For the past three winter months, hacking coughs, explosive sneezes, hoarse voices, and complaints about illness could be heard from all corners of Louis L. Redding hall, the Honors freshman dorm. College dorms can be prime environments for illness to spread, since we are all in close contact and, like in Redding, some of us can’t open our windows to ventilate our rooms and buildings. Here are some refresher tips for preventing illness on campus:
- Cough or sneeze into your elbow. Coughing or sneezing into your hands transfers germs to doorknobs/light switches/desks/etc. and spreads illness.
- Sanitize your hands often. When possible, wash your hands frequently. Note: if you can control which soap you use, choose a type that is NOT antibacterial, which is actually the worst thing you can use to kill germs. The antibacterial soap kills some but not all of the bacteria on your skin, and then the remaining bacteria that survive develop a resistance to the soap. Public health experts agree that washing your hands is the most effective way to remove germs from your hands, but hand sanitizer is a close second. Alcohol-based hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol content kills most types of bacteria, viruses, and fungi in a few seconds (but can’t kill some microbes, like norovirus or E. coli). The dining halls and gyms have hand sanitizer set up next to the doors that are convenient to use, and you can carry hand sanitizer around with you. The next time you are at Walgreens, you can pick up a portable hand sanitizer and put it in your backpack, and you can even buy a bigger bottle to keep in your dorm room.
- Get a flu vaccine. The flu shot is the best way to protect you and other people from the flu. You should get it early in the fall by the end of October. And don’t fret – it is a myth that the flu shot can give you the flu, since the viruses in the flu shot are killed. As it takes two weeks for people to build up immunity after they receive the flu shot, it is possible to contract the flu in that two-week time span (and consequently attribute the illness to the flu shot mistakenly). Getting the flu shot protects both you and everyone else from getting sick. This is especially important to keep in mind because people with underlying lung diseases, like people who have asthma, are at greater risk of developing a second deadlier illness like pneumonia on top of the flu. Here on campus, it is easy to walk to Main Street and get the shot at Walgreens.
- Stay away from other people when you are sick. I know some professors make it hard to miss class, but do the best you can to follow their policies and, for example, go to the Student Health Center to provide proof of your illness so you can skip class and not infect other people. We’ll all thank you.
If we all follow these tips, we can help reduce the risk of a dorm epidemic and all get through the school year healthier together.
Newman, Meredith. “This is Why This Flu Season is So Serious.” USA Today, 16 February
Rettner, Rachael. “Flu Shot Facts & Side Effects (Updated for 2017-2018).” Live Science, 24
February 2018. https://www.livescience.com/40279-flu-shot-information.html.
Wanjek, Christopher. “Fighting the Flu: Do Hand Sanitizers Work?” Live Science, 27 October