Your health: preventing the flu, getting more sleep

Alex Lento

By Alex Lento, ’10, LifeStyle Section Editor, and Jessup Smith, ’10, LifeStyle Editor

Despite the concerns of many, the H1N1 virus (or any other strain of the flu virus) has not debilitated CCDS or other local schools.

“This post-Thanksgiving to January time period has actually shown stronger attendance compared to the prior two years of the same timeframe,” said US Administrative Assistant Andi Mapes.

This relatively low number of sick days may be due to the increased number of students who got flu vaccines in the fall, as well as to better community-wide preventative measures, such as the ubiquity of Purel dispensers. In order to continue to keep sickness-related absences low, students should be aware of what actions they can take in order to stay healthy.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, “Though flu activity … may rise and fall, it is expected to continue for several more months.”

Flu symptoms:

According to the CDC, flu symptoms “may include fever, coughing, sore throat, runny or stuffy nose, headaches, body aches, chills and fatigue.  In H1N1 infection, vomiting and diarrhea may also occur.”

If you are sick with flu-like illness, CDC recommends that you stay home for at least 24 hours after your fever is gone (completely gone without the use of fever-reducing medicines), except to get medical care.   It can be hard to miss school— especially with teachers moving at a fast pace to get through all their material by the end of the school year, but it’s important to consider the public health threat of spreading your illness.

Prevention:

The first step in flu prevention is to get vaccinated.  H1N1 and seasonal flu vaccines are both widely available now.  Additionally, wash your hands and avoid touching your face (especially your eyes, nose and mouth), particularly when in public places.  Make sure you’re eating a balanced diet and getting plenty of sleep.

Sleep:

Sleep is just as vital to your well-being as breathing and eating. Sleeping is not only good for your body but can also help you deal mentally with everyday stressors in your life. According to the American Sleep Disorders Association, the average teenager needs around 9.5 hours of sleep per night.

Now, reading this, you may be thinking, “How on Earth am I going to get over nine hours of sleep when I have to make time for school, extracurriculars, and homework?” One way to get to bed earlier during the week is to cut out or minimize television time. Record your favorite shows or find them online and watch over the weekend. Think about how you can rearrange your schedule to make getting a proper night’s sleep a priority.

Most teens stay up later on the weekends than they do during the week, building up sleep debt.  Scientists have done studies to show that you only need two to three full nights of sleep to make up for a loss over the weekend.

According the National Sleep Foundation, “Sleep deprivation can be the cause behind extreme moodiness, poor performance in school and depression. Teens also have high risk of having car accidents because of falling asleep behind the wheel.”

Get yourself into a good nighttime routine. If you still have trouble sleeping, try turning off the television or computer earlier. Read a book or magazine before bed instead. Also, cut down on caffeine, especially after 5 p.m. Daily exercise at least two hours before bed can also help you sleep.

We know it can be hard to view sleep as a necessity, but a lack of sleep can lead to a lot of problems. This year, make it a resolution to stay on top of your health: both in flu prevention and better sleeping patterns.

Photo courtesy of zoice.com.