Harsh cold can lower defenses

Students are preparing for that time of year again, when the cold weather brings bulky coats, scarves, gloves and the common cold.

“Number one, two and three: Dress appropriately,” said Dr. Glenn Egelman, director and physician-in-chief of the Student Health Service.

Although students know they need to bundle up for fall and winter months, Faith Yingling, director of the Wellness Connection at the University, said students should not underestimate the cold, and students who drive should make sure their cars are prepared for the weather.

Students who drink alcohol also need to be extremely careful, because it can give them a false sense of warmth, which could cause them to venture out into freezing temperatures, she said.

As a lifelong resident of Bowling Green, senior Ardy Gonyer is familiar with this kind of weather and recommends students layer their clothes and dress warmly.

“It’s that wind,” Gonyer said.

Egelman warns students about the danger of prolonged exposure to freezing temperatures that could cause hypothermia, frostbite or the common cold.

Water-resistant and wind-resistant coats work well in reducing body-heat loss caused by wind and wet clothing, which could cause hypothermia, he said.

Students still need to be aware of frostbite, even though the temperatures in Bowling Green usually do not get to frostbite levels. Even a short amount of exposure to low temperatures could be dangerous.

Egelman, who has only lived in Ohio for three years, said he dealt with countless cases of frostbite at the last college he worked at in upper New York, where he lived for almost his entire adult life.

“Extreme cold can be dangerous, just like extreme hot weather can be,” Egelman said.

The cold temperatures can also cause different types of the common cold or the flu.

In general, the flu is worse than the cold and has more intense symptoms, such as a fever, body aches, extreme tiredness and dry cough.

Egelman said there is definitely a trend of more students with colds coming to the Student Health Service in the fall and winter months.

Closer quarters make it easier to spread infections, especially in campus residence halls.

If students are ill, they can go on the Student Health Service home page and click on the Students’ Self-Care Guide, which determines what illness a student has based on the symptoms they are experiencing.

The next step is to find the time to visit the Health Center to see a doctor that can give a student health care advice or medication.

Although the common cold and the flu are different illnesses, they both can be prevented by avoiding close contact with others, staying home when sick, covering mouth and nose when coughing or sneezing, cleaning hands and by avoiding touching the eyes, nose or mouth.

Yingling recommends students practice healthy behaviors, such as getting enough sleep, managing stress that can weaken the immune system, being physically active by going to the recreation center, spending time with friends or going to sporting events.

Students should also adopt new habits that prevent getting sick, such as washing their hands, using alcohol-based hand gels or by avoiding sharing drinks with others, Egelman said.

Students can learn hand-washing and stress-relief techniques all year at the Wellness Connection and can access all other program information at www.bgsu.edu/wellness.