FDA-approved over-the-counter birth control pill

August 17th, 2023 by Leslie Reynolds

The FDA Approved an Over-the-Counter Birth Control Pill! 

What does that mean for international students?

Recently, the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) authorized the US’s first “over-the-counter” birth control pill called “Opill.” “Over-the-counter” refers to medications that can be purchased at a pharmacy without a prescription from a doctor. THIS IS BIG NEWS! Keep reading to learn why.

Prior to this authorization, in order for someone to obtain a prescription for birth control, they would typically have had to take the following steps:

  1. Find a primary care doctor or gynecologist doctor (preferably in-network)
  2. Schedule and attend an appointment with this doctor
  3. Receive a prescription from the doctor for birth control
  4. Wait until the prescription had been filled at the pharmacy you selected
  5. Pick up the prescription from the pharmacy, and pay for it.

Since birth control is considered preventative medication, and an appointment to get this medication would also fall under the preventive or wellness category, many international student insurance plans would not have covered this doctor visit. In addition, they also might not cover the cost of the preventative prescription medication.

However, with this new authorization, these are the steps someone would need to take in order to obtain the Opill birth control pill:

  1. Go to a nearby pharmacy (since it’s new, you may want to call ahead to make sure they have the authorized medication) 
  2. Pick up and pay for the medication.

A price hasn’t been announced for the Opill yet, but HRA Pharma, the pill’s manufacturer, is receiving a lot of pressure from various entities to make sure the medication is affordable without insurance coverage (since most insurance plans don’t cover or discount over-the-counter medications). They anticipate announcing a price in the coming months, with the Opill being available in early 2024.

However, currently there are twelve states, plus Washington, DC, that do require insurance companies to cover over-the-counter contraceptives. You can see the list of states here, and always double check your insurance policy to understand your benefits. You can also call our customer service if you ever have questions about how your plan works!

Another important thing to note about this new Opill is that it is a progesterone-only birth control pill. Many currently prescribed birth control pills are combination progesterone-estrogen pills, but studies have found that progesterone-only has fewer side effects and is thus safer to take independently, without the direction of a doctor.

As they say in the news, this is a developing story, so the actual details and processes of how it will all work may shift and change over the next few months. We will do our best to update you on the major announcements related to this exciting approval!

For additional reading on this topic:

Sports Insurance for International Students

July 20th, 2023 by Joss Jimenez

International students who participate in sports are at a greater risk of injury because they are constantly pushing their bodies to the limit and are more likely to be involved in accidents. If they practice sports frequently, it is important for international students to have sports insurance.

When choosing a sports insurance plan, you must consider the type of sports you will be participating in. There are four main categories of sports: organized sports, extreme/adventure sports, contact sports, and recreational, leisure, or fitness sports.

Organized Sports

Organized sports, as defined in insurance terms, usually include intercollegiate, interscholastic, intramural or club sport participation. If your sport requires organized practices or events, if you have a coach, or if you signed up for the sports through your school, it is most likely an organized sport. This definition does not include semi-professional and professional sports, which are usually in their own category, and in general are not covered by most international student or travel medical plans.

Organized sports are typically covered by international student insurance plans, but there is a maximum limit per injury. For example, the Student Secure Budget plan covers organized sports up to $3,000 per injury, while the Student Secure Select and Elite plans cover organized sports up to $5,000 per injury. You need to purchase an additional rider on this plan to get organized sports coverage. The Student Secure offers coverage for a wide variety of school-sanctioned sports, from basketball and football to rodeo and surfing.

It is important to note that not all organized sports are covered by every insurance plan. Some plans may exclude certain sports, such as contact sports or extreme sports. It is important to read the fine print of your insurance plan carefully to make sure that the sports you participate in are covered.

Extreme/Adventure Sports

Extreme sports, also known as adventure sports, are activities perceived as having a high level of inherent danger. These activities often involve speed, height, a high level of physical exertion, and, in most cases, highly specialized gear. These kinds of activities are often undertaken for thrill seeking, and thus can expose the participant to abnormal risk that exceeds even that of organized sports. 

Extreme/adventure sports are not typically covered by international student insurance plans. However, there are some plans that offer limited coverage for extreme/adventure sports, or there may be an additional rider that can be added to the plan for an additional cost.

If you are planning to participate in extreme/adventure sports, it is important to carefully consider your insurance options. You may want to purchase a separate insurance policy that specifically covers these types of sports.

