Jennifer Ochall, a first-year nursing student, has an autoimmune condition that leaves her immune system weakened and has to take extra precautions to avoid sickness. Credit: Jessica Orozco | For The Lantern

Dorms: breeding grounds for the common cold, the flu and virtually every contagious sickness.

Perpetual illness is almost characteristic of being a college student. While this is common when living in the dorms, there are steps students can take to stop the spread of sickness. Dr. Seuli Bose-Brill, a physician at the Wexner Medical Center at Ohio State, said living in enclosed environments with lots of people can cause illnesses to spread quicker than in other living situations.

Students tend to spend longer amounts of time in their dorms near others during the colder months, which can allow sickness to spread more easily, Bose-Brill said.

“A lot of time in college, so much of everything is shared. People are in common spaces. They’re using the same surfaces and desk spaces. There’s a lot of people spending time in enclosed spaces, so generally you tend to see more of the flu, the common cold, and [gastrointestinal] viruses,” Bose-Brill said.

Physical contact as well as sharing bathrooms and objects such as utensils can also increase the likelihood of illnesses spreading rapidly, Bose-Brill said.

She said wearing a mask when sick, washing hands, staying home from class and avoiding physical contact with other people can help prevent the spread of illnesses, and students should also stay up to date on their vaccines and get their flu shot every year.

She also said that in order to prevent getting sick to begin with, students should practice healthy habits. Students should stay hydrated and eat nutritious foods, and items with protein in order to both prevent illness and speed up the recovery process, Bose-Brill said.

“Making sure that you are getting enough sleep, eating a good and balanced diet with fruits and vegetables, so you are getting nutrients, can help your body’s immune system function optimally,” Bose-Brill said.

People are more susceptible to illness when they are particularly stressed, sleep deprived or are generally not taking good care of their bodies, she said.

She said many people also suffer from diseases that weaken their immune systems, leaving them much more vulnerable to sickness. Jennifer Ochall, a first-year in nursing, knows this experience first-hand.  

“Because I have an autoimmune condition, my body is working so hard to fight itself, and I’m on so many meds to combat that that it weakens my immune system,” Ochall said.

Something as seemingly harmless as a common cold could last up to three months for Ochall. If she were to become ill with the flu, she most likely would be hospitalized, she said.

“If you have any illness, just be respectful, and try to cover your mouth when you cough, wash your hands, and if you can keep from going to class when you’re that sick, maybe contact your teachers,” Ochall said. 

Bose-Brill agreed.

“I do think there is this shared responsibility to keep each other healthy in the Buckeye community, so acting as a good citizen of the community, not trying to expose a bunch of people if you know you’re sick, making sure you’re getting your vaccine,” she said.