Going away to college can be a sneaky health hazard. Between living in a cramped dorm with 200 other people, sharing beer cups at parties, poor cafeteria nutrition, and the occasional make-out session with a random stranger at a party; colds, flu, or the dreaded mono are all regular occurrences for many dorm residing students. And worst of all, these diseases never seem to strike over a long weekend or a break from school where you have time to recover. Instead, inevitably you will fall ill the night before an exam or a big party. There are certain steps you can take however to give your immune system a boost and keep yourself healthy while living in a college dorm.
Most of the aforementioned behaviors such as sharing cups, and living in crowded spaces are obviously risk factors because as everyone knows, colds and flu are caused by the spread of germs. Instead of putting your life on hold and spraying every sick person who comes within 10 feet of you with Lysol, take a few preventative steps and make it through college healthy.
1. Eat fruits and vegetables. Yes, the grilled cheese, french fries, and hamburgers in the cafeteria are probably more appetizing after a long day than the salad bar, but do yourself and your body a favor and remember what your mother told you: get your vitamins. The effect of vitamin C on the body’s ability to prevent colds is still controversial in the medical community, but it can’t hurt, and one cup of romaine lettuce has nine percent of the daily recommended value of the vitamin. For an even easier way to get some vitamin C into your diet, try a cup of broccoli, which has 137% the daily recommended value, or the classic source of vitamin C- the orange. One large orange has 163% the recommended daily value of vitamin C.
Everyone who has ever lived in a dorm knows that sometimes your meal ends up being pizza and beer. Just keep things like this in moderation, since alcohol dehydrates your body, and can in turn affect your body’s ability to resist infections. Balance and moderation are key to remaining healthy while living in a dorm.
2. Get plenty of sleep. There will be occasions in college where you have to stay up straight through the night getting assignments completed. This is basically an unavoidable fact of college. Once again, balance is crucial to staying healthy despite the prevalence of unhealthy behaviors in college. Try not to make your all-nighters a frequent occurrence because there is research which suggests that your body releases immune system boosting hormones while you sleep. Try and devote at least eight hours to sleep each night, and invest in ear plugs and an eye mask if you and your roommate have different sleep schedules.
3. Exercise. Chances are, your college has a free gym. Take advantage of it as an easy and effective way to stay healthy. Research suggests a connection between exercise and a strengthened immune system, and as long as you don’t exercise right before you intend to go to bed, it can also help you sleep better.
If the gym isn’t your thing, turn exercise into something social and go for a bike ride or a run with friends from your dorm. If your excuse for not working out is more of a time conflict with studying than a hatred for the gym, trying working out on the elliptical machine while reading your book or notes. Most machines have a rack for magazines so just place your reading material on there and get your exercise and studying out of the way at the same time.
Ultimately, a healthy diet, a reasonable sleep schedule, and regular exercise are all keys to staying healthy while living in a college dorm. Practice these three habits as preventative measures, and enjoy your time in college hanging out with your friends and enjoying yourself, rather than spending weekends with a runny nose and sore throat.