Stress, lack of sleep and bad eating habits can be a disastrous combination for the average college student and could mean a lengthy bout with illness.
Dr. Ilene Moore, director of Student Health Services, said that most students who visit the center are looking to be treated for common infections like a cold, flu, bronchitis or a sinus infection. Students should expect episodic illnesses like this from time to time throughout their college career, she said.
A major factor affecting student health is the living situation. Being in close quarters, like dorms and classrooms, with many other people, allows illnesses to spread easily from one person to another.
“If you are living in the dormitories and one person has the stomach flu, a lot of people can get the stomach flu. If one person has a cold, a lot of people will get a cold,” Moore said.
Another factor that can affect a student’s health is his or her lifestyle. Being under a lot of stress from course work, activities and jobs, not getting enough sleep, and not eating properly can make students more susceptible to common infections.
“Any time you push your body to the limit by not sleeping, not eating properly, or using substances that are not promoting good health you leave yourself more susceptible to becoming ill,” Moore said.
Smoking or drinking alcohol also make it more likely for students to get sick. These factors increase the likelihood that students will develop a far worse condition than usual.
For example, students who smoke are at a greater risk of developing bronchitis when they get a cold than those who do not smoke.
Some of the best ways students can help themselves stay healthy is to simply eat healthy meals regularly and avoid habits such as smoking that may aggravate illnesses. Moore also said it is important to notice how your behavior influences your health.
“If you can recognize a pattern in your behavior that seems to have led to your resistance having been lowered and getting sick, learn from that, take that into consideration and adjust what you do to help prevent yourself from becoming sick again,” she said.
Sophomore Lauren Jacobs feels that keeping healthy is more a matter of a student’s choice to make the effort.
“It really depends on how much you want to do to keep yourself healthy. When you think about your choices, it’s not that hard to stay healthy. It a conscious effort you have to make,” she said.
Clean living does not always equal immunity to disease. Moore offered some advice to help students bounce back quickly.
She suggested getting plenty of extra fluids and rest. Students should also avoid all alcohol, drugs and cigarettes.
There is a self-treatment center available at Student Health Services for students to get over-the-counter medications, like Tylenol, to help alleviate their symptoms. She also suggested frequent hand washing to avoid spreading the illness to others.
Moore urged students who are experiencing unfamiliar symptoms to make an appointment to see a doctor. For example, a high fever or swollen glands should be treated immediately.
She stressed the importance of having all vaccinations up to date, including protection against Meningococcal Meningitis and Hepatitis B.
Students should also have a complete medical record available, detailing any chronic illnesses or pertinent family medical histories, as well as a list of the medications currently being taken.
“It is important that students take their freedom at college seriously,” Moore said. “They should view good health as something that they don’t take for granted and that they look to maintain.”