While flu complications typically strike the young, the old, and people with underlying health issues, if you’re a college student working toward your dream job, the last thing you want is to be knocked off your feet by the virus.
1. Get vaccinated
“Vaccination is the single best way of preventing the flu,” Adalja says. He points out that although the flu shot isn’t perfect, it’s better than nothing. “That also doesn’t speak to the cascading benefits of getting vaccinated — while you may still get the flu, if you’re vaccinated, the flu is less likely to be severe, lead to hospitalizations, to pneumonia, ear infections, and even death,” Adalja explains.
2. Drink in moderation
If you’re healthy, go to that house party — just don’t overdo it on the booze. Binge drinking can affect immunity, disrupt sleep and lead to poor eating habits, in turn increasing your risk for infection, Adalja points out.
3. Get enough sleep
Although everyone’s target amount of sleep will vary, Adalja recommends aiming for eight hours. Getting ample rest will help keep your immune system in good shape, reducing your risk for not only the flu but other infections, too, such as the common cold.
4. Wash your hands frequently
The flu can easily spread in enclosed spaces. If you’re commonly in communal areas, like lecture halls, dorm bathrooms, food halls and shared laundry rooms, be sure to wash your hands frequently. Hand sanitizer counts, too, Adalja says.
5. Practice good coughing and sneezing etiquette
Don’t sneeze or cough into your hands. “Do it in the crook of your elbow so whatever particles emanate end up on your clothes, an area that isn’t touched so often by other people,” Adalja says. This can prevent the spread of germs if you’ve been infected.
6. Keep your dorm tidy, especially surfaces
Adalja says that in respiratory droplets, the flu can travel about 3 feet before falling to ground. There’s also some evidence that the flu can live on hard surfaces that haven’t been cleaned. Be sure to clean surfaces frequently in addition to your hands
7. Hole up and rest up if you’re sick
Stock up on ibuprofen, and DayQuil and NyQuil, stay home, rest and drink plenty of fluids. Minimizing contact with your classmates and teachers can help prevent you from infecting others.
8. Seek medical attention if needed
If your fever persists despite using medication, if you’re so weak you’re bedridden, or if you’re short of breath, see your doctor, who may prescribe an antiviral to help you get healthy again, Adalja notes.