Getting sick is one of the biggest secret roadblocks in college. In an environment when your grades can go from awesome to awful in less than twenty-four hours, an illness—especially a serious illness—can set you back. Here are some tips on avoiding illness and what to do if you do get sick.

The best way to avoid dealing with being sick is simply to not get sick at all. However, we all know that’s not as simple as it sounds. Students packed together in dorms are the perfect incubator for disease. However, the best rules to follow are the ones you’ve been told your whole life: wash your hands, eat healthy (Wow 3 times a day does not count as eating healthy! Get some fruits and vegetables in there so you have the vitamins to fight off disease!), sleep (I know, I’m guilty of skimping on this one too, but try to sleep as much as you can. Your body can’t fight disease if its immune system is depleted.); and don’t share razors, toothbrushes, hairbrushes, or drinks. All of these measures can help prevent sickness. What happens when you do get sick though, despite taking all of these safety measures?

First of all, if you’re not going anything I talked about in the previous paragraph, start doing it. If you’re not sleeping, start doing it. If you’re not eating fruits and vegetables, start doing it, if you can. If you suspect anything more than a small cold, go to Student Health. They open at 8:30 and close around 4. I suggest going early and either being seen early (you usually don’t need an appointment that early) or going early and scheduling an appointment for later in the day (this helps during crunch times for sickness, usually at the beginning of the semester or right when a season changes). You can also call in at (504) 865-2393 to schedule an appointment or see if they have room. Student Health can be time-consuming, but they can test you for several common college diseases. Sometimes, they can even give you medication samples and save you a little bit of money. They can also direct you to an urgent care center, doctor, or hospital, depending on your needs. They also take your health insurance status into consideration.

If you don’t have over-the-counter medicine on hand, try to find a way to get some, if you need it. The C-store carries Tylenol, Advil, and other simple medications. To buy generic brands or something a little more specialized, you can probably visit a Rite Aid or other drugstore. Good medications to always have on hand are a pain reliever/fever reducer like Tylenol or Advil, Mucinex, an allergy medicine like Claratin or Benadryl, Sudafed, and Pepto-Bismol. I also know a lot of students who swear by NyQuil or DayQuil. If you don’t know your recommended dosage, read the box or ask a medical professional and never take more than you need.

One of the trickiest parts of sickness in college is dealing with the sickness by itself and dealing with your classes at the same time. As much as possible, even though you feel crummy, it’s a good idea to go to class, unless you have a fever, are in pain too hard to bear in class, or have been deemed unable to attend class by a medical professional. A lot of professors give out free days for illness, a certain number of days when you can be absent from class without consequence. These days are for illness. Try not to use too many of them at the beginning of the semester. You might find yourself wanting them at the end of the semester when you’re sick and really actually can’t attend class. It’s a good idea to contact your professor anyway to let him/her know you’re ill. You can get information from them about class that day, but try to ask your classmates for notes first.

If you’re going to be ill for a long time or are hospitalized, absolutely find a way to let your professor know. And always, always, always get a doctor’s note, especially if it’s the doctor telling you that you can’t go to class. Your professor might not want the note, but I know a lot of students who were sick, missed an assignment, didn’t get a note, and had their grades suffer for it. A note is an especially good idea during exams, midterms, or times when you might need an extension on a project due to your illness. Talk to your professors sooner rather than later—this means before your assignment is due. I find that talking to them in person tends to work better than only communicating through email, but you don’t have to talk to them in person. I think they get a lot of sick excuses from students, and it helps if you can prove that your case is legitimate.

When recovering from an illness, it’s good to let your body completely recover. Even though you may feel fine, continue to take it easy (this means rest—try to do your schoolwork if you can so that you don’t get behind, because that’s a very slippery slope). Though your sickness may be gone, your immune system might be compromised. My senior year of high school, I contracted walking pneumonia before contracting an upper respiratory infection while I was recovering from the walking pneumonia. I was sick for a total of four months and was absolutely miserable. Try to prevent that happening to you.

Getting sick is tough, and recovering can be tough when taking a day off is tough, especially if you’re like a lot of students and do other things besides going to class, like working. However, dealing with the situation in a mature manner can go a long way to help preserve your health and your grades.

Do you guys have any sick stories or advice on illness? Post in the comments below!

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