How students can protect themselves during flu season
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How students can protect themselves during flu season

How students can protect themselves during flu season

Finals are approaching, assignment deadlines are piling up, and you’re looking to jet off to your winter holidays after that. The last thing you need is to be stuck in bed with the dreaded flu.

Unfortunately, university campuses are hotbeds for viruses and germs. Large groups of people travelling through the halls and food establishments, sharing desks and lecture halls, and living in close quarters all present the perfect environment for spreading the flu.

It was recently reported that the flu season in the US has started off unusually early. According to the Centers for Disease Control Prevention (CDC), “Seasonal influenza activity in the United States has been elevated for four weeks and continues to increase.”

“Activity is being caused mostly by influenza B/Victoria viruses, which is unusual for this time of year. H1N1 viruses are the next most common, followed by H3N2 viruses, which are decreasing in proportion.”

Here are some precautions you can take to avoid getting struck down by the flu (besides staying away from your sniffling friends). If you’re already starting to feel ill, make sure you rest up and drink lots of fluids so you don’t get worse.

Get the flu shot

This should be the first thing that you do to combat the flu during flu season. Most university campuses will be giving the flu vaccine for free (or covered by your student insurance), so take full advantage of it!

If you can’t get it from your university’s medical centre, call a GP ahead of time to make sure they have it in stock.

You may experience some side effects such as soreness, redness, and/or swelling where the shot was given, headache (low grade), fever, nausea, muscle aches, and fatigue, but these are mild for most people.

Load up on vitamins

Are you getting enough nutrition in your diet? With erratic schedules and convenient fast food everywhere, students often forget about their nutritional requirements while in college.

While you should make more effort in getting your five-a-day veggies and fruits, if you feel you’re not eating healthy enough, consider taking a vitamin supplement.

With enough vitamins like vitamin C and A in your daily intake, your immune system becomes stronger so you can fight against nasty flu viruses.

Practise good hygiene


Germs are everywhere and there’s not much you can do about it, except by keeping yourself and your surroundings clean so you can hopefully decrease the chances of becoming infected.

Always make sure you’re keeping your hands clean by washing them frequently (especially before eating and after using the bathroom) or bringing a hand sanitiser with you.

Make sure your home and devices are also clean, particularly if a roommate has been sick. Use a disinfectant to spray and wipe doorknobs, light switches, countertops and tables – everything they may have come into contact with.

Exercise

Did you know that regular exercise helps your body fight against harmful viruses? According to a study by the British Journal of Medicine, “Perceived physical fitness and frequency of aerobic exercise are important correlates of reduced days with URTI (Upper Respiratory Tract Infection) and severity of symptoms during the winter and fall common cold seasons.”

This means that the more you exercise, the lesser your chances of falling ill. It also means that if you do end up falling ill, you have a better chance of fighting it faster than if you don’t exercise at all.

However, if you’re already sick, it’s best not to work out too vigorously, especially if you have a fever. If you still feel you can exercise, work out at home to avoid spreading your virus to others.

Sleep


College students need sleep for many reasons, but it’s particularly important to avoid catching the flu. Make sure you’re getting at least six to eight hours of sleep on average per night so that your body is well-rested and can fight against viruses.

According to the National Sleep Foundation, “Without sufficient sleep, your body makes fewer cytokines, a type of protein that targets infection and inflammation, effectively creating an immune response. Cytokines are both produced and released during sleep, causing a double whammy if you skimp on shut-eye. Chronic sleep loss even makes the flu vaccine less effective by reducing your body’s ability to respond.”

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