Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Attack of the 2013 Flu Season!

The ever present sounds of sneezing and coughing ahve begun to surround us once more Panthers! This can only mean one thing... Cold and Flu season has reared its ugly head once again.

While we all pretty much know the basics about the cold and flu and what we can do to prevent it, and this year it is especially important to keep all of that in mind. Why you say? Because according to the Huffinton Post: Huffpost Healthy Living Online, The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported on Friday [1/18/13] that "the country is facing a particularly bad flu season - one that struck early and is likely to last for several more weeks," according to CDC director Dr. Tom Friedman, "the disease is now widespread in 47 states, up from 41 last week."

Now, while to many this information may sound a little scary, it is important to remember these numbers include both sever and mild cases of the flu. So don’t fret dear readers! There are many ways in which you can protect yourself from catching the flu. We all know the drill: wash our hands, cover our nose/mouth with a sleeve or, better yet, a tissue when we cough or sneeze, and of course get our flu shot. Unfortunately, the last one is often ignored.

It is a well known fact that the Flu vaccination can help prevent and or lessen the effects of the Flu. Everyone is recommended to get the shot, but it is very important for young children (over the age of 6 months) and the elderly to get one, along with those who have a compromised immune system. These are only some of those that are at the highest risk of infection, others can still be easily infected including those that spend a lot of time in classrooms and offices, along with those such as college students that room together in close quarters. According to Bill Hanage, an epidemiologist at the Harvard School of Public Health, “a flu season’s severity boils down to the susceptibility of the population and the types of viruses that are going around” (The Huffington Post: Huffpost Healthy Living Online).

It is important to get a flu vaccination every year because the “strands” or types of viruses have a tendency of changing from year to year. So with each change, there is a change in the vaccine to help cover a wider variety of strands.

With news of this year’s outbreak being one of the worst in 10 years spreading across the nation, it is no surprise that people are scrambling around to try and find places that are still providing the vaccine. One pharmacist, Keila Mena, was quoted saying that "No one wanted shots at the beginning of the season. We were basically begging people" (The Huffington Post: Huffpost Healthy Living Online). Flu vaccinations generally start circulating around the month of October, so why is there always a scramble once the flu actually starts coming around?

There are the common reasons as to why people wait: They don’t like shots, or they are too busy to stop and get one, or the very lame excuse that ‘I never get sick!’ But when it comes down to it, there isn’t a person alive that is 100% immune to everything. Yes, using proper hand washing techniques and covering your nose and/or mouth when coughing/sneezing can help prevent the spread of these viruses, but getting vaccinated is still the number one recommendation for everyone.

Now, while a lot of this may, again, seem a little scary to some: I urge you not to freak out! Worrying is only going to cause unnecessary stress, which can then lead to getting sick easier. All you need to do is make sure you are as prepared as you can be. Follow these nice easy steps, and you can help keep yourself protected on a daily basis:

Get the Shot!
Check with Health Service to see if they have any vaccinations available! They run many flu clinics throughout the fall semester that provide free shots for students and staff. But if you have missed those windows of opportunity, it doesn’t hurt to call and ask to see what is available! If they don’t have any in stock, they may be able to point you in the right direction as to where you may be able to find someone who does!

Yes, Washing your Hands is a Must!
I know we hear it all the time, but it’s true! Washing your hands often will help protect you from germs. Wash your hands for at least 30 seconds to effectively kill germs. You can measure the time by singing the "Happy Birthday" song twice. When you can’t wash your hands, use an alcohol based hand sanitizer.

Cover your Coughs & Sneezes!
It is common courtesy… Covering your mouth and nose with a tissue when coughing/sneezing can help prevent those around you from getting sick. It is also important to avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth because it makes it easier for germs to travel after you’ve touched a possibly contaminated surface. ICK!

Keep Shared Surfaces Clean!
Office equipment, handrails, desks… They all are used by several people throughout the day. So it is important to keep these shared areas cleaned and disinfected more often than other times of the year.

Most Importantly: Listen to your Body
You know yourself better than anyone else. If you aren’t feeling 100% then something is up. Remember to drink plenty of fluids (at least 8 glasses of water a day), get enough sleep, and avoid close contact with those who may be sick and/or if you are sick. Plenty of rest is needed in order to fight any bug, so make it a priority!

