Bad news, folks: It’s flu season. According to Student Health Services, the flu is a respiratory infection that lasts about 7-10 days — which is not exactly ideal with all the midterms and papers due this time of year. Being sick isn’t fun, and it’s even worse when you can’t afford to miss a week of class for it. Luckily, the flu is pretty easy to prevent if you’re smart about it, and we’ve got you covered.
First and foremost, get your flu shot! Seriously! This is the easiest way to avoid getting the flu and it’s extremely important. Even better, it’s also free. The University of Connecticut offers free flu shots throughout October and November. The next one is Oct. 24 in the Student Union room 104 from 12:30 p.m. to 3:30 p.m. The rest of the dates can be found on the SHS website.
Next, wash your hands often and avoid touching your face, especially your mouth, eyes and nose.
“This can spread the virus from an infected surface to you,” Ellyssa Eror, Medical Director at SHS, said in an email. “Flu viruses can survive on hard surfaces for up to 24 hours.”
“Have what we refer to as good respiratory etiquette,” she added. “Cough and sneeze into tissues, your arm or elbow, not into your hands. This (keeps) viruses off of your hands where you can spread them to other surfaces and other people.”
If you think you might be getting sick, there are several characteristic flu symptoms to look out for.
“Symptoms of the flu include fever, muscle aches, headache, cough and runny nose,” Eror said. “If you have these symptoms, please call the Student Health Services Advice Nurse (486-4700: option #1).”
If it turns out you are sick, don’t pretend you aren’t. It’s okay to miss class if you’re not feeling well. You need rest, and you don’t want to risk spreading the flu to others. Drink lots of water and stay in bed. SHS recommends leaving campus and resting at home, but if you can’t, stay in your dorm. Don’t go back to class until you’ve been symptom-free for 24 hours.
“We have both ‘flu kits’ and ‘flu prevention kits’ at SHS,” Eror said. “‘Flu prevention kits’ contain hand sanitizer, tissues, and lip balm and are available to any student. Our ‘flu kits,’ which are reserved for the unfortunate students who actually contract the flu… contain a reusable thermometer, tissues, hand sanitizer, surgical mask, and self-care tips. Both are free of charge.”
Additionally, all traces of the illness don’t just go away when you get better. Make sure you thoroughly clean your dorm or living space after being sick. SHS’ website advises replacing your toothbrush, changing your bedsheets and washing surfaces you wouldn’t normally think to wash, including “doorknobs, keyboards, cell phones, faucets, garbage cans, etc.”
Eror also stressed the importance of eating healthy and getting enough sleep. Ideally, you should be sleeping 7-9 hours per night, even if it often seems impossible with the crazy schedules and workloads that come with college. It might be hard to negotiate that, but not getting enough sleep can negatively affect your immune system and make you more likely to get sick.
Be careful sharing food with anyone you think might be getting sick, and yes, unfortunately, don’t go kissing anyone who is sick, either.
“Don’t forget to take care of yourself,” Eror said. “Good self-care can be the key to staying healthy.”
Basically, get your flu shot, get some sleep, drink a lot of water and wash your hands often. Your body (and your roommates) will thank you.
Courtney Gavitt is a staff writer for The Daily Campus. She can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.