I march my cheap flip flops down the stained—with what, I don’t know—carpet, into the shared women’s bathroom with old tile that’s always slightly sticky. I hear a cough and a sneeze echo in the distance: it begins. I frantically spray disinfectant and sanitize my hands. The fight is on.
Communal water fountains, a common studying room, bare feet on dirty bathroom floors and not to mention, who knows if everyone washes their hands is just dorm life. While it’s fun and exciting to finally be out from under your mother’s thumb, at least her thumb was more sanitary than this.
Julie Bosman of the New York Times refers to the dorm as a “petri dish.” In her article “Going Viral” she says, “The tight living makes it almost impossible for flu patients to stay the recommended six feet away from other people.” My bed isn’t even six feet away from my roommate, but what’s a student to do?
Common illnesses passed around campus include the common cold, the seasonal flu, mononucleosis and meningitis. College students are especially likely to catch illnesses like this because, along with the close living quarters, there is the added stress of college and the unhealthy diet consisting of beer, pizza and more beer. Without the supervision of a parent reminding you to take your vitamins, work out or just take care of yourself, it’s much easier to fall into “the plagues.”
Is there any way to avoid this besides storing yourself and your life inside a bubble until it all passes? Probably not. Unfortunately, if you live, breathe, eat and sleep in the same place as 60 or more other people with the same bad habits you have, chances are you’re bound to catch something you won’t be able to shake for a while.
Maybe avoiding the illnesses all together is nearly impossible, but here are some ideas from UPMC HealthBeat, a healthcare provider and insurer. Their article “Stay Healthy in College: Avoid Dorm Sickness” gives some easy tips for staying clean and sickness free. These tips include: Get immunized before college, start fighting the sickness before it attacks and wash your hands frequently—they even recommend having your own personal hand soap and hand sanitizer. Keep your dorm room clean by wiping down surfaces such as doorknobs, faucets and phones. Pay attention to mold accumulation and contact the residential services if you have a mold problem. Always wear shoes in the dorm to protect your feet from whatever else is walking on the floors.
If you’re already sick, that is A-OK. NBC News says to drink fluids, noting that coffee and alcohol don’t count. Get some rest, go to the college health center and have your parents help you figure out how to fight it off. Be careful when taking medications—you don’t want to take more medications than your illness needs. If you remember to eat, sleep, and drink, it’ll be gone soon.