As we learn more about the swine flu and it’s unusual virulence among young adults in Mexico, I am sure there are many students – and their parents – who are concerned about possible ramifications on college campuses here in the U.S. While we are too early in this outbreak to know all the answers about just how easily it spreads, there are some things students can do right now to reduce their risk of getting almost any type of flu.
Students don’t always consider the importance of making choices that will keep them healthy. It’s understandable when, for most of them, being sick has been nothing more than a minor inconvenience. Take that limited experience and add the workload and social commitments of a college student and you have a hierarchy of priorities that may put making healthy choices somewhere near the bottom. While more students are health-conscious than in the past, when they get to the end of the year with finals looming and projects due, even the best-intentioned student can find it challenging to stay on track.
With everything students have to keep track of, there’s little room left for more info, so I would like to offer a simple way to remember the basic things students need to do to avoid getting sick. I like to call it my “SWEET List”.
1. Stop sharing. Don’t go to class when you’re sick. Go to the doctor or student health services instead. You’re not doing anyone a favor by exposing them to what you have. The ban on sharing includes drinks, utensils, and towels, whatever. If someone else has used it or bitten it, it’s theirs not yours. And, please, don’t forget to cover your mouth when you cough or sneeze. No one wants to share that.
2. Wash your hands. I don’t mean the unenthusiastic rinse many people do as they leave the bathroom. I mean, use soap and take a little time. If you stop to think how many things you touch that have been touched by people who never wash their hands… well, you get the picture.
3. Eat your fruits and veggies. A slice of pumpkin loaf does not count as a vegetable. Have a spinach salad or grab an apple. If nothing else, take a multivitamin every day.
4. Early to bed. Contrary to popular belief, sleep deprivation will not help your grades. You need to get enough sleep every day in order to think and express yourself clearly.
5. Take care of each other. Friends can have a huge impact on how we treat ourselves. A little sincere care and concern, as well as a gentle nudge to seek medical help when needed, can help keep everyone stay a little healthier. (A group outing to get your annual flu shot is also a fabulous way to help each other stay well.)