Every winter, hundreds of thousands of people all over the world are afflicted with influenza and the common cold. Andover is not immune to this seasonal wave of sickness, with many members of the community having to spend time at the Rebecca M. Sykes Wellness Center (Sykes), missing various academic and extracurricular commitments.
According to Ellen Callahan, Nurse Practitioner, Clinical Lead, the most important way to combat influenza is by promoting prevention beyond an annual flu vaccination. Callahan explained how Sykes is trying to promote a multifaceted approach to flu prevention, such as sanitizing your hands before eating, as well as practicing self-care.
“Prevention is the most important. Getting that flu vaccine, taking care of yourself, washing your hands, and if you do have the flu, coming over [to Sykes] so that you can be taken care of. The more care you’re provided, you’re going to get better faster, compared to trying to power through,” said Callahan.
The Sykes Wellness Center promotes these methods in a number of ways, including providing flu vaccine clinics in the fall, supplying hand sanitizer and wet wipes, and posters around campus promoting students to wash their hands. Even now, Sykes has a supply of vaccines in stock, in case students were unable to receive it earlier on in the year.
“We held the flu clinic this fall, [and] we still have the flu vaccine available here at the Wellness Center, so anyone who has not received the flu vaccine, please do come in. The other way is hand hygiene posters all over campus, encouraging you to wash your hands. And the other way to prevent the flu is by taking care of yourself, so getting enough sleep, eating healthy foods, getting a little bit of exercise if you’re up to it. Those are really the three best ways to protect yourself,” said Callahan.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, there are four types of influenza. The common types to infect humans are influenza A and influenza B, which both cause seasonal epidemics. Influenza C can also infect humans but has a milder symptomatology, and Influenza D primarily affects cattle. The flu is spread through droplets of moisture released when infected people cough, sneeze, and talk. These droplets land in the mouths or noses of other people nearby, infecting them with influenza. Symptoms of the flu include chills, fever, coughing, sore throat, runny nose, muscle or body aches, headache, fatigue, vomiting, and diarrhea.
According to Josie Banson ’22, who was sick with the flu for five days, contracting influenza is suboptimal for students because of how they fall behind on classwork, homework, and assessments.
“I couldn’t really focus that well. I didn’t do much work at all, so I was five days behind when I got better. It was kind of rough catching up with everything. It was alright because teachers gave me extensions, but it was still just a lot of work I had to do. [And] when you miss a week of work, it’s so detrimental, because there’s just so much to catch upon.” said Banson.
Although Banson’s experience with influenza this year was negative, she found the treatment at Sykes Wellness Center to be particularly pleasant. Additionally, she appreciated the Wellness Center’s decision to quarantine sick students in order to prevent other students from becoming ill.
“Other than the symptoms I was experiencing, the care was really nice, and all the nurses would check in with me often, and would give me options for food, and offer me snacks. It was actually a really nice experience overall. [Also,] I think that it’s good that they have facilities where they can quarantine students, so it doesn’t spread more. Overall, the care I received and the way they dealt with it was really good.” said Banson.
According to Melissa Piantidosi, Wellness Center Program Assistant, education is important when trying to maintain one’s health, and many resources at the Sykes Wellness Center provide such opportunities to learn. Not only does the Wellness Center release articles on several different aspects of health, but they also hold events in order to promote them and continue educating students. The addition of understanding these topics would also likely lead to students having stronger protections against the flu and common cold in the future.
“I think that the people who eventually do come are so glad they did. The energy is so amazing — it’s happy, and calm, and I just watch students just completely relax, shoulders down, and it’s really lovely to see. Stress reduction goes a long way. [Also, we have] an online wellness magazine at andover.campuswell.com, full of amazing articles covering all things wellness, from health, time management, exercise, to nutrition.” said Piantidosi.