If you are anything like me, the start of school always means getting sick. However, in the wake of the worst flu season we’ve had in years, this could mean serious trouble for your body at the start of the semester. These tips won't necessarily prevent you from getting the flu completely, but taking preventative steps can seriously reduce your chances.
Many people think it’s too late to get vaccinated, but most flu seasons last until almost March. While it’s ideal to get vaccinated early, getting the shot late is better than not getting it at all. Here in Columbia you can get the flu shot at the Student Health Center, Walgreens or even at the Hy-Vee Pharmacy. Plus, if you’re really terrified of needles, most of these places carry the flu nasal spray so you can still help your health, minus the pointy objects.
...about washing your hands. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention lists hand washing as one of the most important steps to preventing the spread of germs. Take the time to really wash your hands, especially after class, going to the Rec or the Student Center. All these places have high levels of germs because of the high concentration of people touching things, so stay safe by washing frequently. Be sure to use warm water and sing "Happy Birthday" twice to ensure a proper hand washing. If obsessive hand washing isn’t going to fit into your routine, then at least stick an alcohol-based hand sanitizer in your bag or backpack. It takes 10 seconds and could prevent you from sitting in bed all week with the flu.
Wipe it DownInvest in some Lysol wipes and sanitize the things you touch the most. Your phone is a huge germ catcher that most people overlook. Also wipe down pencils, laptop keys, doorknobs, car keys and reusable water bottles. Get in the habit of spending two minutes wiping everything down, and your immune system will thank you later.
Boost Your Immune System
Taking care of yourself and making sure you’re as healthy as possible can do wonders in helping protect you from germs. Drink lots of water, exercise regularly and eat foods with antioxidants like fruits and vegetables. Although research surrounding the health benefits of vitamin C is not concrete, it couldn’t hurt. I’m a big fan of L’il Critters Immune C Gummy Vitamins, which you can pick up at Target. Not only do they taste like gummy bears, but they really help your immune system! In addition to taking vitamins and eating healthy foods, try taking a few minutes to de-stress yourself. Less stress leads to better sleep, which is an essential immune booster. Plus, now you have an excuse to sleep more, eat better and take delicious gummy vitamins.
Hands OffThe spread of viruses occurs when you touch your nose, eyes or mouth. It may seem simple, but try to avoid touching or rubbing your face. If the urge is just too great, then at least wash your hands first or use a tissue.
The Worst Case Scenario
If you do happen to contract the flu after all of these tips, be sure to take some time off. As college students we tend to ignore our health because we are too busy to do so. However, if you don’t slow down, the flu can escalate from nothing to something serious, which will lead to even more time off. So rest up, drink lots of fluids and take ibuprofen to manage fever/aches. Also, MU has a policy of not requiring documentation for flu absences, as long as you communicate with your professor in a timely manner. Put your health first at the beginning of this semester and your body will thank you.
By: Casey Nighbor | Images: 1, 2, 3