The “101”

Most of us have some level of curiosity about diseases because we can’t escape getting information about them whether we like it or not (such as advertising for prescription drugs on the television or coverage of the latest outbreak of some virus in the news).

A lot of times, people know when they have a disease. It might be as obvious as having a symptom like a fever, runny nose, headache, upset stomach, or abnormal discharge from one’s genitals (for example, vagina, penis). Sometimes a person does not have obvious symptoms, feels “off,” or “under the weather” and that signals to them that something is going on with their body that is abnormal. And sometimes someone has a disease but doesn’t know it right away because there aren’t any obvious symptoms and they feel normal.

That’s one reason why it is so important that everyone have regular visits with a primary care provider. The provider can examine your body and take tests of your body fluids and tissues to detect diseases.

There are many treatments for diseases. Sometimes it just passes on its own. Other times, a person will take an “over the counter” medication (you can get it on your own without a prescription from a healthcare provider). Then there are medications available only with a prescription (must be prescribed by a healthcare provider). There are other treatments too, but these are the most likely for treating common diseases.

Diseases can be prevented too, through all sorts of methods, ranging from hygiene habits like washing your hands frequently or sneezing into your elbow to keeping contaminants out of the air, water, or soil, and getting vaccines.

A vaccine is a product that produces immunity from a disease. A vaccine can be administered through needle injections, by mouth, or by aerosol spray. People receive vaccines at various points in their lives – sometimes as an infant or child, but even through adulthood and into one’s older years. Some vaccines are “permanent,” meaning once you get the vaccine, you are permanently protected from the disease. Other vaccines need to be renewed periodically to maintain their protection.

One vaccine-preventable disease is human papillomavirus (pronounced pap-ah-LO-mah-VYE-rus), or HPV. HPV is transmitted through sexual activity. In most cases, HPV goes away on its own and does not cause any health problems. But when HPV does not go away, it can cause genital warts or cancer. There are treatments for the symptoms of HPV, but not the virus itself. It is definitely better to prevent getting HPV in the first place. The HPV vaccine requires three doses (administrations) over a six-month period. Ideally, all young people regardless of gender should receive the vaccine before they begin having sexual intercourse, by age 12. The vaccine is effective for youth who get it at an older age too, even as young adults. Don’t let your age stop you from getting the HPV vaccine. This fun video about HPV vaccination can tell you more.

It would be a healthy decision for you to be vaccinated against diseases that can be prevented through vaccination. Another healthy decision is to be proactive when you are not feeling well or have a symptom that indicates you have a disease. Talk to the adult responsible for your health care and let them know, so that they can help you decide whether you should see a healthcare provider or not. If you make your own healthcare decisions, establish a relationship with a healthcare organization or provider when you are well, so that you have an arrangement in place for when you aren’t.

Reflect On It

Write in your journal (download journal) any thoughts you have as you think about this topic, using the questions below:

Learn More

Body and Mind has everything you need to know about “all the stuff that matters,” including your body and diseases.

The Trevor Project has information and resources specifically for LGBTQ youth.

Young Men’s Health Explore health information gathered specifically for young men.

Young Women’s Health Explore health information gathered specifically for young women.

Get familiar with the vaccines you should have and when you should have them. Check out the recommended vaccine schedule for people ages 7 through 18 or the vaccine schedule for people ages 19 and older.

The HPV vaccine is the only vaccine that can prevent many common types of cancers, including cervical, anal, and testicular cancers and genital warts. The sooner you get it the more protection it can offer you. But don’t worry if you did not get this as a young adolescent. It’s not too late to get this vaccine!  Watch this fun video about the HPV vaccine to learn more.

Take Action!

Dive Deep into Learning about Diseases

If you want to learn more about one or more of 950 specific diseases, go to the National Institutes of Health’s health topics website or the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Diseases A-Z Index.

Get Vaccinated

Get caught up on any missed vaccines, and get the HPV vaccine if you haven’t already. And while you’re at it, get an influenza vaccine (flu shot), which you should get annually. You can set a vaccination appointment with your family’s healthcare provider, or ask the adult responsible for you to set an appointment. Also, you can find a location to get vaccines using the vaccine locator service.

Get Medical Care

If you have symptoms of disease or have had unprotected sex and are concerned you might become pregnant, or you are concerned you may have been exposed to HIV through sex or sharing of drug needles, tell the adult responsible for your health care, or make an appointment with a healthcare provider if you are responsible for your own health care. Act right away! You can obtain advice or set an appointment with your family’s healthcare provider, or at a community health organization that offers free or low-cost health care services if you don’t have a regular care provider or health insurance.

If you or your family are not insured or do not have a regular healthcare provider, consider getting your health services through a community health center. Use the Find-a-Health-Center Tool to locate a community health center by ZIP Code.

Use the Find a Family Planning Clinic tool to locate a family planning clinic by state, city, or ZIP code.

Use this tool to locate an Indian Health Service, Tribal, or Urban Indian Health Program facility.

Get Help in a Physical Emergency

Call 911 if you or someone with you is having a physical emergency.

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