5 ways to avoid becoming sick

As students are entering cold and flu season, it is important for them to know how to avoid getting sick, especially when living in the residence halls.

Teresa Dawson, Director of University Health Services, provided advice on how to stay healthy for both faculty and students.

Dawson said while there have not been any cases of the flu at UNA this semester, one in four students will get the flu. Her tips for staying well include the following:

1. Get the flu shot.

Dawson said the most important thing students should do is get a flu shot. It is important to get the vaccine as soon as possible because the flu season peaks around the holidays.

In October, the University Health Services and the Student Health Center will hold flu clinics at the Guillot University Center and Collier Library. The flu shot is free to students, faculty and staff through University Health Services.

She said that one common myth about getting a flu shot is that it will give you the flu. Scientists use dead viral cells to create the vaccine, so it is not possible to become sick from the vaccine. The vaccine takes around two weeks to become active. There is an incubation period of two to three days when exposed to the flu. This means that once a person comes into contact with the virus, they will not actually become sick until two to three days later.

2. Practice good hygiene.

It is extremely important for sick individuals to cover their cough with a tissue and promptly dispose of it, she said. If a tissue is not available, one should cough into the crook of the elbow instead of into their hands.

3. Wash hands with soap and water.

Viral particles can live on surfaces for many hours, she said. Communal surfaces such as doorknobs, elevator buttons, appliances in the dorm kitchens or any public surface that numerous people touch has the potential to have living viral particles on them. This is why it is important for people to wash their hands with soap and water often, Dawson said.

If someone touches a contaminated surface and then touches their nose, eyes or mouth, they are very likely to get sick because some viruses spread through contact. If a person with these types of infections goes to the bathroom and does not wash their hands, they will touch communal surfaces and infect others.

People can use hand sanitizer if soap and water are not available.

4. Have healthy eating and sleeping patterns.

Eating healthy foods, such as vegetables and fruits, and getting enough rest is imperative. Dawson said getting a minimum of six to eight hours a night is a way to stay healthy.

5. Form habits that support a healthy immune system.

If an individual has a weakened immune system due to a disease such as diabetes, or is going through chemotherapy, they are more susceptible to getting a viral infection, Dawson said.

These people may wear a mask if they are around someone who is ill or if they will be around a large number of people. Forming healthy habits will also help to build up the immune system to fight off viruses.