If you are an international student interested in practicing extreme sports, we have some options for you:

The Atlas Travel plan includes coverage for all extreme sports that are not excluded specifically in the policy. Excluded sports include base jumping, bobsleigh, cave diving, cliff jumping, mountaineering at elevations of 4,500 meters or higher, racing by any animal or motorized Vehicle or BMX and whitewater rafting. On the contrary, two of the extreme sports that the Atlas Travel plan does cover are snow skiing and snowboarding, as long as they don’t violate the authority laws and stay inbound.

The Patriot Travel plan is another example of a plan that offers an Adventure Sports rider. Sports covered under the rider are limited to the following:  abseiling, BMX, bobsledding, bungee jumping, canyoning, caving, hot air ballooning, jungle zip lining, parachuting, paragliding, parascending, rappelling, skydiving, spelunking, wildlife safaris and windsurfing. 

Contact Sports

Contact sports are also not typically covered by international student insurance plans. These sports involve physical contact between players, which increases the risk of injury. However, there may be an exception if the sport is sanctioned by your school.

For example, the Student Secure Budget and Select plans cover all organized sports, even if they are considered contact sports. However, if you are planning to participate in a contact sport that is not sanctioned by your school, you may want to purchase a separate insurance policy that specifically covers these types of sports.

Recreational, Leisure, or Fitness Sports

Some sports don’t fit into any of these categories. If you practice a sport to keep fit or just for fun, it would be considered into another category called Recreational, Leisure, or Fitness sports. Recreational, leisure, or fitness sports are typically covered by international student insurance plans. These sports are not considered to be as dangerous as organized sports, extreme/adventure sports, or contact sports.

However, it is important to read the fine print of your insurance plan carefully to make sure that the sports you participate in are covered. Some plans may exclude certain sports, such as sports that involve the use of motorized vehicles.

Tips for Choosing a Sports Insurance Plan

When choosing a sports insurance plan, there are a few things you should keep in mind:

  • Compare different plans to find one that offers the coverage you need. Consider the types of sports you will be participating in, as well as the maximum benefit you need.
  • Make sure the plan has a high enough maximum benefit to cover your potential medical expenses. If you are injured in a serious accident, you could end up with large medical bills.
  • Consider whether you want a plan with a deductible or a plan with no deductible. A deductible is the amount of money you have to pay out of pocket before the insurance company will start paying for your medical expenses.
  • Read the fine print carefully to understand all of the terms and conditions of the plan. This includes the exclusions, limitations, and waiting periods.

Having sports insurance can give you peace of mind knowing that you are protected in case of an injury. It is an important consideration for any international student who participates in sports.

Community mental health is a mix of actions that have the goal of improving mental health on a community or social level, tackling health problems and their determining factors in a comprehensive way. 

Taking action in building a community of mental health awareness is important because we are all responsible for taking care of and supporting each other. We may not always live and be part of a culture where institutions for mental health exist or where not all parts of the population benefit from them. Therefore, we must create these conditions instead of waiting for them to happen.

Mental Health

Mental health is a person’s emotional, psychological, and social well-being. And it has an effect on every aspect of a person’s life, including how they think, feel, and act. Also, it affects the way a person handles stress, the choices that they make, and how they relate to others. Emotional wellness is the ability to be aware of our feelings and accept them. It means having an optimistic approach through challenges and change. Being emotionally well doesn’t necessarily mean that you’re happy all the time, but rather, that you’re self-aware and able to shift as a way to feel better.

Risk and Safety Factors

There are a number of factors that can determine a person’s state of mental health, or that of a group, or even anticipate mental health disorders.Two of these are known as risk and safety factors, and both can be split into three categories:

Risk Factors
-Genetics and perinatal conditions
-Physical health issues
-Traumatic life experiences
-Lack of a support network (family, school, neighborhood or work)
-Isolation (due to migration, discrimination, etc.)
-Poverty and inequity
-Geography (where you live and your current living situation)
-Education level
Safety Factors
-Emotional assertiveness
-Agency and autonomy
-Stable and sufficient support network
-Healthy dynamics on relationships (work, family, partners) 
-Available services such as health, quality food, housing and green areas
-Job opportunities 

Identifying both factors is a good first step for community mental health assessment and prevention. 

You may have figured out by this point that most of the risk factors can be taken care of if a community is prepared to carry out small actions that will have a bigger role in the long run.

