Every college student knows that close contact at school isn’t really optional. When you’re sleeping inches away from a roommate (or two or three), and sharing restrooms, showers, desks and dining space—not to mention the occasional spit-swapping – germs are bound to spread. Indeed, bugs like upper-respiratory infections, colds and, on the more serious side, mononucleosis and meningitis, tend to flourish on college campuses. You can, of course, protect yourself by getting the immunizations required by your school; but beyond that, there are steps you can take to stay healthy. Consider these strategies to avoid catching what everyone else has:
- Don’t wash your dishes where you brush your teeth
You wouldn’t bring food into the restroom, so don’t bring dishes, either. Find a utility sink in your dorm building to wash all plates and eating utensils. Otherwise, you’re at risk for diarrhea-enducing norovirus.
- Don’t share towels
Contact sports—especially football—are a fertile breeding ground for staph infections. If you’re on a team, shower after every practice or game and don’t share towels—doing so is a prime way for the infection to spread.
- Disinfect that sweat
Use a towel and disinfectant spray to clean any machine you’ve used at the gym; and if the treadmill looks suspect—with remnants of sweat—wipe it off before you begin, too. If you hit the water fountain post-workout, don’t let your lips touch the nozzle.
- Don’t share glasses, water bottles or utensils
Taking a sip of someone else’s drink or tasting their meal—especially with their fork—is a key way infections like mono spread.
- Ditch your friends when they’re sick
Don’t make plans with someone who’s coughing or sneezing; and if that person happens to be your roommate? Adopt “you stay on your side, I stay on my side” as your mantra. If someone isn’t feeling well, keep as much distance as possible and stick to a hands-off approach.
- Bring a thermometer
Knowing whether or not you have a fever—and if so, how high—will help determine how sick you are and how soon you need to be seen by a doctor. Digital thermometers that give a quick readout are under $10.
- Keep hand sanitizer handy
Germs are often spread through surfaces, like the keyboards in computer labs—you touch something that’s infected, then put your hand on your mouth or eyes, and suddenly you’re sick, too. Use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer after using a computer, or after doing a lot of touching in a public place, such as opening doors and pressing elevator buttons.
Hopefully these tips will help keep you healthy throughout the spring semester!