To Prevent Illness, Go Back to Kindergarten

Stephanie Oxford, Senior Copy Editor/Public Relations Manager

“Tis the season for annoying things — pumpkin and peppermint flavored everything, pre-Thanksgiving Christmas commercials, and the common cold. Of those three items, only one of them can be prevented without cutting yourself off from social media and T.V. Yes, I’m talking about the common cold.

Every year around this time, I notice an uptick in the number of people running around the Black Hills State University campus with hoarse voices, Rudolph noses, and coughs that can be heard from Jonas to the Young Center.

Now, I know that we’re all “mature adults” here, but let’s take a few steps back — to Kindergarten — where we learned things like sharing, biting is bad, and — wait for it — hand washing. Yes, our old friend hand washing — the thing the Center for Disease Control and Prevention calls a “do-it-yourself vaccine” that can reduce respiratory diseases like colds by up to 21 percent.

“But I wash my hands,” you say. Congratulations, you’re part of the 97 percent of females or 92 percent of males who say they wash their hands, according to the American Society of Microbiology. Interestingly — and grossly — only 75 percent of the females who said they washed their hands actually washed their hands, and only 58 percent of males did so. Ladies, you might want to nix the hand holding with your boyfriends.

What’s even grosser is the same study found that only 50 percent of middle school and high school students say they wash their hands, and of those, only 33 percent of females and 8 percent of males use soap. Think this won’t affect you? Think again. BHSU has a large population of students who are education majors — which means a lot of student teachers are interacting with those middle school and high school students and creating plenty of opportunities for that nasty cold virus to spread around campus.

I know it’s tempting to skip a day or two of classes at this point in the semester — the stress level is high and you’re ready to kill that one person in your project group — and while I cannot officially condone such behavior, if you’re going to take a mini-vacation, at least do it for fun, not because you’re too sick to get out of bed. How do you prevent your planned “Netflix and chill” session from turning into a “Netflix and sneeze, cough, alternate between freezing and sweating, and call your mom who’s 200 miles away to see if she’ll make you soup and deliver it” session? Wash your hands, of course. For it to be effective, you must do it properly.

First is the “when.” Wash before, during and after food preparation, after using the bathroom, after blowing your nose, coughing, or sneezing, and after you handle anything “gross” like diapers, animal waste, trash or anything a middle-schooler touched.

Second is the “how.” The CDC handwashing guidelines say to wet your hands with clean water, and lather them with soap — make sure you get between your fingers and under your nails. Then scrub for at least 20 seconds, or sing “Happy Birthday” twice — out loud is preferable, in case your fellow bathroom-goers want to join in. Rinse your hands with clean water and dry with a clean towel or air dry them.

So you’ve read through the instructions, been diligent about hand washing, and you still get sick — what should you do? Stay home. If you come to school sick and get me sick, remember that revenge is sweet. I have a middle schooler at home who probably doesn’t use soap all the time. I’m sure she’d love to come to campus and give you back your cold.