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College health center offers tips

Meghan Price | Tuesday, February 2, 2010

While College Health and Wellness is busy throughout the year, Cathy DeCleene, director of Women’s Health at Saint Mary’s, said there is an increase in certain kinds of heath risks during this time of year — like the common cold and the flu.

In an effort to help students stay informed on health issues, Saint Mary’s has subscribed to Health 101, an online magazine that can be accessed through the school’s Web site. It gives students a place to ask questions and discuss physical and emotional health threats. 

DeCleene said there are basic habits which help to lower these risks which are often forgotten.

“Health risks that are common to this time of year are greatly increased on college campuses,” DeCleene said. “Students have to be even more careful because they live in such close proximity with a large amount of people and this makes sickness travel so much faster.”

To prevent the spread of illness, DeCleene recommends washing hands regularly, keeping a distance from people displaying symptoms and covering mouths and noses when sneezing or coughing.

Students should manage their stress levels, get adequate sleep, exercise regularly and eat a healthy diet to avoid getting sick, she said.

Asthma has been an issue with many students, DeCleene said. It can be more dangerous in the winter because the cold air triggers symptoms and attacks. She said it is important for these students to remember to take their medications. All students, especially those with asthma, should make sure to wear hats, scarves and coats during this time of year, DeCleene said.

Frostbite is a bigger issue than most students are aware of, she said — another reason why students should always wear appropriate clothing when going outside.  The likelihood of developing frostbite increases with a lack of moisture in the skin, so students should apply moisturizer to their hands and faces, she said.

There are other risk factors related to extremely cold temperatures, DeCleene said.

“Tobacco decreases circulation by constricting blood vessels, and alcohol interferes with the body’s ability to regulate temperature,” DeCleene said. “Avoid smoking or drinking before venturing out into extreme cold.”

According to DeCleene, “winter blues” or seasonal depression is one of the biggest health threats affecting students that can be fought by regular exercise and sunlight exposure.

“Don’t be afraid to talk about this condition with a professional, it’s nothing to be ashamed or afraid of. With a little effort, the ‘winter blues’ can be beaten,” DeCleene said.