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Follow Health Tips To Avoid Illness

Adesuwa Osagiede, Health Editor

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People, especially young adults like students at Allen Community College, underestimate the importance of staying healthy and all the little things that come with it, such as washing hands and disinfecting objects as frequently as possible. Also, with the cold and flu season upon us and the stressful final part of the semester rapidly approaching, there are things young adults need to take more seriously.

Deidre Wilson, a public health nurse at the Southeast Kansas Multi-County Health Department in Iola, answered a few questions about staying healthy this time of year.

1.How do I know if I have a seasonal allergy or a cold?

Seasonal allergies and colds are similar. Allergies have an occurrence around the same time each year, and have a sudden onset. Colds are caused by a virus, and one of the marking symptoms of a cold is a fever. In addition, the flu is a virus, but is worse and can have an increase in cold like symptoms to include achiness, generalized malaise, and fever.

  1. Are there ways to prevent seasonal allergies?

Not necessarily; the allergens come with the seasons changing, but if one knows what specific allergen that they are triggered by, it should be avoided. It is best to stay indoors if the allergy count is high, and beneficial to wear a mask if working outside. These preventative measures will help decrease the exposure. Furthermore, if the allergies persist or worsen one may need to see an allergist.

  1. With the season changing, is there anything I could do more or less of?

It is beneficial to have a healthy immune system. For that reason, one should maintain a healthy, well-balanced diet with foods rich in Vitamin C, a half plate of fruits and vegetables, and to avoid sugars and processed foods. This, of course, can be difficult for a college student, but meal planning ahead and making meals together will help with the expense. Continue to stay physically active in the cold winter months. Also, get plenty of sleep. Not getting adequate rest can weaken your immune system.

Also decrease risky sexual behavior. There was an increase in STI (Sexually Transmitted Infection) treatment at the health department in the winter months last year.

If one becomes sick, stay home to avoid exposure to others and avoid crowds if illnesses are prevalent.

  1. How important is it to wash my hands?

Good hand hygiene is important. It is the number one preventative measure in spreading illnesses. A few examples:

* Flu is spread by droplets (cough, sneeze, talk) so sneeze into the elbow instead of hands.

* Hepatitis A can be spread from not washing hands well after using the bathroom. In the case of a person with a diarrheal illness it is especially important to wash hands if handling food.

* In a college dorm room setting it is best not to share food, drinks, and eating utensils. This is how meningitis is spread.

* Vaccine preventable disease can be reduced by receiving the recommended vaccinations: influenza, meningitis, and human papillomavirus (HPV).

  1. Can I get sick if I don’t dress according to the season?

No, colds and flu are not due to the cold weather or being outside in the cold. One sees a rise in cold and flu viruses more in the winter months due to the prevalence of the virus and being inside more often. These close quarters make it easier to spread the germs.

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