How to avoid getting sick when “everyone else is doing it”

The cold and flu season is peaking.

New Year’s "resolutioners" are crowding the gyms. Cars are barely recognizable beneath mountains of snow. Accidents are on every corner. Classes are beginning to gain momentum; and after paying for tuition, a parking permit, books, and school supplies, most students are broke and lacking sleep.

It’s a busy time of year, and no one can afford to get sick.
With four simple tips of preventative medicine, students can evade the winter bugs and enjoy a healthy spring semester.

1. Visit UVSC Student Health Services

UVSC provides students with doctors, licensed nurse practitioners, a psychiatric nurse practitioner, medical assistants, licensed personal counselors, psychologists and personal trainers on staff to assist with students’ health-related needs.

"Many students are unaware we even exist," said Rachel Elder, support staff supervisor of Student Health Services.
The center is located in SC 221 and provides a variety of medical services, from flu shots ($15 for students, $25 for employees), to medical exams (first visit is free, each additional visit is $10).

The center also offers mental health therapy and wellness education. 

"We see most students toward the beginning or end of each semester, since they are experiencing stress over changes, but more during the winter because of the weather," Elder said.

Although UVSC does not provide health insurance plans for students, Student Health Services does not require insurance. It does, however, require an appointment.

To schedule an appointment, call (801) 863-8876. For more information, visit

2. Get a flu vaccination

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the single best way to protect against influenza is to get a flu vaccination each year.

Two types of vaccination are available in the United States: the flu shot and the nasal-spray flu vaccine.

The flu shot is an inactivated vaccine (containing dead virus) that is given with a needle, usually in the arm.

A misconception among those fearing the needle is that the flu shot slightly infects the person receiving the shot, resulting in mild flu symptoms. According to Rachel Elder, this is incorrect. Since the virus is inactive, there will be no flu symptoms after receiving a shot.
For $15 at Student Health Services, it is well worth it. 

The nasal-spray flu vaccine (sometimes called LAIV for "live attenuated influenza vaccine" or FluMist) is a "needle-less" alternative to the flu shot. It is made with live, weakened flu viruses; but just like the flu shot, it does not cause the flu.

The nasal-spray can be a little more expensive than the shot and is only recommended for ages 2-49.

3. Listen to mom

The age-old adage that "mother knows best" proves to be true when it comes to avoiding the cold and flu. CNN’s 2007-2008 Flu and Cold Report and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention provide lists of ways to avoid the cold and flu through basic healthy habits that moms have been telling their children for generations.

Healthy habits include the following: washing hands often (the cold is usually passed from touching infected surfaces), covering coughs and sneezes in a tissue (not with hands), bundling up (influenza thrives in cold, dry environments), avoiding touching eyes and mouth, and avoiding close contact with people (even though, baby, it’s cold outside).

If you have trouble listening to mom and feel the "sick-y" symptoms come on, mom-proven habits for strengthening your immune system can help fight off the infection.

Limit stress, drink plenty of fluids, stay inside when you are sick, get plenty of rest, eat healthy foods (including chicken noodle soup, which helps open nasal passages), and avoid tobacco and alcohol use.

4. Stay informed

The Weather Channel Web site ( is an interesting source of information on avoiding sickness and maintaining good health.

The site offers a map of the nation with each state colored according to the severity of influenza in the area.

The levels of influenza are updated weekly, based on reports from state health departments, and range from sporadic, localized, regional and widespread.

The site also offers information on identifying the cold and flu and how the viruses should be treated after infection.

Influenza and the common cold are most prevalent during the coldest months of year, September to March.

Take advantage of Student Health Services. Get a flu shot while you’re there.

Give your mom a call or at least take some of her advice. Read up on where how the flu and cold are affecting your community, and plan on a healthier, happier winter season.

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