Avoid the Flu at University

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The flu is easily spread. Know the best way to avoid getting the flu while away at University
Colleges and universities are often hit hard by outbreaks of flu viruses. Dorms, classrooms and constant interaction with other students make it hard to avoid the spread of germs and the flu virus. The H1N1 flu virus can remain alive and infectious on common surfaces (books, desks, etc.) for several hours. There are steps you can take to avoid becoming infected and prevent the spread of the virus. Keep reading for tips to make your dorm and your college life safer.


  1. File:Kill germs 7940.jpg
    Buy antiseptic and disinfectant wipes and sprays to keep your living area. Read the labels and buy according to germ killing ability.
    Buy cleaning supplies at a grocery store. Bigger stores will have a better selection than the smaller convenience stores on campus, better prices and you will be able to pick up travel sizes for some items to carry with you to class.
  2. Discuss the following measures with your roommate(s) and plan for making your area cleaner.

    • Schedule a time when you can have a cleaning session to de-bug your room. Going at the task as a team will make it more fun.
    • Make a check list and post it on the door. It will help remind you to clean and remind you of those easily forgotten tasks.
  3. Plan on cleaning your dorm or living area more often than usual. Germs will be spread before dust appears.
  4. Wipe down hard surfaces with a disinfectant clean up wipe.

    • One tablespoon of bleach per gallon of water makes a disinfectant wash for common surfaces.
    • Don't forget to clean light switches on lamps and the wall.
    • Don't forget to wipe down remote controls, refrigerator handle and telephones as well as other electronic dials and switches.
    • Go over desk and study areas with disinfectant.
    • Remember doorknobs inside and the outside doorknob leading into your room.
    • Spray a light mist of aerosol disinfectant over the hard surfaces in the room.
    • You can lay your pens, pencils and books out and spray a light mist over your school supplies as well.
    • Carefully wipe your computer keys with the disinfectant wipe.
  5. Empty trash cans often and use trash bags to limit your contact. Empty them daily if you or someone in your room has been sick and has thrown away tissues.
  6. Position your beds on opposite walls and avoid bunk beds or pushing your beds too close together.

    • Keep a safe distance to avoid spreading germs.
    • Understand any quarantine policies or rules as it pertains to dorm living if you share a space.
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    Keep some wipes in your room and take a few minutes to wipe down things every day. Don't forget your books, pencils and remote controls. Put them in a ziploc bag and take some with you to wipe faucets in public restrooms
    Keep the wipes handy and try to go over the commonly touched items daily.
  8. Take antiseptic or disinfectant wipes with you to the restroom to clean faucets and sink areas that you will come in contact with.

    • You can put some in a ziploc baggie to keep in your bathroom caddy if you share a larger bathroom.
    • If you have a suite or semi-private bath you should keep a canister of wipes so everyone can wipe bathroom surfaces as necessary.
  9. Wash your hands several times a day. Use the antiseptic hand gel in your back pack when you don't have time for a hand washing.

    • Wash your hands for at least 20 seconds.
    • Use paper towels to dry your hands or make sure everyone has their own hand towel. Don't share towels with others and keep your towels as far apart as possible.
    • Try to wash your hands after every class and before meals.
    • Apply lotion to avoid dry skin.
  10. Keep your toothbrushes and toothpaste as far apart as possible if you share a suite or semi-private bathroom. Purchase a container or have something handy to set your toothbrush on when in a more public or shared bathroom.

    • Avoid letting your toothbrush come in contact with the counter.
    • Consider replacing toothbrushes more frequently.
  11. Keep a small (travel size) package of antiseptic wet wipes in your back pack. Use a wet wipe to quickly wipe over your desk area when you arrive in a class. Remember the under edge of the desk closest to you and any arm rests.

    • Use a wet wipe to clean study areas in the library before you use them.
  12. Avoid drinking alcohol in excess.

