5 Common College Ailments and Their Symptoms

It’s officially autumn, and cooler weather, colorful leaves, and pumpkins are on their way to remind you of just that.  But unfortunately, with these pleasant fall attributes come a reality far from pleasant: risk for illnesses.  While the change in weather might leave you feeling a little off-kilter, the fact that you’re starting a new year at college is more significant.  You’re having a major change in your environmental surroundings, and you’re now in close quarters with other students where germs spread easily and illnesses stick around.

Of course, it’s always best to take preventative measures against getting sick.  Getting enough sleep, keeping good hygiene habits, and eating healthy will help boost your immunities.  But if you do start feeling increasingly rundown, or if you notice one of your friends looking under the weather, you should know what you’re up against.  The following are five of the most common college ailments, and the symptoms to look out for.

1. Mononucleosis
Symptoms: high fever, swollen glands, severe sore throat, weakness, fatigue.
It’s often referred to as “the kissing disease,” which doesn’t sound all that bad, but mono is hardly something to be taken lightly.  It’s most commonly transmitted through saliva, which explains where it gets its nickname from.  Not only is it important to get checked for mono for your own health, but also for the health of others.  Something as seemingly harmless as taking a sip out of your friend’s water bottle could end up leaving them bedridden for weeks.  Without treatment, mono can lead to more serious complications, so if you have reasonable suspicion, see a doctor right away.

2. Influenza
Symptoms: fever, aching muscles, headache, congestion, weakness, fatigue.
While they have some symptoms in common, the flu is much worse than the common cold.  Making you feverish and weak, influenza  is bound to make you miss at least a couple days of class.  Bed rest and staying hydrated can help you recover, but sometimes antiviral medication is required, so be sure to visit your campus health center if you get a fever.

3. Pinkeye
Symptoms: redness in eyes, itchy or sore eyes, eye discharge, swollen eyelids.
In a college campus, where a large number of people interact with the same surfaces every day, bacteria is bound to get left behind.  Many students end up getting pinkeye (also known as conjunctivitis) at some point while in college.  Pinkeye can be caused by viruses or allergies, but also by bacteria.  It’s important to always avoid touching or rubbing your eyes.  Be especially careful if you wear contacts; make sure you always wash your hands before putting in or taking out your lenses.

4. Strep Throat
Symptoms: severe sore throat, difficulty swallowing, fever.
This one hits you fast—you find yourself with a very sudden, severe sore throat.  It’s contagious, so get checked as quickly as you suspect you might have it.  If you have a severe sore throat, but no other cold symptoms, you should definitely visit your school’s health center.  Whether you suspect that you have it or whether the doctor’s just confirmed it, make sure to protect your friends from catching it.  Don’t touch anything after you’ve rubbed your eyes, and don’t share any towels or facial products.

5. Food poisoning
Symptoms: nausea, stomach cramping, diarrhea.
You’ve all heard people chide, “You are what you eat.”  So with the case of food poisoning, it’s no surprise that eating tainted food can leave you feeling pretty tainted yourself.  College food poisoning incidents are high, partially due to things like eating food that’s been left out all day, opting for the cheapest (not always safest) food options, and eating old food from the back of the fridge when there’s nothing else edible around.  In dining halls, food poisoning can affect a large number of people really quickly, because all the same foods are being shared.  The norovirus in particular thrives in densely populated areas like colleges.  If you get food poisoning, the most important thing to do is to drink plenty of water.  It’s easy to get dehydrated when you’re sick, and that in itself can cause a whole host of other problems.  No matter your ailment, always remember to have a water bottle by your side.

Photo credit: anitakhart