How to: stay healthy in a community living situation

By Howard Stikes–

College is filled with new experiences. Academics, athletics, dorm life and dating are all part of the excitement. Living away from home for the first time can be exciting, however, it comes with risks and responsibilities.

There are challenges to staying healthy and safe while living in a communal or dormitory housing environment. Living in close quartered petri-dish type arrangements are breeding grounds for flu, viruses, colds and communicable diseases that can temporarily side line students in any given semester.

Trish Cooper, director of nursing services at U of L campus health services, said that this winter was particularly tough regarding H1N1 flu incidences.

“The best thing that students can do to stay healthy and safe and to prevent the onset and transmission of colds is to keep their environment clean. And for the most part, I think our students are notorious in doing a good job with this.”

Cooper said it begins with students washing their hands frequently and taking care of their personal items, such as hair brushes, towels and items that promote the practice of safe sex.

“It’s a good idea for students to make sure they are covering their mouths and noses by cupping their hands when they cough and sneeze. Then wash their hands or use hand sanitizers, which they can get from our facilities, before they touch their face, their things, or high touch areas.”

Cooper advises against sharing towels to prevent skin diseases and the community associated methicillin-resistant staphylococcus aureus infection (CA-MRSA). This infection is known to be resistant to antibiotics commonly used to treat staph infections. At risk populations would include dormitories, gymnasiums and anywhere people live in crowded conditions.

“It’s not a good idea to share hair brushes, as head lice are spread with that practice. Use flip flops in communal showers to prevent the spread of foot funguses,” Cooper said.

“It begins with good hygiene for which there is no substitute for staying healthy and safe in a communal environment and we’re here to help,” Cooper said.

Cooper said that students are welcome to come to the facility where a full range of comprehensive health care services are offered. Visit for more information.

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