After a long summer of carefree living uninterrupted by a melody of sneezing and coughing, and a mere week after my glorious return to campus, my serenity has already been shattered. Just as classes started, I found myself once again shooting up Afrin between classes and alternately downing Nyquil and Dayquil as appropriate to ease my suffering. While an a cappella rendition of coughs and sniffles is likely to become the soundtrack of your life at least once this year, there are some simple steps you can take to prevent sickness from becoming a September to June regular. Make your mother proud and follow these tips.
Weather be damned
We are all well aware of the cruel joke that is Chicago weather. Monday: monsoon; Tuesday: high of 80 degrees; Wednesday: snow. Regardless of how unpredictable the skies may be, still try to dress weather-appropriate. My favorite way to prepare is by checking weather.com every morning for an hour-by-hour forecast. This way you can wear that tank top, but know to bring a sweater for the temperature drop at 4 p.m. and an umbrella for the night showers. As for the weekends: Please, if it’s below 50 degrees, wear your coat. Purple lips and chattering teeth are never in style, so pair your backless black shirt with a nice red pea coat.
Get Your ZZZ’s
Sleep! While I understand that 2 a.m. BK runs and Arrested Development marathons (and for any parents reading this: homework too, of course) typically take precedence over sleep, it’s still important to get a sufficient amount of rest every night. This helps insure that your body is better prepared to fight whatever diseases may come its way. The University of Michigan Health Service recommends eight hours of sleep per night to maintain circadian rhythms, strengthen the immune system and help you remember what you spent the last five hours cramming into your brain. I know you have 400 pages of The Brothers Karamazov to read, but you should have thought about that before sitting down for an afternoon session of Halo 3.
Please don’t make me have to remind you to wash your hands. I can understand if my six-year-old brother forgets (which, trust me, he doesn’t when I’m home), but come on. According to the Minnesota Department of Health, while 97 percent of females and 92 percent of males claim to wash their hands, only 75 percent of females and 58 percent of males actually do. Dirty liars.
And every time you neglect to wash your hands – even though it’s totally easy to do and only takes a minute – a kitten dies. Is that enough incentive for you?
Sharing: It’s not caring, after all
Tossing aside the advice of kindergarten teachers, there are some things you should definitely not be sharing with others. The flu and other viruses can be transmitted by direct contact, which includes kissing and touching. Everyday contact, like shaking hands, with infected individuals is the culprit behind many mystery colds. Some other common ways of spreading germs include sharing Chapstick, using one fork with your roommate to eat last night’s leftovers and four people eating out of a single pint of Ben & Jerry’s.
Germ sharing on a college campus gets a little help from shot glasses and beiruit cups. During your average college student Beiruit tournament, there’s only a single set of cups per table, meaning that when you step up for your moment in the sun (or hot and sticky basement, as the case may be) the plastic cups you’re chugging Natty Ice out of have been graced with the lips of every champion before you. Solution? Simple: Replace the cups with clean ones. Done.
As for shot glasses, it’s smart to wash glasses in between users or to have each person use his own glass. If the room is full and everyone wants in with only four glasses to go around, adopt the method of a friend of mine. Ask, “Are you sick? Do you feel like you’re going to be sick?” before sharing. Annoying? Yes. Obsessive? Yes. It won’t guarantee that you won’t catch something you don’t want, but it’s better than nothing. You can also measure shots in a communal glass, but then dump the alcohol into a regular cup. Now that’s classy.
Of course, it’s also important to exercise and maintain a healthy diet, which includes fruits and vegetables other than the lettuce on your Double Whopper. If you’re sick and need a professional opinion, contact University Health Services to schedule an appointment.
Follow these tips, and hopefully you can avoid spending Deuce Thursday in bed. And if you’re sick, try not to be cruel and bring your friends down with you. Take steps to make sure those around you don’t catch your disease (even if Ben Lee makes it sound so good). Just because you’re sick, you do not have permission to cough on your roommate’s, neighbor’s or boyfriend’s pillow so they’ll stay in and suffer with you. Misery may love company, but that person will soon hate you.