How to Stay Healthy While Taking Classes as the Seasons Change
Between attending class, finishing homework and preparing for exams, you may feel you don’t have much time to focus on your health. However, if you don’t take care of yourself, catching a cold or the flu could stop you in your tracks. Whether this is your first or last year as a student at Upper Iowa University, follow these tips to keep yourself healthy as the seasons change.
Keep Your Hands and Home Clean
Germs commonly spread by landing on a surface and transferring to your hands when you touch it. To prevent bacteria and viruses from entering your body, refrain from touching your eyes, nose or mouth throughout the day. As soon as you get home from school or work, make a habit of washing your hands before doing anything else. It’s also a good idea to regularly disinfect hard surfaces at your residence.
When washing your hands, lather with plenty of soap. Rub the backs of your hands, in between your fingers and under your fingernails for 15 to 20 seconds. Then rinse with warm water. If soap and water aren’t available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer.
Avoid Sharing Germs
To decrease the chance of getting sick, avoid close contact with people who are ill. You may want to care for your bedridden roommate, but don’t get too close, and wash your hands after providing aid. Also, avoid sharing cups, straws or utensils with other people, even if they’re not sick.
If you end up catching a cold or the flu, don’t spread it to others. Stay home from school and work, and avoid running errands while you’re sick. Cover your mouth and nose when you cough or sneeze, preferably with a tissue, which you should throw away afterward.
Get a Flu Vaccine
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, getting a flu shot is the single best way to stay healthy as the seasons change. The vaccine works by introducing an inactivated flu virus to produce an immune response without causing an infection. Your system builds antibodies against the virus found in the vaccine, which is designed to match the strain most likely to be seen that year.
Keep in mind that you may still get the flu even if you receive a vaccine, but your symptoms are likely to be less intense and pass more quickly. That’s why you should still take precautions against becoming ill this fall, especially because it takes two weeks for antibodies to fully develop.
Flu shots are usually available for free. You can get one from your doctor, at a grocery store, pharmacy or UIU flu vaccine clinic.
Get Plenty of Sleep
As a busy college student, sleep may be in short supply. However, your body needs enough rest to ward off illness. Use these tips to help make sleep a priority:
- Take power naps between classes. Just remember to set an alarm so you’re not late!
- Aim for seven to nine hours of sleep every night. Cramming for that test isn’t worth it if you end up getting sick.
- Stick to a schedule so your sleep times are the same every night.
- Avoid caffeine and sugar after dinner. A cup of coffee or big bowl of ice cream may sound good in the evening, but these substances keep you awake.
- Discuss “bedtimes” with your roommates to make sure everyone gets enough sleep.
Stay Physically Active
According to MedlinePlus, regular exercise may help flush bacteria from the lungs and airways, reducing the chance of getting sick as cold and flu season sets in. The brief rise in body temperature after physical activity may also slow bacteria growth and help the body fight off infections more effectively.
Getting enough exercise may seem impossible as a busy college student, but it’s easier to squeeze in physical activity than you think. Here are some ideas:
- Walk or bike to campus.
- Take the stairs instead of the elevator or escalator.
- Play a recreational sport.
- Sign up for personal training or take a group fitness class at UIU.
- Go for a walk when you need a break from studying.
Focus on Eating Healthy
According to WebMD, if your diet is low in protein or contains too many processed and fast foods, your immune system could suffer. A healthy diet doesn’t guarantee you won’t get sick, but eating immune-boosting food decreases your susceptibility. Include more fruits and vegetables, whole grains, lean protein, and low-fat dairy in your diet to provide your body with the nutrients it requires to maintain a strong immune system.
Keep Your Stree Levels Down
Stress and college go hand in hand, but you must gain control over your stress levels if you hope to stay healthy while taking classes as the seasons change. Follow these stress management techniques to help you stay on top of all your responsibilities:
- Create a daily routine. Make time to study, socialize, exercise and sleep.
- Be realistic. If you can’t get it all done, cut back somewhere. You might need to take one less class, drop an extracurricular activity or request fewer hours at work.
- Plan ahead. Start studying for next week’s test today, not the night before the exam.
- Take a break! You can’t work all the time, so unwind with things that help you relax and make you happy.
Relieve Symptoms of a Cold or the Flu
Despite your best efforts to stay healthy, you may still come down with a cold or the flu as the seasons change. Use these tips from WebMD to relieve your symptoms and help you recover faster:
- Stay home and rest.
- Drink plenty of fluids, including water, green tea, fruit juice, sports drinks and chicken broth.
- Treat body aches with over-the-counter pain relievers.
- Ease your cough with an expectorant.
- Soothe a sore throat with a lozenge.
- Clear your congestion with a menthol rub or by breathing in steam from a pot of simmering water.
- Unblock your sinuses with saline nose drops or sprays.
- Run a humidifier at night to help you sleep.
- Visit the doctor and ask for prescription antiviral medication. This can shorten the flu if you start taking it within 48 hours of your first symptoms.
Succeed at Upper Iowa University
The flexibility of face-to-face degrees and online learning at UIU provides the perfect way to earn an education the way you want. Combining in-person and online classes may help you manage stress and prevent falling behind if you catch a cold or the flu as the seasons change. Just remember to maintain open communication with your instructors and make the necessary arrangements to ensure something as silly as a cold doesn’t throw off your graduation plans.