The best way to stay healthy during the winter months is sticking to the basics such as getting plenty of sleep and exercise, Tina McCarthy, Director of Nursing at University of Connecticut Student Health Services and Registered Nurse, said.
Taking care of yourself can be as easy as sticking to a normal sleep schedule, McCarthy said.
“Despite the cold outdoors, finds way to stay active,” McCarthy said. “Manage your stress and find time to take breaks and relax both mind and body. Eat nutritious foods and drink plenty of liquids.”
In order to not get sick, Ellyssa Eror, Medical Director at UConn Student Health Services, advises students to have proper hand washing technique and respiratory etiquette. This means washing hands often with soap and water or using an alcohol-based hand sanitizer and sneezing sanitarily, she said.
“Coughing and sneeze into tissues, your arm or elbow, not into your hands,” Eror said.
Also, avoid touching your face because it can spread the virus from an infected surface, Eror said.
Another way to reduce the likelihood of getting sick is getting a flu shot, McCarthy said.
“Being vaccinated can prevent you from contracting the flu,” McCarthy said. “Even if the vaccine is not fully protective, it can lessen the severity of symptoms and shorten the course of the illness.”
If a student starts to experience flu-like symptoms, the first thing they should do is call the Student Health Services Advice Nurse to determine the severity of their sickness, especially if they have asthma, Eror said.
“If you have symptoms of the flu, which include fever, muscle aches, headache, cough and runny nose, please call the…Advice Nurse,” Eror said. “If you are diagnosed with the flu, then we recommend that you ‘self-isolate.’ Stay home from work or school if you are ill. Only return when you have been symptom-free for 24 hours.”
If one has mild cold symptoms, it can be controlled by over-the-counter medicine and students can go to class and work without worry, McCarthy said.
In addition to sickness, students should watch out for frostbite. Frostbite can occur after a few minutes of exposure to cold temperatures, but there are many ways to prevent it, such as dressing properly and cover the areas where frostbite commonly happens. Such areas include the ears, nose, chin, fingers and toes, McCarthy said.
“(Wear warm) clothing to reduce the risk of developing frostbite,” McCarthy said. Such clothing includes hats, preferably that cover your ears and offer face protection such as a ski mask but, wearing a scarf over your nose and mouth can be sufficient. McCarthy advises to wear mittens or gloves. However, she warns that mittens keep fingers warmer than gloves. She also suggests to wear warm shoes or boots that are water resistant and to always dress in layers.
Other ways to help not get frostbite include avoiding alcohol and metal outside, McCarthy said.
“Avoid alcohol and smoking as both of these can increase your risk of developing frostbite,” McCarthy said. “Avoid contact with water or metal which can be very cold and accelerate frostbite.”
Contrary to popular wisdom, lotion can make frostbite worse, McCarthy said.
“Do not use lotion or ointment on the skin to prevent frostbite as it may actually make frostbite more likely to occur,” McCarthy said.
For commuter students, they need to stay prepare and have emergency supplies in their cars during the cold weather, Eror said.
“For our students who commute, it is important to stay prepared. Keep gas tanks at least half-full and have enough warm clothing in the car to be able to walk to or wait for help if your car is disabled,” Eror said. “ Keep your phone charged and carry emergency supplies.”
Overall, students shouldn’t forget that they can always ask for help if they aren’t feeling well, Eror said.
“We, at Student Health Services, are here to promote your health and wellness,” she said.
Rachel Philipson is a campus correspondent for The Daily Campus. She can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.