Autumn is an exciting time of the year. With the changing leaves and the cool and (usually) comfortable sweater weather, there is a lot to look forward to. The holidays of creative costumes and stuffing yourself with turkey are also major points of interest.
But as all of the energy buzzes around us, things tend to fly under the radar. One of the most important of these is health. It may sound odd to say, but people forget to take the extra steps in order to insure their well being as the cold months are upon us.
On a college campus, the task of remaining healthy is even more daunting. Living in something that can be related to a petri dish of germs, extra steps need to be taken. While busy schedules and lack information may lead to persistent colds and perhaps something even worse, this list will hopefully act as an educational and enlightening guide to evading sickness during the colder months.
- Wash Your Hands
This one is simple. In fact, it is all but certain that your parents have been giving you this piece of “advice” since before you could form full sentences. I am sure no one will be surprised to learn that there are many facts that back up the assertion that washing your hands can keep you healthy.
According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, washing hands with soap and water can reduce diarrheal disease-associated deaths by up to 50%. It is also estimated that if people were to routinely wash their hands (again, with soap and water), up to a million deaths a year could be prevented.
Washing hands is important. There is no doubt about that. Living on a college campus, the issue of washing hands becomes even more important. With all of the germs floating around, you would be hard pressed to find a period of time where you are not exposing yourself.
With that said, it is critical that you find the time to wash your hands on a fairly regular basis. If you have gone around two hours and think you haven’t touched anything germ infested, you have. So wash your hands. With soap and water.
- Wash Your Face
A bit of a piggyback off of washing your hands, but washing your face is also an important part about staying healthy. Both hand and face washing typically go hand-in-hand.
The amount of times your hands make contact with your face is staggering. It can and will happen when you’re not even thinking about it. The problem with this is that viruses can enter your body more easily through your face (the eyes, mouth, and nose just to name a few spots). Get the upper hand by washing your face nightly so as to avoid the side effects of absent-minded face touching.
- Get Enough Sleep
Much like hand washing, this tip is one that should go without saying. Everyone needs sleep and, more often than not, people tend to get it once a day.
However, the important part comes with the key word “enough.” How much really is enough sleep? The answer to this question can be frequently ignored given the intensity of college coursework in addition to the demanding schedule of extracurricular activities.
According to the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute, college aged adults’ recommended amount of sleep is seven or eight hours a day. Needless to say, college students may rarely enjoy this amount of sleep.
As hard as it may be, it is important to plan a schedule that allows for a full night’s sleep. A loss of sleep leads to more illnesses such as colds and the flu, due to a lowered immune system.
Taking a pass on a night out in order to ensure a full eight hours will certainly pay off in the long run when you aren’t huddled over a vaporizer trying to do schoolwork while suffering from a stuffy nose.
Before you make a comment about naps, they do provide a short-term boost in alertness in performance, but do not provide you with all of the other benefits that a full night’s sleep can offer you.
In addition to keeping you healthy and away from common viruses, getting enough sleep has proven to promote healthy brain function and emotional well being in addition to physical health. With all of those benefits, it’s hard to justify not getting enough sleep.
- Eat Well
Eating “well” could really mean anything. There are so many food groups and different types of things to eat out there that eating well has become a matter of opinion in the eyes of most people.
When it comes to eating in college, most people tend to focus on the issue of gaining weight due to some of the questionable options of food. The National Eating Disorders Association has stated that the average college freshman gains about 2.5 to 3.5 pounds during their first year on campus with additional statistics on those that will battle eating disorders.
The issue of weight gain is, of course, directly linked to health, but it also plays a large role in illness as well. Out of everything, what can be cited most with the issue of health on a college campus as far as diets are concerned is the lack of fruits and vegetables.
For some reason, people seem to frequently forget the importance of these. However, another possibility is that a lack of time contributes to a student’s seemingly inability to eat well. Time management is another issue all together, but the issue remains: eating well can make a world of difference in a college student’s health.
