Beat the bug before it beats you: how to prevent and fight the common cold

Julia Meehan

Students at Iowa State are exposed to coughs and sneezes from classmates, which also means they are exposed to the danger of catching contagious germs, viruses and bacteria.

Health specialists from CVS Drugstore and the Thielen Student Health Center shared methods to prevent getting sick, including over-the-counter medicine, and what CVS and the Health Center can offer students.

“Thielen Student Health Center specializes in students,” said Greg Yeakel, a pharmacist at Thielen Student Health Center. “We are the moms away from home.”

Battling the common cold may be easier than people think. Jedidiah Bartlett, pharmacist at CVS Drugstore, said there has been a study on how increasing your intake of zinc and vitamin C could reduce or help make sickness less severe.

Other ways to prevent sickness include drinking fluids throughout the day, getting a good nights sleep and staying active. Students should also consider cleaning their bed sheets. Washing them every couple weeks can help avoid the build up of germs.

“The best prevention is paying close attention to what you are handling because if you accidentally rub your nose or eyes it becomes an avenue for germs, viruses or bacteria to get in,” Bartlett said. “That is how things spread like a wildfire.”

One way to stay healthy is to routinely washing your hands or carry hand sanitizer with you because a lot of everyday items we touch, specifically cellphones, contain potentially harmful germs.

Another step is to cover your coughs and sneezes. Immediately after sneezing or coughing, wash your hands for 20 seconds or the equivalent of singing the happy birthday song or ABC’s. When washing hands, clean in-between fingers, around nails, around jewelry and up your wrist.

If sick, try to keep your distance from others to prevent your sickness from spreading. The Thielen Student Health Center offers masks for the protection of yourself and others.

“We try to educate all of our patients, pills often don’t fix it, it’s time that will heal on its own,” Yeakel said.

If your prevention efforts fail, there are many ways to remedy the common cold. Many over-the-counter products can cure symptoms student face. When encountering symptoms such as aches and pains its best to treat those with ibuprofen or Aleve.

On the other hand, fevers should be treated with acetaminophen or Tylenol. If you experience chills or hot flashes, check your temperature regularly in case of a fever.

“It is a common question for our staff to ask, ‘do you have a fever?’,” said Laura Knowles, R.N. at Thielen Student Health Center. “There is a difference, a low-grade fever is a friend that tells you that your body is fighting something. A high-grade fever is a different story. [When you have a high fever] is when we want to see you, so we can cure whatever you might have.”

“Numerous over-the-counter treatments provide the options of pills or liquid medicine. If you have chest congestion, Mucinex DM tablets are the route to go rather than the liquid because it ‘tastes awful,’” Bartlett said.

Sudafed is helpful for healing plugged or stuffed sinuses. In order to purchase Sudafed, pharmacies requires customers to show their driver’s license to prove they are 18 years or older, Bartlett said.

Another popular over-the-counter medicine is Benadryl. Bartlett said to take Benadryl at night because the medicine tends to make people drowsy. It is important to get at least six to eight hours of sleep when taking Benadryl as to not wake up drowsy.

There are other inexpensive paths to soothing the common cold, such as do-it-yourself dorm room remedies.

One of these remedies is to drink a hot beverage with honey. If you do not feel like doing it yourself, Starbucks has a drink called the honey citrus mint tea that is also known as the medicine ball.

The tea includes steamed lemonade, hot water, jade citrus mint green tea, peach tranquility herbal tea and honey.

“To soothe the throat, gargling salt water, salty as the sea, for a solid minute and a couple times a day works really well,” Bartlett said. “It is easy and inexpensive for students at Iowa State.”

Thielen Student Health Center as well as the CVS Drugstore on campus offer vaccines for students. Students can be vaccinated for HPV, meningitis, pneumonia, and other diseases.

“Before heading to the doctor’s office or pharmacy I encourage you to check out for any sickness,” Bartlett said. “It is a really well written government website that will explain in a friendly manner for readers to supplement the knowledge about their sickness.”

Flu vaccines reduce the risk by about 60 percent to prevent making a visit to the doctor’s office for Influenza, according to the Thielen Student Health Center. Students can get a flu shot at Thielen or CVS for around $20. Students can charge this to their U-bill if they get their flu shot at Thielen.

Stay active, drink fluids and always rest to prevent getting sick in the first place. Thielen Student Health Center and CVS Drugstore are on campus and there to help any student that in need.