Take action!

Here are some ideas for concrete actions that you can start or suggest within your own community, whether it’s your school, college or university, neighborhood, family, group of friends, clubs you belong to, etc. You can even promote these actions by starting them yourself and teaching others to replicate them as well. Remember being part of the change you’d like to see is key.

Practice affection, assertive communication, breathing exercises throughout the day, meditation and other fulfilling spiritual activities. If it’s possible, get counseling and/or psychotherapy.

Create clubs for recreational activities such as arts and crafts (music, band, painting, dancing, movie club), gardening (you could learn about sustainable crops and how to plant them, or just gardening to embellish your surroundings or the city that you live in) and cultural events with topics the community might be interested in.

Create exercise groups; the options are endless: you can go for a walk or a bike ride, organize a yoga class, pilates, etc.

Look out for those in your community who might need an extra hand with their day to day activities, and volunteer so everyone can take turns when it comes to helping and contributing. These could be older generations or those with special needs, such as people living with a physical, mental or social disadvantage.

Promote awareness for having healthy surroundings. Noise is one of the most common stress factors. It makes us lack concentration, interferes with our sleep schedule, makes us become irritable and constantly nervous. Take careful consideration when playing loud music, beeping your horn, screaming, and talking loud for a long period of time, etc. Think twice and think of others!

Form groups for emotional support where you can practice emotional assertiveness and acceptance. You don’t necessarily need a professional to be there, it’s more than enough to be an active listener. Try to avoid judging and exude empathy for others. 

These are some ideas you can start implementing now. If they already exist in your community, spread awareness and start incorporating them more regularly. Remember, you have agency and are capable of transforming your surroundings little by little, step by step!

How does singing help improve your health?

May 19th, 2023 by Joss Jimenez

Singing is a universal human activity that has been enjoyed for centuries. It is a way to express ourselves, connect with others, and simply have fun. But did you know that singing can also be good for your health?

Here are some therapeutic effects from singing:

  1. Reduces stress. Singing can help reduce stress by releasing endorphins, serotonin and dopamine, which are hormones that have mood-boosting effects. These hormones can help us feel less stressed, anxious or depressed; and they can also boost your overall mood.
  1. Improves lung function. Singing is a form of aerobic exercise that requires a specific type of deep breathing. This type of breathing -known as diaphragmatic breathing- can help improve lung function by increasing the amount of oxygen that the body gets. Diaphragmatic breathing is also useful to clear mucus from the lungs, which can be beneficial for people with respiratory conditions such as asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary diseases (COPD). In addition to improving lung function, singing can also improve general stamina and control of breath. This is because singing requires the person singing to maintain a steady stream of air for extended periods of time. This can be helpful for people who participate in other activities that require good lung function, such as running, swimming, and playing wind instruments.
  1. Boosts the immune system. Singing can help boost the immune system by increasing the production of proteins that help fight diseases, such as cytokines. Cytokines are signaling molecules that help coordinate the immune response, and increase the production of white blood cells, which are the body’s main defense against infection.
  1. Improves social skills. Singing with others can help improve your social skills and provide a sense of community. When you sing in a group, you are forced to interact with others and work together. This can help you build communication and teamwork skills. It makes you stay connected to others and feel like you are part of something bigger than yourself.

If you’re looking for a way to improve your health, singing is a great option. It’s a fun, easy way to get exercise and enjoy the benefits of music. So grab a songbook and start singing!

Energy drinks are a type of non-alcoholic drink that offer us a better physical and mental performance as they provide that extra shot of energy that we sometimes need. Whether it’s for final exams season, athletic activities, or when we have an overwhelming amount of work or a hectic travel itinerary.

This extra shot of energy is mostly the result of the high concentrations of caffeine and sugar that energy drinks contain, among other ingredients that have become popular in the market of energy drinks, such as vitamins and natural ingredients like ginseng and guaraná. However, the reality is that some of these natural ingredients lack specific scientific evidence regarding their supposed properties.

In this blog, we analyze the effects of energy drinks on the body, as well as their effectiveness in relation to what they promise, and the possible risks that regular consumption of these drinks entails.

These drinks can enhance our alertness, and on a physical level, they increase blood pressure, heart rate, and respiratory rate, granting that extra shot of energy and alertness that we might need.

