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How to fight the flu in winter weather

As winter weather bears down on the Midwest, students might want to take a few simple measures to keep from falling ill.
Get a flu shot. 
“Even if the flu shot doesn’t target the particular strain that you catch, it could be close enough to allow your body to fight [the bug] off more quickly,” Dr. Jessica Higgs, medical director of the Health Center, said. “If students don’t have the time to get the flu shot, they definitely do not have the time to get the flu.”
The Health Center still has some available at a cost of $25. If the Health Center runs out of the vaccine, you can also get a shot at your primary doctor or at a pharmacy such as Walgreens. The Walgreens store on Western Avenue will be vaccinating for the flu until Dec. 15. Call 673-0665 to make an appointment. 
Wash your hands.
Higgs said washing your hands with soap and water is ideal, but carrying a bottle of hand sanitizer, such as Purell, is a good alternative when you can’t get to a sink.
The Center for Disease Control recommends rubbing your hands under the water for 20 seconds. That’s roughly the amount of time it takes to sing “Happy Birthday,” so if you want to time yourself, you can hum the song.
The CDC also recommends drying your hands right away, and using a paper towel to shut the sink off.
Higgs said you shouldn’t touch your face because your hands carry many germs.
“Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth,” she said. “Cold and flu viruses are respiratory. The virus getting on your hands is not enough, it has to get to your face, So constantly touching or playing with your lips will not help your fight against getting sick.” 
Avoid contact with sick people.
Higgs said while it may be difficult because of close confines many students live in, avoiding contact with sick people is a good idea.
“If your roommate gets sick, you may want to crash with some friends for a few days,” she said.
If you can’t stay with a friend, it’s especially important to take even better care of yourself than usual, Higgs said.
The same goes for you when you’re sick.
“Stay home if you get sick,” Higgs said. “This doesn’t do much for prevention for you, but it will help your friends and classmates out.” 
Practice good health habits.
A good diet, drinking lots of water, getting a good night’s sleep and managing stress are all important in keeping your immune system strong, Higgs said.
“Obviously, some of these things are easier than others, especially around finals time,” she said. “But keep in mind that eating your fruits and vegetables, sleeping seven or eight hours a night and squeezing in 30 minutes of exercise will benefit your health and possibly your test taking ability more than late-night pizza and an all-night cram session.”
 
Cover your nose and mouth.
While covering your nose and mouth won’t prevent you from getting sick, it will help others stay healthy, Higgs said.
“Coughing and sneezing in a tissue or into your sleeve is better as well,” she said.
By not coughing into your hand, you will keep the virus from easily moving onto other things you touch. 
Take a multi-vitamin.
Higgs said while multi-vitamins aren’t conclusively proven to help your immune system, they won’t hurt. 
Layer up.
Going outside with wet hair, getting the flu shot and standing in the cold will not make you sick, Higgs said.
“Having wet hair or standing in the cold without enough layers on can lower your body temperature and make you more susceptible to a virus if you happen to come in contact with one, but it will not make you sick,” she said.
Higgs also said the reason people get sick more during the winter is because viruses prefer dry air, and there’s a lot of dry air during winter.
Along with dry air, spending more time indoors in close proximity with other people also causes the spread of viruses.