In college, students have the opportunity to explore new places, new subjects, and new lifestyles. Unfortunately, they also have the opportunity to experience new diseases.
Because so many people are crammed into such a small area, universities tend to be crawling with different diseases that can keep students (and professors) out of class. In some cases, these diseases can pose extreme health risks ― which means staying healthy and disease-free should be of paramount importance.
The Disease Factories that are College Campuses
Before students can set foot on college campuses, many universities require them to receive immunizations for several illnesses that the greater population should never encounter. Vaccines for meningococcal meningitis, pertussis, and human papillomavirus aren’t mandatory for any other life event, so why must college students receive them?
The answer is simple: university campuses are disgusting. The primary problem, to almost no one’s surprise, lies with the students. The vast majority of campus populations are composed of brand-new adults, recently removed from their parents’ houses and experiencing dramatic lifestyle changes in short periods of time. Though these young people are supposed to assume adult-level responsibility, few practice standard levels of hygiene: throwing out rotting food, regularly cleaning dishes, clothing, and linens, washing hands properly, etc.
Worse, most college students develop bad habits such as neglecting sleep, eating poorly, socializing wildly, and experiencing untenable amounts of stress, which weaken their immune systems and make them more susceptible to contagious disease. The result is a mass of dirty, vulnerable bodies speaking, coughing, and kissing all in the same space, spreading germs back and forth, and creating a haven for disease.
Best Strategies for Avoiding Disease
Perhaps the best way to avoid succumbing to sickness throughout one’s college career is to stay far away from campuses and choose online courses, instead.
However, for the millions of students who opt to go away to college, there are other solutions. The first was already mentioned above: vaccination. Despite anti-vaxers’ claims, vaccines are quite possibly the primary reason the mortality rates in developed countries are so low. Becoming immunized from certain diseases before attending college is as important as becoming immunized before traveling to certain countries. At the very least, students should obtain the following vaccines on their necessary schedules:
- Meningococcal conjugate vaccine
- TDAP (tetanus, diphtheria, and acellular pertussis) vaccine
- HPV (human papillomavirus) vaccine
- Seasonal influenza
Additionally, students should practice good hygiene. All hygiene-related rules from parents’ houses apply in college, which means students should avoid sharing food, drink, and linens, have a laundry schedule, shower regularly, and brush their teeth well. Pursuing a degree in public health will equip students with the knowledge of how to stay healthy and keep others safe as well. However, there are a few additional rules students should follow while living in cramped university housing:
Don’t wash dishes in the bathroom. Only slobs eat where they, you-know, so it doesn’t make sense to bring eating utensils in there, either. Most dorms have community kitchens with more sanitary sinks for washing up after meals.
Always dry off completely. Whether the moistness comes from sweat, rain, or a hot, sanitizing shower, students should try to get dry as soon as possible. Damp conditions are ideal for all sorts of bacteria and fungus, especially when coupled with the warmth of a classroom.
Sanitize the places that touch hands. Doorknobs, mini-fridge handles, bed ladders, keyboards, book covers ― they all could use a regular wipe-down with a disinfecting cloth.
Finally, it should go without saying ― then again, all hygiene rules should ― but everyone in college must be sexually cautious. According to the CDC, half of all sexually transmitted diseases diagnosed in the U.S. are among young people between ages 15 and 24, and plenty of disastrous STDs produce few or no outward symptoms. Because the obvious way to avoid STDs usually isn’t tenable, students should always have latex condoms on hand and get tested for STDs on a yearly schedule.
No college student can entirely avoid getting sick, but by adopting some minor responsibilities in regards to hygiene, most students can dodge the deadliest diseases. Then, everyone can happily and healthfully explore the new opportunities available only on college campuses.
Featured photo credit: Savannah River Site – CCBY2.0License via flickr.com