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The Collegiette’s Guide to Surviving The Flu Epidemic: Common Prevention Pitfalls and How to Fix Them


As you may have read on Twitter, your Columbia/Barnard email account, or in the latest text message from your parents, the ‘flu’ has reached epidemic status here in New York. As collegiettes attending a university full of hosts for this infectious virus, we are unfortunately prime targets. While you have likely seen many ‘Flu Prevention Tips’ in recent days, I have personally found some of them unrealistic (ie: avoid touching your face?). More practically, aside from getting your annual flu shot (which is currently the best available method of prevention), what can you do to prevent the flu from rendering you incapable of participating in sorority recruitment, making it to the Heights this weekend, or staying on top of your classes?

1. Wash Your Hands. This is pretty self explanatory, and pretty darn effective. Washing your hands before you eat or after you ride the subway or go to class are healthy habits to form. According to Columbia, alcohol-based hand cleansers are equally effective.

Hand-washing making your hands dry and flaky? After washing my hands SO many times every day, my hands often feel like sandpaper! To fix this, check out some hand creams/lotions at any local drugstore. My favorites: Gold Bond Ultimate Hand Sanitizer Moisturizer and Nutrogena Norwegian Formula Hand Cream

2. Vitamin C. This vitamin gears up your immune system so you can fight off infections before they begin. Vitamin C supplements can be found at any drugstore and can be taken daily.

Don’t like taking pills? Get your vitamin C in the old fashioned way with a tall glass of OJ or a vitamin water with at least 100% DV of Vitamin C. Even better, drink a ‘Power-C Machine’ Naked Juice (found in both Butler and Lerner) to get your fruit servings and extra boost of vitamin C.

3. Stay Hydrated. Plain and simple, your immune system needs water to function. Because flu season is a dry one, make sure to bring a water bottle to class, the gym, and the library.

Too cold to drink water? Get a great travel mug and fill it with herbal teas for extra benefits! My favorites: Starbucks’ hot Tazo Passion tea and Celestial Seasoning’s Antioxidant Max Blackberry Pomegranate tea

4. Don’t Share. This means drinks, makeup, et cetera. People carrying the flu virus can be contagious before their symptoms appear. So even though it may seem harmless to steal a sip of your friend’s margarita, stay on the safe side and enjoy your own!

Friend asks to borrow your red lipstick? Show your concern for her health—she wouldn’t want to catch anything from you either.

5. Avoid people with flu symptoms. Obviously, there is nothing you can do about the sneezer that sits next to you in lecture. However, when given the choice, don’t hug or kiss people that seem sick.

Delivering soup to a sick friend? So sweet! Try to stay 3 feet away from her and be sure to use ample hand sanitizer afterwards. Or, even better, send her soup and a card from grandmaschickensoup.com !

6.  Above all, maintain your usual healthy habits. Sleep, eat well, and continue to exercise. These healthy habits are necessary constants for your body in a trying time. Most importantly—try not to stress out about contracting the flu; stress exhausts your body.

Stressed about the coming semester? Planning out relaxing activities, rather than just waiting to have time for them, ensures you’ll get the relaxation you need.

Getting the flu is not fun, especially when it can wipe out an entire week of your fun yet jam-packed schedule. If you do think you have the flu (with symptoms like headache, sore throat, fever, chills, stuffy nose, cough, etc.), be sure to rest in bed and drink lots of fluids until your fever has been gone for 24 hours.

Follow these tips for your best shot at getting through flu season happily and healthily!  

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