    • A hangover and dehydration may weaken your immune system and make you more susceptible to infections.
    • It becomes easy to confuse glasses and accidentally drink after someone who has been sick.
    • Avoid drinking games where you may share a glass with someone.
    • Most beverages don't have the alcohol content to kill the flu virus on the cup. Don't assume because there is alcohol in it that it is safe from germs.
    • If you do have friends over or attend a party, label a plastic cup, or take a cup from home that's easily identifiable. Only pour small quantities so you won't be tempted to sit your drink down to wander. Consider serving beverages in cheaper paper cups and encourage guests to get fresh cups as the event continues.
  13. Avoid sitting too close to others in class. If there is room to spread out you should put some distance between you and other classmates.
  14. Avoid anyone with cold or flu symptoms. Even if they say they aren't contagious, it is better to be safe than sorry.
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    Avoid sitting too close to others in the cafeteria. Avoid the baskets of forks and use the pre-wrapped plastic utensils or bring your own. You never know who touched it before you.
    Be aware of exposed silverware and cutlery when eating in a food court or cafeteria. Use wrapped plastic cutlery if it is available. Silverware stations that allow people to pick their silverware from a basket can be touched by many others before you arrive.

    • Avoid salad bars, bread baskets or other communal food sources.
    • Order your meals "To Go" so that it is served on disposable and portable containers or bags and not reusable plates and trays.
    • Grab packets of condiments to keep handy or buy the condiments in a regular size for your room. Beware of condiment containers, such as ketchup squeeze bottles on tables, and stations that are frequently handled and rarely cleaned.
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    Find out where flu shots are offered and get one. Remember you may have some flu-like symptoms right after getting it.
    Find out where you can get the necessary flu shots and get them. If these aren't available on campus or if there is too long a wait you should discuss another option with your parents. Your insurance may allow you to go somewhere else such as a pharmacy or doctor's office, this should be confirmed with your parents first. You may also find it easier to plan a flu shot on a visit home.
  17. Wash your clothes after wearing them instead of recycling less dirty items for another day.

    Make smart wardrobe decisions that allow for easy washing while being weather appropriate.
    • You don't want to carry around classroom and campus germs on your clothes.
    • Keep your wardrobe simple with easy wash and wear items.
    • Consider layers of easily washed items instead of clothes that require extra time to dry or dry cleaning. Dress in layers if you have classes that are very warm or very hot compared to the outside temperature.
    • Dress appropriately for the weather so you won't have to make an additional clothes change during the day because of poor planning. Check the weather online or on TV every morning so you can dress appropriately for the weather. Take an umbrella or pack a rain poncho in your backpack
    • Avoid running small errands or quick trips while under dressed for the weather. Running to check your mail in your pajamas or going to and from the gym in gym clothes are examples. Don't go outside unless you are dressed for it.
  18. Wash your bedding and pillow cases and don't encourage guests to sit on your bed or use your pillow.

    • If your comforter is too much to wash and dry you can put it in the dryer on high heat with a wet towel to help steam clean it. You can do the same with jackets but make sure the fabrics are dryer safe.
    • Wash your bedding with laundry detergent and dry on high heat until dry. Avoid shaking and hugging dirty sheets and towels as you transfer them into the washing machine.
    • Plan to wash sheets weekly and comforters every month until flu season is over. If you or your roommate become ill you may need to rewash everything immediately and rewash once you are no longer contagious.
    • Consider temporarily replacing a bulky comforter that doesn't easily wash with easily washed and dried cotton or fleece blankets. Store your bulky comforter in your closet until flu season has passed.
    • Resist the urge to curl up on your comforter and take a nap until you've changed out of your school clothes. Consider your bed a clean zone and limit the contact you have with it while you are wearing school clothes and shoes.
    • Keep lounge wear handy to easily slip in and out of during the day for relaxing.
  19. Get plenty of rest and eat right. Taking care of your body will keep you from getting run down and compromising your immune system.
  20. Mop the floors more frequently in your room if you study on the floor or walk barefoot. If there isn't a mop available for you to use you should look at purchasing a Swiffer or other mop with built in mopping-solution system. Spray a light mist of the aerosol disinfectant spray over throw rugs.
  21. Get a humidifier if the air in your dorm room is dry. Dry mucus membranes are more susceptible to germs and other viruses that cause illness.

