Dear readers, “Dear Aunty” column treats questions young people ask about their reproductive and sexual health concerns. You too can write in and let us know what your concerns are. You are assured of confidentiality, as your real names will not be published. Send your questions to: The Editor, Growing Up Newsletter (Dear Aunty Column), Action Health Incorporated, 17 Lawal Street, Off Oweh Street, Fadeyi. P.O. Box 803, Sabo, Yaba, Lagos.
Q: Why is it that my mind goes blank sometimes when I get to the exam hall?
A: It is usual to get nervous before you take an exam, even if you’ve studied hard. This experience (nervousness) shows itself in physical symptoms such as restlessness, wanting to go to the toilet, headaches, stomachaches, nausea, racing heartbeat and so forth. If you feel any of these things before you go into an exam, try some deep breathing. That will help calm your nerve. The feelings will go away, once you’ve sat down and the exam has started.to a void the blank mind problem, you can spend the afternoon before the exam playing tennis or swimming or engaging in a good sport or exercise. This might sound like a waste of studying time, but it’s better for you than last minute cramming. You will sleep well and arrive at the exam feeling rested and relaxed. Remember, steady studying, especially after the end of each day’s lessons will enable you absorb facts and retain them. All you have to do will be to revise before your exams. You must avoid the use of drugs and stimulants because of its side effect.
Q: The first time I had sexual intercourse with my boyfriend I contracted a sexually transmitted infection (STI). How can I prevent it from occurring again, now that I’ve been treated?
A: The best way to prevent a sexually transmitted infection is by abstaining from sexual intercourse. You can always say no to sex and save yourself the hassles of contracting an infection. However, if you choose to have sex, then stick to one partner. Don’t have sex with someone you don’t know well and use a condom each time you have sex. If you think you have a STI see a doctor and tell your partner so that you can both take the right medication for the infection. You must not have sex until you’ve finished taking all your medicine or you will re-infect yourselves.
Q: Is it true that alcohol can have harmful effects on one’s health?
A: Yes it can. Alcoholic drinks are made up mainly of water and ethanol (an alcohol produced by fermenting fruits, vegetables or grain). Beer is about one part ethanol to twenty parts water. Wine is stronger, and spirits are about half ethanol and half water. Alcohol is a drug. It is a mild poison too. It is absorbed quickly into the blood stream within 4 or 10 minutes of being drunk. Absorption is slower if there’s food in the stomach. Once inside the body, it passes through the bloodstream to the liver where poisons are digested. But the livers can only process 28grams of pure alcohol each hour. This is a small amount just over half a glass of beer. Anything else you drink is pumped round the body while it waits its turn to enter the liver. When alcohol reaches, you may immediately feel more relaxed and light-hearted. After two or three drinks, your actions are clumsy and your speech is slurred. If you over-drink, you might suffer from double vision and loss of balanced, even fall unconscious. Alcohol forces water out of your body cells, and this can make you very thirsty. Drinkers may also suffer from headaches, heart flutters, and tension. On average, it takes one hour for the body to get rid of the alcohol in one standard drink. Drinking too much also affects the people around you.
Q: My neighbor has been pressuring me to have sex with him. He says he will withdraw before he ejaculates and that I won’t get pregnant. Is this true?
A: The withdrawal method is a natural method of contraception. This is when a man takes his penis out of the vagina just before he ejaculates (before sperm comes out of his penis). This is a very common method of contraception but it is not effective because sperm can leak out of the penis before a man ejaculates. If you use this method, there is a good chance you will fall pregnant.
- Thoughts and feelings. A Young Person’s Guide To Emotions. 1993 World Book Inc. U.S.A.
- Body Wise. Edited By Harriet Perlman. 1998. Maskew Miller Longman Ltd. Cape Town, South Africa.