I just moved in to my dorm room (woo!), I’ve signed up for my classes, (yay!) I’m excited for the year (all right!), and I’m already sick (noooooo). I don’t want to be sitting in bed with a stuffy nose all day while everybody else is out having fun and meeting people. I know how important these first few weeks are! And if I did go out, I definitely don’t want to be remembered as the girl that got everybody ill. Why do you think I’m getting so sick? What can I do to be sure I’m not getting sick in the future?
First, don’t worry about the first few weeks of school. Lots of people are making friends during the icebreakers of school’s first few weeks, but those bonds don’t necessarily last longer than that. Developing friendships takes hard work. People sometimes meet their best college friends during their second, third, or even fourth years. When classes start and you become more involved in your major and in clubs, you’ll find rich and rewarding relationships. For now, take it easy, and focus on getting better.
Why does it seem so easy to get sick in college? College campuses are a petri dish of bacteria and viruses. With hundreds of people circulating through dorms, libraries, and classrooms, it’s no surprise that most college students gets sick in their first year. Dr. David McBride, director of the University of Maryland’s Health Center, is quoted in a Washington Post article saying that sicknesses that first-year students experience are primarily viral infections — common colds that don’t require antibiotics. Everybody is familiar with these are the kinds of sore throats, runny noses, stuffy heads, and chilly sweats, and the cases often don’t require more than a few days of sleep and frequent hydration. But more severe illnesses such as mononucleosis and meningitis also lurk around the corners of your campus, so you will want to take precautions.
As everybody knows, getting sick is easy if you’re overstressed, super-celebratory or short on sleep. In college, being all three at the same time is too simple. What can you do to combat this? The easiest strategy is to set a definitive bedtime for yourself. You may feel overwhelmed by work and obligated to socialize, but a good night’s rest will often ensure that you are able to work, and play, with more gusto than you would if you burned the candle at both ends.
Diet also plays a role in your overall health, and in college it is tempting to live on ramen noodles, dining hall pizza, and late-night liquids. That’s also an easy way to find yourself fried after a few weeks of bad food. Take your health into your own hands: Take at least one or two nights a week to prepare a meal yourself. Cooking with friends can also be lots of fun. Higher ed life can be nonstop, and slowing down to enjoy a meal will help you relax as well as eat better. You will be so busy you can overlook your recommended amounts of vitamins and minerals. To prevent nutrient depletion, spend time researching a vitamin manufacturer who will suit your needs.
Another easy precaution is to wash your hands. This unremarkable piece of advice will save you days in bed. It will also help the health of the entire college. According to the Center for Disease Control, washing your hands not only helps you stay healthy, but it prevents germs from spreading for surface to surface — even if they don’t affect you. One more piece of advice: Get a flu shot. If you haven’t had yours, check out this tool from HealthMap to find a place to get the flu shot where you live. You’ll be happy that you did.