It’s the most wonderful time of the year and holiday cheer is not the only thing that we will be spreading to each other. Flu season is well underway and I am sure that many of you have already been bed-ridden by the aches, pains, and runny noses. Be mindful this season and take special care to protect yourself from viruses and to prevent transmitting them to others. Just remember the three S’s to stay as healthy (as possible): Sanitize, Sleep, and Stress less.
One of the most important ways to prevent germs from spreading is by sanitizing after you come in contact with objects that spread infectious agents from people to people (fomites, as my fellow public health people like to call them). These surfaces include: door handles, handles on the bus, keyboards at the computer lab, and money. Everything that we touch increases our chances of getting sick, but it is possible to combat infection by simply washing our hands. Before eating or touching any orifice of your body, be sure to wash your hands thoroughly with soap. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) website recommends the proper way to wash one’s hands:
Wet hands with running water and apply soap
Work soap into a lather and be sure to scrub the back of hands, between fingers, and under the nails
Continue rubbing hands for as 20 seconds (or the “Happy Birthday” song twice)
Rinse hands under running water
Dry hands with a clean towel or air dry
It may seem like a chore to go through these steps to wash your hands, but they are the primary prevention from sickness. For the on-the-go student, I encourage buying a pocket-sized bottle of hand sanitizer that you can keep in your backpack at all times.
With only two weeks left until finals, many of us will be pulling all-nighters and sleeping late. However, do you fully know what a lack of sleep does to your body? Sleep deprivation is correlated with immunodeficiency. (More on sleep deprivation and sickness here: http://www.webmd.com/sleep-disorders/excessive-sleepiness-10/immune-system-lack-of-sleep) What this means is that every night that you stay up studying for finals, you are weakening your immune system, making your body more susceptible to flus and colds. You will be more likely to get sick during finals time, be unable to study for the rest of your exams because of how sick you are, and you will fail. The latter part is a bit dramatic, but you get my point. Do not compromise your health for the sake of a good grade. Be smart and start studying for finals NOW so that you do not have to stay up two days in a row before an exam.
Stress goes hand in hand with finals time and the end of the semester. People have their unique ways of dealing with stress: eating, watching movies, exercising, or eating. Whatever de-stressing activity you fancy, I quote Nike and say “Just Do It”. The act of stressing and relaxing is a psychological phenomenon that has positive physical implications. In particular, I recommend trying exercise as your de-stressing activity this upcoming finals season. Exercise will help you feel more alert for more efficient studying, and it will help your body become more resilient against flus and colds. After a long day of studying, do any kind of physical activity during your study breaks and your body will be thankful.
Protecting yourself from viruses this flu season does not mean that you have to become a monk. All you need to do is to be aware of your surroundings and listen to your body to take care of it. If you are running a 102.4 fever and your coughs sound like you will keel over at any point, please stay at home. Take care of your body and do everyone a favor by not spreading your germs every time you sneeze or cough in class. Ultimately, challenge yourself to make it through these last few weeks of school sans sniffles and coughs. Keep in mind the three S’s to finish the semester strong.