Flu season is just around corner, so it’s good to know that the professionals at the College of Charleston’s Student Health Services are ready to help students stay healthy and avoid missing class and other activities.
Student Health Services Director Bridget McLernon Sykes and Medical Director Dr. John Inman offer the following five tips for staying healthy this flu season, especially during the peak months from December to February.
1. Don’t mess with the flu
Influenza is a serious illness that can be life-threatening for certain individuals.
“In the student population,” McLernon Sykes says, “we worry about those individuals who have asthma or are immunocompromised because they’re more at risk for the complications of flu.” And Inman adds, “Frequently students underestimate how sick they can get with the flu. It can mean three to five days in bed, coughing for a week and having your sleep disrupted for nearly as long.” Both advise anyone experiencing flu symptoms to be seen by a qualified medical provider.
2. Get a flu shot
“The best defense against the flu,” says Inman, “is getting vaccinated. Most years, the vaccine is tailored to the most likely flu strains that we’ll experience in this region, so those people who get vaccinated may not get the flu, and if they do, they’re apt to have a far less serious case.”
CofC students can get flu shots for free at Student Health Services and periodically at other venues across campus. If you have health insurance, you can also get shots at no cost at CVS, Walgreens, Rite Aid and several other local pharmacies.
3. Avoid contact with sick people
Both Inman and McLernon Sykes admit that it’s challenging to avoid sick classmates and peers on a college campus.
“Students living in the residence halls are in close contact with roommates and suitemates, and encounter each other in the dining halls and in class, so that puts a greater emphasis on getting vaccinated and on washing your hands on a frequent basis, which is the next thing to know about avoiding the flu,” says McLernon Sykes.
4. Wash your hands regularly
The Centers for Disease Control refers to handwashing as a “do-it-yourself” vaccination if done properly and regularly. Both she and Inman advise washing hands before, during and after preparing food, before eating food, and before and after caring for someone who is sick. For students who are using shared facilities such as desks and computer keyboards and lab equipment, getting into the habit of washing your hands after class sessions can be especially preventative.
“You should also wash your hands after blowing your nose or after coughing or sneezing, and of course after using the restroom,” she says.
5. Know the symptoms
McLernon Sykes says its helpful to be familiar with common symptoms of the flu.
“They’ll develop a high fever – usually over 101.5 degrees, trending toward 102 – and they’ll ordinarily have body aches and a sore throat that eventually develops into a cough,” she says. “They’ll also experience headaches. Flu is a viral infection, unlike strep, which is a bacterial infection. It’s rare, but some cases of the flu can also present with nausea, though we don’t consider that a primary symptom.”
Getting Seen at Student Health Services
Students can only be seen at Student Health Services (SHS) by appointment, and office hours are between 8:30 a.m. and 5 p.m. Students can set up an appointment in one of three ways:
• Visit SHS on campus at 181 Calhoun St.
• Call SHS at 843.953.5520
• Go online (for same day appointments only) at cofc.medicatconnect.com
Online appointments for the following day can be made after 9:01 p.m. the night before. Same-day appointments can be made via phone beginning at 8:30 a.m. that day, but these do fill up quickly.
If a student does not check-in via computer at Student Health Services within 10 minutes of their appointment time, they will be considered a no-show and will have to reschedule the appointment.