Avoiding the College Plague

It’s about that time. Every college student knows the struggle– one night you go to sleep on top of the world, just to wake up the next morning feeling like you were hit by a train. Only, this is no ordinary train…it’s a train carrying…THE COMMON COLD. 

Alright, it doesn’t even have to be the common cold. Picture your train carrying the flu, stomach flu, strep throat, etc. If you’re anything like me, getting sick is the second-worst feeling…. because having to panic about getting sick is the actual worst feeling.

Regardless, thriving on campus becomes extremely difficult because you’re now earning your WEB Md degree, becoming a walking Kleenex box, AND running a traveling pharmacy: ALL ON TOP OF being a student! It’s just too much!! So, the best way to avoid the college plague is to…

Yep, you guessed it: KEEP READING.

1. GET ENOUGH SLEEP

Repeated lack of sleep leaves us less protected when the next bug comes along.

Let’s be honest. We all know we’re supposed to get 7-9 hours of sleep. Even with good intentions, most of us know it’s WAY easier said than done.

While we should always be striving for those 8 amazing hours of shut-eye, it becomes increasingly important when there is a high risk of getting sick. Sleep is proven to conserve the body’s energy and resources that the immune system needs to fight off illness. So the next time you have to choose between sleep and a Netflix all-nighter, consider sleeping to help keep you in good health during flu season and all year long!

2. WASH YOUR HANDS

We should NOT have to go over this, but I guess we will.

Wash your hands.

It’s literally a D.I.Y. vaccine, ya’ll.

It takes 30 seconds max. and it will do wonders for your immune system. Not by a sink? No problem! Keep hand sanitizer in your purse, pocket, backpack, or car for those times when you should really, really clean your hands.

These include, but are not limited to: after touching a shopping cart, before eating/preparing food, after holding someone’s hand (s), after getting Cheetos dust all over your fingers, after using the restroom, after touching trash, and before treating a wound.

3. KEEP YOUR HANDS TO YOURSELF

THOUSANDS AND THOUSANDS OF FINGERPRINTS EVERYWHERE. Scared?

Don’t be. But when you notice that the entire campus has erupted in illness, do yourself a favor and watch where you’re putting your hands. Here’s how:

  • Get creative with how you handle doors, railings, and sink handles.
  • Pat backs instead of shaking hands.
  • Use your own pen/pencil when writing.
  • Avoid holding hands without washing them afterward.
  • Try not to touch your face, ears, or eyes during the day.
  • When exercising at the gym, wipe down the equipment before and after use.

4. KEEP YOUR MOUTH TO YOURSELF

Same as above, but for your mouth:

  • Try drinking from a water bottle instead of the water fountain.
  • The love of your life may be perfect, but if they have strep throat, ease up on the PDA for a little while.
  • Don’t bite your nails or stick your fingers in your mouth.
  • Avoid sharing drinks with others.

5. EXERCISE REGULARLY

Illness often preys on weak, inactive bodies. When you sweat, you are releasing toxins from your pores (that’s why it’s so important to sweat). When you exercise, you are improving your overall circulation, which includes your immune system’s circulation. This means that your system has a WAY better chance of finding illness before it spreads.

6. EAT RIGHT

You don’t have to immediately change your entire diet (I could never suggest something I wouldn’t do), but rather add nutrients in. We know fruits and veggies are the best for us but fish, garlic, pineapple, citrus fruits, yogurt, tea, milk, and mushrooms are some foods that are proven to help boost the immune system.

For those of you who were wondering– yes–chocolate made the list!! But it deserves its own paragraph. Dark chocolate contains antioxidants as well as high amounts of zinc which is great for your immune system! Obviously eating a lot of chocolate would eventually have negative effects, so stick to bite-sized pieces and you’ll be good to go. You’re welcome.

7. DO NOT PANIC

Among the many amazing capabilities we have as human beings is our ability to predict the future and to prepare accordingly. This often works in our favor, but there is a downside: We. Worry. Way. Too. Much.

Worrying IS a form of stress that can hinder our health. It can ruin our sleep, destroy our peace of mind, and make us anxious which inevitably weakens our immune system.

You may be the person who, like me, downs 3 bottles of Emergen-C while also popping zinc tablets if exposed to someone who has a cold. I’m sure that doesn’t hurt, but I know it’s a bit excessive.

The best thing to do is WAIT. Are you even getting sick? To help your peace of mind you can get enough rest, eat a few foods with Vitamin C, and stay hydrated.

THE MOST IMPORTANT THING you can do is to STAY POSITIVE. I cannot stress how important this is. It’s like a magic trick– if you assure yourself that you aren’t getting sick, sometimes you don’t!

8. DON’T BE THAT PERSON

Please. If you are the one who is sick, consider staying home.

I know. Missing classes can cause a lot of stress and I am not encouraging you to skip, but if you’re sick, think before going to class. “I am even feeling well enough? Can I refrain from spreading my germs? Will I be able to focus?”

If the answer is “no”, email your professor, and take care of yourself. If you need help, visit the Student Health Center which provides health services for all Mercer students regardless of health insurance coverage.

People are going to remember that you showed up to class sneezing and coughing last week so when they show up sneezing and coughing, you’re gonna get some side eyes.

If you DO choose to go to class while sick, here are some parting tips:

  • Cover your mouth when you sneeze or cough.
  • Don’t get mad when people empty the entire Purell bottle into their hands. You came to class sick!
  • If you’re coughing loudly, step out for a second.
  • Try not to one-up people about how sick you are.
  • Try your best to still complete your homework.
  • Avoid letting your friend try your drink or use your pen and then later tell them you have mono or something. Just don’t. Remember to keep your possessions to yourself!

Now that you know how to avoid the college plague, pass it on!

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