“Tis the season for the sniffles (cough, cough)” my sickly friend tells me as I sanitize my hands for the third time in the past five minutes. Considering at least two dozen people I’ve been in contact with this week have had some variety of stomach flues or chest colds, I’m wondering when I’m the next to have a box of Kleenex at my side and a thermometer in my mouth. Of course, if I can remember some simple wellness tips I might just beat the Holiday Sneeze Beast this year. First, I must remember that most infectious diseases, like colds and flues, are passed handto- mouth or through mucous membranes. This means before I eat, bite my fingernails, put in my contact lenses or rub my eyes I MUST wash my hands first! This simple step is hard to follow because I forget just how many common areas I’ve touched first. For instance, today I’ve opened a door, used a public computer, touched a stairwell railing, used the stapler at the library, answered my shared office phone and touched the tongs at the Lawrence salad bar. Then, I think of how many sick people with unwashed hands who have touched these places before me. Thankfully Lawrence Hall has a hand sanitizer dispenser! Washing your hands sounds simple enough to do to protect yourself from infections, but you’d be surprised how many people don’t wash their hands properly. First, dispense paper towels can transmit germs to a just cleaned hand so you don’t want to touch dirty towel dispensers after you’ve washed your hands. Next, wet your hands with lukewarm water and lather up your hands and wrists with soap.
Don’t forget to scrub in betweenyour fingers and around your fingernails. You should continue lathering for at least 60 seconds. Lather time takes as long as it takes to hum the “Happy Birthday” song. When you’re done singing, it’s time to rinse. Dry your hands thoroughly and then use the same paper towel to turn off the faucet and open the bathroom door. This way there is no need to touch the same door handle as people who didn’t wash their hands after using the bathroom. Now your hands have made it out of the bathroom clean.
For those who rely solely on sanitizers, be aware that they are most effective when used after washing your hands and in enough quantity that it takes 30 seconds for the sanitizer to dry. Alcohol-based sanitizers can dry and crack your skin after repeated use. A small dab of moisturizer can help protect your skin from sanitizer-induced damage.
Once you’ve got your hands clean, staying healthy and preventing a cold or flu involves getting adequate sleep, nutrition and minimizing stress. Your body needs at least eight hours of sleep to maintain healthy functioning. Pulling all-nighters during finals week may overstress your organs and immune system leaving you vulnerable to illness. If you’re not getting three square meals and five fruits and veggies a day, multivitamins are an excellent back-up plan to your nutritional needs. Boosting your Vitamin C intake can also help boost your immune system during cold and flu season.
If you feel a cold coming on, studies have shown that zinc lozenges can help reduce the duration and severity of a cold. Take zinc with caution; however, overdosing of zinc could actually result in adverse health problems. Read the lozenge package carefully (as with any medicine) to avoid taking too much. The Wellness Center has free Cold Kits with zinc lozengers and hand sanitizers available to students.
Finally, relax! Stress can reek havoc on your body. Studies have shown that those who were stressed out were more likely to develop colds than those who were not stressed and had positive outlooks on life. With so many academic demands piling up as the semester closes, take some time to treat your body to some stress-reduction. Wednesday, Nov 30 is Stressbusters Day in Sykes Union Ballrooms from 11-3pm. Stressbusters is a free event for WCU students looking for ways to stay healthy and relaxed before finals week. Activities include chair massage, reflexology, games, funny photos, arts and crafts and more. Everyone attending will receive a free De-Stress Kit with valuable information on how to keep stress at its minimum for a healthier you!