Throughout the fall and winter months, it seems that nearly everyone has been getting sick. It’s so easy to catch a cold because we’re constantly surrounded by people, whether it is in classrooms, dining halls or residence halls. Of course, we cannot cut ourselves off from all human contact, because it is not possible nor realistic. Before knowing how to avoid the “plagues,” you have to understand the causes of the rapid spread of these illnesses.

Bacterial and viral diseases spread like wild fire on college campuses once a person contracts one. Since we share communal bathrooms, dorm rooms and dining halls with other students, we are more susceptible to becoming ill. If a sickly person touches or sneezes on a doorknob or dining hall items, we can easily get sick after touching the contaminated objects. Since our hands are not germ-free at all times, bacteria spreads exponentially. When we share food or drinks with our friends, we can easily contract an illness if their body is coming down with something. Even if your friend is not visibly sick at the moment, he/she may be contagious already. More so, our immune systems are weakened by inadequate hours of sleep and poor nutrition. Our bodies ideally need seven to eight hours of sleep every day. However, college students are often up late in order to finish assignments. Without enough sleep, our antibodies cannot fight diseases as strongly as when the body is well-rested.

In order to avoid becoming sick, there are certain precautions that you should take. First, it is essential to get a sufficient amount of sleep each night, because sleep is necessary for a functioning immune system. Try not pushing off all of your schoolwork for the night hours so that you can go to sleep at a relatively decent time. Also, never touch your eyes, mouth or nose with dirty hands, because they are the direct pathways for bacteria to get inside of your system. It is necessary to wash your hands every time before you eat, and after you cough or sneeze. These two precautions prevent the undesirable spread of bacteria. Moreover, refrain from sharing towels, pillows and make-up (for girls) because they all are bacteria collectors.

Make-up accumulates a lot of bacteria over-time because it is applied every day on target areas for bacteria. For instance, pink-eye can be quickly spread by sharing a sickly person’s mascara or eyeliner. Additionally, you do not need to overload on vitamin C supplements once you believe that you are coming down with something. Although vitamin C tablets are advertised as being immune system boosters, their effects have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. Therefore, vitamin C is not intended to treat or cure any disease. Instead of overdosing on vitamin C—which is not a wise decision—you should eat fruits and vegetables that are direct sources of vitamin C. Direct sources of vitamin C are much more effective than supplemental vitamin C because they contain fresh nutrients. Downing vitamin C is not going to help you return to a normal, healthy condition, because it has mainly placebo effects.

Furthermore, it is recommended to avoid eating an excessive amount of junk food. Eating too many fatty and sugary foods can foster the growth of unwanted bacteria and cause an infection. However, consuming foods that have valuable nutrients and fiber stabilizes the bacteria in our bodies. Therefore, try to eat foods that contain essential fatty acids, nutrients, minerals, and amino acids. Although it is difficult to avoid eating fries and desserts in the dining halls, your immune system will thank-you later when you are the only one not sick in your friend group. Also, try not share food and drinks with people during this time of year—winter is the prime time for catching colds, afterall.

Although it is extremely hard to follow all of these tips in order to avoid getting sick, try taking as many precautions as you can. Abiding by a few of these tips is much better than not following any of the tips. Keep in mind that catching a cold during the school year will hinder your social and academic life. If you do not want to cancel plans or suffer taking a test while sick, I highly recommend following some of these tips—even if it requires you to change your habits.