Surviving the common cold

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Photo by Marco Pedri

With cold and flu season among us, there are many things that students at Wilfrid Laurier University can think about and pay attention to in order to prevent themselves from getting sick and dealing with cold and flu symptoms.

“I would say one of the most important things that you can do as far as preventing getting infected is hand washing, it sounds really basic but it probably is the single most effective way to prevent transmission of infection,” said Karen Ostrander, director at the Student Wellness Centre.

A common way individuals transmit infection is through hand contact, specifically when touching your face, putting in contact lenses, before eating, shaking hands and especially after coughing, sneezing and blowing your nose.

As well, nutrition is important and plays a large role in your immune system’s ability to fight colds.

“If you’re not eating well, sometimes you can get run down and you’re more susceptible to infection and similarly if you’re not  getting enough rest,” Ostrander said.

“Those things all kind of line up with the student lifestyle, but it is something to think about or pay attention to.”

Though, sometimes it’s hard to prevent yourself from catching colds and flus completely. The best way to recover after becoming infected is to give your body time and rest.

“[Colds and flus] are both viruses, so antibiotics don’t work. Really, your immune system needs to basically overcome or build up immunity to those viruses,” Ostrander said.

If your symptoms are persisting for more than a week, if you have fevers that aren’t improving…it makes sense to have an assessment.

– Karen Ostrander, director at Student Wellness Centre

“There are some over-the-counter cold and flu medications that can be used to help deal with symptoms, but again, it’s not a cure.”

Medications such as Tylenol and Advil can help reduce fevers and help with general aches, pains and headaches.

Students often find it difficult to take the time their body needs when school requests high demands. Ostrander explained that having a balance is the best way to approach situations when feeling under the weather.

“It’s not always idealistic for everyone to stay home even when you have sniffles, if you’re coughing you should be covering your cough and coughing into your elbow so that you’re not spreading those germs. A lot of those germs are transmitted through the air so you want to try to do some social distancing, stand about a metre away from people if you are out with a cold.”

Students may also struggle determining when their symptoms are merely colds and when they should seek medical assistance.

“If your symptoms are persisting for more than a week, if you have fevers that aren’t improving with Tylenol or Advil or if your throat is so sore that you can’t swallow, then that’s something that you might look into and it makes sense to have an assessment. It’s hard when to know but if they have questions, they should absolutely come in,” Ostrander explained.

Doctors and nurses at the Wellness Centre can help students asses whether or not sore throats have turned into strep throat or if coughs have turned into bronchitis.

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