Staying Healthy in College

A recent article on Yahoo Health highlighted a number of health hazards in college dorms, ranging from the common cold to the dreaded (and very serious) meningitis. Although most of these things aren’t little known, they certainly can catch freshmen by surprise. To help you avoid some of the most common health problems, here’s some advice I learned the hard way:

  • Get a Flu Shot – In the whirlwind of classes, projects, papers, and other commitments that all tend to hit in the middle of fall semester, it is tempting to postpone (or even avoid) getting a flu shot. As a graduate student, I ignored my mom’s suggestion that to get a flu shot one year, and I managed to catch H1N1. Besides missing almost two weeks of work and class, I was under orders to quarantine myself in my apartment during that time. Suffice it to say, I’ve gotten a flu shot every year since!
  • Don’t Ignore the Warning Signs – If you aren’t feeling well, go to student health. I had a classmate at Vanderbilt who contracted a serious form of meningitis. Luckily, her roommates realized that something was very wrong with her and immediately took her to student health. Not only did the school credit the roommates for saving the girl, their quick actions allowed other students who risked exposure to get the medicine needed to prevent the disease.
  • Don’t Share Everything – Yes, sharing might mean caring, but you don’t need to share every single thing with your friends and roommates. Beyond the obvious, like drinking out of someone else’s water bottle, you should be particularly careful when sharing things like cosmetics. Besides the usual suspects like the common cold and cold sores, diseases like pink eye are very contagious and can be easily spread through eye shadow and mascara.
  • Think Twice Before You Shop the Streets – At the end of every semester, the streets of Boston (and other cities) become a veritable flea market of abandoned furniture as students who are moving decide not to take sofas, chairs, desks, and the like with them to their new apartments. Although it might seem very tempting to score a new couch or table for nothing, keep in mind that the furniture in question might be harboring bedbugs.
  • Take Care of Yourself – This might seem like common sense, but hear me out. During the college years, it is easy to get too little exercise, eat too much junk food, and stay up way too late. Instead of going to the vending machine for every meal, take advantage of the healthy choices many college campuses are now offering in their cafeteria. Put your college fees to good use and use the facilities at the student recreation center. Finally, while pulling an all nighter is almost inevitable at some point during your college career, don’t make it a habit. Not only will this prevent your immune system from being run down, it will also help you keep up with the craziness of college life.

Do you have any additional suggestions for college students? Please feel free to weigh in here or on our Facebook page.

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