    • Follow the instructions and keep it running while you are in the room.
    • One humidifier is enough for a dorm room so talk to your roommate about splitting the cost of one, ask the student health department if they sell them or ask a parent to ship one from home.
    • You'll find your skin is also less dried out with a humidifier and you may decide to keep it beyond cold and flu season.
    • When buying a humidifier, a smaller one is easier to clean but will require you to refill it more often. Consider where you will be able to clean the unit.
    • Some humidifiers suggest using distilled water. This water can be purchased in gallon jugs from local grocery stores on the water aisle.
    • Keep a gallon jug handy or use cleaned out 2 liter soda bottles to keep extra water in the room for refilling the humidifier. You can ruin the machine by letting it run out of water. Some models have automatic shut offs.
    • Place a towel under the unit and keep the mist away from fabrics, electronics and other items that can be damaged by water.
    • Place the unit up on a counter, desk or table and not on the floor.
    • These are sold in most larger stores and pharmacies in the health section. You can ask a pharmacist if you have questions.
    • Humidifiers use a cool mist and vaporizers have a heating element that creates steam. Vaporizers are good for when you are severely congested as they can be used with the menthol oil additives. Humidifiers are used for adding moisture into the air. Read the label and make sure you understand which one you are buying.
  22. Change your clothes and take a shower once you are in for the day.

    • You won't be relaxing or sleeping with the germs you've picked up in class or around campus.
    • You'll be more inclined to stay in once you've switched to lounge wear from your school attire.
    • Put your clothes in the hamper as soon as you remove them and wash clothes and linens before the basket becomes too full. Remember to avoid shaking and hugging your clothes as you transfer them into the wash.
    • Showering in the evening will also allow you to avoid the rush of people in the mornings. Try to make trips to the shower and sinks at off peak times so you will have time to wipe fixtures and surfaces with your disinfectant wipes, avoid unnecessary human contact or contact with sick people.
  23. Avoid parties and social events as much as possible. Stay in and study or spend time around smaller groups of friends you know to be in good health.

    • Don't invite people over to visit. Your guest may bring unnecessary germs into your dorm area.
  24. Take very good care of yourself should you get sick with a cold or flu.

    • You can catch it more than once. Just because you've had it or been around someone else who has doesn't mean you can be careless. You could catch it or some other bug while your body is recovering. Be extra careful if you are recovering from some illness that has weakened your system.
  25. Avoid touching your face. Your hands spread germs to your face and mucus membranes allowing the virus to spread.

    • Always keep facial tissue handy for wiping runny noses.
    • Some brands are softer than others and the premium brands have lotions and aloe added to soothe sore noses.
    • Remember to put some in your backpack should your nose start running.
    • If you have a cough it is better to cough into a tissue than your hand.
    • Some other premium brands offer anti-bacterial properties but do not let that keep you from proper cleaning and hand washing. The effectiveness is questionable and minimal and it doesn't protect you from all germs and viruses.


