Surviving College While Sick: How to Function Normally When You Don't Want to

Ever been sick at school and just crave to be sleeping in your own bed while someone nurses you back to health? Yeah me too girl... more often than I would like to admit. In college, your immune system fails you time and time again due to the overwhelming stress of classes, musky dorm rooms, exposure to every living disease on campus, and constant dehydration (we all know that Hydroflask has EmergencyC in it… you’re not fooling anyone).


Personally, my immune system wasn’t the best even before I came to school, so constantly having a small cough or stuffy nose has been a familiar feeling for as long as I can remember. I feel like this has sort of given me some advantage when it comes to being sick at school because I’ve had to learn how to carry on with life as normal even while feeling a little under the weather. Based on my prior experience, I have decided to share a few tricks of the trade to help you feel as normal as possible when you're pushing through those sniffles and need to keep up with classes, going to the library, or studying.

Alleviating Symptoms

For when I have a stuffy nose/sinus congestion… I take a decongestant every 4 hours (follow the directions of the medication); this is a great way to alleviate symptoms and help you feel pretty normal for most of the day. If you are allergic to/aren’t comfortable with taking such medication, essential oils (here we go again!) are a natural, holistic alternative. From the Young Living brand, there is an oil called R.C. that if you put a few drops on your finger…. just bear with me…. and shove it up your nose and rub it all around…. will clear up that stuffiness and help alleviate sinus pressure. I know, I know, it sounds super strange but TRUST ME it works.

For when I keep having those awkward coughing attacks in a silent class… Again, I keep up with the decongestants because it helps prevent congestion travelling from your head to your lungs. I also use the essential oil from Young Living called Raven and diffuse that in my room or combine it with Thieves, Purification, and Lemon and rub it on my throat and chest. I also try to stay away from coffee (I know it’s hard) and focus on drinking water. When I first wake up is when my coughing is usually the worst, so I’ll make a cup of hot lemon water (I don’t like tea or honey, so this is my substitute) to help soothe my throat.



For when I am going to class… I usually will dress in comfy clothes like leggings, sweatpants, sweatshirt, etc. so that I am not uncomfortable from both the sickness and the clothes I’m wearing. If it is cold and I have to walk to class, I’ll make sure that I am dressed super warm in a hat and big jacket to help prevent it from getting worse. In class, I chug water to make sure I am hydrated and to help alleviate my dry, scratchy throat.

For when I have tons of homework… I LISTEN TO MY BODY! If I am feeling so drained from being sick and going to class all day, I listen to what my body is telling me and take a little break. I will either take a short nap, watch a show, do my nails, etc., just to give myself a mental and physical break. This is such a small thing, but it sometimes is the best thing you can do for yourself. I don’t always force myself to go to the library; if I don’t feel like going outside, I’ll do homework in my bed, at my desk, in my lounge, etc.

For when I am going to bed… I will usually do a face mask to make me feel clean and refreshed while I relax and watch some TV or sit on my phone in bed. Right before bed I usually take a nighttime decongestant/cough suppressant, so I don’t wake up in a coughing attack or annoy my roommate. I’ll also set up my diffuser and diffuse a bunch of oils such as lavender, thieves, lemon, raven, etc. to help me fall asleep and keep my cold symptoms suppressed while I sleep. I also make sure to get plenty of sleep by going to bed early (and by early, I mean like midnight instead of 2 AM) to make sure I am well rested to do it all over again the next day.


Even though all of these tips can help you get through your day of classes and stay productive while you're sick, the best tip I can give you overall is just to listen to yourself. If you feel like you need to skip class one day to just take a day to rest, DO IT. Overexerting yourself when you’re sick is only going to make you feel worse, so just take a breather and focus on getting yourself better. Stay healthy this finals season!