Tips for Staying Healthy, Preventing, and Treating Common Illnesses in College
With such full, busy schedules in college, students can easily fall off the bandwagon when it comes to looking out for their own health. But considering being around a plethora of crowds everyday and potentially getting exposed to various strains of illnesses, it should be a top priority for young adults to incorporate healthy habits and avoid getting sick.
As you know, falling ill can put you out for anywhere from a few days to a week or more, which can then get you behind on your classes, assignments, and projects. Keeping the immune system strong plays a big part in achieving college success. Without good health, accomplishing goals becomes a lot harder.
General Tips for Staying Healthy
No matter how healthy you are, you can still be prone to the occasional stomach virus or cold. But if you find yourself getting sick very often, then it’s time to reevaluate your everyday routine and start adhering to these healthy habits:
Get At Least 8 Hours of Quality Sleep
This may seem like a no-brainer, but is often disregarded in college. In fact, more often than not, students pull all-nighters studying and completing projects. But the truth is, the quality of our sleep directly impacts our lives and productivity. Sleep works wonders in building up immunity and boosting mental clarity. Needless to say, it’s one of the most crucial aspects to staying healthy in college.
Making sure to squeeze in 8 hours of sleep each night is one thing, but it’s another thing to make sure those 8 hours are quality. If you find yourself waking up every few hours from distractions, then your body is not reaping the benefits of sleep. To ensure a good night’s sleep, we recommend turning off all screens at least an hour before going to bed, staying active throughout the day through exercising at the gym, walking outdoors, or playing a sport, and avoiding caffeine past morning hours. If you are a naturally jittery or anxious person, it may help a lot to meditate, do some yoga, or read before bed to help your mind “turn off.”
Getting enough quality sleep is the number one thing you can do for your health and body. It does require some discipline, but avoiding procrastination and setting a consistent sleep/wake schedule will make it easier.
Keep Your Space Clutter-Free
A clean space is not only more conducive to productivity, but optimal health, too. Practice good personal hygiene, but don’t stop there. Keep your surroundings and personal items germ-free to help stop the spread of diseases.
Start by wiping down surfaces like door knobs, drawers, keyboards, and your mouse. The bathroom is a popular breeding ground for germs, so it’s important to keep it clean. If you live with others, you may consider splitting up cleaning duties or coming up with an agreeable schedule so that it’s a manageable chore for all. Invest in a quality vacuum and essential cleaning supplies so that you can spot clean and deep clean easily whenever you have time. Finally, don’t forget to wash your bed sheets regularly!
Being sedentary comes with plenty of adverse health effects, especially in the long-run. That being said, if regular exercise is not already part of your routine, it’s time to add it in. The key to staying motivated for exercise is to find something you enjoy doing. For example, some love yoga and pilates, others may enjoy strength training at the gym, while certain students may prefer to join intramural sports. There is no right or wrong way of exercising; the point is that you stay moving, use your muscles, and sweat the toxins out of your body.
Not only is exercise great for relieving stress, it also promotes better sleep, strengthens immunity, and improves cognitive performance. To fully reap the benefits of staying active, consider what you are eating and the steps you can take to improve your diet.
Dehydration can lead to a whole slew of problems, like stomach aches, migraines, fatigue, dizziness, muscle cramps, and more. These issues can really put a damper on your studies! So, don’t forget to drink plenty of water and bring it with you wherever you go. Having water on hand will naturally prompt you to drink more often. If you have to, find and purchase an attractive water bottle that will remind you to drink more water.
Water plays a big role in cleansing the body, transporting vitamins and minerals, and helping the body absorb nutrients to give you the energy needed to excel in school. It keeps your joints, muscles, and skin lubricated, too.
Eat Whole Foods
It might be tempting to pop a TV dinner into the microwave after a long day of classes and study sessions. But remember, your body needs proper nutrition to maintain optimal health. Similar to sleep and exercise, what you put into your body will dictate your physical wellbeing, overall immunity, and cognitive performance.
Be sure to incorporate plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables into your everyday diet, as well as whole grains and a variety of protein sources. You may need to get creative and switch things up to stay motivated to eat healthy. Dining halls may be full of processed fast foods like pizza, burgers, and fries, but there are healthier choices like salads and soups that will leave you feeling much more energized and cleaner.
Worried your busy schedule will prevent you from healthy eating? Dedicate one day of the week (perhaps on the weekend) to do grocery shopping and meal prepping. Having meals cooked in larger batches and portioned out for each day of the upcoming week can help a lot. Instead of coming home and reaching for a processed TV dinner, you have a fresh, balanced meal waiting for you!
Listen to Your Body
It’s not uncommon for students to overlook the importance of their health and push their limits in college. But listening to your body will go a long way in preventing and treating illness. If something doesn’t feel right, acknowledge it and figure out how to get better. Got a stiff neck or back? Take some time to stretch, and step out of your workspace and walk around outside while getting fresh air. If you’re feeling tired, don’t feel guilty about taking a nap. Feel a cold coming on? Load up on that vitamin C and get plenty of sleep!
Our bodies are always communicating with us. Learning to stay in tune with and honoring them can go a long way in helping us stay away from unwanted sickness, so that we can do well in school, work, and other endeavors.
Practice Personal Hygiene
Again, this may seem like common sense, but you’d be surprised at how many people fail to cough into their arm, wash their hands thoroughly for 20 seconds after sneezing into them, and more. Remember that illnesses are often passed through the air via coughs and sneezes, by touching contaminated objects, and exchanging bodily fluids. That being said, make sure to do your part!
The Common Illnesses in College
Sicknesses like the common cold and flu can generally be prevented with mindful, basic healthcare. However, they can also be easily passed on to those who don’t have a strong immune system, or sometimes, if they’re unlucky. It’s not uncommon to get at least one of the following illnesses during college. If you do, don’t beat yourself up over it. Instead, get familiar with and know how to combat them ahead of time so that you can take appropriate action at the onset of symptoms to help your body heal efficiently.
Common Cold/Respiratory Infection
Symptoms of the common cold including coughing, sneezing, running nose, and overall body ache. It’s a viral infection that doesn’t respond to antibiotic medication, but can be managed and treated with over-the-counter cold medicine, plenty of sleep, Vitamin C, and lots of fluids.
The flu can be very miserable if it lingers on. Symptoms include fever, sore throat, vomiting, muscle ache, fatigue, and coughing. Prescription antiviral medication can help put the flu at rest, but it can take a few days or a week to zap. If left untreated, the flu can become super severe, if not deadly. If you think you have the flu, don’t hesitate to see a doctor at the onset of symptoms.
This bacterial disease is highly contagious, and often triggers fever and a very uncomfortable sore throat. Doctors treat step patients with antibiotics, but they work best early on. So, if you suspect you might have strep throat, it’s ideal to see a doctor right away.
Though not as common as the above three diseases because most U.S. schools require students to get a vaccine for meningitis, it definitely still exists. It is very contagious and causes inflammation in the membranes surrounding the brain and spinal cord.
It might sound silly to say, “be careful who you kiss!” But, mono is a very serious illness that is transmitted through mucous and saliva. Infected individuals feel extreme tiredness, experience fevers, and have swollen glands. Unfortunately, it can’t be treated with traditional medications, so it’s extra important to do what you can to prevent getting it in the first place.
The best form of defense when it comes to combating illnesses in college is to avoid getting them in the first place. Practicing a few good health basics everyday like eating well, getting enough sleep, exercising, and staying hydrated will help you sustain optimal health for a lifetime. Once symptoms become apparent, it’s crucial to take measures early on to try and prevent them from getting full-blown and worse.