Surviving cold and flu season in college

Margaret Dougherty, Staff Writer

The last thing any college student wants is a rough start to their semester due to illness. However, in the middle of cold and flu season it can be difficult to stay healthy. Common spaces, like dorm rooms and classrooms, bring a whole new set of challenges when it comes to avoiding germs, and these close environments can set off a domino effect: when one person is sick, everyone is sick.

There are several preventative measures you can take to avoid contracting a cold or the flu this season. Robin Schafer, director of health services at Iona College, emphasizes that the most important thing is to wash your hands with soap and water. Handwashing is your best bet for guarding yourself against germs that can last on hard surfaces for a couple of hours, Schafer advises. If soap and water are not readily available, hand sanitizer is a suitable temporary alternative. However, studies by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have shown that hand sanitizer does not eliminate all the microbes that soap does.

Besides washing your hands, cleaning other surfaces is also crucial to remaining healthy. If you’re sharing a dorm with roommates, be sure to wipe down doorknobs, desks andother communal surfaces with disinfectant wipes. Do not share water bottles or utensils, which is an easy way for infections to spread.

This flu season, which began in October and can last into May, has brought about 19 million cases of the virus in the United States so far. Although college students often overlook the importance of the flu shot, there is no reason to not get the vaccine. The Iona College Wellness Center is a convenient resource for students to receive the flu shot, where it is offered for $15 through May.Students can get a receipt for reimbursement from their insurance company after getting the shot.

Schafer also clarified that there is no need to worry about common misconceptions surrounding the vaccine.

“It is a myth that getting a flu shot causes the flu,” Schafer said. “It’s just that the vaccine takes two weeks to kick in, so there is a possibility of getting sick in that time period.”

To get a flu shot from the Wellness Center, make an appointment by calling (914) 633-2548 and visit the offices at 760 North Avenue next to the New Rochelle Fire Station.

If you have already contracted an illness, it is important to take care of yourself before it gets worse. Although it is unfortunate to miss a class, staying in your dorm to rest is the safest way to get well quickly without infecting others. The flu can last 10 to 14 days, but the first few are always the worst. During this time, take Advil or Tylenol to control your fever and relieve pain. Get plenty of sleep and drink a lot of fluids. If you’re not stocked up with supplies, call on a friend to run to the store for tissues, medicine orchicken noodle soup.

Remaining healthy on a college campus during cold and flu season is difficult, but by following these tips you are sure to stay healthier longer and avoid illness.