Getting sick of cold and flu season

By Stephanie Youssef

There is something about the way it creeps, unwelcomed, through the crevices of my apartment walls and the painful jabs it takes at my skin that make the cold winter air so uninviting.

Even as someone who has been through 20 Illinois winters, the icy atmospheric conditions will never fail to send shivers down my spine (pun intended). 

Surprisingly, it is not the cold, the snow or the ice that makes me want to isolate myself in my apartment and bundle up in a warm feather blanket.

It is the fact that, during the winter, the Champaign-Urbana campus is populated by sick students carrying contagious viruses and bacteria just waiting to infect me. 

In order to try and make this harsh, uncomfortable season a little more pleasant, students and administrators alike should make an effort to try and help keep illnesses from spreading around campus.

Around this time of year, I can’t walk into a lecture hall without hearing someone sneeze or cough every few seconds. Sitting next to someone who is sick or sitting in seats and desks that have been contaminated are both high-risk methods for potential transmission of our seasonal cold and flu ills. In fact, the reason infections tend to flourish on college campuses is because people are living in such close quarters. Everything including showers, lecture halls, seats and desks are shared among thousands of students.

Countless times, I have sat in class where people have failed to cover their sneezes and coughs, or have sneezed directly into their hands and subsequently touched the seats with their infected bodily fluids. I find it obnoxious and rude that students who do this could be so inconsiderate of the health of others.

An easy solution to this problem would be to stay home. Illness is listed as an excused absence from class in our student code, yet the system the administration has set up for obtaining proof of illness is almost as ridiculous and complicated as a trip to the Department of Motor Vehicles. Most classes and instructors don’t take dial-a-nurse notes from McKinley Health Center as sufficient proof of illness. Some professors only accept notes from the emergency dean. 

There is merit to the argument that the system might be difficult so that people can’t get away with pretending to be sick. The set-up is seemingly there to prevent students from pulling a Ferris Bueller and faking an illness to avoid class. But the hassle of leaving home in a dire state of illness to drudge over to a local clinic is almost more demanding than just going to class.

And I get it, some students have a reputation of lying to get out of lectures and exams. But a system that makes going to class while sick easier than any alternative does little to help protect the health of uninfected students in lectures. Until the University figures out a better way to keep walking incubators from having to attend class, there are steps sick students should take to keep their germs to themselves.

Lets return to first grade basic hygiene: Cover your coughs and sneezes with your elbow or upper shoulder. 

In addition, wash your hands to prevent the spread of infection to things you touch.  

I try to maintain personal hygiene and I haven’t been sick yet this year. I’m sure other students who also aren’t currently sick would appreciate being able to carry through the rest of the cold and hateful winter without having to deal with coughing and sneezing. So to the infected individuals who sit with me in class, I would really enjoy attending lecture without you aerosol-izing your sneeze particles into my oxygen supply.

Stephanie is a junior in LAS.

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