Adjusting to new germs at college

A month into the new semester, and lecture halls are filled with coughing and sniffing students.  Every convenient store on campus has to constantly restock their shelves with cold medicine and cough drops to meet the demands of sick students.  So why is everyone sick, with what has been nicknamed the Penn State plague?


Brown University estimated in a study that in one year, people in the U.S. suffer 1 billion colds. 

Germs are everywhere.  According to the Health Center at Virginia Tech, shaking hands, kissing, touching doorknobs, desktops, phones, remotes, sharing drinks, catching a sneeze or cough in the face, all put you at risk.

“College campuses are a “hot zone” of upper respiratory viruses,” according to an article published by Virginia Tech called Common Cold and the College Student.  They attribute this to the large number of sick students  in close proximity to each other.

You’ve heard it before, but the best way to stay as germ free as possible is frequent and thorough hand washing.  The Health Center at Virginia Tech called hand washing “the single greatest preventive measure you can perform to stay well!”

Here’s a quick guide on how, and when to wash your hands, courtesy of the Health Center at Virginia Tech: “Wash hands returning from class, before eating, after coughing or sneezing, and after using the bathroom. Wash hands with soap and water, rubbing for 20 seconds, dry and use the towel to turn off faucet and open door.”

It is not that your immune system suddenly gets weaker when you get to college, rather, there are just more germs and new germs that your body doesn’t know how to fight off.

Brown University advises students to get enough rest, stay hydrated, and take medicine to beat a cold.

5 thoughts on “Adjusting to new germs at college

  1. Megan Fleming Post author

    Hi Kelsey! You raised two really good points (keeping up good hygiene and disinfecting infected areas) that may also help sick students on campus! I know for me, I’m only super germ conscious when i’m already sick and by that point it’s too late. In the article you linked ( it recommended regularly disinfecting areas of your dorm room, such as knobs and handles to kill germs and bacteria. I never thought of doing that, but will definitely add that to my cleaning routine.

  2. Jacklyn Nicole Hucke

    The dreaded Penn State Plague. Everyone is bound to come in contact with it. Not just the Plague though! I have never had allergies before the summer. Since I’ve been here, starting June 28 for summer session, my allergies have been acting up ridiculously. My nose is stuffy, my eyes are itchy, and my throat is scratchy. It’s the most frustrating thing to deal with if you have never dealt with it before, like me. Finally, once fall hit, my allergies went away but the Plague came into play. All of my friends have been getting each other sick one by one, and I feel myself getting sick next. I think the Plague is like the chicken pox, if you get it once, you can’t get it again. Let’s hope my hypothesis is right!

  3. Brittney Christina Falcon

    The plague is seemingly everywhere! You did an excellent job in bringing awareness to some preventative measures that we can take. In addition to that there are some odd but in actuality very helpful tips in a US News and World report article linked below. It highlights ways for college students to protect themselves in ways most never think of.

  4. Kelsey Huber

    This post is relatable so many people right now! Being one of them, I’m trying to do everything to get better right now. I think that it spreads through other variables such as door handles, desks, elevator buttons. People can sneeze all over their hand or any of those other variables and just like that you are infected. I think besides washing your hands it is important to keep up good hygiene and disinfect areas that may be infected. As simple as that sounds, it isn’t always done properly. Here’s some tips on how to stay healthy in the dorm !

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