Sick season is upon us. Lecture halls and classrooms fill with the near-constant racket of multiple individuals sniffling, coughing or sneezing. And there is almost always that one individual who has the most peculiar sneeze — the one that continually disrupts the learning environment with an almost booming noise.
Ladies and gentlemen, cold and flu season has arrived.
“Besides washing hands, flu shots are the best way to protect yourself against getting sick,” said Julie Gibbs, director of health promotion at Lafene Health Center.
Many feel that flu shots are the best, if not the only, way to go, if an individual wants to ward off influenza. But, others have decided it is best if they avoid the shots altogether.
Andrew Harkins, freshman in kinesiology, said that he now depends solely on washing his hands as a preventative method against sickness.
“I used to get deathly sick and miss school for two weeks every year until I stopped getting the flu shot,” Harkins said.
Though it is common to have a slight fever a few days following the injection, people generally do not get sick from the shot specifically. The illness can be brought on from a combination of things. The strands of the virus that are injected are not living, so the dead virus cannot cause someone to become suddenly ill.
People can have reactions to flu shots if they have an allergy to eggs or one of the other components in the injection. People who have a reaction to shots specifically, not just a flu shot, may feel faint or weak.
“There is a misconception that people get sick from the flu shot,” Gibbs said. “Typically, someone is exposed [to a virus] prior to their shot and symptoms come on following the shot.”
Brianne Pierce, senior in microbiology, said she believes getting influenza is a far bigger risk than getting sick from a flu shot.
“Influenza can lead to hospitalization and possibly death,” Pierce said. “Getting the vaccine also keeps the virus from spreading to others.”
While the flu shot may not specifically cause people to get sick, it does not protect against all illnesses either.
“The composition of the flu shot is completed by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention each year based on what viruses they predict for the upcoming flu season,” said Kristin Badders, pharmacy manager at Walgreens Pharmacy on Bluemont Avenue.
Badders explained that the body will develop an immunity to the strains within the shot. Some shots have three strains, some have four. When that particular flu starts getting passed around, the person who received an influenza injection already has immunity to the viruses.
A flu shot will be the same geographically, whether a person gets it in New York City, California or Kansas, because the CDC sets the standards for the vaccination.
Though an influenza vaccination is one way to stop the spread of viruses or protect oneself, there are also everyday steps that can decrease the chances of getting knocked down with illness.
Doing what is called a vampire sneeze can stop germs from spreading. Instead of using hands to cover the sneeze or cough, one should use the curve of their bended arm. So, the next time that person has to touch a shared surface – like a sink faucet or a door handle – they will not be spreading their germs.
To protect against other people’s disease, opening doors or pushing buttons on an elevator with hands slipped inside of sleeves will prevent possible spreading of illness.
Though it is difficult, with today’s fast pace of what seem like never ending to-do lists and busy class schedules, one of the best ways to prevent a campus-wide flu epidemic is to take a day or two break from public interaction.
If a person feels sick, has a fever more than 100.3 degrees fahrenheit or has even been told by a doctor to stay home, that person should do so. If one person is contagious on campus, there is no way of knowing how many people they will interact with and pass their sickness along to.
Colds typically start gradually, whereas the flu can take effect in a matter of hours. Colds usually occur earlier in fall and winter, whereas flu season peaks around February.
“[The] cold is a virus, and there is not a cure for viral infections,” Badders said. “Your body has to fight it off. You can help your body by getting enough sleep and being healthy prior to cold season, [as well as] getting medication to target the symptoms of the cold. It is also important to avoid people who are sick.”