Preventing the Common Cold Once and For All

Julia Meehan

As flu season approaches, have you thought to yourself, am I prepared to tackle any sickness that awaits me? Students at Iowa State University are exposed to the never-ending coughs and sneezes from classmates; catching contagious germs, viruses and bacteria likely to enter the gateway of students’ eyes, noses, or mouths. Treating a sickness alone, hours away without the support of guardians is scary and stressful. After discussing with the pharmacists and a R.N. from our local CVS Drugstore and Thielen Student Health Center, there are methods to prevent getting sick in the first place, accessible over-the-counter products to use, and specifically what the Drugstore and Health Center offer.

“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 begins with the habits not many are aware of. First, habitually drinking fluids all throughout the day keeps you healthy and hydrated. Secondly, sleep is a big factor not only for a sharp mind in class the next day, but lack of sleep can catch up to your health. Thirdly, staying active daily can prevent the common cold even if it’s 30 minutes out of your day. If you haven’t gotten to cleaning your linens, today would be a good day. Surprisingly, students don’t think of swapping out their bed sheets. But exchanging them every so often could avoid the accessibility of germs, viruses and bacteria. Based on the conversation with Jedidiah Bartlett, Pharmacist at CVS Drugstore, there has been a study on increasing your intake of zinc and vitamin C could reduce or help make it less severe.


“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,” said Jedidiah Bartlett, Pharmacist at CVS Drugstore. “That is how things spread like a wildfire.”


There are simple steps to staying healthy such as, routinely washing your hands. It is smart to carry hand sanitizers with you at all times because everything we touch, specifically are phone, is notorious for germs. Another step would be always covering your coughs and sneezes. Immediately after sneezing or coughing, wash your hands while singing the Happy Birthday song. Keep in mind when washing your hands for 20 seconds, clean in-between your fingers, around your nails, around your jewelry, up to your wrist, and in those nitty-gritty areas of your hands. Be courteous of your classmates and roommates by isolating yourself when you are sick. Even staying a distance away from those who are sick. It wouldn’t be a bad idea to stop over at Thielen Student Health Center to grab a mask for 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,” said Yeakel.


Sometimes students are late to the game and the common cold beats the prevention. There are over-the-counter products to cure any symptoms a student is facing. When encountering symptoms like, aches and pains its best to treat those symptoms with ibuprofen or Aleve. On the other hand, fevers should be treated with Tylenol. If you are experiencing chills or hot flashes, checking your temperature regularly helps.


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


Numerous over-the-counter treatments provide the options of pill or liquid. Once you figure out you have symptoms of chest congestion, Mucinex DM tablets are the route to go rather than the liquid. As said by Bartlett, word on the street is it tastes awful. A popular drug Sudafed is perfect for healing plugged or stuffed sinuses. A friendly reminder, in order to purchase Sudafed at a pharmacy, it requires a driver’s license of 18 years or older. It is advised for students when taking Benadryl to take it at night due to the factors of drowsiness. On top of that, make sure you get at least six to eight hours of sleep when taking Benadryl because there are possibilities you can wake up drowsy.


Besides over-the-counter drugs, there are inexpensive paths to soothing the common cold. For example, cough drops are something everyone enjoys sucking on while walking on campus or sitting in a lecture hall. There is always the go to cough drop Halls, for comforting the sore throat and Luden’s wild cherry flavor drops, which are known to break up mucus. If it hurts to swallow, Cepacol has a numbing agent to calm your throat. Another path to take is do it yourself dorm room remedies such as drinking a hot beverage with actual honey not artificial honey. If you feel like the common cold has taken over your body and you’re too sluggish to do it yourself, Starbucks has a drink called the honey citrus mint tea, also known as, the medicine ball. The ingredients include, steamed lemonade, hot water, jade citrus mint green tea, peach tranquility herbal tea and honey. Since it is not too sweet, an extra pack of honey is suggested. The medicine ball is a get better tea that makes anyone feel better.


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


The CVS Drugstore on campus offers endless vaccines for students. A student can be vaccinated for HPV, Meningitis, Pneumonia, and much more. Check out their website for more information. When looking for a place to receive a flu shot, CVS Drugstore provides them for visitors. Any student can pay out of the pocket or if possible bring in your insurance card and there is a chance your insurance will cover it. Stop in on Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. During the weekends the pharmacy is open from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.


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


Thielen Student Health Center carries all of the vaccines that a student would need and more. Especially, the vaccines that people have to have or should have are available at Thielen. According to Thielen Student Health Center website, flu vaccines reduce the risk by about 60% to prevent making a visit to the doctor’s office for influenza. There are no appointments necessary; students can walk into the pharmacy from 9 to 11:30 a.m. on Wednesdays, Fridays, and Saturdays to get the flu shot. The flu vaccine is an injection about 20 dollars to receive. First, the cost will be billed to student’s insurance then any unpaid amount will be charged to the u-bill. A unique feature about Thielen is, they have a travel department. This is perfect for any student studying abroad or going out of the country. It is an absolute must for students to make an appointment to be up to date on vaccines. Then you’re healthy and won’t have to worry about bringing any contagious germs, bacteria, or viruses back to the States.


Keep in mind these friendly tips for the next time you feel a tickle in your throat. Ignoring that tickle could potentially be a colossal mistake. No one is in favor of missing a whole week of class and falling behind all because of a darn bug. 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 here to lend a helping hand to any student that is in need. Now you’re ready to beat the bug before it beats you.