You’ve probably already noticed the coughs and sneezes in classrooms, the library or your residence hall — there’s no doubt that fall sickness has already arrived at Wellesley. With midterm season in full swing, many Wellesley students worry about getting sick, fearing that they’ll miss crucial exams or lectures. Nancy Baden, the Outreach Health Educator at Wellesley Health Services, has plenty of tips to help lower your chances of contracting a cold or the flu and recovering quickly if you do get sick.
According to National Public Radio, about 25 percent of college students come down with the flu every year. The number one way to avoid being part of that statistic is getting your flu shot! As well as preventing sickness, vaccinations limit the spread of a virus within a group. “That’s part of the whole ‘community immunity,’” Baden says. “So the more people that have been vaccinated with the flu shot, the less it will attack the community as a whole.” This fall, Wellesley Health Services is offering flu shot clinics, which are free regardless of insurance, at various locations around campus. The next times are Oct. 24 from 12-2 pm at Fall Frenzy, Oct. 25 from 11:30 am-1:30 pm in Stone-Davis Hall, and Oct. 29 from 5-7 pm in the Lulu Chow Wang Campus Center. “It takes two weeks for optimal effectiveness for your flu shot to kick in,” Baden says, “so getting it sooner than later is always better. And the only time you don’t want to get a flu shot is if you have a fever.” Wait until you’re feeling better to get vaccinated.
Keeping your immune system strong in order to fight off sickness is crucial. Make sure you’re getting enough sleep — seven to nine hours per night is optimal for college students. Eating nutritious, well-balanced meals is also important. According to Baden, this includes “making sure you have protein at every meal [and] making sure you’re trying to eat your five servings of fruits and vegetables a day.” She adds, “your immune system is made up of protein, and so if you’re not getting enough protein, it’s going to have a hard time fighting off viruses and things that you’re exposed to.”
Try to keep your stress levels low, which Baden recognizes can be difficult for Wellesley students. She recommends exercise, which has the added benefit of “revving up your metabolism” to help fight off sickness, as well as yoga, meditation and reaching out to professional supports like the Stone Center and the Pforzheimer Learning and Teaching Center. You can also take the online Well.N.E.S.St. questionnaire to check up on your self-care habits.
What should you do if you end up getting sick? Allowing your body to rest is essential. “Take a day off, or even half a day, go to bed early, just whatever you need to do to give your body that extra down time,” Baden says. “By giving your body that time, you’re going to heal quicker.” Don’t return to class until you’ve been fever-free for at least 24 hours.
You can always visit Health Services if you’re feeling sick. There are walk-in hours every day, and there’s always somebody on call if you have a health concern after hours. In addition, Health Services offers sick swag bags for $15, which will keep you stocked up for an entire winter. They include a digital thermometer, pain medication, decongestant, cough drops and tissues. If you only need a few days’ worth of supplies, Health Services provides free cold care kits.
Regardless of whether you’re already sick or just trying to stay healthy, make sure you’re washing your hands and staying hydrated. “When you’re not feeling good, you want to hydrate even more so than when you’re feeling well,” says Baden. “It helps to protect you [by allowing you] to expel foreign bodies that you’re exposed to day-to-day.” Hopefully, with Baden’s advice and Health Services’ resources, Wellesley will be as healthy as possible this cold and flu season!