Westminster prepares for flu season

It’s finally flu season, and not just the football season hashtag. Students have already started feeling the yearly batch of colds and coughs. These illnesses affect every aspect of student life at Westminster. Students can take measures to prevent getting sick and getting others sick, as well as expedite recovery times.

Students suffer from a range of illnesses, but only the most severe get them out of school. That means many students go to class and risk spreading sickness among classmates. In order to protect against falling prey to a virus, students can take precautionary measures. “The most important thing to do to prevent sickness is to wash your hands, especially after coughing or sneezing,” said the Department of Health. “Covering your nose and mouth when you cough is another obvious way to keep healthy.”

A less obvious way to keep germs away is to not share food or drink, a concept that is seemingly common sense and yet is often discounted in the Upper School. “Try to stay home for even a bad cough or mild fever, even if you feel like you have too much work,” said doctors at Piedmont Hospital. “Discard used tissues in the trash as soon as you can. Finally, see a doctor as soon as possible for a persistent cough or fever, and follow their instructions. Take medicine as prescribed and get lots of rest.”

The advent of cold and flu season means parents dragging their kids to the pediatrician’s office, Publix, or wherever they choose to get their flu shots. Getting a flu shot has other benefits besides just preventing the flu. The CDC estimates that 80,000 people died last year due to complications with various forms of flu, the highest death toll in 40 years. On a less serious note, taking the time to get a flu shot would prevent lost time in sick days at home later, and it would save others from sick days too. In terms of effectiveness, no flu vaccine is perfect, but the CDC assures citizens that they cannot get the flu from the vaccine.

Inevitably, fall prey to a bout of flu every year, even if football coach Danny Alexander insisted that “sickness is mental weakness.”

“You only think you’re sick,” said Alexander “It’s a mindset.”

All joking aside, sometimes students simply aren’t physically able to make it to school. Schoolwork piles up as they miss days of class, and a quick recovery becomes their top priority. In order to get better faster, doctors at Piedmont Hospital recommend consuming a lot of liquids, but varying them a bit. Drinking sports drinks and soups can provide some energy. Also, using vaporizers and humidifiers as well as sitting in steamy rooms will help soothe a persistent cough and an irritated throat.

Additionally, Health Magazine writer Amanda Macmillan said, “gargling several times a day with warm salt water can reduce swelling in the throat and loosen mucus, helping to flush out irritants or bacteria.”

Finally, drinking tea can help soothe a sore throat. Tea made with black, green, or white leaves also contain antioxidants that can help boost the immune system and ward off another infection while fighting the current one.

For those students who can manage to make it to school without a major illness, the adjustment is staggering. Trying to manage to get all work, sports, and extracurriculars under control while getting enough rest to fight off a cold is a painful task.

“I had a little cold a couple of weeks ago,” said senior Virginia Harrison “It made running cross country a lot harder and I wanted to fall asleep all day but I managed it.”

Harrison said taking the PSAT with even her mild cold was an ordeal. Beyond that, running cross country required more effort and preparation to make sure she was still on the path to being 100%.

“I did have some trouble running for a day or so, but hey, when you have a cold you can’t expect to be at full strength right?” said Harrison.

Nevertheless, she managed to stay on top of her work by communicating with teachers so that they were aware she was not feeling her best. Also, junior Matthew Cha had to deal with a more serious cold recently.

“I didn’t wear enough layers to my morning lift and I had a rough cough for a couple of days,” said Cha. “I had to drink a lot of water and I took some Tylenol but I feel like I managed my work pretty well. I didn’t get behind in any classes so I’m counting that as a win.”

Harrison and Cha acknowledged how hard it was to stay focused. Both stressed how making their teachers aware of what was happening made their lives a lot easier, and some teachers even gave them little reprieves in order to get back up to speed.

While flu season has just started, Westminster has yet to hit the belly of the beast. Flu season doesn’t peak until around February, but students should still be vigilant in the early months of winter as well. The flu usually starts to become increasingly potent in December and retains strength through March. As such, students are urged to be especially cautious during January, as getting sick might sideline them from JanTerm opportunities.