Did you find the hidden words in the title? Fortunately, it’s not a hidden secret. There are ways to REDUCE the risk and PREVENT HPV.

We know that HPV is a virus that has about 40 sexually transmitted strains. Some strains cause more problems than others, the worst being genital warts and cancer, especially cervical cancer. Our body can get rid of some strains without a hitch, and some it can’t. Unfortunately, we don’t know which kind of HPV we might come into contact with, and we don’t know which strain(s) our body will be able to fight off.

So, here’s the deal. These are the suggestions the medical community gives to help reduce the risk of HPV and the diseases it can cause. If you want to know how I know all this, just refer to the source list below and check out the information for yourself.

Remain abstinent. If you aren’t having sex (oral, anal, vaginal – it’s all sex), you can’t get an STI. End of story. However, at some point in your life – 5 days, 5 weeks, 5 months, 5 years from now….who knows when….you will likely choose to have a sexual relationship, and you need to have a back-up sexual health plan.

Stay in a monogamous relationship. The less people you have sex with, the less chance you have of becoming infected.

Use a condom. You or your partner may not actually KNOW if either of you have HPV – you may not have any symptoms. HPV is spread by being in contact with your partner’s skin … down in the nether-regions. If you use a condom – male or female condom – before ANY skin contact, it can help decrease the odds of (but NOT necessarily prevent) getting HPV and the diseases that come with it, like genital warts and cervical cancer. Just make sure you use the condom correctly. I’ll talk about that another time, but in the meantime, just read the instructions on the condom package before you get busy. Heck, you can even practice by yourself a few times! (I won’t tell…)

Get a Pap test. People who happen to have a cervix inside their body should continue to get this screening for cervical cancer. Talk to your healthcare provider for information specific to you.

Be sure your child gets the Cancer Vaccine. Oh, I mean the HPV vaccine. The medical community is being encouraged to refer to this preventative measure as a cancer vaccine because that is precisely what we are trying to prevent – CANCER! Oral. Anal. Penile. Vulvar. Throat. Cervical. According to the National Cancer Institute, “HPV infection accounts for about 5% of all cancers worldwide.” As an extra bonus, this vaccine can prevent genital warts as well. This vaccine is “extremely effective” in preventing infections due to HPV (CDC).

This vaccine is approved for both genders. It is recommended it be given before a person is sexually active – which makes sense since you can contract HPV the first time you have sex. The really smart people that research this stuff all the time say age 11-ish is a good time to begin, generally speaking. It’s a series of three shots – so don’t forget to get all three!! Besides abstinence, it really is the best PREVENTION we have.

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There are two vaccines currently available. You should ALWAYS have a conversation with your healthcare provider, but here’s what you should (k)now.

Gardasil is for both genders. It protects against 4 strains of HPV, which are known to cause warts and the different cancers discussed earlier, especially cervical cancer.

Cervarix is given to females and protects against 2 strains of HPV that can cause cervical cancer.

Both are very effective.

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I know a lot of parents have concerns about this vaccine, which as a parent/caregiver, you SHOULD question what is going into your child’s body. Kudos to you! Let me run down some of your concerns and what the studies have shown.

Why so young???

Because it’s likely they haven’t had sex yet. No point in giving a vaccine to someone AFTER they have the virus, right?

If they have this vaccine, the kids will think it’s PARTY TIME and will go out and have sex.

Um. No. Really? I don’t even think my kids knew what this “shot” was for. You go to the doctors and you get a shot. Do they always ask you the details of their vaccines? I didn’t think so. Plus, the CDC says research was done on this and it turns out it does NOT effect when adolescents start having sex. In fact, I think this would be an AWESOME opportunity to TALK about sex and your values, morals, thoughts with your child. Research has shown that parent conversation has a huge impact on kids! Go to this Planned Parenthood link for more information. (http://www.plannedparenthood.org/parents/talking-kids-about-sex-sexuality-37962.htm)

You think they won’t need it ‘cause they won’t be exposed to HPV.

Read my blurb about abstinence, up above.

Side effects!!!!

I can tell you from personal experience the only side-effect my girls experienced was soreness at the site of injection. (I do believe I was first in line when this vaccine came out.) As of now, research has shown there are “no long-term side effects and no serious safety concerns have been identified.” That is a direct quote from the CDC. It is my personal opinion that a little mild discomfort from a vaccine is nothing compared to dealing with genital warts or cancer.

Having said that, as a responsible parent, have a conversation with your healthcare provider about allergies your child may have with certain ingredients in the medication. Also discuss the rare immediate side effects reported, such as fever, nausea, headache, and dizziness.

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As always, please discuss your concerns and options with your healthcare provider. My intent is to provide information to increase your knowledge and give you stuff to think about and talk about. This information is not intended to be used in place of any medical advice your healthcare provider recommends for you and your family.