How to avoid getting sick during flu season

Photo Credit: Toronto Star

Photo Credit: Toronto Star

Brace yourself, winter is coming! With the season change, the absolute dreaded cold and flu season is upon us. Universities, with their large and ever growing populations, tend to be cesspools for germs, bacteria and diseases. This can make it quite difficult for students to avoid getting sick so that they can perform at their best academically. With that being said, here are 10 ways to try to avoid getting sick:

  1. Get your yearly flu shot

There is nothing university students love more than free stuff. Flu shots are available at any doctor’s office or nurse practitioner, local public health unit and participating pharmacies for FREE! Not only are they free but they are also safe and “proven to reduce the number of doctor visits, hospitalizations and deaths related to the flu,” according to the Government of Ontario, who also call the flu shot “your best defence”.

“To give your immune system the best chance at protecting you from the flu, the number one thing you can do is get the flu shot,” said Dr. Adam MacNeil, an associate professor of immunology here at Brock.

“It shows your immune system what the flu probably looks like, so it can be best prepared to fight it.”

  1. Wash Your Hands

Everyone has learned since primary school that washing your hands is vital for staying healthy. Washing your hands is by no means hard and comes with benefits that greatly outweigh the effort of scrubbing for a few seconds.

  1. Drink Water

Many health organizations recommend drinking two litres of water a day. Simply drinking water can have many benefits for the human body, like staying hydrated.

  1. Have good hygiene

Having good hygiene goes a long way in keeping your body healthy and clean. Showering daily, changing bed sheets and not rewearing clothes again before doing laundry are a few simple things to practice to avoid getting sick. Avoid sneezing into your hands and don’t share things like lipstick and water bottles.


  1. Get enough sleep

University students are notorious for not getting enough sleep. However, being sleep deprived can greatly increase your chance of getting sick. Most students are aged 18 to 25 and the American National Sleep Foundation recommends seven to nine hours of sleep for that age group. People who get less than seven hours of sleep are three times more likely to get sick than someone who gets eight hours.


  1. Dress accordingly for the weather

As somewhat of a self-proclaimed fashion icon, the struggle of wanting to look good yet still be comfortable at the same time is an admirable goal. If you are trying to avoid getting sick, however, you might just have to bite the bullet and sacrifice your fashionista ways in order to dress appropriately for the weather.

  1. Physical activity

This does not mean you need to hit the gym like 1970s Arnold Schwarzenegger; in fact, over-exertion can stress your immune system. Even minimal physical activity, such as going for a run once a week, can help strengthen your immune system and cut down the risk of getting sick.

  1. Eat a balanced diet

Telling university students to eat healthy is not new, but adding certain foods to your diet can be beneficial. Fruits and vegetables are a good place to start, as they are loaded with vitamins, minerals and fiber. Green, ginseng and lemon tea have been shown by researchers to help fight against the flu, common colds and other illnesses. Lastly, if you want to connect with your inner Gordon Ramsay, you can try your hand at cooking up some salmon or poultry, because they are filled with nutrients.

  1. Beware of what you touch

Just like your phone, things like light switches, door handles and sink taps carry many germs that can easily be avoided by simply using your shirt sleeve to avoid direct contact. If you do come into contact with something that many others touch, wash your hands with soap and water or hand sanitizer.

  1. Clean your phone

Probably the thing every student touches the most is their phone. Just a simple wipe down every so often gets rid of bacteria that would otherwise touch your hands and face.

“Your immune system in general also appreciates it when you keep stress on your body to minimum, so get a good night’s sleep, have a balanced and nutritious diet, and wash your hands frequently with soap and water,” said Dr. McNeil.

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