Being away at college means you’re exposed to a variety of different germs, bugs and flus that may be passing around the student body. It is imperative to stay healthy to avoid catching something and falling behind on your studies or school work. You may be thinking, “But I live in a room with another person and share practically everything I use on a daily basis with everyone else. How can I stay healthy if other people around me are sick”?
That’s a very good question and there are tons of ways you can work towards preventing an attack of the flu or any other germs that may be passed around at school. Think of the following list as a “Flu Survival Guide” if you will, and fight against getting sick by following it religiously.
1) WASH YOUR HANDS!- I can’t stress this one enough. Coming from a germaphobe, I am almost always thinking about what germs are on what surface and how they got there. For the average person, touching things like stairwell and escalator railings or elevator buttons aren’t any thing out of the usual. They can reach their destination after holding that escalator railing at the metro and chomp away at their fast food until there isn’t a fry left in the bag. What’s the problem with this? Germs are transmitted through surfaces, usually carried from people on their hands. If someone is ill or has a cold, any touch of their eyes, nose or mouth can transfer those germs on to their hands and then on to those surfaces for you to pick up. Washing your hands or carrying around hand sanitizer will help you eliminate excess germs that are looking to make you sick.
2) Get enough sleep- Depriving yourself of sleep is enough cause for alarm as it is. If your body is stressed and running off of little to no sleep, your immune system is weakened and more vulnerable to pesky germs or viruses. This means that your body is also more likely to be weak fighting off those germs, which may cause them to hang around longer.
3) Drink lots of fluids- Water, Water, Water. Keeping yourself hydrated (especially during these hot, dry spells) will keep your body nourished and refreshed. Becoming dehydrated strips you of all of the important electrolytes your body needs to give you energy and fight off icky bugs. Dehydration can give you awful headaches, nausea, and even vomiting. If you feel any of these symptoms at any point or feel like you have blurred vision you should check into your on campus health center right away.
4) Relax- Take it easy! You’re a busy college student with a packed schedule, we know. This doesn’t mean you can’t put a little time aside for yourself to go to the gym, do some meditation in the campus courtyard, or go for a relaxing walk with a friend. All work and no RNR (rest and relaxation) will lead to an over worked mind, and a weakened body. Treat yourself right and take care of yourself. If you organize your schedule and stick to a plan every week, you won’t be faced with last minute dilemmas or catastrophes. Work hard to get good grades, but don’t overdo yourself!
5) Take the time off if you feel yourself getting sick. – Mom and dad aren’t around anymore to tuck you into to bed with your dinosaur footsie pajamas and bring you hot tea and chicken noodle soup to your bedside table. No one’s there to feed you cough syrup when you’re up all night coughing, and you better believe no one’s going to feel your forehead every five minutes to check for an elevation in temperature. You have to listen to your body and take care of how you’re feeling. Part of growing up and being an adult is knowing when to slow down and take care of yourself if you’re feeling sick. If you wake up one morning feeling like you’ve been hit by a ton of bricks and your glands are swelling your throat shut, text a friend in class and ask if they can take some notes for you. The world won’t end in a fiery pit of doom if you don’t show up to one lecture. The important thing is that you recover as fast as you can so you can get better and return to work. If you really feel ill, have a friend take you to the campus health center and get checked out. You could need some antibiotics or a prescription to help things along. Drink lots of fluid and get a lot of rest. You’ll feel better in no time.
6) Exercise- I know, I know. Easier said than done. It’s always easier for me to tell people to maintain a healthy exercise routine than it is for me to keep one myself. The truth is that they really are important in maintaining a healthy body and mind. Keeping a strong body gives you a greater fighting chance of getting over illnesses quickly, or avoiding getting them at all. If you’re awful about working out like I am, incorporating small steps into your daily schedule can do a world of wonder for you. Take the stairs instead of the elevator, walk across campus instead of driving or taking the bus (if you’re lucky enough to have your car on campus) and try to get your heart rate elevated at least once a day. This will help you sweat out any harmful toxins and keep your body healthy. You’ll feel better too, as working out releases endorphins from your body that will improve your mood and give you that extra spring in your step. Don’t work out if you are feeling sick, however. Working out while ill can harm your body more and slow down your recovery time. And, if you’re dehydrated from being sick, you could really get light headed while running or using a workout machine which can be extremely unsafe.
7) Don’t share drinks or even makeup- Us girls are the worst offenders of this. We’ll share mascara or lip gloss and not think anything of it. Although harmless, sometimes the bacteria from a mascara wand can transfer on to someone else’s face and cause an eye infection such as pink eye. Throwing away old makeup and adhering to the “use by” date can help decrease the chances of these things happening. Sharing lip glosses or lipstick can transfer cold or virus bugs that could get everyone in the group sick in a matter of days. Having one friend down with the flu is bad but having the whole crew down with the flu at the same time is frightening. This goes with sharing drinks as well. Be cautious about taking a sip out of your friend’s soda or water at the gym if you feel like you’re getting sick. You could give your cold germs to them, or they could give the flu to you without even knowing they’ve caught it yet.
8) Eat right- We all know college students are notorious for eating chocolate bars for breakfast and ice-cream and cereal for dinner. This may be because of a hectic schedule, a lack of planning, or deciding to eat after the cafeteria has closed. Keeping healthy alternatives in your residence hall room such as apples and peanut butter or a bag of almonds can hold you off until you can get a nice, healthy meal in your stomach. Eating lots of fruits, veggies and whole grains throughout your day can keep you on a balanced diet that will help keep your body strong and nourished.
9) Take your vitamins and get a little sunlight- Make sure that you’re taking vitamins packed with all the right things to keep your body going. Gone are the days of the cute little Flinstone chewables, so pick a friend and go to the store to get some more age appropriate for you. If you’re working out, try to take vitamins to balance out your heavy workout schedule and keep your bones and muscles from getting fatigued. Make sure you also get out in the sunlight for at least ten minutes a day. The Vitamin D from the sun is good for your skin and is a great mood elevator. Plus, it’s a great way to get a little extra sun while staying healthy.
Getting sick is almost virtually unavoidable, but taking the steps to prevent it can help make sure you decrease your chances of catching something tremendously. Keep this “Flu Survival Guide” handy and remember to stay hydrated and well rested. If you do happen to get sick, make sure you get lots of rest and see your campus health clinic if you can’t seem to shake it after a few days. Stay home from class if you really need to, and have a friend provide you with anything you missed via handwritten notes. If you get really sick and fall behind, talk to your professor about how you can catch up when you’re feeling a bit better.
Image: David Castillo