The “Penn State Plague” kicks into high gear when the temps drop below thirty degrees. Sickness spreads faster than the latest Kardashian baby news. Your college probably experiences the same thing. Dorms, frats and crowded classrooms host billions of germs, just waiting to hitch a ride on your backpack or unsuspecting hands.
Let’s do what we can to avoid getting sick, get better faster if we do get sick and stop spreading those gross germs. Follow my 10 easy tips:
1. Wash Your Hands Obsessively
Washing your hands is really the best way to avoid catching a virus or bacterial infection. It seems easy, yet you don’t realize how much you forget. Try your best to wash your hands before every meal, after touching desktops and stair railings or really anything that other people touch. Remember to use soap and scrub with warm water. In a pinch, you can use hand sanitizer (which smells good, too).
2. Disinfect Your Stuff
Use the cleaning wipes your mom gave you to wipe down your room surfaces, keyboard, ID cards, your phone and so on. You can’t see the germs, but trust me, they live there. You can replace your potentially germ-infested toothbrush with a new one. Wash your bedsheets and pillowcases in hot water to kill germs. My roommate and I both love to spray fabric refresher to help keep our beds smelling fresh, too.
3. Open Your Window
The cold weather doesn’t make you sick. It’s staying inside, and mingling with the germs from everybody else, that spreads the viruses. Germs love warm places. So, open your window to air out your room. If it gets stuffy, you can buy a dehumidifier for your room. My roommate and I actually use an oil diffuser, which is perfect to keep the room smelling nice.
4. Drink Lots of Water
It’s important to stay hydrated, and drinking water helps flush out any germs in your body. I used to not really like drinking water, but I have tried to make a habit in college to carry a water bottle with me. Some popular water bottle brands include Swell and Hydroflask. Some people even like to customize the bottles by putting cute stickers on them. You will be more willing to drink water if it’s both convenient and fun.
5. Use An Emergency Sick Kit
If you’ve got a smart mom like me, she will have stocked your dorm with an Emergency Sick Kit for the inevitable cold you’ll catch this winter. Drag it out from behind that pile of laundry and make use of it. The best kits include: cold and cough medicines, a box of tissues, throat lozenges, microwaveable packets of instant soup, Gatorade, Vicks VapoRub, probiotics and a heating pad. There are different types of cold medicines that can be taken either in the daytime or nighttime to treat symptoms ranging from headaches to coughs. Vicks VapoRub is a personal favorite of mine. It’s great to rub on a congested nose or throat. Sometimes I put it on when I’m not even sick because it helps me sleep. I also like to take probiotics (chewy, gummy and somewhat yummy) every day to help my immune system.
6. Order Chicken Soup
Through the Penn State Hillel, a Jewish organization on campus, sick students can have hot soup delivered right to them – for free! They make kosher-style matzah ball soup in chicken and vegetable options that is comforting and nutritious when you’re feeling too sick to walk to the Dining Commons.
Anyone who doesn’t have this service at their school can order homemade soup online from Grandmaschickensoup.com or call 1-87-SEND-SOUP (1-877-363-7687). They deliver to all fifty states. If you’re not a fan of soup, you can try eating other foods that are easy on the stomach, such as any food within in the “BRAT” diet that my mom used to feed me when I was sick, which includes bananas, rice, apple sauce and toast.
7. Keep Exercising, but Carefully
As a general rule, if your symptoms are from the neck up and you have the energy, keep exercising. It will probably make you feel better. If your cold symptoms are in your chest or you’re really dragging, it’s better to take a break from exercise. If you exercise in a gym, be sure to wipe down the machines when you’re done so you don’t spread your germs. Afterwards, get a nice warm shower. Listen to your body, and only do what you are comfortable with.
8. Soothe Your Body of Aches
When your nose hurts from blowing, dab on petroleum jelly. Use lip balm on chapped lips (I’ve been loving Carmex recently). You can spray nasal saline to help clear your sinuses; when I’m sick, I like to keep this and sore throat spray right by my bed so it’s there when I need it. Heating pads are great for general aches (cramps, too.) Another great tactic for sore throats is to gargle with salt water and sip hot tea with honey.
9. See the Doctor
Listen to your body. If you feel like you need a prescription or a doctor’s opinion, head to your school’s health center or to an urgent care center. Penn State, for example, has UHS right on campus where you can make appointments online. If you are not sure about your own school, look it up to ensure that you know where to go when you get sick. Just make sure to ask if they accept your health insurance so you aren’t surprised with a big bill when the doctor or the facility isn’t covered by your plan.
10. Skip Class
Besides washing your hands and covering your mouth when you cough or sneeze, the best thing you can do to stop the spread of germs is skip class. Nobody wants to sit next to you when you’re sick. So, do us all a favor and stay in bed. Use this time to sleep, and hopefully get better quickly. Plus, I don’t think you need much convincing anyway to stay in bed on that dreaded Monday morning class. I hope the coming 2019 semester is a year full of healthiness (and happiness, too).