PUSH and the advocacy center.”