Illness isn't inevitable
Students can avoid sickness by taking simple steps
Published: Thursday, February 28, 2013
Updated: Thursday, February 28, 2013 14:02
It can be hard to walk through campus without hearing the sounds of students coughing, wheezing and blowing their noses.
As much as students attempt to avoid getting sick, many still do. Everyone gets a little under the weather at some point because many students fail to react to several of the key factors of getting sick, according to James Davis, director and physician at the Student Health and Wellness Center.
Davis said the main causes for illnesses amongst college students are large gatherings of people, the use of outdoor transportation, lack of nutrition and hygiene and failure to seek medical attention.
“There are issues in gathering groups of people together under quick and hurried circumstances,” Davis said. “People gather together and illness spreads, so college campuses help that process.”
Avoiding crowds is a way of preventing illness, but for students it is not always an option due to the nature of a college campus. Kyle Cannon, a junior studying mechanical engineering, said he doesn’t do a whole lot to keep from getting sick.
“Basically all I try to do is keep my hands clean and keep myself clean and stay away from tons of people, but that is really hard with my classes,” Cannon said.
The expectation for students to attend class generates masses of people and germs, and also plays into poor hygiene. College students often fall under time constraints that restrict them from taking proper hygienic measures, Davis said.
“Kids often skip washing their hands or taking a shower to get to class,” Davis said.
Davis said pressure to attend class and other events contributes to more than just issues with hygiene — it can also affect sleep and nutrition. He said nutrition is a large factor contributing to health but student don’t take it into consideration.
“Students are in a category where they may not be as nutritionally sound as other individuals,” Davis said.
Sleep can also be a large part of the health equation for students.
“Not getting enough sleep is tied with not eating right,” said Alina Eldredge, a junior majoring in physics. “Both contribute to a healthy immune system.”
According to a national study, the average student gets 6.5 hours of sleep a night.
“The body has a way of naturally healing itself and keeping itself healthy, but it needs sleep to do those things and college kids suck at that,” Cannon said.
Exposure to the outdoors can also contribute to illness. Although cold weather isn’t directly linked to sickness, some studies have found viruses survive better in dry air and freezing winter temperatures.
Kai Gull, a freshman studying engineering, said in his opinion, the biggest contributor to getting sick is being in the cold without the proper clothing.
“I see a lot of kids wearing shorts and tee-shirts in the winter,” Gull said.
Transportation for many students is by bus or walking on foot. Students are exposed to the environment in both cases.
“Sometimes they pack close to a hundred people on the bus and I’m basically hugging five people at once,” Cannon said. “It is definitely a place to catch a cold.”
The lifestyle of a typical student makes it hard to counter the factors key to getting sick in the first place, but seeking medical attention after getting sick can also affect the severity of the illness, prevent further illness and keep others healthy as well. Most students won’t come into the Health and Wellness Center if they have a cold, Davis said.
“I never go to the doctor, ever,” Cannon said. “I try by all means to stay away,”
“From Oct. 2012 to Jan. 2013, 647 students came in to the SHWC with the common cold, but most students don’t come in until they get fever, coughing and short of breath,” Davis said.