Staying Healthy

November 13, 2011

University physicians urge community members to get flu shots, stay home if sick to prevent spread of respiratory illnesses.

The fall and winter are the peak times for flu, bronchitis and other respiratory illnesses, and there are simple steps GW students can take to keep healthier.

“This is high season for bacterial and viral respiratory infections,” said Isabel Goldenberg, medical director of the Student Health Service. “These illnesses are very contagious.”

Respiratory illnesses include bronchitis, pneumonia, ear infections, sinus infections, throat infections and laryngitis. Student Health Service has seen an increase in respiratory illnesses this academic year.

To stop their spread, she recommended washing hands frequently, coughing into sleeves or tissues and getting seasonal influenza vaccinations, which are available on campus through the university’s flu shot clinics. A flu shot clinic will be held this Wednesday at Thurston from 5 to 7 p.m. The shots are free for students enrolled in the Student Health Insurance Plan and cost $20 for all other students and employees.

If students feel sick, they should stay home—not only avoiding class but also any other communal environment—until 24 hours after a fever. GW community members experiencing fevers of more than 100 degrees, persistent coughs, headaches, chills or shortness of breath should seek medical care.

The peak season for respiratory illnesses begins in October and lasts until March. After Thanksgiving Student Health Service often experiences an increase in patients, especially as students are exposed to illnesses on flights home for the holiday, said Dr. Goldenberg. She recommended not touching your face on flights if possible and washing hands frequently.

Exam season is also a high incidence period for respiratory illnesses when students are often particularly exhausted and vulnerable to getting sick. Dr. Goldenberg stressed trying to organize time so students don’t need to pull an all-nighter and to keep eating regularly and sleeping well during exams.

She also urged students who haven’t yet received a flu shot this year to come to Wednesday’s clinic. “The best protection is to be immunized,” she said.