Preventing sickness through healthy habits

Students may have been taught to bundle up before heading out in the cold weather or not to go outside with wet hair, but these are actually just some of the common myths associated with the flu.

“People still associate with the weather that if it’s too cold that it’s going to make more of a problem with being sick,” Interim Director of the Student Health Service Barbra Hoffman said. “That’s not why people get sick. They get sick because they come in contact with a virus and their immune system is down.”

Hoffman said the truth is that viruses and bacteria harbor better when the weather is mild. However, Hoffman said there is still a chance students can become ill if they do not follow the precautions of a healthy life-style to prevent influenza.

One way to stay sick-free is by getting the flu shot the University Student Health Service provides students for $23. So far over 1,000 faculty, staff and students have taken advantage of this vaccine.

Hoffman said they start giving shots in October, and she recommends students get the vaccine as soon as possible. Getting the shot in October or November is preferred because it takes two weeks to be fully effective, but Hoffman said the vaccine can still help.

“Ideally you should always be getting your flu shot before we’re in flu season,” Hoffman said. “I mean it can still help them, but the full effect of the vaccine isn’t there for at least a week or two.”

According to the Center for Disease Control Web site, the vaccine prevents the flu a majority of the time and its effectiveness has ranged from 70 to 90 percent when there is a good match between circulating viruses and those in the vaccine.

Another way to prevent the flu that doesn’t include a needle is by frequent hand washing. Hoffman recommends washing one’s hands for approximately 30 seconds with soap and water, washing the backside as well as the palms of the hands and in between the fingers, and reciting the alphabet or singing the “Happy Birthday” song twice to make sure they are clean.

She also recommends students keep their hands away from their eyes, nose and mouth, get plenty of rest (at least seven to eight hours), proper hydration and eat a healthy diet.

Another part of maintaining a healthy lifestyle and avoiding the flu is exercising on a regular basis.

Cathy Swick, associate director of the Student Recreation Center, said a good exercise regimen includes a combination of cardiovascular exercise, muscular strength exercises and flexibility.

Swick said the American College of Sports Medicine recommends people to be physically active everyday.

“Physical activity includes walking; so on a college campus if you’re walking to classes you are probably meeting the minimum 30 minutes of physical activity,” Swick said. “But obviously any form of activity whether it’s intramural participation, group exercise participation, playing basketball, lifting weights would all be inclusive of that.”

Swick also said the guidelines include three to five days of moderate cardiovascular activity and two to three days of muscular-strength exercise.

While it may be a good idea to exercise on a regular basis to prevent becoming sick, it is not recommended while one is ill.

“[Students] should take a few days off from exercise when they’re sick and get rest,” Hoffman said.

She also said students should watch out for symptoms such as high fever, coughing, fatigue and a sore throat. While these are some common symptoms of viruses, there is a difference between a cold and the flu, she said.

According to the Healthylife Student’s Self-Care Guide under Student Health Service on the University’s Web site, “Flu symptoms come on suddenly and affect the body all over. Cold symptoms mostly affect you above the neck.”

The Web site also said when one gets the flu they are more prone to bronchitis, sinus, and ear infections.

Student can find more information on colds and the flu and receive advice on what they can do for themselves while sick as well as when to see a health care provider on the Self-Care Guide Web site.

Students can still receive their shot by calling the Student Health Service at 419-372-2271 and making an appointment.

Flu Symptoms If students experience these symptoms, go to the Health Center: -a fever over 100 degrees Fahrenheit for more than three days -a sore throat that is bright red or has -white spots -an earache -a cough with shortness of breath -chest tightness -wheezing -chest pain -difficulty sleeping or lying down due to cough and nasal congestion

Source: Student’s Self-Care Guide