‘Tis the season to be sickly

By Kyla Henige, Staff Writer

As seasons change, many people find themselves catching a cold, getting the flu, or having a different type of illness

When people think about winter, they think about Christmas, family, pretty lights, Santa Claus – and sickness. While the holiday season is fun, it is important to keep yourself safe and healthy, by understanding the strains of illness, how rapidly it spreads, and how to reduce the probability of contamination.

As the weather gets colder, and the days get shorter, we are not able to get as much Vitamin D, because the sun is out less, and people are inside more. Vitamin D is a key component to keeping a strong, healthy immune system, so having a lack of it can weaken your immune system. Having a weaker immune system simply means that your body struggles to fight off bacteria, or infections which cause you to get sick.

Now, some people do have stronger immune systems than others, but can get sick just as easily. How though? During winter, a majority of the population prefers to stay inside, where it is warm rather than being outside, where it is cold. When it’s cold outside, people are forced to stay inside, because they haven’t adapted to colder weather. So, when staying in a building or confined area with multiple people, such as office spaces, school, or even a house, germs spread faster and easier, making getting sick easier.

According to an article in “Popular Science” magazine, “As it turns out, the virus is basically designed to jump from person to person when the air is cold and dry. Studies have shown that transmission rates are highest when temperature and humidity are both low. Because cold air naturally holds less water, low humidity comes part and parcel with wintertime. Even when we heat that air up to make our homes cozy, it stays just as dry unless we employ a humidifier.”

CBS News reported, “One germy doorknob can infect half your office within hours.” In this study, a sample virus was placed on doorknobs, and other frequently touched surfaces, and within four hours, 40-60% of the office population had picked up the virus. At the end of the study, the researchers were able to trace where the virus had transferred to, and a majority of the office had been contaminate from light switches, fridge handles, and more.

The sample virus in this study was the norovirus. Norovirus, is the scientific name for the stomach flu, which is not to be confused with influenza. Norovirus, as mentioned, is the stomach flu, so it deals with the inflammation of the large and/or small intestine leading to diarrhea, vomiting, or nausea. Whereas influenza, or the flu, can impact a person’s whole body, and commonly leads to; sinus infections, kidney failure, pneumonia, and many other complications, as explained by the CDC.  This is why the winter season is commonly known as flu season.

With December here, it is important to note that that month is the peak of flu season, because it is when the most festivities are held, meaning more people inside, leaving germs and bacteria to make their way from person to person. Flu season extends from October to  May, but peaks between December and February, due to the nature of being cold and more people inside.

While not fully preventable, there are many things that people can do in order to protect themselves from getting sick. One way to do this is by basic hygiene. Washing hands or using hand sanitizer after using the restroom or dealing with multiple surfaces and people, can help eliminate unwanted germs, so that the bacteria is not being carried all day nor being spread from surface to surface, or person to person. The same thing is achieved by using disinfectant wipes. By wiping down surfaces, or frequently touched areas, germs are being taken off those surfaces to prevent others from picking up the bacteria.

The most common, and recommended way to prevent the flu, according to  CDC guidelines, is to get the flu shot at least once a year. While this is not a guarantee to prevent getting sick, it does help minimize the impact of effects that would be felt during the illness. According to the CDC, “The single best way to reduce the risk of seasonal flu and its potentially serious complications is to get vaccinated each year, but good health habits like avoiding people who are sick, covering your cough and washing your hands often can help stop the spread of germs and prevent respiratory illnesses like flu.”

MCC Freshman Maddie Satkowski explains what measures she takes to prevent the flu: “I eat healthy, and when it hits the cold winter months, I dress warmly, and make sure to drink plenty of water. Hygienically, I wash my hands, and regularly use hand sanitizer. I also make sure to mask up when people around me are sick.”

Freshman Michael Wright, who recently underwent surgery to remove  his appendix, was told by his surgeon to be cautious with germs and bacteria.

“I am going to start bundling up in the cold, because germs, bacteria and infections, since they travel easier in the cold,” Wright said. “I will wash my hands more frequently and wear protective gear such as rubber gloves when working so I am not contracting germs. Another thing I plan to do is start a better diet, because it is a way to boost your immune system, and because mine is weak right now, I am going to do what I can to boost it.”

Overall, flu season should be taken very seriously, and if symptoms arise, see a doctor immediately or seek medical control in order to contain it.

For more information on how to stay safe and what measurements to take to prevent illnesses such as the flu or norovirus, visit the CDCs Website or visit your local pharmacy, or primary care doctor.