Down with the sickness
College campuses are breeding grounds for illnesses and disease. University Medical Director for Student Health Services Phillip Brewer explains QU’s top five most common illnesses on campus.
It’s winter – the time of year most people tend to dread. It’s cold, it seems summer is so far away, and most importantly: it seems everyone is constantly sick.
And what’s worse? These illnesses are easily spread throughout college campuses.
According to Phillip Brewer, university medical director for student health services, there are a few illnesses around this campus to watch out for, and some that you wouldn’t expect.
The most common one around campus this season is the flu. It’s contagious and symptoms are typical of a cold, with the addition of an uncomfortable fever and chills.
“I’ve seen 10 cases of the flu in the past two days – it spreads quickly and easily,” Brewer said.
Also accompanying the flu is asthma, a respiratory condition that occurs when the lungs become infected or get worn down from the cold, according to Brewer.
Stephanie Miller, a freshman at Quinnipiac, deals with asthma in the winter even if she isn’t sick.
“The cold air going into my lungs just makes it harder to breathe, especially when I’m going uphill or walking fast to a class,” she said. “I use my inhaler sometimes if it gets really bad.”
Brewer also discussed symptoms that go along with these conditions.
“Both the flu and asthma fall into the category of ENT symptoms,” Brewer said. “ENT” refers to symptoms that affect the ears, nose and throat. To cure the flu and the symptoms that come with it, he recommends taking a trip to the Health Center, where medicine to ease the symptoms may be provided.
Brewer says the next most common illness on campus is conjunctivitis, better known as pink eye. It is a variation of the adenovirus, or the virus that causes the common cold. Its symptoms include inflammation of the eye area, watery eyes and redness, similar to bloodshot eyes.
Next, Brewer says the another type of illnesses common on campus fall under the category of skin conditions. They include abscesses, rashes and soft-tissue cellulitis.
According to Brewer, abscesses in the armpit and groin area are shaving-related. He says to replace your razor at least once a month. As the razor is repeatedly used, (unfortunately, Brewer also says the brand Venus razor is the most susceptible, ladies) it becomes dull which causes the skin to be grazed in the wrong way.
“Bacteria on the skin contaminates the blade over time, and gets into the freshly-shaved crevices of the skin, leading to infection as hair is pulled by the dull blade,” Brewer said. Therefore, it is very important to change your blade frequently.
Rashes are normally caused by allergic reactions, but if they aren’t, a person may not know the cause unless the rash is recurring. The fungus “tidea pedis” is the culprit for the itchiness and redness that come with a rash. According to Mayo Clinic, Benadryl is the best thing to take for this common skin condition, as it will ease swelling and redness as well.
The last skin condition is soft-tissue cellulitis, seen as a cyst similar to an abscess on the skin. Cellulitis can be easily treated with antibiotics.
“Most are caused by MRSA, the resistant type of staph infection,” Brewer said.
It can be treated with three antibiotics – clindamycin, topical Bactrim and doxycycline.
Another form of illness prevalent on college campuses is UTIs, or urinary tract infections. These are most common for girls and are accompanied with symptoms of itching and pain in the groin area, according to the National Library of Medicine. For those with this ailment, Brewer recommends drinking lots of water to flush out the toxins. He will often give patients prescriptions for antibiotics, which should clear up the infection in a few days.
STDs are also on the list, Brewer says, with chlamydia being the most common. Women usually do not display any symptoms for this disease, which makes it even more dangerous. The longer the disease is in the body, the better the chance of sterility in the future. If there are symptoms, both men and women will experience burning and/or clear discharge.
It is very important to be tested for an STD if you think you might have one, and it’s as simple as a quick urine test.
“It is exceedingly important to use condoms, and all the time. There is always the risk of catching one, and the one time you don’t will be the time you get one,” Brewer said.
Lastly, Brewer shares personal health tips he recommends to stay healthy all season.
“Rest is important,” he said. “Get plenty of sleep. Wash your hands often, don’t share drinks and utensils, exercise often and limit alcohol and tobacco intake.”