The most common substance in energy drinks is caffeine, which is the most consumed psychoactive substance worldwide. But the problem itself is not the caffeine, it’s the amount we consume. Depending on the brand and the size of the container, the caffeine concentration of an energy drink can vary from 80 mg to 160 mg and even more.

It is true that caffeine increases our mental performance, and when it’s consumed before practicing sports, caffeine could improve our performance and endurance during prolonged activities. However, excessive caffeine consumption can cause dehydration as it has a diuretic effect. In addition, it can also cause various problems such as changes in the sleep cycle, irritability, nervousness or anxiety. Ironically, it is also believed that in some cases, it can cause problems with retaining information or focusing.

In addition to caffeine, energy drinks may contain large amounts of sugar, which can also affect our health. It is a fact that sugar is a source of energy that the body synthesizes, but the risks of excessive sugar consumption outweigh the benefits that an energy drink could provide. It is important to note that sugar is linked to several health problems such as type-2 diabetes, overweight, and cavities.

The amount of ingredients vary depending on the brand and the size of the container, but to give you a general idea, energy drinks usually contain around 11 grams of sugar per 100ml. So, we could estimate that the amount of sugar in a 250 ml to 500 ml energy drink can range from 30 to 60 grams, which would be the equivalent of about 12 coffee spoons of sugar. Therefore, an energy drink of 500 ml would exceed the daily sugar intake that is considered safe for human consumption, according to the World Health Organization (WHO).

Nowadays, it is easy to find sugar-free alternatives, which contain sweeteners instead. While it is true that the sugar-free versions are relatively healthier and there are no known adverse effects, the research on regular consumption of sweeteners is limited. Therefore, it is not known for sure what the adverse effects of having energy drinks on a regular basis could be. Some sources infer that they could have negative effects on our intestinal microbiota.

Among the other active ingredients of energy drinks, it is normal to find taurine, which is an amino acid that can naturally be found in meat, fish, dairy products, eggs, nuts, and legumes.

Taurine has many functions such as regulating the functioning of the cardiovascular system and the central nervous system. However, the amounts of taurine found in energy drinks are much higher than what we can find naturally in food. On the other hand, the studies that have been performed on the consumption of taurine, have not shown that it actually improves physical and mental performance. Therefore, we can conclude that taurine and its energy boosting effects are marketing strategies.

As mentioned, energy drinks normally include vitamins, which are mostly of type B, such as vitamin B3 and B6. These vitamins do contribute to energy and mental performance, and reduce tiredness and fatigue. The advantage of type B vitamins is that the risk of overdose is very unlikely. If we take more than the body needs, the excess will be naturally eliminated through physiological processes.

Regarding the natural ingredients that energy drinks contain, such as ginseng and guaraná; these are considered active ingredients that produce a biological effect in our body, like caffeine does. But despite the popularity of these ingredients, the information available regarding their effectiveness in combination with all other ingredients of energy drinks is quite limited. In the long run, it could be a risk as active ingredients will cause a reaction in the body, which then could cause side effects or even negatively react with medications. For example, ginseng is contraindicated in people with heart problems, high blood pressure, and anxiety.

Guarana, on the other hand, naturally contains caffeine, which could increase the caffeine levels in an energy drink and be counterproductive if these drinks are consumed excessively.

When we consume energy drinks in excess, the cardiovascular system is the most affected as blood pressure can dangerously raise, which increases the risk of suffering a heart attack or a stroke. Excess of energy drinks could also cause irregular heart rhythm which will increase the risk of having lethal arrhythmias.

Lastly, it is important to point out the effects of these drinks if they are combined with alcohol, which is a common practice nowadays. Mixing these drinks with alcohol can be dangerous as the effects that energy drinks can have on the body and nervous system could mask the effects of alcohol, and this could lead to a higher alcohol intake. By mixing these drinks with alcohol, confusing signals are sent to the nervous system and because of this, dangerous levels of alcohol could be reached.

Having said this, we can conclude that more research is needed on the effects and possible risks of energy drinks, and the active ingredients they contain. The consumption of these drinks should be moderate and it is important to be aware of the possible risks that they imply. 


As soon as countries in Asia started opening back up after COVID, I went into full planning mode. My husband and I had postponed our honeymoon yet another year because we wanted to maximize our time abroad without having to spend precious vacation days in a hotel room quarantining. Once January 2023 came around, we started our adventure through Southeast Asia visiting Japan and then making our way to the Philippines. 

