Common Reasons for Seeking Care

Telehealth Options Available for Many Common Concerns

Many of the concerns below can be addressed through telehealth by phone or video. Schedule an appointment or contact the free 24/7 Advice Nurse at (831) 459-2591 if you aren't sure if telehealth is appropriate.

Respiratory infections

Respiratory infections are the chief reason students seek urgent care services. Since this is one of those conditions which usually resolve by itself within about a week, most people can watch their temperature, rest more, and use home remedies for symptomatic relief. If these measures do not seem to help or student has asthma symptoms, temperature over 100 degrees, shortness of breath, difficulty swallowing fluids, increasing pain in ears or sinus area, overwhelming fatigue or stiff neck, the student  should be evaluated by a health care professional in a timely manner consistent with severity of symptoms.

Contact our office to add a flu shot to your appointment, during the fall and winter flu seasons

Sexually transmitted infections

STI screening is another common reason for visits to the Health Center. Students with unusual symptoms in their genital area, such as sores, discharge or pain should seek care within days. There are several ways that students with no symptoms can access STI testing.

Note: Students with high risk exposure, current symptoms, or STI questions or concerns should make an appointment with a clinician.

Reproductive Well-being Services

The UCSC Cowell Student Health Center offers a range of gynecological health services to students. This includes routine breast/chest exams and pap smears, birth control and emergency contraception, pregnancy testing, and medication abortion. Visit Gynecology and Reproductive Health to learn more. 


Contraception may be given to students wanting to start, restart, change or renew prescription from an outside provider. See our Birth Control page for options. Students who have been getting a prescription from our pharmacy or need to get one transferred to our pharmacy should go directly to our pharmacy. You can also get affordable safer sex supplies (condoms, etc.) at the pharmacy and through SHOP.

  • Combined Oral Contraceptives
  • Depo-Provera
  • Progesterone Only Pills
  • Vaginal Contraceptive Ring

Nausea, vomiting, diarrhea

Nausea, vomiting, diarrhea: Most commonly when these symptoms come on suddenly it is due to a virus called Norovirus, which is highly contagious. Although most people assume they have “food poisoning”, it is more likely that this virus is causing symptoms. A low grade temperature and body aches may also occur and usually limiting foods to a specific list should help someone over the hump in a day or two.  When someone cannot hold down fluids, there is a risk of dehydration, and medication may be helpful for these people. A medical visit is then advised.

Skin rashes

Skin rashes can be caused by many things. Commonly we see students with poison oak due to our beautiful woods on and around campus. If Poison Oak is likely due to the appearance and recent history, many people can treat themselves with over the counter products for small areas of rash and itching. If there is any question as to the cause or the outbreak is extensive, seek medical care. Other types of rashes or skin conditions may respond to over the counter products, but often a medical visit is needed to receive a proper diagnosis. One concern in recent years are spontaneous infections of the skin caused by antibiotic resistant bacteria, called MRSA. If you have concerns about a rapidly spreading rash with or without known  exposure to MRSA, seek urgent care.

Urinary Tract Infections

Urinary Tract Infections are a common cause of urinary burning, frequency and lower abdominal discomfort. Students may be tested and treated for UTI at the Student Health Center if they are uncertain of the diagnosis. Students who have much experience with UTIs may come in and receive “Expedited UTI Treatment” from the Triage Nurse if they meet criteria for uncomplicated infection.

Vaginal Infections

Vaginal Infections are also very common and are usually caused by yeast or bacterial vaginosis (BV). Students who are fairly certain they have a yeast infection may use an over the counter product to treat this. Students who want an examination and diagnosis should not use any vaginal products for several days prior to their Student Health Center visit. BV requires prescription medication so an exam is needed for this. Both these infections are caused by imbalance in the body and are not sexually transmitted infections.


Fatigue is multi-factorial and often students want to be sure they do not have mononucleosis or anemia when they feel fatigued. More frequently, lack of sleep or irregular sleeping hours, poor eating habits, and stress are the key factors. A new onset of overwhelming fatigue should warrant a checkup if no cause is obvious. Fatigue, especially if accompanied by sore throat, fever, swollen tender lymph glands may be mononucleosis.

Anxiety, Depression, Insomnia

Anxiety, Depression, Insomnia seem to affect many students over time. Lifestyle changes, exercise, and counseling are preferred methods for dealing with these issues. Some students however may require either temporary or long term medication. When help is needed to handle emotional problems that are affecting your mental and physical health, consider going to Counseling and Psychological Services first for an appointment or a crisis visit CAPS).


Overuse injuries can usually be seen quickly but rarely need to be seen same day.  If you have been having increasing discomfort building up over a period of a week or more, then it is usually safe to back off on the irritating activity and set up an appointment to be seen. 

So-called “red flags” (emergency symptoms that would need to be seen sooner) include pain bad enough that the area of the body cannot be used (i.e. foot pain such that you could not walk on the foot); and fevers or other signs of infection (redness around the area hurting you, or drainage of pus).

Acute injuries happen suddenly and can be associated with tears of muscle and tendon or breaks in the bone.  If you have had an acute injury and a severe loss of function (i.e. inability to use the affected area) please come in for urgent care.

Skin lacerations (cuts) may heal by themselves, but a laceration that is large or will not stop bleeding may need suturing which should be done within the first twelve hours. Seek urgent care.

Cuts, abrasions and other broken skin may become infected. Dirty wounds may require an update of your Tetanus immunizations, so knowing when your last shot was can be helpful.  Instructions for Wound Care

Eating Disorders

UCSC Student Health Services has health care providers who help students with disordered eating. These providers include physicians, nurse practitioners, nurses, dietitians, psychiatrists, and therapists. Treatment for disordered eating is best supported through engagement with a multidisciplinary team that specializes in disordered eating. For an evaluation, please schedule an appointment with a medical provider by calling 831-459-2500.