A survival guide to avoiding illness this winter

Washing your hands is one of the most important things you can do to avoid sickness this weekend. (Peter O'Connor/Flickr, Creative Commons)

Now that winter (and flu season) is upon us, the chilly weather and stress from finals can make it very easy to get rundown and sick. This obviously sucks. No one ever wants to be sick, but being sick around this time of year is by far the worst. Everyone is going to be running around, trying to finish up the semester and study for finals, and you definitely do not want to be sick while taking a two-hour exam. You also don’t want to be sick around the holidays. The odds may seem against you, but there’s no need to worry. There are so many preventative measures you can take to avoid illness. Keep reading for eight of the most effective steps you can take to beat flu season!

1. Get your flu shot

This may seem like an obvious one, but a lot of people don’t realize how beneficial a flu shot can be. It’s the number one way to prevent the flu, and it’s also one of the easiest. UConn offers free flu shots through Health Services, and many local pharmacies such as CVS offer them as well.

2.  Wash your hands

I’m not talking about just after you go to the bathroom, I’m talking about every time you are in public. Germs can be spread so easily, especially when you are sitting in a lecture with 200 other students. If you are touching doorknobs, chairs, desks, etc., you should avoid touching your face until you have washed your hands. Chances are, someone who is sick has touched those things, and if you’re not regularly washing your hands the germs could be on them, just waiting to infect you. If there’s no sink available, hand sanitizer can also get the job done.

3. Sleep, sleep and sleep some more

Resting and giving your body time to regenerate is essential. Getting at least eight hours of sleep a night has innumerable benefits, including recharging your immune system, which is what helps you fight infections. Lack of sleep can negatively affect your physical, mental and emotional health, so it is super important to make sure you give your body the time it needs to rest.

4. Drink tea

My personal favorite on this list, something as simple as drinking tea can make a world of difference as far as staying healthy goes. Tea has so many benefits, including boosting your immune system. Tea can also lower the risk for heart disease, cancer and diabetes. While tea alone is super healthy, adding ingredients such as lemon, honey or ginger can add even more benefits. There are also many different brands of tea that specifically include immune-boosting ingredients, such as the Bigelow “Stay Well” tea available at cafes here on campus.

5. Increase your vitamin C intake

Vitamin C, which is found mostly in citrus fruits, is necessary for the growth, development and repair of all body tissues. It is also known to help boost your immune system, hence why so many people drink Emergen-C when they feel a cold coming on. Increasing your vitamin C intake this time of year can help give your immune system the boost it needs to keep viruses away. And in general, eating extra fruits and vegetables comes with many benefits.

6. Keep your room clean

Regularly wiping down commonly-touched surfaces such as doorknobs or light switches in your room with a Clorox wipe can help kill germs that you might not even realize are around. Especially if you share your living space with a roommate, keeping it clean can help remove a lot of bacteria that could get you sick.

7. Take care of your mind and body

As stress levels begin rising with finals just around the corner, many people stop putting their mental health first. It is important to find time to relax and relieve stress. The more rundown you are, the easier it’ll be to get sick. Meditation, yoga and other forms of exercise can be extremely beneficial to not only relax but also keep your body in good shape. This can boost your immune system, and sweating can help release your body’s toxins.

8. Bundle up

Extreme weather changes can easily suppress and weaken the immune system. Since it is still the beginning of extremely cold weather and students are constantly on the move from outside to inside as they walk from class to class, it’s important to bundle to help your body stay at a decently-regulated temperature. Go all out with your long winter coat and scarves, your body will thank you.


Melissa Scrivani is a staff writer for The Daily Campus. She can be reached via email at melissa.scrivani@uconn.edu.