However, after spending years hearing nothing but coronavirus this and that, you often forget there are other diseases out there. Unfortunately, while traveling to one of the islands of the Philippines, I started feeling very sick. By the time we reached our hotel, I knew something was very wrong as the pain on my abdomen wouldn’t subside. Finding myself sick, in a country where I didn’t know the language nor how the healthcare system worked, was daunting to say the least. 

Doing the job I do day in and day out, however, I’m luckier than most as it has prepared me for situations like this and most importantly to have an insurance plan to cover my medical expenses. Before our trip, I bought a Patriot Travel International Lite plan to cover my spouse and I in case the unexpected happened. From this experience, I gained a few nuggets of wisdom:

Documents? Check!

When we entered Japan, we were asked to present our travel insurance documents. Being the diligent insurance agent that I am and having heard others’ experiences while traveling, I purchased an insurance plan ahead of time. I also read my insurance documents and downloaded my documents to my phone to have on hand. 

Looking back, I don’t recall reading anywhere that Japan would ask for proof of insurance but I am glad I was prepared for this question.

Did you know? – When you purchase an insurance plan through ISI, you’ll be issued an ID card as well as a visa letter. The visa letter is an official document that can be presented to an embassy, consulate or at a port of entry and it highlights the most important benefits of your plan.

Check Your Benefits

As I work with insurance plans every day, I had a pretty good idea how to use my plan and what I would be covered for. However, normal people usually don’t spend their days reading through insurance documents! A simple phone call to the insurance company will help you verify your benefits. They can explain to you how to use your plan abroad and how to locate a doctor or clinic. I was able to contact the international phone line before going to the clinic and they informed me what my coverage would be.

Use Online Tools

Every insurance plan offered through ISI gives you access to an online portal where you can find providers, file your claims, extend your coverage and much more. I was able to locate a clinic in their international provider search and after going to the clinic, I took a picture of the documents and receipts the doctor gave me and uploaded my claim to the myIMG portal offered through our Patriot International plan. I’ve been able to follow up on my claim right online and upload any documentation that was missing. 

Did you know?  – You can find international providers right through your account when you buy a Patriot International plan. Create your account before your trip and access the international provider search here.

Bring Extra Cash

In this day and age, many places accept credit cards or bank transfers. As convenient as that sounds, if you’re visiting remote locations, cash is still needed for day-to-day transactions. My husband and I were in El Nido, Palawan, a beautiful yet remote island of the Philippines. One of the days, there was a whole island outage and thus, ATMs didn’t work. 

On top of that the clinic did not accept card payments. Thankfully, we had extra cash that we could use to pay for my visit to the clinic as well as prescription medication. Generally, for minor conditions like mine, you will be expected to pay out-of-pocket and then file a claim for reimbursement. For major conditions that may require emergency procedures or life-saving treatment, you or the hospital can contact the insurance company to arrange direct billing.  

After a quick recovery, we were able to finish our backpacking trip through Southeast Asia. I am very lucky I have the training to handle situations like this one in a country on the other side of the world where I did not speak the language. 

At ISI, we recommend the plans we do because we know that the unexpected can happen at any time and we have personal experience with them. To learn more about a specific plan, our team of licensed insurance agents is here to assist you! 

Yessica Pacheco is the Director of Customer Service at ISI. She’s originally from Colombia but has lived in the United States since 2005. She has had the opportunity to travel through Latin America, Europe and Asia. Her interest in education and international studies along with her experience in bilingual customer service led her to EIC. When not in the office, you’ll find her immersed in a good book or with her dogs at the beach.

Watch Out for Altitude Sickness

February 10th, 2023 by Lia Malcon

When I hear the term “altitude sickness” I begin picturing an intrepid explorer, strapped into climbing gear who is covered in puffy skier jacket clinging to the side of a mountain while snow falls from above.

My imagination is painting a picture of a very outdoorsy, adventurer who climbs mountains. My imagination doesn’t include a picture of myself as a tourist, strapped into a giant backpack and pulling my wheeled luggage through an airport. But it should.

Here’s the truth: anyone can experience altitude sickness. All it takes nowadays is a plane ride to be in a completely new place in the world. And if the place you’re traveling to has a higher elevation than what your body is accustomed to, you may find yourself experiencing altitude-sickness.

What is the cause of Altitude Sickness?

