As fall arrives on campus, so do a host of seasonal illnesses, which causes a need for students to be proactive about staying healthy.
The most common illnesses at this time of year are sinus infections, respiratory tract infections, strep infections, bronchitis and gastrointestinal illnesses. Robert Hughes, Ph. D, family physician at Primary Care Medical Center, explained several factors that often contribute to these illnesses.
“Sinus infections are brought about typically by a few different things, number one being a lot of allergies precipitate those,” Hughes said. “The second thing is that you’re starting to put people in confined spaces with the temperature changing, usually in a school setting and if someone has a contagious illness, it spreads from person to person.”
Hughes said also, harvesting crops and burning tobacco can flare allergies and make them more susceptible to catch acute infections.
Although the flu typically spreads in December, January and February, vaccines are available now. Judy Lyle, health educator, encourages students to get a flu shot because this is the best time of the year to prevent the flu.
“We’re starting the beginning of flu season and health services does have some flu vaccine on hand for students right now,” Lyle said. “We were able to purchase 100 doses and we gave out 45 doses (Monday) at the student health fair over at the Wellness Center. So what we have left is on a first come first serve basis so students can either call me and make an appointment for a flu shot or they can just show up and we’ll give them one.”
Hughes said students can maintain good health by getting adequate sleep, having a nutritious diet, exercising, avoiding getting close to people who are sick and frequently washing hands. However, he said, if students do become ill, they need to drink plenty of fluids and take medicine.
“Drink a lot of extra fluids no matter what the illness is,” Hughes said. “The best thing to drink when you’re sick is a sports drink whether it be Gatorade or something similar to that; the other thing is if you feel bad in general either Tylenol or Ibuprofen; seek medical attention for more serious illnesses.”
Students can visit Primary Care or Health Services at Murray State to seek additional medical care. Primary Care is open seven days a week from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. on weekdays and 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. on weekends. Murray State Health Services is open 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Friday and are closed Wednesday afternoons.
Students can reduce stress that makes them more susceptible to illness by not procrastinating, staying on top of their assignments and asking their professors for help. Hughes thinks students may put themselves at risk for illness, but they do tend to recover rather quickly.
Said Hughes: “We see a pretty substantial number of college students, but one thing about college students even though they’re studying and sometimes running on a low number of hours of sleep, due to their age they’re by and large healthier than the general population; they tend to shake off illness pretty quickly.”
Story by Dominique Duarte, Staff writer.