Fresh. Fit. Focused.: Illness Prevention


Melissa Schmitz, Staff Writer

It’s that time of year. Sniffles, coughs and the flu. Some people have a high tolerance for illness and never let out a single sneeze, while others are constantly getting sick. Regardless of which category you fall into, here are ten things you can do to prevent illness this season.


Wash your hands often. Wonder why doctors hardly ever get sick? They wash their hands before and after every patient they see. Christopher Tolcher, an L.A. pediatrician says, “I probably wash my hands 40 to 50 times a day.” It’s the first thing people suggest, but it is quite seriously the most important thing you can do. While it’s important to use soap and warm water to kill the germs, you need to wash for at least 20 seconds for it to be effective.


Don’t touch your face. Your mouth, nose and eyes are gateways for germs to get into your system. If you tend to touch your face a lot during the day, such as resting your chin on your hands, at least be sure to use hand sanitizer with frequency.


Keep germs off of surfaces. If there are no surfaces with germs to be spread from, it’s hard to get sick. This is especially important if you have a sick roommate, or worse, if your entire dorm floor is sick. Carry around alcohol-based wipes if you feel the need.


Exercise and eat right. Being in good health is half the battle. Healthy food will provide you with the vitamins and nutrients your body needs to function properly, while exercise will strengthen your immune system. However, when it comes to exercise, heed “the neck rule.” If your symptoms are above the neck [i.e., stuffy nose, scratchy throat, headache], it’s probably just a cold and you’re clear to hit the treadmill. If you have a fever, body aches or lung congestion, it might be the flu, so it’s best to avoid exercise until your symptoms pass. Just be sure you get to the health center as soon as possible, and try your best not to spread it!


Stay hydrated. We all know the body is made up mostly of water. If you’re dehydrated, the medium through which biomolecules move is reduced, and things such as antibodies have a tougher time getting to where your body needs them to be in order to fight off microbes. …But don’t hydrate with alcohol! It weakens your immune system for up to 24 hours afterward, leaving you susceptible to catching something, according to the National Institute of Health.


Another drug you should avoid is tobacco. Namely, cigarette smoke. And this applies to everyone, even if it’s just exposure to secondhand smoke. Cigarette smoke suppresses the immune system by destroying the cilia that sweep away germs within your nose and lungs, thus allowing them to linger and make you sick.


Get plenty of sleep. Without sleep, your body lacks the energy needed to adequately defend itself from the viruses that cause the flu and the common cold. It can be hard to get adequate sleep at school for numerous reasons, but do your best to consciously get the sleep you need to stay healthy.


Use cough and sneeze etiquette. Coughing or sneezing on your hands makes it easier to spread germs onto surfaces that many people come in contact with during the day, such as tabletops and door handles. So instead of directing the germs into your hand, cough or sneeze into the nook of your elbow if you don’t have tissues around.


Take time to relax. There’s stress at school you can’t control, but do what you can to keep your stress levels down, as stress hinders immune function.


Get a flu shot! If you haven’t gotten yours yet you can get one today at various pharmacies across Syracuse, including Wegmans, Walgreens and CVS.

Be conscious about your choices and stay healthy!