It’s that time of year again. The foliage is changing to shades of auburn and gold and students have swapped their tank tops and shorts for hoodies and jeans. All the while, statistically speaking, most people probably know someone hoarding facial tissues while sucking down Dayquil and Sudafed to try and survive the day. That’s right, it’s cold and flu season.
While this glorious time of year is both beautiful and reviving, it leaves many snot-ridden, aching for a hot bowl of chicken noodle soup and some potent decongestants.
The oncoming flu season can have quite an effect on the lives of busy college students. Along with the freedoms of our newfound adulthood come the daunting realities of responsibility and reliability. Taking off work can cut into paychecks that many students rely on, and skipping class can leave you behind and affect your grades.
“I skip classes when I’m sick, if I feel like I can,” Krista Glazner, senior in accounting, said. “A lot of times I’ll go just because they’re so hard to make up.”
The question is, how sick is too sick? All too often, determined students and dependable employees show up to class or work hacking and sneezing, causing more pain to themselves and potentially spreading their illnesses to others.
“Working while fighting a cold can affect productivity and hinder recovery time and expose those around you,” Dr. Linda Skiles, primary care doctor at Lafene Health Center, said. “To prevent catching a cold or spreading the virus, one should cover their mouth during sneezing and coughing [into your elbow] and wash their hands frequently with soap and warm water.”
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, people recovering from a cold or the flu should stay home for at least 24 hours after the fever is gone, except to get medical care or other necessities.
Skiles said she suggests staying home from school and work if you are coughing, sneezing and running a fever of more than 101 degrees.
“Sometimes that is very difficult with busy schedules and deadlines, but that also helps prevent the spread to others,” Skiles said.
Unfortunately, many working students do not have the luxury of taking off time to recover, due to their packed schedules.
According to a survey by the United States Census Bureau, of the 19.7 million students enrolled in undergraduate college in 2011, 72 percent worked while attending college; 20 percent worked full time while 52 percent worked less.
With more and more students taking up the labor mantle, many are left with hard decisions about attendance when their number is up for the cold or flu. To some, however, attendance is more than just a tally on a page or a mark on a clock-in sheet. It’s an important indicator of success in the working force after college.
“I attend class and work when not feeling well, because I want to be active, and [I] see attendance as important for achieving success in college and after,” Elizabeth Francis, senior in political science, said. “I rarely miss work and have to be seriously ill in order to justify doing so.”
Additionally, as understanding as most professors would like to be, many of them feel the obligation to enforce their attendance policies fairly.
“I do not distinguish the reason for missing,” Donald Kurtz, assistant professor of sociology and social work, said. “Three or more absences means they have failed to meet the course standard, and it can negatively impact their grade.”
With all these statistics on personal health versus students’ obligations to their jobs and academic careers, drawing the line between recovery and responsibility can be a challenging choice to make. The decision, it seems, is up to the individual.