Andrew has been telling us all semester that we should be getting a head start on our blogs before the end of the semester arrives where people start to get all kinds of sicknesses. I, along with plenty of other students heard this advice and thought “oh that isn’t going to happen to me.” Well here I am at the end of the semester with a runny nose and a vicious cough to accompany my overwhelming amount of work to do before grades are due. It seems ironic that I am sitting here writing this blog post about advice that fell on deaf ears with a tissue box to my right and a bag of cough drops to my left. But I am left wondering why is it that every year students are getting sick at the same point in the semester. Why am I suffering from the Penn State Plague once again?
Without fail, every year students get sick around the end of the semester so there must be a reason for it. While brain storming the reason of such a sudden wave of sickness, I thought about the time of the year and made an assumption that maybe stress from the end of the semester affects students’ immune systems in a negative matter. The null Hypothesis is that stress does not affect the immune system where as the alternative hypothesis is that stress is lowering the immune system. Stress would be the independent variable and the Penn State Plague would be the dependent variable but there are plenty of confounding third variable possibilities as well, one of which could be lack of time. You are stress because you don’t have enough time to get all your responsibilities done and the lack of time puts a toll on personal hygiene which makes you sick. While researching my hypothesis I found a study that followed medical students during their schooling. The study found these students immunity decreased during the 3 day period when they were taking a test. They also found that these students also have a lower level of Killer T-Cells. Killer T-cells are a type of white blood cell that has the ability to attack and kill other viral or abnormal cell in the body. This study opened up a slew of studies researching this area. After all these studies were complete, Suzanne Segerstrom conducted a meta- analysis on all of the studies completed. This meta-analysis of over 300 studies concluded that stress all around weakens the immune system. We know from class that a meta-analysis is considered strong evidence, much stronger than anecdotal evidence.
While stress is definitely a key factor of why people are getting sick, I don’t think it is to only variable causing these sicknesses. This could be caused by student’s lack of cleanliness or even the change of seasons as I have found in the article. You might notice the atmosphere starting to get colder but this is not directly the reason why people are getting sick. As it turns out, this has some link to why we are getting sick though. When the temperature starts to change different viruses thrive in colder environments leading to higher exposure of the virus. Therefore the change of seasons allows viruses like the flu to infect more people.
Overall there could be many reasons why I have come down with flu-like symptoms. Do I think that stress from 3 exams this week might be one of those reasons? Absolutely. With evidence of meta-analysis, stress is definitely one of the factors to why I am sick along with the change of seasons. The take home message would be not to procrastinate on your blogs because no matter how strong your immune system is, you never know what virus you might catch in the latter part of the semester.