  • The H1N1 Flu spreads quickly. The onset is very fast. You should consider keeping Tylenol, Advil, Kleenex, a digital thermometer, and several containers of an electrolyte replacement (Powerade or Gatorade) in your room.
  • Keep a bottle of lotion handy. The extra hand washing will dry out your skin and you could have cracked or irritated skin that is open to germs. Use lotion frequently to keep your skin healthy.
  • Keep some Carmex, Blistex or tub of some other salve handy to rub on irritated noses.
  • Get plenty of sleep and try not to let your body get worn down.
  • Make sure you and your roommate have the phone numbers for the student health center and emergency contact for parents posted. You may be too ill to call and having the numbers handy will make it easier for your roommate or a friend to call for you.
  • Discuss with your resident hall staff any products you feel should be made available to everyone. Perhaps they can arrange for antiseptic wipes to be placed in all public rooms and restrooms. Make sure they know when soap or paper towels are running low in the restrooms. Ask to have anti-bacterial soaps used instead of commercial hand soap.
  • Avoiding people who are sick is not rude. Just explain you are trying not to get sick. Most people will understand.
  • Avoid hugging and shaking hands with friends. They may not be sick but they may have just hugged or shaken hands with someone else who was.
  • Air freshener sprays are not anti-bacterial, anti-fungal or anti-germicides. Look for Lysol or generic brand of aerosol disinfectant spray that kills germs. Read the labels and buy for what it does and not how it smells.
  • If you have been sick and are recovering, remember to replace or sanitize your toothbrush, change and wash all bedding and wash your sick clothes as promptly as possible.
  • Keep garbage bags in all your trash cans. The flu hits suddenly and you may be too sick to make it to the restroom to vomit.
  • Make sure everyone in the room has their own waste basket. You don't want to be studying next to a trash can full of your roommate's tissue. If someone is sick or has been using face tissue, make sure you empty the trash daily. Spray Lysol in and around the can to kill other germs.
  • Don't spend any additional time in the waiting room at the student health center or doctor's office. These areas are loaded with germs. If you must go to accompany a friend you should take all precautions, wear a mask if it is available and wash your hands immediately after leaving. Make sure to avoid touching your face.
  • Be sure to do a complete cleaning of the room following any flu that you or your roommate may have. Use anti-bacterial cleansers and sprays. Make sure you clean out your trash cans (use the showers and wash with very hot water and cleaner) and spray them down with Lysol.
  • After heavily spraying your room with Lysol you may need to open a window, use the fan or step out of the room for 30 minutes for everything to dry and the fumes to settle. The smell in an enclosed space could be too much.
  • When you wipe or spray anything with Lysol, use the clean-up wipes or use anti-bacterial hand gel, you should allow the product to air dry. The drying time is part of the sanitizing process.
  • Don't forget your backpack, computer bag or purses. Think of items you handle during the day and try to keep those as germ free as possible. Hang your bag on hooks in the restroom instead of sitting them of floor. Wipe zipper pulls, handles and straps with antibacterial wipe or lightly mist with aerosol disinfectant spray as needed. Check manufacturers cleaning instructions to avoid damaging fabric and test a small area before spraying or cleaning the entire bag. Consider using older bags or bags easier to keep clean until the flu epidemic has passed.
  • Towels and linens (sheets, blankets, pillow cases) should not be shared. Wash the linens with laundry soap and then dry on hot head. If you can't wash your pillow, put it in the dryer on hot heat with your wet towels to steam sanitize them.
  • Don't just rinse dishes and silverware, use dish soap, hot water and dry with a clean towel if a dishwasher isn't available.


  • Avoid cleaning products with bleach as they can discolor or damage certain materials.
  • Open a window or door before spraying aerosol disinfectant. These can be quite strong smelling.
  • Know what your school's policy is for dealing with the flu and other virus outbreaks on campus. Understand these rules and know who to contact should you become infected.

Things You'll Need

  • Disinfectant Clean up wipes. They are sold in the cleaning section, pre-moistened and you dispose of these when you are done. Look for Clorox, Lysol or brand that specifically mentions "disinfectant".
  • Travel size package of antiseptic wet wipes. These are sold in the section that sells travel/trial sizes. These look like baby wipes but have more anti-bacterial properties.
  • Lotion
  • Aerosol disinfectant spray such as Lysol. Don't confuse this with air fresheners that only add fragrance to the air. The disinfectant can be sprayed on surfaces to kill germs.
  • Kleenex
  • Antiseptic hand gel. Look in the travel section for a size that fits easily into backpacks. You can get a larger size with a pump for your room.
  • Paper towels
  • Trashcan liners (garbage bags)
  • Fever reducers (Tylenol and Advil or generics of these)
  • Gatorade
  • Plastic Cutlery

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