Finals week stress can lead to sickness

Jenna Staul

As students ready themselves for the rigors of finals week, they should also be weary of acquiring the illnesses and ailments that often go hand in hand with December’s frigid temperatures.

“Students can be more prone to illness toward the end of the semester because of the stress they have endured throughout the entire semester,” said Lori Christopher, a nurse practitioner and nurse manager at DeWeese Health Center, through an e-mail interview.

Stress can have dangerous implications in the classroom when students’ hectic schedules lead to lowered immune systems, making students more susceptible to sickness, anxiety and depression.

“Stress such as sleep deprivation, work overload and daily frustrations can increase chemicals in the body that suppress immune function,” said Christopher, who said the most common end-of-the-semester ailments include respiratory infection, strep throat, mononucleosis and viral gastroenteritis.

“Certain illnesses make it hard for students to attend classes and keep up with assignments and projects,” Christopher said. “(Illnesses can cause) decreased motivation and concentration, increased fatigue, and social isolation.”

As finals week approaches, Christopher said increasing numbers of students will file through the health center’s doors seeking medical attention, many of whom are reeling from academic stress.

“We always see an increased number of patients after the first month of school until the end of the semester,” Christopher said. “This could be due to increased illness due to stress, psychological distress, chronic medical conditions or students finally figuring out we exist on campus.

Students looking to ward off any potential illnesses that may come their way during the forthcoming stress-filled week should try to make time for increased rest, eat healthy foods, increase hand washing and take a multivitamin, said Christopher. For serious illness, however, she said students should utilize the services provided at the health center.

“We are a large ambulatory care center that specializes in college health care,” Christopher said. “So any student is able to come to the health center. No student will ever have to pay out-of-pocket for an office visit to see or be evaluated by a nurse or clinician.”

In the mean time, if a student’s health falls victim to the hardships of finals week, Christopher said common-sense remedies may help.

“In general, rest and increase fluids,” Christopher said of ways students can treat their own ailments. “Also, certain illnesses definitely need medical attention.”

Contact news correspondent Jenna Staul at [email protected].