That’s Sick!

Lindy Luchowski, Gamma Zeta, Northern Illinois University
Lindy Luchowski, Gamma Zeta, Northern Illinois University

All of you have heard the advice, get good sleep, don’t share food/make up, eat healthy, etc. But have you ever wondered WHY? Have you ever wondered what is actually happening inside of your body when you don’t take care of it? Being young and in college, a lot of times we do not think about what we are doing to our bodies that will affect us later in life. Here are some tips (that you have heard your entire life) to keep your immune system in TIP TOP shape but also with some explanations behind them so that you know your parent’s weren’t just making this stuff up.


I know this article is kind of long and you’re busy. So if you actually don’t care why you get sick, just follow the advice I have conveniently bolded for you. Or don’t. But when you get sick I WILL say “I told you so.”

Avoid sharing food and drinks. While this may seem super obvious to a lot of you (and also very likely to be ignored advice), here are just a few of the many diseases that can be spread by taking a quick swig of water from your teammate’s water bottle. It is also important to note that most of these illnesses have something called an incubation period. This means the illness is in a person’s body and contagious to other people without any symptoms showing yet.

  1. The common cold
    • While this one is probably not life threatening, it is definitely still going to set you back from accomplishing your daily tasks! (While also giving you an excuse to lay in bed and watch Netflix all day.)
  2. Strep Throat
    • If left untreated, this can cause rheumatic fever and kidney failure. If you have a sore throat for more than 3 days accompanied with a fever of over 100.5 degrees Fahrenheit, definitely head to a doctor to prevent further complications from this nasty illness! Your doctor can diagnose this by swabbing the back of your throat.
  3. Mononucleosis
    • This illness can be dangerous in that your spleen can become enlarged. If you ignore this and continue to push yourself while you’re sick, your spleen could rupture. Which would hurt. Your doctor will test for mononucleosis by taking a sample of blood (which may hurt a little, but I bet it will hurt less than your erupting spleen if you ignore it!!!) anigif_enhanced-buzz-1308-1381264163-3.gif
  4. Meningitis
    • This disease is an inflammation of the area surrounding your brain and spinal cord and can definitely be life threatening and unfortunately is spread through shared saliva! Head straight to the doctor if you experience sudden high fever, stiff neck or severe headache.
  5. Mumps
    • This one can be tricky because you can be infected with the virus for up to three weeks without showing any symptoms. When symptoms do finally appear, they typically are a very swollen face and glands surrounding the face, fever, headache, muscle aches and pain from chewing. Complications of this can be very serious including causing the person to become permanently deaf, inflammation of the brain and inflammation of the pancreas.  
  6. Cold sores (herpes simplex virus)
    • The really annoying thing about catching the herpes simplex virus is that there is no cure. Once you have it, the virus lays dormant in your body and can flare up whenever it feels like it! 
  7. Hand, foot and mouth disease.
    • This is an illness that is typically seen in young children and child care facilities (because of the sneezing, coughing, general lack of hygiene that young children have) but college environments are the perfect breeding ground for it also. This illness causes painful blisters to appear on the person’s hands, feet and mouth and you can have the virus in your body AND be contagious for up to 6 days before you show any symptoms. Sores and blisters will eventually break, crust over and heal on their own but this can also be accompanied with high fever and flu-like symptoms. 

Don’t drink too much caffeine. Up to 400 mg of caffeine a day is safe. Anything beyond that and you risk:

  1. Increased heart rate and blood pressure which leads to increased risk for heart disease as you age.
  2. Increased nervous system stimulation which leads to increased anxiety, restlessness and headaches/ migraines.
  3. Increased release of adrenaline which leads to being irritable, jittery, confused and emotional.
  4. Caffeine is a diuretic which makes your body rid itself of water. This can cause your body to be chronically dehydrated without you even realizing it!
  5. Caffeine interferes with your body being able to absorb calcium which leads to bone thinning, osteoporosis, easily fractured bones, muscle twitches and aches.
  6. Caffeine interferes with estrogen production making it more difficult to get pregnant and more likely to suffer from fibrocystic disease (painful calcified lumps in your breast.)

RELAX!! High amounts of stress for long periods of time can cause:

Adrenal glands to overproduce adrenaline and cortisol which leads to increased heart rate, blood pressure, pupil dilation and your liver over releasing glucose. You may say “oh, so what?!” Well, long term effects of these things cause severe heart problems, stomach and digestion problems, decreased fertility and decrease white blood cell production (which means you’re probably going to get sick!)

Dude, go to sleep. Not getting enough sleep can:

  1. Disrupt your circadian rhythms which decreases your white blood cell production.
  2. Decrease your neurotransmitters which regulate mood.
  3. Impair your ability to concentrate and think clearly.
  4. Increase levels of anxiety (which also means increase of heart disease.)
  5. Increase risk of breast cancer – too much exposure to artificial light at night (cell phones, ipads, tablets, etc.) cause your body to stop producing melatonin which disrupts your estrogen production.
  6. Lead to unhealthy cravings. Lack of sleep causes your ghrelin levels to increase (the hormone that makes you hungry) and your leptin levels to decrease (the hormone that makes you feel full.)

It feels weird to write about nursing stuff without a professional citation. So since I pulled it from my brain, this is the best I can do:

Luchowski, Lindy. What Lindy Learned in Nursing School. Taken from the limbic system in the brain. Northern Illinois University. 2011-2015.

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