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Sanitation saves students from sickness

Published: Thursday, February 13, 2014

Updated: Thursday, February 13, 2014 12:02

Flu season is at large again and a big question on the minds of students is how to prevent becoming ill.

Fortunately, the answer is quite simple: students can keep their hands clean.

Aside from getting a flu shot, hand washing is the best method of protection from the virus and a number of other pathogens that could land students in the doctor’s office.

“Washing your hands is one of the easiest things to do, but it’s also easy to forget because it’s so basic,” said Casey Johnson, junior nursing major of Qulin, Mo.

According to the Center for Disease Control, hand washing is like a do-it-yourself vaccine.

The Center for Disease Control recommends persons wash their hands before activities like preparing food or eating.

Hands should also be washed before and after caring for a sick person or administering first aid, as well as after using the restroom, changing a diaper, touching an animal or taking out the garbage.

Alcohol-based hand sanitizers are also effective but nothing does the trick like good old-fashioned soap and water, which also eliminates germs hand sanitizers can’t.

Every surface people touch is a potential breeding ground for harmful microbes waiting to invade the immune system.

A virus’s sole purpose is to multiply and infect as many people as possible. The flu in particular is spread by droplet transmission.

When a person coughs or sneezes without covering his or her mouth, they send a virtual army of germs flying into the air.

Similarly, when someone coughs or sneezes into their hand, they spread germs to everything they touch.

“Sneeze into a tissue or the bend of your arm since you aren’t usually touching things with that part of yourself,” Johnson suggested.

Victoria Williams, APN at the Student Health Center, said flu season technically runs from October through May, with January and February being the peak months in the Northeast Arkansas region.

So far the Student Health Center has seen 15 positive cases of the flu this season.

According to Williams, this is a typical number for this time of year when students return to campus after the winter holidays.

The winter months are known for cases of cold and flu, but the temperature alone isn’t responsible for the increase in illnesses.

“Although it is a common misconception, the cold does not cause a cold. Viruses survive longer in dry, cool environments, but it is the strength of the immune system that determines how susceptible individuals are,” Williams said. “Sickness is more easily spread with large amounts of people in close contact such as a college campus, especially in the winter months when more time is spent indoors.”

If students do have the misfortune of contracting the flu it is not always necessary to run to the doctor.

“Since it’s a virus, antibiotics won’t help. It’s best to just let it run its course,” Johnson said. “Stay hydrated, get plenty of rest and stay home to keep from spreading it.”

It is each person’s responsibility to help maintain a healthy environment and keep germs at bay, especially through frequent hand washing.

“It’s important to practice good hand hygiene to protect both yourself and others around you,” Johnson said. “Keep your germs to yourself. Sharing is not always caring.”

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