Western cold front
By Karen Papay
Look out, duck watch it! Ahh, too late. You have been hit with a cold (sinus congestion, coughing) or flu (upset stomach, diarrhea, nausea) and can look forward to spending at least a week in misery.
Through all the hacking, coughing, sneezing and sniffling steadily spreading its way around campus, it is amazing anyone has been able to write, let alone hear, anything in class lately.
Although this reality may seem alarming to some students, Cindy Camp, health education coordinator at Student Health Services at Western, said the phenomenon is quite common around this time of year.
Drastic changes in weather conditions, along with increased stress, poor eating habits and a decreased amount of sleep due to mid-term exams are the most likely culprits contributing to a decrease in immunity. This then, makes students more vulnerable to circulating viruses, Camp said.
Furthermore, catching a cold is easy at Western due to the highly concentrated population of students on campus since viruses are transmitted through air-borne particles and surface contact, Camp added.
Touching a door handle, for instance, puts students in contact with the thousands of other germs put there by other students who have touched the same surface. Frequent hand washing may be one of the most effective ways to safeguard against infection, Camp advised.
Unfortunately, as easy as it is to catch a cold, there is no quick or simple way to get rid of one. Most colds or flu-like ailments are due to viruses which, unlike bacterial infections, can not be treated with antibiotics, Camp explained. Therefore, the best remedy is simply to take it easy, get lots of sleep and eat a healthy array of foods so you can strengthen your immune system.
Colds associated with fever, laboured breathing or a productive cough with coloured mucous should be seen by a medical expert, Camp said. When in doubt, seek help. If students do require antibiotics, they should take them for the entire course prescribed and avoid alcohol, as it may decrease the drug's effectiveness.
Smokers may also want to go on hiatus, as smoking kills the cilia hairs lining the throat which normally help move bacteria out of the respiratory tract, Camp said.
Some prefer to look towards natural remedies for help. Vera Krumme, health food sales consultant at Food for Thought in London, recommends echinacea, a natural infection fighter.
This plant remedy has been described as having immune-strengthening properties and is most effective when taken at the first sign of a cold. It seems to help decrease the severity as well as the duration of the cold, Krumme said.
For students whose immune system may be more compromised than others, the Ministry of Health provides a free vaccine containing the dead form of the influenza virus, otherwise known as the flu, Camp said.
Since flu season starts in December, this vaccine is most effective when taken in October, as it takes about six weeks for antibodies to develop.