A Winter Survival Guide

By Fiona McGrath

Winter is upon us and we are all starting to be dragged down by blocked noses and chesty coughs, so here is some useful information on staying healthy this winter.

One of the most important aspects of keeping on top of your health is sleep. The recommended amount of sleep is between seven and nine hours. As we all know, being a student means staying out until the birds start singing and dragging yourself into class. However, research shows that a lack of sleep can cause memory loss, headaches, increased stress levels and blood pressure, obesity due to snacking to keep up your energy, and the most terrifying one… a decreased sex drive. So ladies and gentlemen, get some Zs.

Being a student means we are constantly broke, so we tend to buy the cheapest food options, including readymade meals, pizza and takeaways. Any of these products are fine in moderation, but we all need to eat well to stay healthy. The better you eat, the better you feel inside and out. As well as eating carbohydrates – again in moderation, we need our ‘five a day’. Vitamin C is essential for a healthy immune system, and broccoli and bell peppers – especially the red ones, contain at least twice as much vitamin C as an orange. Smoothies, fruit juices, baked beans and vegetable soup can also count as part of your five a day. Just make sure you read the salt and sugar intake of these products to ensure you are getting the best nutrition possible from them. In addition, drink plenty of fluids as this will rinse your body of any potential bugs.

It’s coming up to exams and Christmas – a lovely combination. Yes, it is important to study, but over-studying can lead to stress, which in turn can lead to sleep loss. It’s all a vicious cycle. It’s a fact that even if you can study into the early hours of the morning, the information won’t soak in. Your brain knows when it has had enough and it will just switch off. So take some time to relax, go out with your friends, spend time with the family, or even just watch TV and allow your brain and body to unwind. Your brain needs some time off in order to function well. Make a deal with yourself, leave an hour between when you finish studying and when you go to bed, this will allow your mind to process all the information it has been given, and it will also let your brain chill out. It won’t kill you if you take some time off from the books; in fact, it will help you.

As well as keeping the inside of your body healthy, it is just as important to keep the outside healthy. Coming into a heated room from the freezing weather outside destroys your skin – especially your face, as this is the most exposed part of your body during the winter. Your skin loses moisture very quickly when it is open to the ever-changing Irish weather. The simplest solution for this is to moisturise. Moisturising hydrates your skin and prevents it from becoming dry and cracked. This means the lads as well – there are plenty of skin products for men available, so use them, you have no excuse. You will see the difference if you moisturise twice a day, once in the morning and again before bedtime.

As well as this basic ‘must do’ advice for staying healthy, another important recommendation is the flu vaccination. The flu affects thousands of people each year, and in some cases, people end up being hospitalised. Fortunately, there is an alternative to that.

Geraldine Cooper from DCU’s Pharmhealth Pharmacy explains that everyone can get the flu vaccine.

“Generally anyone can get it. I would advise anyone with a long-term illness such as asthma, students, staff members, pregnant women and anyone over 65 to obtain this vaccine,” she says. “It is a mild dosage of the actual flu that is injected via (the) arm, and you may experience some symptoms which include, headaches, sweating and a slight temperature but this usually goes away within 1-2 days.”

Cooper says that the standard charge for a flu vaccine for a student is €25.

“It is cheaper to get it done in a pharmacy rather than in your GP’s, as you will have to pay for the consultation fee which is usually €50-€60 plus the charge for the vaccine,” she explains.

So there you have it – your cheap and easy to-do guide to staying healthy this winter. Get some sleep, eat well, rest, and check out the flu vaccination. Follow these simple steps and they should, for the most part, protect your body from all the nasty colds out there. If you have any more queries about the flu vaccine or health in general, pop into the pharmacy or DCU’s Health Centre on the ground floor of the Henry Grattan Building in CG13. Also, don’t forget to wash your hands after you sneeze or cough. You may not be sick, but it doesn’t mean that you won’t pass on the germs to somebody else.

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