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Susan Kaufman Headshot

The College Cold: It's Coming for You

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As I write this, I am fervently blowing my nose, chugging from a bottle of artificially flavored Cranberry juice from concentrate (full of vitamin C, though!) and swimming in a pool of crumpled up tissues. Unfortunately, I have fallen victim to the college cold. I can definitely say that I have been sick for over 60 percent of this winter season. In fact, over winter break, I just recovered from a six-week long virus and am now elated to be rekindling the spark with my old symptoms.

No matter how many bottles of cranberry juice I guzzle or how many times a day I blow my nose, I know that this cold is probably not going anywhere. That is the biggest downside of living in a dorm with hundreds of other college freshmen. With our germs mingling on the daily, the chances of staying healthy for over a month are slimmer than the chances of winning the lottery.

I don't often think about the things I miss about living at home because frankly, there is not much that I miss -- of course, I miss my parents (in case they are reading this) -- but I certainly miss one thing: my health. I miss personal space. I miss the ability to go an entire winter without the slightest cough or stuffy nose. It seems futile to even try to avoid germs at school, when every time I go to take a shower or brush my teeth, I put my hands all over someone else's germy finger and footprints.

By no means am I a germaphobe. Believe me, I'll share Chapstick with anyone -- probably one of the reasons why I am constantly ill -- but I certainly don't enjoy suffering from a bad cold every time one of my hall mates does. I love the people I live with and empathize with them on many accounts, but sharing their weird diseases and funky viruses are pretty low down on my bucket list. Rather than dwelling on how unfortunate my current circumstance is, I am going to channel my inner Dr. Oz and share my far-reaching wisdom on cold and flu prevention for the average college student.

The first thing I learned after getting sick was that I was not washing my hands enough. If you live in a dorm of 200+ people like I do then hugging, high fiving, shaking hands and fist bumping are common occurrences. Basically, every time you touch someone, you run the risk of contracting whatever sickness is clinging to his/her grimy, unwashed hands. So please, wash your hands, frequently. Side note: Purell doesn't count.

If you thought that was basic, you're right. However, a recent study conducted by Michigan State University found that out of 3,749 observed public-bathroom users, 95 percent did not wash their hands long enough to kill germs.

Now that's a disturbing statistic. Often times, it is the easy cold-prevention tactics that people discount or deem as myths. I can't even count the number of times that I have watched people sneeze into their hands or cough without covering their mouths, and it terrifies me. The image of spit flying from peoples' mouths and soaring into the air is something that I literally see in my nightmares. Clearly, being sick so much this winter has turned me into some health freak -- with regards to sanitation only, I am still a huge proponent of junk food.

There is unfortunately not much that I can do to help the fight against the college cold (especially since I am currently victim to it) other than advise and beg my hall mates to shower frequently, wash their hands, and cover their mouths -- even if their sneeze turns out to be a false alarm. Additionally, I would be doing a huge disservice if I did not warn my friends that I am indeed sick and should probably be quarantined until further notice.

Let the isolation begin.