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Dr. Manuel Flores
How College Students Can Protect Themselves and Their Families from Seasonal Illnesses this Holiday Season

How College Students Can Protect Themselves and Their Families from Seasonal Illnesses this Holiday Season

How College Students Can Protect Themselves and Their Families from Seasonal Illnesses this Holiday Season

The holiday season is upon us. For students, that means leaving campus and returning home to visit their families. 

The COVID-19 pandemic showed us that thousands of students returning home presents several opportunities for exposure that could wreak havoc on campuses when the new semester begins. Still, if students take the proper precautions to stay safe and healthy, they can enjoy their holiday season with loved ones without endangering themselves or their classmates.

Staying safe from COVID and the flu

Students returning home for the holidays should ensure that they are up to date with their vaccinations, particularly the latest COVID-19 and flu vaccines. New bivalent booster shots were recently approved that provide coverage from new strains of the virus, protecting students from severe symptoms or potentially preventing them from falling ill at all. 

Additionally, this year’s flu season has proven to be particularly rough, starting much earlier and more severe than usual. Students will want to ensure they receive the flu vaccine before returning home, not only to protect themselves but also to protect their families. Especially given the compounding effects of the flu and other respiratory viruses such as COVID-19, vaccines are more important than ever this year.

Students should also take precautions like social distancing and mask usage, especially around family members who are unvaccinated or immunocompromised. Families are understandably eager to celebrate with one another once again — particularly if their children have been away studying at college — but be smart about it. Don’t take unnecessary risks to have an interaction that isn’t necessary.

Keep your immune system strong

Another step students can take to keep themselves healthy is following good nutrition. Although it’s acceptable to splurge a bit on the holiday feast, make sure to eat foods that will help boost your immune system. Foods like fruits, vegetables, and fish have natural properties that will keep you healthy, helping with conditions like blood pressure, heart disease, and more. A piece of pie with your holiday dinner probably won’t hurt you, but try to avoid junk food when possible.

Students should also try to reduce their stress levels to the best of their abilities. Studies have shown that stress is linked to decreased immune function. Unfortunately, the holidays can be a stressful time for many just as much as they can be a joyous time — from the financial pressure of buying presents, the stress of organizing an extravagant dinner, and more. Some of this stress will pay off with the reward of happiness and relaxation, but try to find ways to reduce stress using methods like peaceful meditation and exercise.

With new strains of the COVID-19 virus and a worse-than-usual flu season, many have wondered if it is wise to return home for the holidays. While this choice is up to the discretion of the individual, with the proper precautions, you can avoid getting sick and spreading illness to others. Protect yourself, your family, and your classmates this holiday season so everyone can enjoy this time of joy and relaxation.

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