The pressure of the air that surrounds us is called barometric or atmospheric pressure. When visiting higher altitudes, this pressure drops and there is less oxygen available.

People that live somewhere located at a moderately high altitude will become accustomed to the air pressure. However, when traveling to a place at a higher altitude than your norm, your body will need time to adjust to the change in pressure.

Any time that you go over 8,000 feet you can be at risk for altitude-sickness. Some people find themselves more prone to altitude-sickness than others, and how your body reacts can be unique to you. It is wise to keep in mind the classic identifiers of altitude-sickness, so that you can be prepared if your condition worsens. Headaches, shortness of breath, and nausea are all classic signs of altitude sickness.

Altitude sickness, also called Mountain Sickness, has 3 levels:

  • Acute mountain sickness (AMS) which is the mildest form, is very common. Some describe symptoms like a hangover: headache, dizziness and nausea.
  • High-altitude pulmonary edema (HAPE) which is a buildup of fluid in the lungs. This can be very dangerous and is the most common cause of death from altitude sickness.
  • High-altitude cerebral edema (HACE) is the most severe form of altitude-sickness and is a buildup of fluid in the brain. It is also life-threatening and medical attention should be sought immediately.

Are certain people more prone to Altitude-Sickness than others?

No, anyone can develop altitude sickness no matter how fit, unfit, young, old, healthy or unhealthy they may be. While there are no specific illnesses that make you more likely to develop altitude sickness, there are people who are more likely to do poorly, for example:

  • People with pre-existing medical conditions should talk with a doctor before traveling to high elevation.
  • Those with heart or lung disease should talk to a doctor who is familiar with high-altitude medicine before their trip.
  • Those with diabetes need to be aware that their illness may be harder to manage at higher elevation.
  • Pregnant women can make trips to high elevations but should talk with their doctor because they may be advised not to sleep at elevations above 10,000 feet.
  • Those with some illnesses like sickle cell anemia, or severe pulmonary hypertension should not travel to high elevations under any circumstances.

Treating Altitude-Sickness

  • Stay Hydrated.
  • Rest, don’t push yourself too hard if you are out of breath.
  • Keep warm.
  • Don’t go any higher until your symptoms are gone.

If your symptoms persist or are more severe, or if mild symptoms don’t go away and in fact get worse, it is advised that you get to a lower elevation as quickly as possible and seek immediate medical attention.

Can Altitude-Sickness Be Prevented?

  • Acclimatization is key. Move slowly, if you are climbing to higher altitudes, it’s best to do it gradually. Take deeper breaths because your body is getting less oxygen than it is used to.
  • Drink 3-4 quarts of water every day and make sure that the bulk of your calories are coming from carbs.
  • Don’t use tobacco or sleeping pills, especially for the first 48 hours. (Caffeine is okay if you normally drink it.)
  • Don’t exercise vigorously for the first 48 hours.
  • Know how to identify altitude-sickness and pay attention to your body and symptoms.

I was a tourist in a city that is around 7,300 feet in elevation, which is well under the 8,000-foot elevation limit that I mentioned earlier, but I found my sinuses and throat were incredibly dry, I was short of breath and excessively exhausted while doing very little.

My condition was fairly mild, falling in the first level, AMS, and I did find myself acclimating slowly, but it’s something to keep in mind during your travels. The last thing you want on your vacation, or while attending a new school, is to find yourself needing medical care.




For many international students, studying abroad is the first time experiencing life outside of their home country unsupervised. It is a time for growth and self discovery. One aspect of American college life that is prevalent in movies, TV, and music is partying and drinking alcohol, to the extent that everyone seems to know what is in a red Solo cup. It is almost impossible to avoid this part of the American college experience, so we at ISI thought we could share 10 tips on drinking responsibly as an international student.

  1. Count your drinks

This can be a useful way to make sure that you’re not overdoing it, and to keep your wits about you. It is also important to know the amount of alcohol in each drink. 

Pay attention to mixed drinks, as they are usually composed of liquor and a mixer. The mixer can mask the flavor of alcohol and you may end up consuming far more alcohol than intended. 

2. Drink water before, during and after drinking alcohol

Staying hydrated is an important thing to do normally. Alternating water and alcoholic drinks can allow your body to process the alcohol more efficiently and also reduce the chance of a severe hangover in the morning. 

