Jean Hanson is the associate director for clinical support services and outreach at Duke Student Health. She is also a registered nurse with a masters in public health. Hanson spoke with The Chronicle and outlined several tips on how to stay healthy during tenting.
Get your flu shot. Although the nation, especially the Northeast, has seen increased cases of the flu this winter, Duke has seen a decrease. Hanson and others at student health believe that this trend may be related to more students getting the flu shot.
You hear it all the time, but wash your hands and keep them away from your face. It can be difficult to wash frequently while in Kryzyzewskiville, but unwashed hands are one of the easiest ways to catch an illness.
Do not share food, drink or cigarettes with anyone. Understand that many of these diseases are infectious before people display symptoms. Asking someone whether they are sick or not does not guarantee that someone is not contagious.
Keep your stress level low. Student health can often tell when it is midterm week simply by the number of students who make appointments. Stress is an easy way to weaken your immune system and get sick. Spending time in the tent gives you less time to focus on school and extracurricular activities, which might lead to more stress and, in turn, illness.
Sleep well. Not every student can get 9-10 hours of sleep, but while tenting, students need to try and get as close to eight hours as possible in order to keep their immune systems in top shape.
Eat well and stay hydrated. This means a balance of carbohydrates, fats and protein. Many students tent while on diets, which contributes to a decrease in their immune system. One specific example of this is a lack of fat content in student diets. This can lead to a deficiency of Omega-3 fatty acids, which can then lead to illness. Quenchers is right in K-ville and can provide students with healthy ways to get the nutrients they need during tenting. Frequent consumption of juices and water are also important to help students stay healthy.
Exercise, but don’t overdo it. It is important to stay active, but make sure that you are not killing yourself. Don’t feel that you have to spend hours a day in Wilson.
Don’t smoke. Smoking cigarettes and marijuana can not only pose long-term health effects, but also hurt your immune system and make you vulnerable to several illnesses.
If you choose to drink, do it responsibly. Having a few drinks will not give you the flu, but overdoing it might cause hypothermia. This winter, one student was so intoxicated he did not know his temperature was dropping and had to be sent to the hospital where he was diagnosed with hypothermia. In addition, many students think alcohol can be used as a tool to keep them warm in their tents, but this is only the temporary effect of blood being brought closer to the skin. Soon, the heat escapes and causes a reverse effect. Warm clothing and blankets are good ways to stay warm. Also, eat before, during and after you drink.
Stay dry. Many students do not realize that wet sleeping bags, clothes and other items in tents can lead to illness. Make sure your tent is keeping any rain and snow out at all times.