It will come as no surprise to anyone who has ever sat in a lecture hall in February that illness spreads like wildfire on college campuses. The acoustics of a typical lecture hall amplify not only the professor’s voice but also the hundreds of sniffles and coughs that echo throughout. Most students know that sickness at college is a completely different ball game than curling up on the couch with a cold at home. At college, it’s commonplace to catch a new cold every couple of weeks, but the trek to health services often doesn’t seem worth getting out of bed.
The fast-paced, chaotic college lifestyle and the abundance of germs in close quarters makes campus a breeding ground for a variety of viruses. Infectious diseases often spread where large groups of people are in close proximity to one another. Like most colleges, BC is full of areas where germs spread easily, from the library to the Plex to residence halls. Not only does close contact increase your risk of getting sick, but stress and busy schedules also lead students to neglect their health, lowering resistance to viruses and infections.
Cold “horror” stories range from week-long sinus infections to the dreaded mononucleosis that can have negative impacts on both social and academic life. Most of these illnesses can be overcome with rest and some medication but, according to Alan Glass, former President of the American College Health Association, these colds can cause students to miss classes and even have a significant impact on grades.
Luckily, there are some tips and tricks that you can follow as a BC student to stay healthy and combat sickness. One of the first steps to protecting yourself from viruses is getting all necessary immunizations and an annual flu shot. BC Health Services provides flu shots for students in the fall, so watch out for their emails during that time of year. Another option is to take the Comm. Ave bus down to Cleveland Circle, where you can walk into CVS and get your flu shot from the pharmacy. Remember, it’s never too late to get the flu shot!
In addition to the most basic, important ways to stay healthy, like washing your hands frequently and being cautious about the spread of germs, there are other specific tips you should follow to avoid sickness. When it comes to going out, be sure not to share cups, and, if you are sick, it is best to skip any drinking and just stay in for the night. Drinking only from cups that you know are clean can ensure that you don’t accidentally catch mono from a random cup being used to play pong, and staying in for the night ensures you don’t lose sleep or waste energy, making it harder for your body to recover.
Keeping dorm rooms clean is another essential strategy for combating the spread of bacteria. According to CollegeStats.org, doorknobs, dresser surfaces, and bed sheets that were swabbed in men’s dorm rooms all had over 1.5 million CFU/square inches of bacteria on average. As for women’s dorm rooms, bathroom door knobs were, on average, just as dirty as men’s dorm room sheets, and bathroom light switches had over 25,000 CFU/square inches of bacteria. Clearly, keeping your dorm room clean is important, not just for when friends (or your parents!) come over, but for your own health.
Keeping your room clean doesn’t assume you always make your bed and put laundry away, it means dusting and wiping down surfaces, vacuuming the floor, changing bed sheets, and using disinfectant wipes to clean doorknobs and light switches. Lugging your dirty clothes and sheets down to the laundry room can be one of the most tedious and irritating experiences, but it is essential to keep your bed sheets clean and fresh. Experts recommend washing bed sheets every two weeks with a high heat wash and dry cycle to kill all bacteria.
There are yet still more measures students can take while on campus to prevent sickness. BuzzFeed outlines many of these crucial tips, ranging from keeping your backpack off of your bed or bed pillows to washing your towels after three uses. Living on a college campus like BC means constantly coming into contact with other people and other people’s bacteria, making college students more prone to catching viruses and infections. By following this advice and being extra cautious around others, especially during nights out, you can counter fast-spreading illness and be ahead of the game when it comes to the pool of bacteria comprising a college campus.