Are you getting sick at Union? Health Services offers some useful tips for the upcoming cold season

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By Joshua Ostrer

As the weather gets colder in Schenectady, the classrooms at Union almost immediately become filled with sniffles and coughs—nothing new to Angela Stefanatos, the Director of Union’s Health Services.

Illnesses spread quickly on college campuses, thanks to the proximity of a vast number of students together in one space, but on an especially compact campus like Union, an illness can spread fast.

When sickness hits Union, it seems to spread almost instantaneously throughout campus, but what are people actually getting sick with?

“A lot of strep throat, a lot of pink eye will spread, if the G.I. bug is around it will spread. The flu certainly spreads like crazy, all the more reason to get a flu shot. [But] we didn’t have any flu last year. We see a lot of strep in spurts. I think because you guys are in such close quarters and have such busy schedules,” said Stefanatos.

However, the primary culprit at Union is none of the above; it is the seemingly ever-present common cold.

“Viral illnesses are definitely the most common. It just needs TLC, which is fluids, rest and cough medicine and I think that’s the hardest for people, including us [Health Services], because there’s no quick fix. If you have strep we can give you antibiotics to make you feel better in 24 hours. If it’s a virus, it needs time,” said Stefanatos.

The answer to the common cold boils down to patience.

“The average viral illness can last seven to 10 days, and people think ‘oh I’ve been sick for a week’ but as long as you’re not getting worse and worse and you’re starting to get a little better, seven to 10 days is not uncommon,” said Stefanatos.

But what can you do to avoid catching the common cold in such a compact college campus?

“Take care of yourself—I know it’s hard when the workload is piling up, eat regularly, sleep, even take the time to exercise, these things really make a difference,” said Stefanatos.

And some personal hygiene can go a long way in keeping you healthy.

“Hand washing, hand washing, hand washing, good old soap and water. Don’t share glasses. All just what they taught you in grade school,” said Stefanatos.

Blaming chilly Schenectady for your sickness? You might not be far off.

“I think it’s the exposure to different bugs, it’s like when everyone went to kindergarten and you’re exposed to new bugs and people. I think it’s a combination. But I definitely think there are some regional strains of things. I think people have problems with allergies being from different climates, and allergies can also predispose you to more respiratory problems,” said Stefanatos.

Stefanatos also believes the size of the 2016 class could be contributed to sickness spreading.

“This year the poor freshman coming in, there wasn’t really enough rooms, there were some triples, we should avoid doing things like tripling up students.”

Health Services is excited about the upcoming weekend, as the groundbreaking for its new facility attached to the Alumni gym will take place at noon on Saturday.

“I think it’s going to help us do what we need to do better, we’ll have a lot more space… The groundbreaking is at homecoming and they’ll be building onto the Alumni Gym and it’s going to be a wellness center. So counseling will still be part of us. It’ll be a new building with much more modern facilities and more of a doctor’s office type setup,” said Stefanatos.

Health Services’ new facility will also allow them to host group and educational events for students, thanks to the additional space offered at their new location.

If you are sick, give health services a call at 518-388-6147.

“We’ve got a lot of things to treat that [viral illness].We can’t fix you, but we can give you a lot of things to make you feel better. It never hurts to call; it’s free to come here,” said Stefanatos.

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