Influenza season typically begins as early as October, peaks from December to February and lasts until May. According to Lafene Health Center, the flu is spread through respiratory droplets that are coughed or sneezed into the air. It may also be spread by a virus that remains on the hands after coughing or sneezing and then comes in contact with commonly used items, such as keyboards, doorknobs and phones.
While protecting yourself from the respiratory illness can be difficult in normal situations, being surrounded by thousands of students on K-State’s campus makes it even more daunting. However, there are several steps you can take to keep yourself as healthy as possible during flu season.
Methods of prevention
One of the best forms of protection against the flu is to be vaccinated. The Centers for Disease Control recommends a yearly flu vaccine for everyone over six months old – especially children, the elderly and individuals with weakened immune systems.
Although the vaccine does not guarantee total protection from flu viruses, it does greatly lower your risk of catching one. Lafene currently offers the flu vaccine for students at a discounted price of $17 and $22 for non-students. If you aren’t sure if you should get the vaccination, consult with a doctor or nurse.
Lafene’s website has some simple, helpful advice to help your body stay healthy and free of germs, like coughing or sneezing into your elbows or tissues, properly disposing the tissues and cleaning your hands regularly with an alcohol-based hand sanitizer or soap and warm water.
Lafene’s website also recommends eating a balanced diet, getting enough sleep and exercising regularly to reduce the chances of getting the flu.
An article by U.S. News Health recommended people avoid smoking and being around secondhand smoke which, according to William Schaffner, chair of Vanderbilt University’s Department of Preventive Medicine, can increase the risk of respiratory infections. Schaffer also advises students to disinfect machines after they use them at the gym and to give friends who are sick as much distance as possible.
If you still manage to get sick – then what?
Even if you manage to do all of these things (or even if you don’t), you could still end up sick with the flu. In that case, one of the most important things you need to do, according to Lafene, is stay home from class and other activities to avoid spreading the illness. If you do stay home, be sure to contact your professors and, if ill for an extended amount of time, the Office of Student Life or the dean’s office of your college. This will help you stay caught up with your missed classes and classwork.
You may also take an over the counter pain reliever such as ibuprofen, which costs $9.99 at Walgreens, to alleviate your discomfort and reduce fever. Once you’ve recovered, you should disinfect surfaces in your room and wash your bed sheets to reduce the further spreading of germs.
When you should see a doctor
Symptoms of influenza include fever, cough, sore throat, a runny or congested nose, body or head aches, chills, fatigue, as well as diarrhea and vomiting, according to the CDC. Many people who contract the flu only experience some relatively mild symptoms and don’t end up needing medical care.
If you think you have a fever, check your temperature with a digital thermometer. If your body’s temperature is 100 degrees F or higher for longer than 24 hours, it is advised by Web MD to schedule a doctor’s appointment.
Emergency signs, according to the CDC, include difficulty breathing, shortness of breath, pain or pressure in the chest or abdomen, sudden dizziness, confusion and severe or persistent vomiting. If you experience these symptoms, or if you have flu-like symptoms improve only to later return with a fever and a worse cough, it is important to seek medical help immediately.
While staying completely healthy in college can be difficult, there are many preventative measures you can take and many ways to help yourself toward a faster recovery if you happen to get sick.