Getting the right information is important, especially when it comes to keeping yourself and others around you healthy. For more information about colds and the flu, contact the Health Service at (217)581-3013 or check out the HERC’s Cold and Flu Page online at:
“Flu Outbreak 2013: Many Americans Caught Off-Guard; CDC Unveils Updated Numbers” by Lynne Peeples for the Huffington Post: Huffpost Healthy Living Online. Posted on 01/11/2013 at:

“Flu outbreak in 2013 expected to be among the worst in decade, CDC warns” by Heidi Evans for the New York Daily News. Posted on 1/7/2013 at:


Friday, January 25, 2013

Between Peers

How many times have you heard the phrase, “The dumbest question is the one that’s never asked”? Let’s face it… we all want to ask certain questions about our health and wellness, but still have a tendency to feel like those topics are off limits and should be kept quiet. It has been drilled into our minds that we are supposed to just ‘know’ these things and/or just figure them out for ourselves; but seriously… you can’t know if you don’t ask! Here at EIU, one of the many health related organizations include the H.E.A.L.T.H. Peer Education Program, also known as H.E.A.L.T.H.: Peer to Peer.
So what does H.E.A.L.T.H. stand for exactly? It stands for Helping, Educating, Advocating, and Learning Through Health. EIU’s Peer Education program helps to provide an opportunity for students to promote positive lifestyle choices among their fellow students, while also providing students with some helpful professional skills! 
So you may be wondering… What exactly does a Peer Educator do? Well, in a nut shell, a Peer Educator helps create and run relaxed, yet informative programs on a wide variety of health related topics. These topics can and do range from healthy sexuality to things such as alcohol and other substance abuse prevention. These programs are presented to different organizations both on and off campus and throughout the community. These include, but are not limited to: resident halls, sororities and fraternities, academic classes, as well as other interested student organizations!
So I bet you’re asking yourself: Why are Peer Educators and this program so important? Well that answer is obvious… right? We all know just how awkward it can be to ask questions in general, let alone about topics such as sex, health, and substance abuse such as alcohol and bystander intervention. Students who both lead these programs, as well as attend them can benefit immensely!
One study that was done at the University of California, Santa Barbara reported in 2009 that they believed that “Peer Health Educators play an important role in promoting healthy behaviors in the areas of alcohol and drug use and in eating and nutrition.” Some of the positive results of the study included the fact that students reported after having contact with a Peer Educator, they were more likely to report less alcohol consumption and less related negative consequences after their first year in college, while those who had no contact with a Peer Educator didn’t show these same changes. They also reported that while students who had contact with Peer Health Educators initially engaged in more unhealthy weight management behaviors then did their no-contact counterparts during their first year, they were also more likely to decrease in these types of behaviors, while those that had no contact with Peer Health Educators showed no changes at all (White, 503).With these types of positive changes being seen throughout the country, it is easy to see why these types of programs are needed, and how they benefit the student’s involved.
Those that lead the programs here at EIU begin by becoming educated in the topics covered as well as become certified in peer education. These leaders then gain confidence in themselves and their skills in areas such as leadership, presentations, motivational speaking and in running different team building scenarios. As a Peer Educator, you will become a valued source of information and a role model to your fellow students.
As a participant of the program, students gain valuable information that can help them make overall healthier lifestyle choices. Students can ask their questions in a safe, nonjudgmental environment, which is always a plus for those of us who tend to shy away from these kinds of subjects! There is no worrying about being judged, because these environments are run and attended by your peers! And it is safe to say that if you have a question, even one you think is really “silly” or “awkward,” then someone else is bound to have the same and/or similar one.
Getting involved is important, especially when it comes to Peer Education and support. For more information about the H.E.A.L.T.H. Peer Education Program and to become a H.E.A.L.T.H. Peer Educator, contact the Community Organizing and Leadership coordinator at (217) 581-7786 or e-mail


Journal of American College Health: Mar/Apr2009, Vol. 57 Issue 5, p497-506
“Longitudinal Evaluation of Peer Health Education on a College Campus: Impact on Health Behaviors.” By Sabina White, Young S. Park, Tania Israel, and Elizabeth D. Cordero