What goes around doesn’t have to come around

Sara Macho

Health professionals share tips on staying healthy this winter

The flu season is approaching and clinicians at the Deweese Health Center will be giving flu shots to registered students and faculty for $20 today. Over-the-counter medications such as cough medicines and decongestants can also be purchased at the health

Credit: John Proppe

Sneezing. Sniffling. Coughing. Aching.

These words don’t have to characterize your winter season.

But many will still find themselves catching a bug as the weather worsens and cold temperatures force students to stay in a potentially germ-infested residence hall or apartment.

Between December and February of last year, the DeWeese Health Center had more than 3,000 general medical appointments, with close to 60 percent related to winter illness, according to Nick Sukalac, manager of insurance and billing at the center.

“Because everyone lives in such close contact on a college campus, different illnesses spread like wildfire,” said Jim Hostler, chief pharmacist at DeWeese Health Center. “If something is going around, everyone gets it.”

Though it may be virtually impossible to not be in close contact with your classmates and roommates, Hostler and other health care professionals at the center recommend some basic tips on avoiding the dreaded winter cold or flu.

The ultimate preventative measure is frequent hand washing, Hostler said.

“Wash your hands as often as you can,” he said. “Using antibacterial hand gels if water isn’t available is good too. These can kill 99 percent of germs.”

Colds are typically spread by hand-to-hand contact. Shaking, touching or holding an infected person’s hand then touching your eyes or nose is a surefire way to get an upper respiratory infection, or the common cold, Hostler said.

Another preventative action includes avoiding contact with infected people and taking medication at the first sign of illness.

DeWeese Health Center sells various decongestants, antihistamines and cough suppressants near its pharmacy counter. Among Hostler’s top picks are Airborne, a health formula said to help ward off germs and bacteria that could potentially cause infection, and zinc gluconate or zinc acetate lozenge tablets, a mineral promoting a healthy immune system.

And if you do catch a cold or flu bug this season, common remedies include rest, avoiding stress and downing good old fashioned chicken soup and vitamin C.

Flu shots are also available at DeWeese Health Center at a cost of $20, according to Sukalac. The best time for vaccination is the beginning of December, as flu season peaks in mid-December and early January. Shots typically carry an individual all the way through the winter months.

For more information or to schedule an appointment, contact DeWeese Health Center at (330) 672-3107.

Contact features reporter Sara Macho at [email protected].