By: Moe't Dickinson
It's hard to be germ-free for students at college. Lack of sleep, stress and a poor diet can easily add up to a cold or flu.
When you're living in crowded dorms or listening to lectures sitting next to coughing students, how can you decide whether to toughen out our illness or go to urgent care?
Why do so many college students get sick on campus? Dr. Sharia Hays, dean of students at Rochester University, said multiple reasons exist for so many students getting sick while living on a college campus.
First, Hays said many students do not take care of their general health needs, such as getting the correct amount of sleep, eating properly, and properly cleaning their spaces. All of those items can affect your immune system.
“Typically when I get the common cold,” Hays said, “I work on getting lots of rest and drink lots of water to help flush out the cold. I also make sure to clean my living space and allow fresh air into my space to help limit the lingering of the germs.”
Trevionne Powell, a junior English major, has some other tips to dealing with a cold. “I tend to layer up when I feel a cold coming because my mom always told me that I could sweat out the germs in my body,” he said. “So when I go to sleep, I put on Vicks vapor rub, extra socks, joggers, a white beater and a long sleeve T-shirt. In the morning I get tea instead of coffee and stay in my room as much as I can — to not get others sick too. I don’t have time to go to a hospital and get a check up and I tough it out.”
Living in a dorm where everyone is close to each other can open you up to a variety of germs and illnesses. While no cure is available for the common cold, you can follow some simple steps to help you feel better and get back on your feet.
1. Wash your hands with clean, hot or cold water. Make sure the water isn't too hot, and use soap to scrub your hands for about 20 seconds. Antibacterial soap isn't a must; any soap will do. Make sure you get the soap in between your fingers, on the backs of hands and under your nails where germs like to hang out. And don't forget the wrists! Rinse and dry well with a clean towel.
2. Drink hot tea. Hot tea loosens the nasal passages and allows air to flow through them again, much like a good bowl of chicken noodle soup. A cup of honey tea can be a huge relief when you're all stuffed up or have a sore throat, said Rosemary Kirksey, a human resource officer at St. Francis Nursing Home in Detroit.
3. Take some Vitamin C, which you can get through drinking orange juice or some other fortified juice. Don’t drink milk because dairy will thicken your mucus. Or take some Vitamin C supplements.
4. Purchase and take cold medicine, such as Tylenol, Advil, NightQuil and DayQuil. Read the directions on the box or bottle and follow the instructions. Drink water.
5. And, of course, the most obvious is sleep, which is a must to fight infection in your body. Shut your door and close the curtains, and you should fall asleep quickly. Chances are, because of the fear of getting sick, your roommates will leave you alone so that you can sleep for hours. When people are short on sleep, their resistance wears down and they are more susceptible to getting sick.
Experts at Stanford University's Department for the Diagnosis and Treatment for Sleep Disorders recommend that college students get at least eight hours of sleep each night. When college students get less than eight hours of sleep, they endure what is called sleep debt, and it will take time and much more sleep to turn that negative into a positive balance.
The final suggestion is to not get sick in the first place! Dr. Kimberly Nash, RU director of nursing, said, "Prevention is key! Wash your hands frequently and stay away from others that are sick. That way you don't come down with a cold in the first place,” she said.
“If you do catch a cold, get plenty of rest and drink lots of fluids,” she continued. “Some people find that vitamin C and zinc (in products such as Emergen-C) are helpful as well. If there is throat irritation, sipping hot tea, a warm salt water gargle, or throat lozenges are helpful too.”
Nash also encourages everyone to get a flu shot annually. “May I put in a plug for getting your flu shot as well? While the common cold is not fun, the flu can take weeks to fully recover from,” she said.
Follow these tips to have a healthy and productive semester!