Winter weather survival: health

COLBY WEBER, Staff Writer

Winter is upon us again, and its arrival brings cold temperatures, snow and sickness.  While it may seem like common knowledge, reminders on how to remain safe during this chilly time can be useful. In order to stay in good shape, there are several strategies students can use to survive the winter season.

Students are more susceptible to illnesses during the winter, according to Salem Fauser, resource nurse at UNI’s Student Health Clinic.

“A lot of the time it’s because they’re in close-quarters, especially if they live in the dorms,” Fauser said.

While living in such close proximity to others plays a role, aspects such as sharing restrooms with others can also increase the risk of catching an illness. Improper sleeping habits or a lack of a healthy diet can also make one more vulnerable to sickness.

Various illnesses are more common during the winter season, including colds, influenza and stomach viruses. Another threat is hypothermia, or as defined by Nick Wright on, the phenomenon “when your body’s core temperature drops below 95 degrees F, which causes your vital systems to shut down. This happens when your body loses heat faster than it’s produced.”

The United States saw an average of about 1,300 hypothermia-related deaths from 1999 to 2011, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Wright explains that frequent shivering, mental confusion, a sense of tiredness and irritability are signs of hypothermia. If someone is not near a medical professional, several steps can be followed in order to treat it. These include taking off wet articles of clothing and escaping wind and water. Warming the chest and neck are also useful tactics for combating the condition. People should also try to avoid movement, because once hypothermia sets in, it is detrimental to let heat escape from the limbs.

As for the cold and flu, there are several tips students can use to lessen their risk of becoming infected.

“A big one is hand-washing, especially before eating, touching your face and after you use the restroom,” Fauser said. “Make sure that you get plenty of sleep and rest well. Have a healthy diet with not a lot of junk food and drink plenty of water to keep yourself hydrated.”

Fauser also mentioned the importance of exercise and disinfecting commonly-touched surfaces if a roommate is sick. If you do become sick, she recommended covering your mouth when you cough or sneeze and staying home.

There are also activities that Fauser advised against doing, such as eating in places where you are exposed to germs. She suggested not going out into the elements unless you are bundled up in proper clothing for the weather. Another piece of advice she gave is to avoid other people until you’re feeling better if you have the flu or another contagious illness.

Fauser recommended checking out local television stations in order to stay safe.

“Our local news stations do a pretty good job of giving you a time frame as far as how long you should be outdoors and how much you should limit your time outdoors based on the wind chill,” she said. “That’s always a good guideline to follow.”

Red or painful extremities are indicators that you have been outside for too long. Fingers and toes are especially vulnerable to the cold. Students can care for their bodies by being aware of how cold it is and taking proper precautions.