Dealing with a College Cold

Getting sick is a part of life, but getting sick in college tends to simply add to our stress.

Laura Magerkurth

April 11, 2016

Dealing with a College Cold

Let’s face it: college is kind of a gross place. Between shared desks and across-campus treks, bacteria spread faster than you can say ACHOO.

Getting sick is a part of life, but getting sick in college tends to simply add to our stress. Illness doesn’t have to drag out for a week or more, though—you can make it more bearable!

Prevention is key

While the occasional cold, flu or even strep throat is inevitable, you can take steps to prevent them or shorten the course of the illness.

Take a second or two each day to take a multivitamin and make sure that you eat all the fruits and veggies that you can. Adequate nutrition strengthens your immune system to keep your body healthy and flu-free. This article from the Cleveland Clinic gives a rundown of nutrients that boost immunity and examples of the best foods to incorporate into your diet.

Make a habit of drinking lots of water and only drinking alcohol in moderation. While coffee is the best friend of many a college student, don’t brew a pot in the afternoon or evening: consistent sleep is another major way to give your immune system a hand. If feel like you need a boost to make it through a class or are just craving a hot beverage, try tea. It has far less caffeine than coffee and fewer calories (that is, if you drink coffee like I do: with a couple tablespoons of creamer).

Hang onto that Tylenol

If your OTC pain relievers and cough drops are expired by just a few months or years, hang onto them. The expiration date printed on over-the-counter drugs like these tells the date by which the medicines are most effective, so they’re most likely still safe to take after their expiration date and will probably continue to help relieve pain. Even better: ibuprofen and aspirin are pretty expensive to keep buying on a regular basis, especially for a college student with a limited budget.

This doesn’t apply to prescription medications, by the way. Those should always be safely disposed of after their expiration date.

Extra tips from a seasoned student

Over-the-counter cold and flu meds can make a big difference in your ability to function, but there are other ways to get relief from symptoms before your DayQuil kicks in.

Take a long, hot shower to help with congestion or hold your head over a pot of boiling water in your dorm kitchen. Buy a small jar of mentholatum ointment at the drugstore and rub it on your chest, throat and under your nose. Gargle with salt water.

Of course, keep sipping fluids (especially water, juice and tea) and rest as much as you possibly can. It’s worth it to skip one or two days of classes if going to class would just make your illness worse! Besides, even if attendance is part of your grade, most professors allow students a couple of freebies for occasions, like when you get a cold.

If you’re ever wondering if you’re actually too sick to go to class, ask yourself these questions: will going to class be more beneficial than staying home and resting? Will I actually be able to focus and take notes or will I just feel worse if I exert myself by going?

It’s better to be safe than sorry—you don’t want a case of strep throat or mono to go untreated. If you’ve had a serious sore throat, fever or other symptoms that knock you out for more than a couple of days, head to your campus health center and get checked out.

Although a cold or the flu feels like torture in the moment, especially to a college student who’s motivated to do well in school, the occasional illness won’t jeopardize your future! While you should make school a priority, don’t put it ahead of your personal health.

In the long run, making positive choices day-to-day will keep you healthier in mind and body and taking care of yourself when you do get sick will put you on the road back to wellness in no time.

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