How do I stay healthy in the dorms?

October 21, 2016

Dorm plague is rampant in unit 3. How can I best prevent myself from catching what others have?

You’re probably listening to the dreaded sounds of coughs and sneezes in your hall. College dorms might be one of the easiest places to get sick. You are living so closely with nearly 50 students that you are bound to share some germs sooner or later. These little suckers get stuck to surfaces faster than you think! One tip I would suggest is to carry hand sanitizer and always wash your hands before you eat. If there’s even an ounce of hesitation, just wash! It’s better to take the time to avoid these germs instead of having to constantly face the ordeal of blowing your nose, suffering that bad cough, or downing frozen yogurt because you have a sore throat. Another tip is to wipe down surfaces that you share with other people. Be extra cautious in the restrooms. I have lived in Unit 3 myself, and I found that the restrooms might very well have been the culprits of the reoccurring cycle of sickness on the floor. Lastly, this might sound all too familiar but always cover your nose and cough when you sneeze and cough. Imagine the thousands of germs that are culminating in that one cough or sneeze. They might be small, but are they fast? If you are sick, try to limit your contact with others to prevent the sickness from spreading. Let others know when you are not feeling well so they can be sure to take preventative measures to keep themselves healthy. If your friends are sick, communicate with them politely and ask them to be mindful of their actions, such as hugging or sharing food. Here are some great home remedies to alleviate your discomforts: 

  • Sore throat: Prepare a hot cup of green tea. Mix in ginger powder ( or just cut up slices of ginger) and honey for taste! Gargle a mixture of salt and lukewarm water.
  • Stuffy nose: Mix a teaspoon or so of cayenne pepper, lemon, and honey into a hot cup of tea (I prefer green or chamomile)
  • Immune-boosting foods include blueberries, oranges, spinach, ginger, yogurt, garlic, almonds and oats.

Lastly, do not forget to get your flu shots! This can help prevent you from getting that nasty cold in the winter. If you ever find yourself a victim of any sickness on the floor, head to the Tang Center. It’s a great place to purchase medicine at a lower price if you are covered by SHIP! Take advantage of this because, you know, we’re all college students and we can only afford to pay so much for medicine. If you are sick, it would be best to make an appointment to see a doctor at UHS and to get a doctor’s note for skipping class. The last thing anyone wants is a room full of sick, college students. Good luck with avoiding the sickness that has been spreading! 



Hi there, Being sick is no fun. Being sick during college when there’s no one to take care of you and you have the stress of homework/exams to deal with is even less fun. Back when I was living in the dorms, I avoided getting sick like the plague (just to play on your word choice ). Getting my flu shot helped a lot, keeping a little bottle of hand sanitizer in my backpack and using it before eating also helped a lot. What helped the most was communication. When I noticed someone was sick, I would often ask them how they were doing. If they said it was just a cold, I knew they’d be fine in a day or two and that I should just keep my guard up a little. If they said they were vomiting and had a high fever, I would refer them to UHS and make sure to keep my distance from them while they continued to fight off the virus. To prevent getting sick throughout the year (even when the dorm flu season ends) make sure you’re staying hydrated, getting a good amount of sleep, and eating well. Good luck! 



Now more than ever, it’s important to maintain whatever healthy habits you identify in yourself. For me personally, I know that getting 7 hours of sleep and eating three times a day is what my body needs to stay healthy. It’s a proven fact not getting enough sleep exhausts not only your mind, but your immune system, making you more susceptible to whatever’s floating around your Unit 3. If you’re a night owl, now may be the time to start trying to practice getting a good night’s sleep. If you’re interested in making some lifestyle adjustments that can help you combat dorm plague, look into making an appointment with health coaching at Tang, you can learn more about the Health Coaching team at - 

If you’re worried about something like the flu though, your best line of defense is getting your seasonal flu shot. If you have SHIP, you can get them for free at the Tang Center from 12-5 on Friday, October 21, Friday, November 4, Thursday, November 17, and Monday, December 5. If you aren’t on SHIP, fear not, the HEPTEV section at the Berkeley Free Clinic is also offering flu shots, and there’s no associated fee! You can also get relatively cheap flu shots at Walgreens around Berkeley by making an appointment on their Healthcare Clinic website.

Also, I have a few general tips I’ve learned from my experience as a Health Worker in the dorms. First, don’t ever leave your toothbrush in the communal bathroom. As clean as they are, there are just a lot of people sharing one bathroom and it’s impossible to keep germs away from that kind of space. Also, establish ground rules with your roommates on sharing supplies. If there are things you come into contact with often or food that you as a roommate share, maybe limit other people’s access to those sorts of things, just to add an extra layer of defense. Also, it never hurts to wash your hands frequently or carry around a little hand sanitizer bottle. I never did this back when I was a freshman because I thought I was invincible but after the fourth time I caught a cold in freshman year, I made the switch and have never looked back. 



I’m sure you’re doing this anyway, but here’s a reminder: stay clean and hygienic! Make sure to wash your hands often and thoroughly (this is recommended as one of the best ways to prevent colds and flu), use hand sanitizer often, clean up your room (using disinfectants), take out trash frequently, do your laundry (including your sheets, blankets, and pillowcases), and wash your dirty dishes. Just limit the amount of germs you allow to flourish around you. Using a room humidifier can also decrease cold and flu viruses in the air. Stay away from floormates who are sick and don’t share food or drinks with others. Also, improve your health levels in general by cutting back on junk food, eating healthier, getting enough sleep, taking multivitamins (I recommend the gummy bear ones), and working out more often (but sanitize all equipment to make sure you don’t come in contact with other people’s sweat that may be left on a machine because this is a way to transfer MRSA). Make sure you’re up to date on all vaccines and get a flu shot! Some people may recommend supplements, but there’s not a lot of scientific proof to show that taking excessive amounts of vitamins and minerals can cure colds or increase your immunity levels, so don’t waste a lot of money on them, especially since they can have negative side effects like diarrhea. For something a little more extreme, wear a surgical mask to reduce the amount of airborne disease particles you come in contact with. If your roommate gets sick and you don’t want to catch any illness from them, see if you can stay with other people for a while (although most dorms don’t have that much space for an extra person).

But what do you do if you get sick? First, make sure you have a thermometer on hand so you can know how severe your illness is. If it’s not too bad and you plan to self-medicate, I like using Delsym for sore throats, Nyquil to relieve pain and prevent coughing through the night, and Zyrtec when I get bronchitis, but I’m not a doctor and I have no idea what works for you, so don’t take these suggestions very seriously. Some home remedies include lemon and honey tea or turmeric milk to relieve a sore throat and nasal rinses. If your illness is more serious, please visit the Tang Center. If you’re not sure about the procedure to do this or have other questions about your sickness, call the Advice Nurse at (510) 643-7197. You can make a same-day appointment via eTang or by calling (510) 642-2000, or do a drop-in one and talk to a triage nurse in Urgent Care. It costs $15 for a primary care visit and $30 for urgent care, whether you have SHIP or not. The Tang Center Pharmacy charges $5 for generic prescriptions (if you have SHIP), so getting medication isn’t too far out of your reach.

Please take care of yourself! Midterm season is stressful, but don’t hesitate to put your health first and reach out to others if you need help. Good luck!