What To Do When You’re Sick at College for the Very First Time

When you see and read about stories about green college students lost in a vortex of adulting after the transition from an accommodated high school lifestyle to an independent college life, they’re not that far off from the truth. At least when it comes to getting really sick for the first time all by yourself, treating yourself can be quite the struggle.


See, I’ll be honest, I was spoiled when I was sick in high school because I was one of those kids who was able to lie on the couch and watch TV, while my parents asked if I wanted another bowl of soup, an extra blanket or another cup of tea with honey and lemon. I never really had the need to take care of myself in that way, since I had the privilege of actually resting, while my parents took care of me as if I were an invalid- a five-year-old child still learning to tie her shoes. Given that, the moment I started showing any symptoms of a sickness that could be more than just a cold, I was more than a bit lost. I thought I knew the basics of rest, water and medicine, but apparently there’s more to it than just that. And having the inevitably caring, generous family with whom I have been blessed, my parents did not fail to disappoint and even offered to drive two hours just to drop off a thermometer and medications. I honestly don’t know what I’ve done to earn such a tremendous amount of love and care in my life, but obviously I simply refused to let my parents do that, partially to prove I am capable of handling the small struggles of independence myself and partially because I felt too bad to let that happen just so my parents could make their little girl feel better.



So, for my parents’ sake and my own I have developed a recipe to reference if I were ever to feel this sick ever again and no one is there to take care of me during times  but myself.



Symptom: Fever

1. Rest, rest, rest! I’ll admit, I’m quite guilty here, since I don’t necessarily sleep when I should, but it makes a difference, I assure you. And every time I wake up feeling worst, I just go straight back to sleep and eventually I do feel a little better

2. DayQuil is your best shot! I tried Motrin. I tried Tylenol. I tried Midol. I tried Aleve. None of them worked as well as DayQuil, that’s for sure. After popping two of those every four hours, iI finally felt capable enough to get some work done without stuck between the extremes of overheating and nonstop chills.



3. Lukewarm showers are the new bath bomb bubble baths! I’ll be honest- I’m not a fan of showers that seem to occupy so much time everyday, but spending 20-30 minutes under moderately pressured droplets of 80 degree water is truly a game changer that will lower your temperature guaranteed.



4. Bundle up! Now, here’s an excuse to grab your fuzziest onesie and coziest blankie and cuddle up in fetal position (because no matter how many blankets are wrapping you up at this point, it won’t be warm enough) with a good book, a classic movie or your favorite tv show, while you sweat through the chills and overwhelming waves of heat that will usually hit you at night just when you thought it was all over. The key here is to let yourself sweat and change out of your clothes (you’ll be making more costume changes at this point than Hannah Montana in the lobster dinner part of her movie).



Symptom: Coughing and runny nose

1. Water, water everywhere! I think the worst part about the flu is the amount of times I have to pee. All of a sudden I go from a normal human being who uses the bathroom maybe three times a day to an abnormal one with a bladder the size of an atom. And no matter how much water I drink, I still have a sore throat that just seems to worsen every day. Don’t get me wrong, it’s so much better than a hacking cough, but I would much rather prefer staying in my bed catching up on all my shows or finishing homework at my desk rather than having to climb down my lofted arrangement at 4:30am to spend half my day in the bathroom. Regardless, I do believe that I would be feeling much worst without all this hydration and bright side- hydration is excellent for smoothing out the skin. Here’s to killing two birds with one stone or in this case washing down to frustrations with one hyrdoflask.



2. Tissues are not just for display! For most of us, we’ll buy a box of tissues on the mere chance that we might get sick (because us millennial just love to believe that we’re invincible), but when you actually realize you’re mortal, that same box that you’ve kept around for months because the pattern of the box matches the themed color for your room will become a life necessity gone in about two days. It’s actually quite impossible to see anything else in my trash but a sea of white fluff.



3. Halls for hacking! I know there are those of us who will just eat these for fun, but for those who struggle to hold in a cough attack during class, this will be key to a semi-comfortable temporary peace during that 1 hour class. Especially if it’s your public speaking class, you’re going to want to pop one of these in and prevent from using your voice in any capacity until you actually have to speak. Otherwise, you’re going to be left blinking away tears from the strenuous effort of holding your breath in order to hold in that death-sentencing stream of coughs. So, save these for those moments and don’t just take them every two hours in preparation.



4. Green tea, lemon and honey! Do not underestimate the power of honey, as Pooh Bear may have just been on to something when he did whatever it took to get that last drop of the sticky, amber liquid. This three part combo is a classic remedy that will relieve that itchy throat and warm more than your stomach even if it’s just for a moment.


5. Elevate the Pain Away! For those forced to breathe only through their mouths at night due to the congestion occupying your entire nasal cavity, a simple prop up of one of your pillows will do wonders. It may seem unusual and you may be more comfortable with your head sunk deeply into a memory foam cushion, but I promise that slight elevation during the night will make you a lot less stuffy the next morning. Even if that means you’ve got to stack three pillows with your face only two inches from the ceiling in a lofted bed (Trust me, it’s worth it).


Symptom: Headache

1. Aleve will Relieve! Besides rest, I found that Alive will be the next best thing. You may still wake up with less of a throbbing headache, but still an existing headache after a two hour nap. But if you take two pills of Aleve right before that nap, the worst thing you’ll wake up with is a cloudy head, adjusting to the brightness of a rainy day (because apparently, just because it’s overcast, that doesn’t mean the sky won’t be blinding your eyes once you immerse yourself into the outdoors- a.k.a leave the comfort of your 10 foot by 10 foot square of a dorm).



If you’re lucky, you’ll be able to stay in bed all day the whole weekend, while your best friends stop by to bring you soup and Gatorade. Your parents might even send you a care package of halls, tissues and cough syrup (what else could a girl ask for, right?). Regardless, if you have those kind of people in your life or not, it won’t hurt to have a few tools under your belt to physically take care of yourself during those times of hacking coughs, runny noses and running temperatures.

As a reminder, it’s flu season, but if it’s also your first run in with the actual flu by yourself during flu season, it’s time to repack your toolbox with a new first aid kit because stocking up on hello kitty band aids, alcohol swabs and semi-true articles on WebMD just won’t cut it. Obviously, if those symptoms last longer than a few days, I would check in with student health services (I even set up an appointment just in case because it’s never a bad thing to seek some help).

Good luck attempting medical professionals and as my Dad always says “don’t forget to wash your hands!”

By: Catheryn Mallari