(The Verge) – It is the first week of the Spring semester and as you begrudgingly get out of bed, rush to classes and/or work, and brave the arctic temperatures, do not forget that the flu season is now among us. According to the CDC (Centers for Disease Control), “[many] people are getting sick with influenza” and while it is difficult to say how serious this flu season will be, they have already received an abundance of “reports of severe illness and hospitalizations”. In New Jersey, the flu season is intensifying and has lead to several deaths, as per NJ.com News. However, getting the flu is not inevitable and you can take steps to avoid it.
- Get Vaccinated: it’s free (if you have health insurance) and still cheap ($25 if you don’t). BONUS: it is offered as either an injection or a nasal spray. There is a high chance of vaccine shortage, so get it while you can. Contact Health Services at MU to find out when the next vaccine clinic is, or you can make an appointment at any nearby Walgreens, Rite-Aid, or CVS.
- Wash Your Hands/Use Sanitizer: and do it regularly! You’re not only helping yourself, but also decreasing the further spread of germs. Pickup a travel sized hand sanitizer for those times when you don’t have immediate access to soap and water. They are available nearly everywhere: try The Hawk’s Nest (convenience store in the Student Center).
- Use Your Elbow: … when sneezing and coughing to decrease spreading those germs to your hands and possibly then to other surfaces.
- Stop Touching Your Face!: it is the easiest way to catch any sort of bug, especially the flu. If you must touch your face, only do so after you have washed or sanitized your hands. Do you realize how many ways your hands come into contact with tons of germs? Have you ever considered how contaminated the following can be:
- Public touch screens, keypads, and styluses (used your credit card lately for purchases?)
- Public keyboards, desks, restaurant tabletops (how often are they sanitized, really? And most times with the same dirty, germ-filled cloth!)
- Door handles of any kind (especially that dreaded bathroom door)
- Public bathroom sink – faucet, knobs, etc.
- Shopping cart handles
- Escalator handles at the mall… or anywhere
- No Finger Food:… you can still eat it, but use a fork. It may look odd, it may feel strange, but it’s for your health.
- Use a Humidifier or Nasal Spray: as the air gets dryer in the winter, so do your nasal passages making you more susceptible to airborne illness. Humidifiers range anywhere from $8 to $200+, so it certainly doesn’t need to break your bank and can meet anyone’s budget. Check out Target, and Bed Bath & Beyond. Humidifiers are usually not portable, so when on-the-go, you can use saline nasal spray, which will work just as well, and can be used as often as necessary, since it’s basically salt water.
- Get enough rest: all students know the the worth and reward of sleep, especially after midterms and finals.
- Exercise: it boosts the immune system – visit the Fitness Center at the MAC for free, Planet Fitness at the Monmouth Mall, or Work Out World in Seaview Square Plaza in Ocean Township.
- Quit Smoking: as those ads have said for years, “the best time to quit is now” and it’s also true for avoiding the flu. If you do smoke, you know what’s best for you and I won’t preach. There are resources out there to help you stop — they helped me. If you do decide to smoke, please do so away from others and in well ventilated areas.
- If you get the flu: stay in bed, away from others, and drink plenty of fluids. The CDC recommends anti-viral medications such as Relenza® or Tamiflu® as these medications may lessen the symptoms and the duration of the illness. Contact your doctor or health provider as soon as symptoms start.
Good luck, Flu Fighters!