3. Eat before or while drinking

Be sure to eat before or while drinking, as this will help absorb some of the alcohol that you consume. Alcohol is absorbed into your bloodstream through your stomach and through your intestines. Having food in your stomach will stop you from absorbing alcohol really fast. Eating salty food is not recommended, as this will make you thirstier and you may end up consuming more alcohol than originally intended. Some foods that are recommended to eat while drinking are popcorn, wheat crackers, bananas and bread.

4. Be careful and don’t overdo drinking games 

While drinking games may be fun, it puts pressure on you to consume alcohol very quickly and you may feel peer pressure to ‘not let your team down’. You can still be a team player without partaking in the drinking part, or you can dance and participate in other activities without alcohol.

5. Do not mix alcohol and energy drinks together

Energy drinks contain a large amount of caffeine which is a stimulant. Alcohol is naturally a depressant, and consuming the two together may lead to an individual being very enthusiastic about drinking for much longer than they normally would.

6. Listen to your body

If you have been drinking for a while and you feel sick or disoriented, stop drinking and switch to water. Feeling sick is your body reacting to the alcohol and continuing to drink can have unpleasant effects such as vomiting or making you feel dizzy. In the morning, you may suffer from a hangover which would make it hard to function. 

7. Do not drive under the influence

Drunk driving is never a good thing, and a taxi service or ride sharing service is much cheaper and wiser than facing legal fees and punishments for a DUI, in addition to potentially harming yourself or someone else. Some cities and universities have excellent public transportation that can also be used. If you go out with a group of friends, you can decide on a designated driver beforehand.

8. If you do not feel comfortable drinking, don’t drink

Perhaps you had a long day at school, have an exam, or something important to do the next day. Whatever the reason, or for no reason at all, you can say no to drinking and peer pressure. Remember, “I don’t want to” is a perfectly valid reason for having a quiet evening in or doing something that doesn’t involve alcohol. It may be hard or feel awkward to say no, but once you start doing it, you’ll feel comfortable and avoid having a bad time.

9. Be aware of your surroundings

As you drink more, you may begin to become disoriented. Be sure to note where you are, where you may be going, and who you are with. It is also a good idea to keep your drink with you at all times, so that no one can slip something into it.

10. Stick to one type of drink

By sticking to one kind of drink, you may keep track of your drinks and alcohol intake more easily. If you start out with a beer, you may consume this fairly quickly and by switching over to a stronger beverage such as a mixed drink or wine, you may consume the stronger alcohol more quickly than intended. If you start out the night drinking beer, it is a good idea to stick to it. 

For more information, check out our latest video that has been designed to provide an overview of drugs and alcohol to international students studying in the US: https://www.internationalstudentinsurance.com/explained/drugs-and-alcohol-video.php

Is HIV the same as AIDS?

HIV (Human Immunodeficiency Virus) is a virus that attacks the white cells from the immune system. If HIV is not treated, it can lead to AIDS (Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome). Having HIV does not mean you have AIDS and AIDS status can be avoided with the proper medication.

How is HIV transmitted?

The most common ways HIV is transmitted is via unprotected sexual intercourse, from mother to children during pregnancy or by sharing needles with other people. HIV is NOT transmitted by insect bites, saliva or skin contact. Intimate interactions that do not involve exchange of sexual fluids are completely safe.  

Are there any symptoms of HIV?

While some people do not develop any symptoms, most people will show flu-like symptoms 2-4 weeks after their first contact with the virus. HIV symptoms can be very easily confused with other infections so the only way to get an accurate diagnosis is to get tested.

Who should get tested? How to do it?

Once you have started your sexual life, it is recommended to get a HIV test at least once a year no matter what your sexual orientation or habits are. Remember that the worst HIV status is the unknown. If you are an international student in the U.S. and believe you may have been in contact with the virus or just want to get a routine HIV test, here is what you can do:

Most rapid antigen/antibody tests in the U.S. are available for free or at a reduced cost. You can ask your health provider for it or visit gettested.cdc.gov to find a site to get tested close to you. Testing is fast and confidential and you will very probably receive results the same day. If an initial rapid HIV test is positive, the person should go to a health care provider to get follow-up testing.

What should I do if I test positive?

If an initial rapid HIV test is positive, you should get follow-up testing to corroborate the diagnosis.

Getting a HIV positive test is life changing and can make you feel overwhelmed. You may have lots of questions and concerns. It is normal to feel sadness, hopelessness or anger. The first thing you need to remember is that HIV can be treated effectively with ARV medicine. This medicine help people living with HIV live long, healthy lives and can make the virus not transmissible to sexual partners or children.

