Saint John’s Survival Guide: Staying Healthy

Welcome to cold and flu season; I’ve been one of the first victims.  No one likes getting sick, but follow a few points of advice that I should have been listening too, and maybe you can avoid my fate.

Courtesy of Jeffrey Leow

Courtesy of Jeffrey Leow

The only surefire way to cure a cold is to not get one; stay warm, eat well, and get as much rest as you can.  These are, undoubtedly, tall orders, but perhaps these tips will help you.

1. Dress in layers; it’s a tip I learned way back when I was a kid in Boy Scouts.  If you go outside and it’s a little warm and you’re wearing a giant jacket, you’re going to be sweating.  But if you take that jacket off, you’re no better off than if you didn’t wear one at all.  If you wear an undershirt and a hoodie, however, you’ll be just as warm if the temperature drops, but you’ll also be a little better off if the sun comes out and you take off your hoodie.

2. Keep your feet, legs, and head covered.  Granted, this sounds like something your mom would say, but there are real reasons for the advice.  Heat rises; inside your dorm room, the warmest air is above your head and the coolest air is by your toes.  Ever notice that your feet will be cold, despite the fact that the rest of you is warm?  When you get cold your body has to work to make you warmer, energy you could be spending fighting off germs that get into your body.  Ladies, as much as I’ll hate to see them go, you might think about retiring your skirts until the weather warms up.

At this point, you might be curious why I include head in the category of things to keep warm, since the air near your head is warmer than the air near your feet.  Well, there’s a myth that states that you lose more heat through your head than any other part of your body, due to increased blood flow because of your brain.  Some people disagree, but the your scalp does have many blood vessels near the surface, i.e. it vents a godo deal of heat, and it comprises about 10% of your body’s surface area.  On a cold winter day, having that exposed to the wind can not only cause you to lose a LOT of heat, but it can also give you a pretty nasty case of frostbite.

3. Eating better is tough, especially in college, but there are a few tips.  Avoid fast food (it’s not even cheaper if you’re in Marillac) and try to eat the healthier options when your’e out to eat.  For less money than a combo meal, you can walk over to Subway on Union and get yourself a sandwich, or substitute pizza for Burger King.  Don’t depend upon instant noodles for sustanance.  They’re good in a pinch, but unless you want to add about 30-45 pounds of pressure to your scale, you’re asking for trouble if you start over indulging.  Unfortunately, the cheapest foods are the least healthy, but there are cheap, wholesome alternatives available.  Multivitamins also help if you can’t find a way to work fruits and vegetables into your diet.

4. Stay clean.  Wash your hands, brush your teeth, shower regularly.  Aside from not being gross and dirty, you’ll also be healthier.  Just make sure that if you have long hair, you dry it before you leave the house.

If you’re already sick, you can call St. John’s Health Services at (718)-990-6360 or go visit them Monday through Friday in Da Silva Hall, across from Donovan Hall.  Other than that, a few simple tips can help shorten the time you spend under the weather.

Various ‘wonder’ remedies are around, like Theraflu, which does an admirable job knocking out cold and flue symptoms for awhile, although that might be more due to taste than medicine.  I’ve drunk liquor with less sting, but it works.  It’s essentially Robitussin, with a few more things for fighting colds inside.  Be skeptical about most ‘immune-boosting’ products, because most are overpriced rip-offs.  You need several things to defeat a cold; you need to allow your body to focus on fighting the cold, which means don’t start exercising and running around, stay warm, so your body doesn’t have to work to do that, and get plenty of rest, which is when your immune system does it’s best work.

In terms of what you put in your body, you need vitamins A, C and E for a functioning immune system, as well as high fluid content.  Drink more water, but try to make it warm water.  Tea is good for this reason; it not only warms you up, but it hydrates you as well, which allows your entire body to coordinate better.  Broccoli and carrots are excellent sources of the vitamins listed, and oranges, as you probably know, contain a very high value of vitamin C.

And at the end of the day, you could always call your mom and have her make you some soup.

-Fernando Arrue

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