Flu season is always a time of paranoia, especially on college campuses. Masks adorn the faces of people all over campus and Bath & Body Works hand sanitizers dangle from lanyards, as a chorus of coughs echo throughout lectures. However, this year has frightened more people than usual, as the Coronavirus spreads across the United States. The current outbreak of the Coronavirus, COVID-19, was first discovered on December 31st, 2019 in Wuhan, China. Since then, it has spread throughout the world, especially hitting hard in Italy and Iran, as of late.
Unless you are traveling somewhere where the Coronavirus is running particularly rampant, the likelihood of contracting the disease is very low. Despite this, an epidemic of this magnitude is a useful reminder of how quickly diseases spread and how easy it is to catch them. Most of us know the basic measures we should take in order to keep ourselves healthy, but everyone needs a reminder, especially in times like these. So, here is a list of ways to keep yourself healthy during flu season, and year round:
1) Refrain from touching your nose, mouth and eyes. During your daily activities, I’m sure you touch your face pretty often. It’s a habit that most of us fall prey to. The possibility of contracting a disease goes up significantly when you touch these areas, especially around your mouth. Try your best to keep your hands away from these areas.
2) Exercise proper respiratory hygiene. Many of us were taught at an early age to cover your mouth or nose when you cough and sneeze, but some people still cough and sneeze into their hands. If you are in the habit of coughing and sneezing into your hands, try to break that habit and remind yourself to do those things into your elbow. This makes all the difference when preventing the spread of disease, as germs spread easily through cough and sneeze.
3) If you feel sick, go to the doctor sooner rather than later. Making doctor appointments in college can be annoying, as your schedule is usually filled up anyway and the demand is higher than the supply for such appointments. Although it is inconvenient, and many think they can self diagnose through websites such as WebMD, doctors spent years in school learning about how to diagnose people. It is extremely important to go to the doctor and let them evaluate you. In the end, it may just be a common cold that could be healed through over the counter medicine, but it’s always better to be safe than sorry.
4) Don’t be afraid to stay at home if you need to. In college, the pressure to go to class and extracurricular activities is very high. It is easy to fall behind in class if you are absent, and professors constantly pressure you to attend class. At the same time, disease can spread quickly and easily through close contact and also can get worse without rest, so sometimes it is more responsible to yourself and others to stay at home than go to class. If you feel like it is not safe for you to go to class, make sure you communicate properly with your professors as to why you are going to be absent. They normally will appreciate your honesty, but if they try to dispute your claims, talk administration about the issue.
5) Wash your hands with soap for at least 20 seconds. Most people see washing your hands as common sense, but common sense isn’t always common. Washing your hands with soap after using the bathroom and touching common surfaces is crucial for keeping yourself and others healthy, especially when it comes to common surfaces. Door handles and stair railings, which we touch way more times than we realize, are covered in germs. Washing your hands or at least using hand sanitizer whenever it’s possible is a good step toward being healthy. Also, if you don’t want to say your ABC’s to measure out those 20 seconds, there have been lists published online of songs that you can sing it 20 seconds. Have fun with it!
6) Get vaccinated. Getting vaccinated is an important way to protect yourself and others. Not only does it significantly reduce your risk of contracting diseases, but it also reduces the risk of the people around you. Herd immunity, a phenomenon where a high enough proportion of people in a community are immune which reduces the risk of disease being spread to those who are susceptible, is an effective way to prevent the spread of disease and protect those who are vulnerable. Do your part and get vaccinated!
7) Stay informed! One of the best ways to hold yourself accountable when it comes to your health is by staying informed about what is happening regarding situations like we are in now. There are many credible resources that have information about where and how fast diseases are spreading and how to take care of yourself and others. I’ll put a list at the bottom of this article with some useful resources I’ve found!
There are countless other ways to keep yourself and others healthy, but the ones I listed above are just a few that I found to be important. All of these things are little ways you can do your part to save lives by stopping the spread of disease. Flu season, especially the one we’re experiencing currently, can be stressful because you already have too much on your plate. Even though it just seems like another task on your list, your health should be toward the top of your list of priorities.
World Health Organization- https://www.who.int/emergencies/diseases/novel-coronavirus-2019
Center for Disease Control- https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/index.html