The flu season is in full throttle across the nation.
According to the Tennessee Department of Health, the number of reports of seasonal influenza and other respiratory illnesses across the state are on the rise. College students are particularly susceptible to catching the flu and other illnesses.
“With college students living in close proximity to each other and not always being as proactive about following healthy practices, they are sometimes at a higher risk of illness,” says Erin C. Keckley, family nurse practitioner and director of health services at Lipscomb University. “It’s not uncommon for students to eat and drink after each other which is an easy way for germs to spread. They often don’t get much sleep, which also weakens their immune systems.”
Students can play an important role in slowing the spread of the flu or other illnesses that are prevalent this time of year, she says.
“As flu season continues, it’s good to remind everyone in our community that they can take measures to minimize the impact of the illnesses that are circulating on our campus,” says Keckley. “It’s also important to keep in mind that if you do get sick, it’s also important to stay home so you don’t put others at risk of getting sick.”
One of the most effective ways to prevent getting the flu is getting a flu shot, she says.
“As the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says, getting your flu shot is the best way to prevent getting the flu,” she recommends. “We still have flu shots available in the Lipscomb Health Services clinic and encourage those who haven’t gotten a flu shot yet to get one as a preventive measure.”
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends a yearly flu vaccine for everyone aged six months and older. According to the CDC, it is not too late to benefit from a flu shot this season.
Keckley has several suggestions for minimizing the risk of illness during the flu season as well throughout the year.
- Wash hands often. Use hand sanitizer or wash with soap and water (for 20 seconds)
- Sneeze into your elbows, keep your hands away from your face. If you do sneeze, sanitize or wash your hands, again.
- In commonly shared areas in offices and other spaces, disinfecting the areas with disinfectant wipes is an important practice to implement. Clean and repeat.
Keckley says keeping a healthy immune system is vital to health maintenance.
“Getting plenty of rest and sleep, staying hydrated and eating a balanced diet is important to help your immune system especially with Vitamin C, Vitamin D, zinc and even elderberry,” she advises. Flu is not the only illness circulating on campus this winter. Mononucleosis, the cold virus and strep throat have also infected a number of students. Keckley says knowing the difference between these illnesses is important. She shares some key points about each (symptoms may include, but are not limited to, the following symptoms):
- Influenza: worse than a cold, abrupt onset, chills, fatigue, body aches, fever.
- Cold: runny nose, coughing, sore throat. Typically lasts five to 10 days but cough can linger longer.
- Strep Throat: severe sore throat, fever and often absence of cough
- Meningitis: fever, headache and limited range of motion of neck (often cannot place chin to chest)
- Mononucleosis: fever, congestion, sore throat, fatigue.
Keckley strongly encourages also avoiding contact with sick people. People who are sick should stay home for at least 24 hours after symptoms have resolved to protect others and prevent spreading the disease, she recommends.
“This should include avoiding going to work, school and other public places while ill, and limiting visits with friends or to people in hospitals or long-term care facilities or where vulnerable people such as young children and the elderly,” she says.
Lipscomb’s Health Services Center offers a variety of services for students,. It provides general medical care services, allergy shot administration, chronic illness support, health information, immunizations, laboratory services, mental health, medical equipment loans, travel health, tuberculosis screening, women’s health and skin and wound care among other services.
“The health center is here to help evaluate, test, treat, follow up or whatever the situation needs. We are here to serve you,” says Keckley.
Want to know more? Visit www.lipscomb.edu/healthcenter