By Hanna Smith | Contributor
"Nobody really warned about how quick sickness travels on campus," junior Hailey Smith said. Cooler weather marks the beginning of flu season, and it can seem as if everyone has been falling sick.
College campuses offer little to no space for students to get away. From classrooms, to the dining commons, to dorms, students are constantly surrounded by other people.
While this creates the perfect environment for community, it is also the perfect setup for passing illness at a rapid rate. For this reason, students must take steps toward preventing illness by implementing daily actions.
Sleep is a rare resource at college, but it is also a key factor in maintaining health. Adults ages 18 to 25 require a minimum of seven to nine hours of sleep a night according to the National Sleep Foundation. Failing to meet this sleep quota may lead to a suppressed immune system, increasing the chance of illness.
Schoolwork, early classes and catching up on shows can get in the way of sleep schedules. Set a bedtime and stick to it as often as possible. Only break the bedtime if absolutely necessary. That late-night episode is not worth a weekend of tissues and coughing.
Food is another contributing factor. Students who consistently eat an unbalanced diet of foods low in nutritional value deprive their bodies of the nutrients necessary for fighting off infections. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) suggests a diet consisting of a variety of vegetables, fruits, grains, proteins, oils and dairy low in fat. Cut down on the intake of fatty and sugary foods as they foster bacteria growth.
Another leading factor is stress. It can be caused by a contribution of poor sleep and nutrition as well as a heavy workload. Schedule time each week to relax, watch a show or spend time with friends.
Finally, contact is the means by which bacteria enters the body. Do not share makeup and Chapstick, and clean makeup brushes regularly. Sharing sheets and towels should also be avoided as they collect bacteria. Avoid contact with the mouth, eyes and nose as much as possible. Keep hand sanitizer nearby and wash hands before eating. Hands should also be sanitized after sneezing, coughing or blowing the nose.
"I hand sanitize a lot," senior Katherine Gonzales says. "I keep little hand sanitizers in my backpack, in my purse, and I always hand sanitize my hands if I can't get to the sink. I can proudly say I have not been sick since freshman year."
Despite these precautions, avoidance of illness is not guaranteed. "Act on any onset of symptoms immediately so you can prevent contaminating other people," Gonzales urges.
Keep a kit on hand in case sickness strikes. Helpful items include a thermometer, cold and flu medicine, cough drops, aspirin or its equivalent. Stock up on easy foods such as crackers or fruit snacks and keep water nearby to stay hydrated.
If symptoms persist, students should contact the health center to schedule an appointment. Sophomore Carson Jacobs said, "The one thing I have changed is I don't wait to go to the health center any more. I've run into the problem twice now where I thought I had a minor illness and then it turned out to be something decently serious after getting checked."
The Upland Health and Diagnostics Center can be contacted by calling (765) 660-7520. Operating hours are Monday through Friday from 9 a.m.-5 p.m.