College Students Reminded to Wash Their Hands

Making good hygiene a habit can help stop spread of flu at school, expert says

SUNDAY, Sept. 5, 2010 (HealthDay News) -- As college students begin to settle into their new dorm rooms at campuses nationwide, one New York City-based public health advocate is offering some basic advice to help them stay healthy during the upcoming flu season.

Kathryn Hutchinson, executive director of health and wellness at St. John's University, pointed out that the first thing students should do, ideally before leaving home, is to discuss the option of getting a flu vaccine with their parents and physician. This may help alleviate any anxiety students have about whether or not to get the shot.

Beyond taking that step, Hutchinson encourages students to arrive at school armed and ready to keep their hands clean and maintain a sanitary environment. That means stocking a supply of soap, as well as cleaning supplies to wipe down desks, sinks, computer keyboards and any other shared surfaces.

Frequent handwashing is a must, and hand sanitizers are useful when washing is impractical. But, Hutchinson stressed, sharing glassware, utensils and personal items such as toiletries (razors, toothbrushes, combs) is definitely not a good idea.

Also, students are urged to keep a digital thermometer on hand, and their health insurance card in case they need medical attention.

One good way to keep from spreading germs is to practice "cough etiquette" -- in other words cover the nose and mouth when coughing or sneezing, throw away any used tissues immediately, and wash your hands as soon as possible.

Overall, Hutchinson said, most students will find that the usual recommendations -- an exercise routine, a healthy diet and adequate sleep -- are the keys to staying healthy, as well as reducing their stress. But if and when health problems arise, she advises students to contact a health care professional immediately.

More information

For more on flu prevention, visit the U.S. National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases.

SOURCE: St. Johns University, news release, Sept. 1, 2010
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