You are admitting a 19-year old female college student to the hospital for fevers.
Important Cultural Factors That Affect Health
Fever is a common symptom of many diseases. It is defined as an elevation of temperature above the normal circadian range due to infections, metabolic derangements or, increased cell destruction. In most settings, it usually results from infections (Osilla Et al., 2020). Several cultural factors could predispose an adolescent or college student to infections. When interviewing such patients, it is important as a health officer to have some clues at the back of your mind about their cultural placement in addition to the usual biomedical perspective and contextual history questions to come up with the correct diagnosis. With a correct diagnosis and a good health care support system, these causes can be eliminated.
Environmental sanitation is one of the factors to consider when interviewing patients from unfamiliar cultures presenting with fever. For example, for people residing in the lake regions, it is important to know their methods of disposal of human excreta, general waste, and their source of water supply. When these wastes are not well disposed of, they result in contamination and consequently infections such as typhoid fever that presents with fever (Kaihlanen Et al., 2019). Providing clean water and education on effective waste disposal has helped immensely in promoting good environmental sanitation.
Secondly, it is important to keep in mind the food habits of people living in the lake region with fishing culture. A 19-year-old female with a habit of eating smoked fish, finely processed food, and drinks with nitrites may be exposed to malignancies such as esophageal carcinoma, which may present with fever as a general symptom (Kaihlanen Et al., 2019). Other food taboos such as not eating pork, consumption of alcohol, and the concept of hot food should also be considered and help in ruling out malignancies as a cause of fever. Regular health camps and proper health education in local hospitals and community health workers have proven effective in eliminating negative taboos and promoting good feeding habits.
Thirdly, personal hygiene is a cultural factor that should be considered when interviewing a patient with a fever. This ranges from oral hygiene, menstrual hygiene, body hygiene, and personal care (Kaihlanen Et al., 2019). Failure to maintain good personal hygiene predisposes an individual to infections which mostly present with fever as a cardinal symptom. Provision of proper footwear, sanitary pads and, personal effects to college students by local dispensaries and non-governmental organizations, education on effective personal hygiene has played a leading role in eliminating poor personal hygiene as a cause of infection.
Marriage and sexuality are greatly impacted by religion, ethnicity, societal structure, and taboos which in turn have an influence on the health of involved individuals, especially those of reproductive ages (Kaihlanen Et al., 2019). Early marriages and female genital mutilation may have psychological impacts on an adolescent female and may lead to factitious fever.
Early marriage may mean early child-bearing age. This may be associated with breast infections during breastfeeding that may be the cause of fever in the female patient. Availability of a protective system for victims of forced early marriages and genital mutilation has reduced incidences of associated psychological torture that may be associated with factitious fever. Governmental involvement in empowering women has also helped in curbing such incidences.
In addition to the above considerations, questions to understand the biomedical perspective of the fever, contextual history and the patient’s perspective on fever are equally important in coming up with the right diagnosis for the cause of fever. The support system provided by the available health centers and the government helps in curbing unhealthy cultural practices that may impact the health of female adolescents.
Kaihlanen, A.-M., Hietapakka, L., & Heponiemi, T. (2019). Increasing cultural awareness: qualitative study of nurses’ perceptions about cultural competence training. BMC Nursing, 18(1), 38. https://doi.org/10.1186/s12912-019-0363-x
Osilla, E. V., Marsidi, J. L., & Sharma, S. (2020). Physiology, Temperature Regulation. In StatPearls. StatPearls Publishing. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK507838/#_NBK507838_pubdet