Close your eyes and imagine this: Dozens of people living in one building and handling the same doorknob to come in and out. Using shared bathrooms. No individual rooms. Now someone is coughing. It’s all downhill from there. Okay, open your eyes. No, it’s not a 19th-century tenement building. What you’re picturing is a typical college dormitory during flu season.
It’s that time again when the flu seems to lurk around every corner, and just when you think you’re in the clear, it pops up again in your hallway. Here are some tried and true tips to make this flu season as painless as possible.
How to avoid the flu
Hydrate or “die-drate”
Drinking water is always important, but it’s even more crucial when you’re trying to avoid getting sick. Water helps your immune system stay at the top of its game, and staying hydrated has countless other benefits, including proper digestion. If you don’t know how much water you should be drinking based on your weight and level of physical activity, you can find out here.
Get some rest
College students are notorious for overextending themselves and trying to buy extra time by skipping out on sleep. You’ve heard this before: your body really needs you to sleep, but especially during cold and flu season to allow it to properly recharge and fight off the germs invading your body. Shoot for seven to eight hours a night, and if you can get more, that’s even better.
(Don’t) share the love
Physical touch is my love language, so this one is tough for me. But if you know that someone isn’t feeling well, save the hugs, handshakes, and high-fives for later. And make sure to follow the same rules yourself when you’re the one who’s feeling under the weather.
Clorox. Clorox. Clorox. Wipes are pretty cheap, so buy some and get to wiping off the common spaces in your dorm as a germ defense. Start off with things that get touched a lot like your doorknob, light switch, and any shared storage spaces between you and your roommate(s). It’s also a good idea to wipe down your laptop and phone; think about how many places they’ve been and how often you’ve touched them with germy hands (shudder).
Avoid touching your face
Remember how your parents and teachers used to tell you not to rub your eyes, put your fingers in your mouth, or otherwise touch your face? Well, they were on to something. Your hands touch a lot of dirty things and come into contact with a lot of germs; the last thing you want is to have them directly transmit those germs into your body. And while you’re at it, make sure you’re washing your hands frequently too. (As a bonus, touching your face less can reduce breakouts and oiliness.)
Be prepared in case you catch it
We all hope that it won’t happen to us, but in case you’re the next victim of the flu, make sure to have some comfort food and medicine on hand. Think about picking up some soup and other “sick-people” meals along with whatever medicine you prefer. That way, you won’t have to bum stuff off your roommates or make a trip to the store when it’s the last thing you want to do.
If you catch the flu
In order to prevent the flu from spreading further, separate yourself. If it’s possible, go home for a couple of days to recuperate. If not, do your best to at least keep to your side of the room. Your roommate might be motivated enough by the threat of the flu to give you the room for yourself for a day or two by staying with a friend.
Don’t go to class
When you have something as contagious as the flu, the last thing you want to do is put yourself in a room full of people in close proximity. Not to mention that you probably don’t feel like getting out of bed. Let yourself recover and protect the others.
Notify your professors
While not going to class is completely acceptable, your professors do have a right to know why you’re missing class. A quick email is fine, but be prepared to provide a note from the health center or your doctor if your professors require one. Make sure to ask about arrangements for work extensions and any big due dates that you’ll be missing.
Designate a sick stall and shower in your dorm
When a girl living in my hall had the flu, she came up with the idea of designating one of the six shower and toilet stalls as the “sick stall” in order to keep the germs contained as much as possible. While this may not work for every situation, coming up with an adaptation of this idea could do wonders to save the rest of your floormates.
Enjoy the downtime
You don’t often get an excuse to stay in bed all day, and while you may feel terrible, that doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy the opportunity to catch up on Netflix and get more sleep than you ever dreamed you’d have time for.
While catching the flu will never be fun, there are things you can do to avoid coming down with it, and if you do catch it, you have a lot of options to make your sick time easier and avoid spreading it to others. Best wishes for feeling better soon!
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