Tips for staying healthy during cold and flu season

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(Kirk Lyttle/Tribune News Service)

We’re approaching the tiny horror story of cold and flu season, a time when campus is stricken with germs and sick students. Follow these tips to help yourself and those around you stay healthy for the rest of the semester.

Get vaccinated!

Vaccines have a tendency to spark debate, but the influenza vaccine can reduce your chances of getting sick with the flu. The vaccine’s protection kicks in about two weeks after the shot, so don’t wait. October to November is the best time to get a flu shot. Flu shots are available now at the Health Center for no cost to students.

Pick probiotics!

These friendly bacteria can strengthen your immune system and ward off infection in the body. They come in a variety of forms, including options like capsules, chewable tablets and powders. Outside of supplements, these live cultures can be found in some yogurts, cottage cheese and soy milk.

Hands off!

It’s estimated that the average adult touches their face 16 times an hour. That’s 192 opportunities to spread harmful germs in just one day. Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth to lessen your chances of catching and spreading a virus.

Don’t skip sleep!

Sleeping less than seven hours a night can make you three times more likely to catch a bug than those who get at least eight hours of sleep. A lack of sleep can compromise your immune system’s ability to fight of a cold and flu. So use your pillow as a weapon to fend off illness and make it a priority to stay rested.

Choose the right foods!

Don’t underestimate the power of nutrition. Blueberries are full of disease-fighting antioxidants, pumpkin seeds can help prohibit viral replication and foods high in carbs or healthy fats can also help maintain the immune system. Stay hydrated to support both your metabolism and the immune system.

Don’t contaminate campus!

If you’re sick, stay home! There’s no excuse for risking infection of everyone around you. Some down time will aid in your recovery process and ensure you are healthy as soon as possible. If you must come to class, sit away from others and bring tissues and sanitizer. Remember to see a doctor if your symptoms persist or get worse.

Wash your hands!

It’s quite possibly the simplest way to avoid viruses! Scrub with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. Use a paper towel to turn off the faucet and open the bathroom door to prevent recontamination.