This year, we are having the stereotypical Canadian Winter. Lots of snow and temperatures well below freezing. The recent temperature plunge and snowy weather should only emphasize the importance of staying healthy and avoiding any viruses going into the winter season. As most students learn when first coming to university, missing one class because you’re sick can put you far behind the rest of your peers and it is not easy to catch up.

Your chances of staying healthy and avoiding getting sick can be improved by ensuring your body has what it needs to give your immune system the chance to fight any viruses off. The basic elements of health apply, including eating healthy and exercising. According to the Centre for Disease Control, getting the recommended eight hours of sleep per night, along with managing stress, can help your body fight off viruses you may come in contact with.

According to the Mayo Clinic, it is important to exercise. While opportunities for exercise may be restricted to indoor environments, especially considering the recent freezing temperatures, exercising is an important aspect of fighting off a cold. Should you come in contact with a virus, exercising can also help you recover more quickly. Dressing warmly is also important.

Wearing the appropriate clothing for the weather is the first step to protecting yourself from getting sick. While it can be tempting to leave your bulky coat behind when having a full day of classes, or to wear your gym shorts to class when planning to head to the gym afterwards, it is important to keep your body warm and protected from the harsh winter weather. Medical researchers, including the Mayo Clinic, have shown that your body burns through resources when you are exposed to cold temperatures to keep you warm. Burning through those resources means that your immune system has less resources to fight off any attacks.

If you are living or working in a high traffic environment where your chances of coming into contact with objects or people who may spread the flu or common cold virus are likely, you should try to wash your hands often, especially before eating, cooking and before making contact with your face. Especially after contact with items likely to carry bacteria, including smart phones and devices, public computers, money, or touching pin pads on payment terminals.

While regularly washing your hands can help to prevent the spread of germs, hand sanitizer can be an alternative solution. According to professor James Scott, a professor in the Division of Occupational & Environmental Health at the University of Toronto’s Dalla Lana School of Public Health, hand sanitizer can be an effective measure against cold and flu viruses when you don’t have the time to wash your hands. Professor Scott explains, “Hand sanitizer doesn’t replace soap and water if your hands are dirty, but along with regular hand washing, it definitely helps fight many important germs.”

Additionally, for the 2017/2018 flu season, the Centre for Disease Control recommends the flu shot or the recombinant influenza vaccine as a preventive measure. However, people should not rely solely on the flu vaccine. Ensuring that the appropriate clothing is being worn and that hand sanitizer is being used is imperative when trying to avoid getting sick.