6 Ways Not to Get Sick This Year

Fall semester is around the corner and as most collegiettes already know, college campuses are a home base for getting sick. Between cranking out term papers on the weekdays and socializing on the weekends, collegiettes sometimes find it hard living by healthy habits.
 
Traci L. Brooks, MD, Director of Adolescent Medicine Services and Medical Director of School Based Health Centers under the Cambridge Health Alliance, says she sees 60 to 70 college-age patients coming into her office monthly with all sorts of health issues. “There are so many health mistakes college students make! I guess you could lump them all under ‘feeling that they are invincible,’” she says.
 
Here are some healthy habits you can start this year as soon as you’re back on campus. And no, I don’t just mean keeping Purell in your purse.

1. Don’t sleep with your cell phone!

In the age of convenience, we use our cell phones for everything: from texting to taking pictures, there’s nothing our phones can’t do. And at the end of the day, according to the Pew Internet & American Life Project’s study, “Cellphones and American Adults,” 90 percent of young adults sleep with their cell phones on or next to their beds.
 
Studies show, however, that sleeping with your phone can have a detrimental impact on your sleep. Massachusetts Institute of Technology found that the wireless signals affected one’s sleep and that radiation exposure reduces one’s ability to recuperate from a long day. Lauri Leadley, Sleep Expert and President of Valley Sleep Center, in Phoenix, Arizona, says that it doesn’t matter if your phone rings or not, even having your phone on vibrate interrupts your sleep and puts you at risk.

“Just because you don't consciously hear your phone vibrate, your brain does. We've seen patients be in the deepest stages of sleep, actually get kicked out of that deep sleep stage by even the smallest noise as a vibrating cell phone,” Leadley says.

Do yourself a favor: make it a habit of turning off your cell phone when you go to bed or better yet, leave it far out of reach so you're not tempted to text in the middle of the night. If you use it as your alarm in the morning, invest in an old school alarm clock instead.

2. Pay attention to your posture!
We’ve been told all our lives to sit up straight, but our posture is the last thing on our minds when we’re hunched over our laptops in the library — and this could mean Repetitive Strain Injury (RSI), a specific type of serious strain injury caused by doing the same movement continuously to the muscles, nerves, and tendons of your arms and shoulders. Things like bursitis, tendonitis, and carpal tunnel syndrome are instances of RSI. People who use computers often and for long periods of time without breaks (hello, exam season!), can get repetitive strain injury.

While you’re studying, use a lap desk or a table while using your computer to avoid putting pressure on certain muscles and nerves. Your laptop or desktop monitor should not be too high or too close to you. If you're using a desktop, you should have an extender for your keyboard, so that your wrists rest lightly on it when you are typing; type lightly on your keyboard. Your chair and keyboard should be set so that your forearms and thighs are parallel with the floor. If this position feels awkward, change it, but still try to sit up straight.

Most important of all, be sure to take breaks. Even being in a “perfect” position may cause problems if you stay in the same position for too long.
 
3. Don’t abuse Rx and OTC medications or swap pills!

We’ve all been there: a headache studying the night before the big exam, a sleepless night tossing and turning in your dorm bed, or a monster hangover from which you want nothing more than sweet relief. You pop a painkiller or pay a few dollars for your friend's Adderall and you think nothing of it.

Brooks says that she sees this issue as all too common, “Especially for things like Adderall, Ritalin, Ativan, Ambien, Percocet and Vicodin.”

According to statistics, prescription medicines are the number one most abused substances among young adults, other than marijuana. Some claim that the intentional misuse of prescription Rx and over-the-counter (OTC) medications is now as widespread as binge drinking on today’s college campuses.

Drugs, by prescription or OTC, are safe only when used at the dosage and frequency directed on the label. Any medication taken in excess or used for a purpose other than which it was intended can be very dangerous, resulting in addiction, overdose or even death. Not to mention, using prescription medications without a prescription is illegal and punishable by jail time.

“Don’t take other people’s medications,” Brooks warns. “They were not prescribed for you and you might have a very serious reaction.”