As Autumn Semester begins to wind down and group projects and finals ensue, there’s one overlooked stressor that could sideline you for a few days –– the flu.
North America’s impending flu season is predicted to be bad as Australia’s recent season, according to CNN. With the peak of flu season just around the corner, the campus community is gearing up to help students stay healthy.
The flu is a contagious respiratory illness caused by influenza viruses that can infect the nose, throat and sometimes the lungs, said Peggy Butauski, manager of infection prevention and control at Ohio State’s Student Health Services. She said college students are especially at risk for contracting the virus.
“Since college students frequently live in close proximity with each other, they are at increased risk for contracting and spreading the flu virus,” Butauski said. “Flu viruses spread by tiny droplets made when people with flu cough, sneeze or even talk.”
While the season can vary each year, flu cases start to increase in October and peak between the months of December and February, Butauski said.
Symptoms of the flu include the typical cough, sore throat, body aches, fatigue and, in some cases, feeling feverish. Butauski said people with the flu can infect others one day before symptoms develop and up to seven days after becoming sick.
“People who are nearby may contract these droplets through their mouths or noses,” Butauski said. “It is also possible to get the flu by touching a surface or object that has flu virus on it and then touching your mouth, nose or eyes.”
Gina Forster, assistant director of nutrition for the Office of Student Life, stressed the importance of keeping consistent healthy habits during the season to help prevent the flu. Forester suggests a diet high in fruits, vegetables, vitamin D and iron as well as adequate sleep to support a healthy immune system.
“It can either be a direct correlation in that if we don’t get enough sleep, it affects our immunity,” Forster said. “Or it could be indirect in that if you’re not getting enough sleep, you tend to make for poor food choices which can also then affect the nutrients you are getting.”
In order to be proactive about one’s health, Butauski suggests students take everyday actions to stop the spread of germs. Simple acts of washing your hands often with soap and water, covering your nose and mouth when coughing or sneezing and disinfecting frequently touched surfaces helps.
Another helpful treatment option to prevent the flu from spiraling into more serious complications would be taking prescription antiviral drugs within about two days of getting sick, Butauski said.
“The best way to prevent flu is to get vaccinated every year,” Butauski said. “Students, faculty and staff can get their flu shot from Student Health Services. Walk-ins are available or schedule an appointment with our preventive medicine team.”
For Forster, maintaining consistent habits are an important part of overall wellness continuously throughout the flu season, but she cautions about falling out of practice.
“Once you get one puzzle piece figured out the others can kind of fall into place,” Forster said. “But once one puzzle piece doesn’t fit all the others won’t fit either, it’s just like a domino effect.”