Virus prevention key for healthy students in winter

As the November month rolls in, the onset of colder weather brings a flurry of sneezing and coughing, marking the beginning of the next flu season. As the seasons change, people generally become more susceptible to viruses, infective agents that live in cells.

According to Gordon Wood, M.D., the dry winter air keeps tiny bits of mucus carrying viruses aloft longer within the air so they pass more easily. Additionally, people crowd indoors because of the cold weather. Therefore, respiratory viruses spread more easily in the winter.

“All of the forces [within your body] go to fight infections,” Eric Nagaj, M.D., said.

An important way for students to fight infections is to take steps in protecting themselves against viruses. According to Wood, students should wash their hands as often as possible, get plenty of sleep each night, eat a good breakfast everyday and have three nutritious meals, and do a minimum of 30 to 60 minutes of moderate exercise six days per week.

If a student begins feeling sick, Nagaj recommends drinking plenty of fluids, staying warm and eating light nutritious foods. Resting is one of the best ways to get over a virus since it allows the body to naturally rid itself of the foreign agents. A fever is also one of the responses to attack the virus from the immune system. Fevers are meant to help fight the virus; therefore, Nagaj says to not kill a fever, unless it becomes too high—104 degrees Fahrenheit.

“If you ever feel ill throughout the day, visit the nurses in either the east or west [building],” Peg Cucci, RN-MS-NCSN nurse said. “They will help determine the best course of action for you. We want to make sure everyone is as safe as possible.”

According to Cucci, the most important thing to remember is to constantly wash hands. Hand washing is one of the most effective ways in virus prevention.

“Hands contact the most things,” said Kevin Cao ’16, Future Doctors of America executive board member. “Hands are direct entry for viruses to eyes, nose, mouth, ears or any other openings to the body.”

Another method of protection against viruses are vaccines. Vaccines contain a part of a weakened or dead virus, so a person’s body can react and build up immunity for that virus. The next time the person’s body comes into contact with the virus, their immune system will recognize it and will be able to fight it off.

“Vaccines are critical and an extremely important part in helping a student to stay safe and healthy,” Cucci said. “The diseases that vaccines prevent are serious and can be devastating.”

However, Nagaj believes that vaccininations do not necessarily help fight against all viruses and people should not solely rely only on vaccines to fight viruses. Since yearly flu vaccines are created in the spring time for use in the winter seasons, the vaccines are often not effective since the virus strain may mutate.

Nagaj stresses the importance and value of strengthening one’s own immune system and taking care of one’s body in order to battle viruses, along with keeping a clean house and a healthy lifestyle—diet, enough sleep and exercise.

“Just clean your body and take care of it,” Nagaj said. “Take multiple vitamins, exercise at least three to four times a week and always wash your hands. Then, the body can respond to disease with a strong immune system.”