How to stay ‘chill-free’ until winter break

Given that the first snowfall of the season has already passed, it’s the time of year for University students to bundle up, prepare for hazardous weather and stay healthy. 

Upon coming to the University as a freshman from Athens, Greece, Michael Halkias said he has had to adjust to the chilly temperature change.

“In Greece, the coldest it would get would be October weather here,” said the junior in Engineering.

The first thing Halkias did upon arriving to the United States was buy several jackets. He said he combats the brutal winter weather by finding rides to avoiding walking in the cold and wearing scarves, Under Armour and boots. He also brought his ski gear to school for extra insulation.

Additionally, he said he had to adjust to earlier and more frequent snowfall. While our first snowfall happened in November, Halkias said that in Greece, it would snow approximately once every three years.

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Patrick Pak, meteorologist at the Central Illinois Weather Forecast Office of the National Weather Service, also recognizes the need to dress appropriately for the cold, especially during severe winter weather. He said it is important to cover up as much as possible, specifically the head and hands, and wear snow boots.

During the winter season, Pak said it is essential to be prepared for hazardous weather. There are certain precautions that must be taken to ensure safety during a dangerous snowstorm.

“If there is a big storm, it could take out the power, so you want to make sure you have enough supplies,” Pak said.

Pak suggests keeping an emergency supply kit in case of a power outage, which includes bottled water, non-perishable food, flashlights and extra batteries, extra clothing and blankets, an extra set of keys, cash, medications, a first aid kit, personal hygiene items, pet supplies and a weather alert radio or portable AM/FM radio.

Students who have cars on campus should be prepared with supplies as well, in case they get stuck in a winter storm while driving. Pak said that drivers should have a full tank of gas when possible. He also recommended bringing extra warm clothes and a blanket to prevent hypothermia, as well as the items listed in the emergency supply kit.

He also said that it is important to watch out for vehicles while crossing the street, as it can be hard for drivers to see pedestrians.

In addition to hazardous weather, this season also brings both the flu and the common cold. Avoiding these illnesses during the fall and winter can be difficult, especially while being around so many people on campus.

“There’s no way to avoid getting a common cold in the absence of not going to places where there are crowds,” said Dr. Maureen Malee, medical director at McKinley Health Center. “If you’re in the elevator and someone sneezes, viruses are all around.” 

However, there are some tricks to avoid catching the flu or common cold. Malee advised that students wash their hands, cover their mouths, avoid crowds in small places and stay away from people with cold and flu symptoms. 

“You can treat the symptoms, but not the virus,” she said. Therefore, students should treat the symptoms of the cold with their appropriate medications, such as Tylenol or Motrin for a fever, Malee said.

Although winter doesn’t officially start until Dec. 21, Malee said that flu season starts as early as October and can last as late as May. 

She recommended that everyone get the flu vaccine. According to Malee, McKinley Health Center has given 10,850 flu vaccinations as of Nov. 26, and students will still have the chance to get vaccinated after break. According to McKinley’s website, students can receive the vaccine at no charge if they have already paid the Health Service Fee. Others can receive the vaccine for $30. Malee said that McKinley has reached out to students by offering the vaccine at more accessible locations, such at Lincoln Hall and Grainger Engineering Library. 

Malee also advised students who are sick to stay home, rest, drink fluids and try not to become exposed to more germs or expose their own germs.

Before returning home for winter break, a few more chilly weeks lie ahead. Students can follow these tips to stay warm, prepared and healthy for the last few weeks of the semester.

Abby can be reached at [email protected].