Back-to-school illnesses as common as cold

By Chris Denzler

If your throat aches, you can’t stop coughing, and your head feels like a balloon, look around—you’re not alone.

With the end of the holidays and the beginning of winter, many NIU students are starting to develop flu and cold symptoms.

According to Rosemary Lane, director of University Health services, a large number of NIU students have respiratory infections, but this kind of sickness is very common around this time of the year.

Students coming back from their home towns, combined with “students breathing dry air in close living quarters, increases the occurrences of colds,” Lane said.

Michael Haines, coordinator of Health Enhancement Services, said any change in people’s schedules can cause them to have a lower resistance to germs. Overstress to the body also can lead to lower resistance, he said.

“When around someone that has flu or cold symptoms, it is very important for people to wash their hands,” Haines said. “A person is more likely to acquire germs from touching the outside of the glass another is drinking than drinking from the same glass. That is because they might touch their face later and the germs might enter the pathways into the body through the nose or the eye ducts.”

There are some remedies that can help bring a person back to good health faster once the virus is acquired, but none that are cure-alls.

“There is not a magic bullet for viral infections,” Lane said. “Taking care of yourself is the best remedy.”

Students should get plenty of rest, drink plenty of fluids and avoid getting drunk, because alcohol paralyzes the white blood cells, Lane said.

When students have colds, they also should avoid stress, eat nutritionally and “drink a glass of water every half hour or hour,” Haines said.

If conditions worsen, Lane said students should go to the University Health Service on the second floor of the Holmes Student Center.