When the weather is warm, students flock to the outdoors and constantly bask in the fresh air. But when the temperatures drop, students will be bundling up in the dorms with their blankets, hot chocolate, and, unfortunately, their germs. With such a high number of people in one building, residence halls are infamous for being a breeding ground for sickness.
Don’t panic! With the right mindset and the right information, you can stay as healthy as possible, even if you’re breathing the same air as other sickly students. Though I’m sure you’d love an excuse to miss class, here are some pointers to keep you healthy this winter.
Don’t just study your books: always know what illnesses happen to be prevalent that particular season.
Though a runny nose is most common, a cold is only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to sicknesses. Meningitis, mononucleosis (a.k.a. mono, or the kissing disease), and even athlete’s foot can be spread easily in residence halls, so educate yourself on how to prevent these diseases, and protect yourself accordingly.
Check the website of your school’s health services often to see if there have been any outbreaks on campus, or stop by the offices to pick up any brochures or information. And keep relevant phone numbers in your cell phone so you can make any appointments needed. Penn State in University Park, Pa., for example, offers a 24-hour advice nurse hotline to call for after hour health emergencies and information.
I was one of the many students who said “I’d rather get sick than get a shot!” But don’t let a fear of needles overcome you!
Something as simple as an annual flu vaccine can help prevent coming down with influenza. Most colleges even require incoming students to receive vaccines for diseases like polio or Hepatitis B, so you might as well get poked a few more times with suggested vaccines for influenza, chickenpox, pneumonia, Hepatitis A, or even human papillomavirus (HPV), which is spread by skin contact. Eckerd College in St. Petersburg, Fla., runs the EC Clean campaign that not only overviews required vaccines offered on campus, but the site also provides materials to post for etiquette on coughing and hand-washing.
Wash your hands
Speaking of hand washing, it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to know you need to keep your hands clean!
Think about where your hands go: the keyboard on the library computer, the handle bar on a bus, or the door knob to a classroom. Then imagine how many people have touched that! Your hands touch your food, your mouth, your eyes, and other people, so keep them clean by washing with warm water and soap for at least 30 seconds. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention has a great website to check out the benefits of hand washing. And don’t let laziness be an excuse because, first of all, that’s just plain gross! But more importantly, it only costs a few dollars to go to your local drugstore and invest in an antibacterial gel you can use if you’re in a rush.
Back to basics
It’s easy for students to overlook simple things that can keep them healthy, such as drinking lots of water, eating well, and getting plenty of sleep.
The University of Arizona in Tucson, Ariz., has been hosting the Quality of Sleep Program since 2005, which educates students on healthy sleeping habits, so check out your school’s website to see if they have information on developing a beneficial sleeping pattern. Keep in mind, though, it’s not just about your body: be aware of your environment, too. Clean your room to avoid an accumulation of germs or bugs in dirty clothes, wet towels, or leftover food. Keep a case for everything you’d bring into the public bathroom, since the moist air is a perfect location for germs. Wear shower flip flips, use a toothbrush case, and keep your soap in a container to prevent anything from touching the dirty surfaces of the sinks and showers.