HIV treatment is excluded in many student/travel health insurance plans. However, there are several resources that can help people living with HIV get the medicines they need:

·   AIDS Drug Assistance Programs (ADAPs): These programs make HIV medicines and other services available to people who are living with HIV and who do not have sufficient health insurance or who need financial assistance.

·   Gilead’s Advancing Access® Program: This assistance program helps people afford their HIV medication with or without insurance coverage.

Another important resource for people living with HIV are peer support groups. Sharing experiences with other people can be really helpful to cope with the challenges of living with HIV. It has shown to improve people’s life quality and reduce stress, anxiety and depression. You can find a list of HIV online support groups here.

Getting HIV is not a death sentence. With the appropriate treatment, you can live a regular healthy life. There are plenty of programs that give assistance and guidance to people living with HIV  to make the process smoother.





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Can yoga have an impact on our health?

December 1st, 2022 by Maria Caballero

If what you are looking for is a well balanced life, yoga can be helpful in many ways. Balance is understood as the ability to adapt under any type of circumstance. Yoga can be extremely beneficial when it comes to creating balance as it provides you with philosophical principles, breathing techniques, physical exercises and meditation.

Through the consistent practice of yoga it is possible for a person to feel complete, and usually this happens when there is a solid connection between the mind and body. But, how can we align our emotions, feelings and thoughts in order to be at peace with ourselves?

The first step is to develop a sense of responsibility towards our own body and health, so we know how to use our inner energy positively whenever there is change in our lives or a challenge ahead of us.

Through yoga practice, you’ll also be able to further develop a sense of self and where you stand in the universe. You’ll be able to become more aware in identifying where you are currently at with your goals and aspirations versus where you would like to be. Through yoga, you can gain more clarity and confidence in how you view yourself, and what you would like to improve in terms of the mind/body relationship.

All these trains of thought are important because most of the time we act based on the idea that we can rely on ourselves. That’s why yoga invites you to return to a deeper sense of the “human”, which can help us make sense of what happens to us when we are aware of our body’s response to specific breathing exercises.

Another important step is to embrace healthy habits and let go of the bad ones. Consequently, we will be able to introduce new dynamics to our lives that could prevent us from having eating or sleeping problems; because if we modify our habits we restore all sorts of balance and therefore strengthen our physical and mental health.

Don’t wait any longer and start creating time in your daily life to practice yoga! It allows you to welcome new elements that will adjust the way your body works and the rhythm that comes from within.

In relation to the body, one example of how rhythm is expressed is through breath. Breathing is at the center of various yoga methods that are used to restore the nervous system. For example, it helps to relieve stress and produces a relaxation response, which is essential for a holistic functioning of the human body. With that being said, let’s explore some of the most popular  and beginner- friendly yoga postures.

Five yoga positions that benefit health:

1.- Ardha Matsyendrasana (half twist)

This posture is recommended for people suffering from diabetes, since the abdominal stretching of this exercise favors insulin levels. It also helps with muscle contractures and increases metabolism. 

2.- Adho Mukha (downward facing dog)

Downward Facing Dog is one of the most essential poses in yoga. It is a transition and rest position, it works very well to relieve insomnia or fatigue after a hard day’s work. In addition, it allows us to strengthen the muscles of the back, shoulders, arms and legs.

3.- Bhujangasana (cobra posture)

The cobra pose is perfect for calming cramps, irritability, fatigue, and menstrual cramps. It consists of breathing in a long and deep way raising the torso and keeping it that way for approximately one minute.

4.- Savasana ( neutral posture)
Savasana is one of the basic yoga postures to keep every part of the body relaxed. This position is perfect for calming the mind and treating anxiety, high blood pressure, depression, and headaches. As a general rule, yoga positions in which you stretch calmly are the best for relieving stress. 

5.- Surya Namaskara (salute to the sun)

Surya Namaskara is the name given to a sequence of postures that includes almost all the muscles and organs of the body. Through this set of movements you can improve the heart rate and have a greater supply of oxygen to the body.

Overall, the practice of yoga consists of breathing deeply so you can identify what it is that your body needs in order to find balance. Balance will provide you with a clear mindset and a healthy life. We encourage you to find classes around your area to start exploring yoga’s benefits. 

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