Health Basics For College Students: Common Illnesses

Dorm life is one of the most memorable and exciting parts of the college experience, especially if you get along with everyone in your hall. In many cases, a good friend will be just ten feet away, but all that proximity can come at a serious cost. Disease often spreads like wildfire across college campuses due to cramped environments, increased stress and unhealthy eating habits. From common colds to more serious and permanent conditions, it’s important to take the necessary precautions to ensure your residency is safe and enjoyable.

Some illnesses can flourish easily in college settings:

      1. Meningitis
        This is a serious condition that causes long-term disabilities and even death. It’s contagious and affects the brain and spinal column. College students are particularly at risk for several reasons. The first is that meningitis appears in the fall and winter, which spans more than half the time students are in school. The second is that, due to how it spreads (coughing, sneezing and physical contact), it’s easy to contract in a dorm setting where everyone is sharing the same space.Meningitis initially behaves like the flu, but then more serious symptoms develop, such as confusion, vomiting, exhaustion and rash. If not treated right away, the disease can leave permanent damage.Thankfully, most colleges require all students to get a vaccine for meningitis before they’re allowed to live on campus. This vaccine protects against the most numerous types, but it’s still important to identify the signs quickly and early.
      2. Mononucleosis
        Commonly known as “mono” or “the kissing disease,” this illness also includes flu-like symptoms and is highly contagious. Many college students kiss and share drinks or utensils, so it’s very easy for mono to spread. Although the flu-like symptoms recede after a few weeks, the exhaustion can last for a month or more. In fact, one of my good friends had mono symptoms for almost an entire year and had to take a semester off because she didn’t have the energy to concentrate on her school work. Because mono is a virus, the best way to get better is to just rest and eat healthy, doing so can make the healing process go faster.
      3. Pneumonia
        Pneumonia occurs when bacteria, viruses, fungi or parasites infect the lungs. It usually develops when colds aren’t treated properly. College students are prone to contracting this illness because of the tendency to maintain their normal activity level despite their condition. Pneumonia is almost identical to the flu and symptoms include fatigue, chest pain, headache and chills. Generally, antibiotics work well against pneumonia, but the best cure is simply taking care of yourself when you get sick. Get plenty of rest, drink fluids and avoid foods that’ll accelerate your congestion (such as milk and other dairy products). Seek further medical attention if symptoms last more than 10 days.

Most students make it through college without experiencing serious health problems, but it’s always good to be prepared. The costs of treatment can really add up over time, and one of these illnesses could easily lead to debt. Health insurance is one way to protect yourself. There are several health insurance options available to students from remaining under your parents’ plan to temporary insurance specifically catered to college students. Most schools will offer their own policies, but these plans may not give you all the coverage you need.

Even if you’re the safest, healthiest person in the world, college life definitely presents some new possible risks. You never know when you’ll need medical attention due to injuries, dehydration, illness or other causes. For more information about student health insurance, go here.