- Keep Stress to a Minimum
This one almost sounds a bit unfair. As great as an experience like college is, it is not without its generous amount of stress. As stated previously, this could come from things such as coursework or adjusting to new time management essentials.
Appropriately, the website of the American Institute of Stress has a whole page dedicated to college students. According to this, the stress can mostly be attributed to the changing lifestyles as well as anxiety over future careers and current activities.
By this point, you can guess that an increased stress level does not do you any favors as far as your health is concerned. In fact, it can also prove to be pretty detrimental. In addition to the type of virus we are discussing in this article, stress can give way to even more serious mental conditions. The solution can come in a variety of different ways.
Putting yourself on a schedule can help a lot with stress. At least until you are adjusted to any new curricula you have, plotting out when to do work and take part in other activities can take a lot of the pressure off of you. You won’t be at risk of forgetting things or letting them fall to the wayside.
Stress is hard to cope with in a college setting. But for your health’s sake, dealing with it is something that is essential and should be at the top of your to-do list. If you don’t have a to-do list, make one. It will help.
Switching gears just a bit, let’s change the scenario. You have not become sick yet, but feel like that slight ache in the back of your throat or that uncomfortable tickle that lingers around your nasal passages. You feel like you are getting sick.
There are still steps you can take to bounce back from this. One of these remedies comes in the form of Zicam. Undoubtedly, there are some eye rolls when it comes to this suggestion.
There are many who will say that the use of this “unapproved homeopathic” product is all psychological and that there are no concrete benefits of using it. However, there are also those that will swear by this product, believing it to be helpful in preventing and limiting a cold.
In April 2013, there was a recall on the nasally administered versions of Zicam so, needless to say, those products should be avoided. The orally administered version as well as the dissolving tablets are the most common and have not condemned is harmful to people.
With my experiences with Zicam having been positive, I would certainly vouch for the product and if you feel as though you may be getting sick, what do you really have to lose at that point?
- Cut Out Sugar and Dairy
In keeping with the theme from the previous tip, let us say you are sick. While Zicam is definitely a step you should consider taking, there are also more natural methods you can take advantage of as well. This involves cutting out certain types of food.
Sugar is not always the best thing for you when you’re healthy. However, when you’re sick, this can be even more harmful to you. Studies have shown that a high sugar intake can suppress the immune system. When you’re sick, the immune system is a pretty important thing so it’s best to take care of that.
While it is still up for debate, dairy has also been cited as being problematic to people who are sick. It is widely believed that dairy products increase the production of mucus. This worsens any and all congestion you may have when you are sick.
Against, this has been disputed as dairy being the actual cause, but it does tend to create the feeling of more mucus. If the discomfort is something that will bother you, cutting out dairy for a couple of days is probably a good solution.
- Washing Your Bed Sheets (Especially Your Pillowcases)
Finally, what is it that you can do after you’ve been sick to ensure that it doesn’t happen again? Believe it or not, you’re not out of the woods once you’ve gotten better, as nice as it would be to assume you have some sort of grace period after having a cold.
A great and easy way to prevent the resurface of old germs is to wash your bed sheets. More importantly, you want to be sure to wash your pillowcases. Having had your face right on top of them for however long you’ve been sick will produce a build up of germs that can just as easily reenter your body while you are recovering.
Taking this a step further, it is also highly recommending that you consider washing your toothbrush. If the idea of putting a toothbrush that you have used while being sick still grosses you out after washing it, also consider throwing it out and buying a new one. They aren’t that expensive.
There isn’t anything more frustrating than getting sick less than a month after your previous cold so doing everything in your power to make sure you eradicate all of those pesky viral germs is a necessity.
Utilizing the Guide…
You have before you eight tips to prevent and combat germs for this coming cold season. There is a lot to remember and it may seem like a hassle to follow these recommendations. However, it will be well worth the effort when you remain comfortable and have nothing to worry about other than the chill outside.
Following this guide will allow you to enjoy the upcoming winter wonderland without worrying about a stuffy nose.