Health Talk: College illnesses

Welcome to college, the epitome of one’s time of independence,
freedom, and exploration. For some, this transition can be a breeze, but for others, such unprecedented personal decisionmaking can be overwhelming.
In the thick of things, it is not uncommon for your personal health to falter and your immune
system to weaken, especially when your dietary and sleeping habits change from optimal to
convenient. Unfortunately, if that does happen, you will not be told
how take care of yourself; every decision regarding your health will be left to your own wisdom. Here is a quick rundown of what to do when you get sick, so that it may allow you to quickly recover and frolic down the walkways of campus once again in no time.

The most common annoyance on college campuses is aptly
named the common cold. Viruses cause these colds; according to
WebMD, the rhinovirus is the cause of 10 to 40 percent of all
common colds. Because the cold is caused by a virus, you cannot simply take some antibiotics and be on your merry way. Most of you have probably experienced this sickness many times, with WebMD citing symptoms like a stuffy nose, sinus infection, sore throat, coughing, fever, or even some breathing issues. Medline-
estimates the length of the typical cold to be between seven and 10 days.

Almost everyone agrees that the best remedy is rest, and plenty of it. Be sure to drink fluids throughout the day to stay hydrated as well. Since viruses mutate every year, no two colds are the same, meaning there is no blanket medicine to treat the cold. However, you can
take Tylenol or aspirin to reduce the fever and cough drops or decongestants
to relieve other respiratory symptoms.

Just remember that colds, like many illnesses, are spread through the air or by touching
one’s eyes or nose with germinfected hands. All health officials agree on the importance
of washing your hands often, especially before you eat, and be kind to passersby in public by not sneezing or coughing without covering first.

Another common, but more dangerous, respiratory illness is the flu. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, approximately 5 to 20 percent of the U.S. population will catch the flu each year. Like symptoms of the cold, symptoms of the flu also include
body aches, chills, dizziness, and more severe fevers. In some cases, you could catch pneumonia due to the weakened state of your lungs. Luckily, the flu is more preventable. Flu shots are widely available, and Carnegie Mellon Student Health Services offers shots; last year’s cost was $15. Recovery is the same for the flu as it is for the common cold: rest, fluids, and over-the-counter medicines will work wonders.

One more topic of health concern comes in the form of sexually transmitted infections
(STIs). WebMD states that the three most common STIs are
human papillomavirus (HPV), chlamydia, and genital herpes. The first two generally have no
discernible symptoms in the early stages of the disease but are very harmful in the long run.
HPV can eventually lead to cervical cancer in women and to other potent cancers in men. There is an HPV vaccine available to help boost your body’s defenses, but the safest way to prevent any of these diseases is to use protection
when engaging in intimate activities. Chlamydia is caused by Chlamydia trachomatis, so
you can obtain a prescription for some antibiotics if needed.

WebMD lists symptoms including a burning feeling while urinating
or unusual discharge. If left untreated, chlamydia can cause internal organ damage, or even
infertility. As for herpes, if there are warts on the genital area, you should see a doctor and abstain from any sexual activity.

Finally, here are a couple pointers that may save you (or your roommate) from an inconvenient health problem. Although at times getting proper sleep may seem impossible, you should not underestimate the importance of getting a good rest. explains that if you are sleep deprived,
or if you don’t eat the healthiest foods, your immune system weakens. When you get stressed out, take a quick 30-minute break and take a walk or jog. No time?
Cut back on terribly addictive websites where you learn about other people’s every action or
interest. Exercise also helps relieve stress and strengthens your heart. These simple philosophies can be surprisingly effective.