Avoiding Cold and Flu Viruses

flu season aheadFrom the Hilbert College Wellness Center
by Kirsten Falcone, RN

Avoiding Cold and Flu Viruses

It is that time of the year again, time for cold and flu symptoms to abound. Colds and influenza are both caused by viruses, but cold symptoms include a sore throat, runny nose, sneezing, congestion and coughing; and the flu adds on fever, muscle aches, chills and headaches (and sometimes vomiting and diarrhea).

Nobody has time to be sick—especially college students—so let’s review the basics of avoiding germs that cause illness.

The good news is you may possibly avoid catching both of them if you follow these tips:

  • Wash your hands regularly. This has been proven to be the number one defense against germs!
  • Don’t share water bottles, cups, or utensils. This is common sense, but not always observed.
  • Get a flu shot. A flu shot will help protect against three or four of the most prevalent influenza strains, depending upon which vaccination is available.
  • Disinfect your bathroom—handles, knobs, sink, countertop. Also disinfect all door knobs and surfaces where germs are more likely to proliferate.
  • Stay home to avoid infecting classmates. Professors are usually sympathetic toward students who call or email them beforehand when they will miss because of illness.
  • Take good care of you (follow healthful lifestyle habits)—nutrition and hydration, exercise, rest, etc. When you don’t maintain healthful habits, your immune system will weaken, giving germs the advantage.
  • Maintain a positive attitude. Studies show that optimistic people become ill less often than their pessimistic counterparts. You can do this by staying involved in life, giving to others, caring for a pet (if you are able), listening to music, taking up a hobby, meditating and praying, etc.
  • Avoid ill friends. Give them chicken soup, and then make your exit!
  • Don’t touch your face—especially your nose, mouth and eyes. Germs make their entrance into your body through these orifices, since they have the perfect medium for growth.
  • Reduce your stress. Do this by exercising, eating right, and getting enough sleep.
  • Don’t smoke. Smoking puts your lungs at a higher risk for infection with a respiratory virus. It also lowers your resistance to disease. Quitting now is a decision you will never regret!
  • Brush your teeth and tongue two or three times per day. Your mouth can be like a petri dish for germs. By keeping it clean, you may stop a respiratory virus in its tracks.
  • Take your vitamin C. Vitamin C is well-known for boosting the body’s defense mechanisms.
  • Eat red apples. They contain an antioxidant called quercetin, which strengthens your immune system.
  • Don’t assume you are sick if you have only one symptom. If you have a sore throat, don’t give into the temptation of thinking you are getting sick. Sometimes you will come down with something. But if you are vigilant about taking care of yourself, a sore throat may be the only symptom you will experience.

For more information on avoiding colds and the flu, visit these Web Sites:

WebMD:

http://www.webmd.com/cold-and-flu/default.htm

National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine (NCCAM):

http://nccam.nih.gov/health/flu/ataglance.htm

MedlinePlus:

http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/commoncold.html

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