With the Thanksgiving holiday over, many children have returned to college and are preparing for finals. You had a chance to catch up with them, ask them about their studies and campus life, and send them back with a truckload of leftovers.
While it’s always good for students to take a break from school and refresh at home, they still have to remember to keep themselves healthy when they head back to campus. A busy schedule doesn’t always make it easy to venture out for exercise or groceries. Combined with the usual stress and pressure of college life, this can make your kids more susceptible to infectious diseases.
Here are five common infections among college students:
- Sexually transmitted diseases. There are about 20 million cases of STDs diagnosed in the U.S. every year, and nearly half of them occur in people between the ages of 15 and 24. The best way to avoid diseases such as Chlamydia, syphilis, HPV and HIV (other than strict abstinence) is consistent use of male or female condoms. Vaccines against HPV are also available, but they don’t protect against other STDs.
- Bacterial meningitis. About 4,100 cases of bacterial meningitis are diagnosed each year, and first-year students who live in college dormitories are at an increased risk because pathogens can spread easily in close quarters, particularly when people’s immune systems are weakened by stress and unhealthy habits. Transmission can occur through contact with an infected person, uncovered coughs or sneezes, or through sharing drinking glasses and eating utensils. This condition can be avoided through immunization with three vaccines: meningococcal disease, pneumococcal disease and haemophilus influenzae type b.
- Mononucleosis. Also known as “mono,” this viral infection causes sore throat, swollen glands, fever and severe fatigue. It isn’t highly contagious, but healthy individuals shouldn’t share drinking glasses or kiss a patient until four to six weeks after someone’s symptoms have cleared.
- Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus. Antibiotic-resistant bacteria that cause skin infections can thrive in places that are dirty, such as shared dormitory bathrooms or gymnasiums. This makes it important to keep the skin clean, dress all wounds and scrapes, avoid contact with the damaged skin of infected people, and avoid sharing personal items such as soap, towels or razors. This is especially important for athletes, who need to closely monitor their skin for any damage and clean any athletic equipment that’s shared. A towel should also be used as a barrier between the skin and weight-training benches.
- Strep throat. Strep throat is a sore throat caused by an infection with group A strep bacteria, which can spread easily from person to person through direct contact or as a result of a cough or sneeze. Other symptoms include fever, headache, swollen glands and swollen tonsils. Good hand hygiene will help protect people from infection.
Many of these infections can be easily avoided through good hand hygiene, safe sex practices and immunization. However, it’s also important for your kids to maintain an overall healthy lifestyle that will support a strong immune system. To learn more, consult a family health advisor, who can talk to your children about how to eat a well-balanced diet, get enough sleep and manage stress at college.