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How to Avoid Getting Sick This Season

The middle of the semester has hit, and you’re busier than ever.  Between midterms, your extracurrics, and upcoming formals, the last thing you have time for is to get sick.  Swine Flu might not be a threat this year the way it was last year, but there are still all kinds of nasty illnesses floating around your dorm.  Read on for how to make sure you stay healthy so that you don’t have to miss out on a single thing in your Google cal.

Mononucleosis (Mono – The Kissing Disease)
Mono is transmitted through saliva, so kissing is a big culprit for its spread (hence its nickname as “the kissing disease”). So, before you have a make-out session with that cute but sickly-looking guy at a party, think twice. Sharing drinks or utensils and sneezing or coughing can spread the disease as well.

Avoid it: If anyone you know has or had mono, avoid any situations that would involve saliva-swapping with that person.   That means no sharing food or drinks, and try not to touch their hands either, since they might have touched their hand to their mouth, and you might then touch your hand to your mouth.  Basically when you’re in the presence of someone with mono, be vigilant about contact.  Unfortunately there is no vaccine for mono, and saliva can be infectious for several months.  You’ve probably also heard about someone can be a “carrier” for mono, meaning they are contagious but don’t display symptoms themselves, and in all likelihood they have no idea they are a carrier.  Given this, it’s a good idea to avoid saliva-swapping whenever it’s unnecessary (we’ll let you be the judge of that), just to play it safe.

What to do if you get it: You can treat secondary infections that may arise because of mono (such as strep throat or tonsillitis) but there is not much you can do to treat the disease itself. If you think you have mono and your symptoms (see below) persist after several weeks, see your doctor, who will do a test for it.  If you have it, your doctor will advise you on precautions to take, such as not exercising or overly exerting yourself in the beginning.

Other Important Info! Mono is not as contagious as some illnesses, such as the cold, because it requires direct infection through spit. However, mono can last for much longer than most colds, and could leave you in bed for several months. Signs that you may have mono are: fatigue and weakness, sore throat, fever, swollen tonsils and lymph nodes, headache, rash, loss of appetite, a swollen, soft spleen and night sweats.

Influenza and H1N1 (Flu and Swine Flu)
Like a cold only much worse, the flu is not something you want to contract – especially when there are classes and the upcoming holidays (who wants to be too sick to enjoy a break from school) to think about.

Avoid It: The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommend everyone get flu vaccinations. Unlike last year when H1N1 had a separate vaccination, each year’s normal flu vaccine contains the vaccination against the three strains that are most likely to be the most common. H1N1 is included in this year’s vaccine as well as 2011’s. Since avoiding sickies in the dorms is next-to-impossible, don’t share drinks, utensils or cosmetics, and kindly remind your roommate(s) to sneeze and cough into tissues and disinfect areas they may touch when sick (doorknobs, facet handles, TV remote, etc.).

What to do if you get it: If you do end up with what you think is the flu, you can usually combat it at home with plenty of rest, fluids, and pain meds. If you are at risk for complications (usually in the very young or old, or if you have a weak immune system) you should go to the doctor. Some antiviral medications can be prescribed that may reduce the length of your illness by a few days.

Other Important Info! Living in the dorms puts you at a greater risk of catching influenza, and it’s recommended that as a college student you do get the vaccine – the flu is very contagious. Complications that arise from the flu can be deadly, so if you have a dangerously high fever, think you have pneumonia, or your symptoms persist beyond several weeks – see a doctor. Usually, however, young healthy adults get over the flu without any need to see a doctor.

Conjunctivitis (Pink Eye)
Conjunctivitis can be caused by allergies, bacteria or by a virus. This nasty infection not only looks horrible, but it’s also easy to pick up from everyday things like eye makeup, pillowcases, towels, and contacts. Make sure you are cleaning/replacing these regularly.

Avoid it: If you wear contacts, make sure you are keeping your contacts and contact case clean. Don’t share mascara or washcloths, and wash your hands if you are going to be touching your eyes. Take your eye makeup off before you go to sleep, since sleeping with it on can lead to infection.  If your roommate has it: don’t share anything that may have been near her eyes, and avoid touching your own eyes without washing your hands well.  If it’s possible, use a different sink than she does to wash up in the bathroom.

What to do if you get it: See a doctor, who will likely prescribe a topical medication that should clear it up right away so you can start seeing again.

Other Important Info! Pink eye is extremely contagious, so see your doctor ASAP if you experience symptoms to protect the people around you from contracting it. 

The Center for Disease Control

Meagan Templeton-Lynch is a junior Technical Journalism major with news/editorial and computer-mediated communication concentrations, with minors in English and sociology. She attends Colorado State University in Fort Collins, CO but grew up in Montrose, CO on the western slope. She hopes to join the Peace Corps after graduation, and then go on to get a master's degree. Meagan wants to write or be an editor for a national magazine in the future. She loves writing and studying literature. She loves the mountains in the summer and goes hiking and camping as much as possible. She is a proud vegetarian, and says she will always be loyal to Colorado, no matter where she ends up.
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