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How to keep your college student healthy this winter

by | Jan. 9, 2013, 4:17 PM

Students Nicholas Aubourg (left) and Hannah Kim make their way to class on the Vanderbilt campus. (John Russell/Vanderbilt)

Students Nicholas Aubourg (left) and Hannah Kim make their way to class on the Vanderbilt campus. (John Russell/Vanderbilt)

After several weeks at home soaking up tender loving care from their parents, college students across Tennessee are heading back to campus. Now parents can shift their worries to keeping their students healthy this winter when they’re far from home.

Louise Hanson, assistant professor of clinical medicine and medical director of Student Health Services at Vanderbilt University, offers common-sense tips.

“There are two important things that each college student can do to stay healthy,” Hanson said. “Number one is to get your flu shot.” Widespread flu outbreak has been reported in more than 40 states, with Tennessee listed at the severe level.

“Influenza causes a large number of absences from work or school each year and is a vaccine-preventable disease. The circulating influenza strains in the community are a good match for this year’s vaccine, which means that the vaccine should be very effective,” Hanson said.

“Number two is to wash your hands,” she continued. “Students are very busy and interact with a large number of people on any given day. In addition, many live on campus in residence halls. Both of these factors mean that students are exposed daily to potentially ill people. Many illnesses, such as stomach viruses and common respiratory viral infections, can be prevented by frequent hand washing so that germs on hands are not transmitted to the mouth or face.”

If your student is on the go all day, hand sanitizers are a good option.

“Alcohol-based products, such as Purell, are as effective as soap and water, so I encourage all my students to carry small containers in their backpacks and to use it frequently—after exposure to others, after using the restroom and before eating, “ she said.

In addition, Hanson encourages all students to get enough sleep, eat a healthy diet and exercise regularly—all things that contribute to overall good health and a healthy immune system. Following this advice will help ensure that your college student has a successful spring semester, she said.

Media Inquiries:
Kara Furlong, (615) 322-NEWS