University is a great place to make lasting friendships, learn new skills, and expand your learning – but it also has its downsides. Last week The Medical Station took a look at how contagions such as the flu and meningitis are contracted on college campuses due to the crowded dorms and lecture halls, as well as the busy and stressful lives of university students. In this week’s blog, The Medical Station expands on this list, focusing not only on the environmental and lifestyle causes of illness in college, but also the social aspects, such as peer pressure and competition that can cause sickness as well. From alcohol abuse to bacterial infections, The Medical Station takes a look at the many types of ailments common among university students.
Fungal and Minor Bacterial Infections
Fungal infections such as tinea pedis (commonly known as “Athlete’s Foot”) and bacterial infections such as conjunctivitis (commonly known as “Pink Eye”) are often found on university campuses, particularly in the dorms.
Athlete’s Foot is a fungal infection that causes a painful and itchy rash that usually starts between the toes. The fungus that causes the infection is prone to dark and damp spaces, such as university dorm showers. At college, the best way to prevent this infection is to wear flip-flops or shower shoes in locker rooms, dorm showers, or pool decks. The treatment for Athlete’s Foot varies by strain, but generally includes consistent washing of the feet and an antiseptic topical treatment.
Pink Eye is an inflammation of the thin membrane called the conjunctiva, which covers the white of the eyes and lines the eyelids. Pink eye can be caused either by a viral or bacterial infection and is generally contracted due to environmental factors that are common to college dorm washrooms and shared spaces. These factors include smoke, car exhaust, air pollution, soap, cleaning products, hairspray, makeup, and the chlorine found in swimming pool water. Treatments for Pink Eye are antibiotic eye drops, and are only available for bacterial conjunctivitis, not if the infection is viral. The Medical Station can prescribe these eye drops for you if you are suffering from Pink Eye.
Alcohol abuse is an unfortunate and growing problem among university students. Social experiences at university such as frat parties and on-campus clubs or events are an outlet to drink with friends, however, they often get very out of hand. Binge drinking and frequent alcohol consumption can lead to memory issues, alcohol poisoning, liver damage, and alcoholism. There are also social and psychological adverse effects from alcohol abuse including increased sexual abuse, physical assault, injury, and suicidal behaviour. Pacing alcohol consumption, setting limits, and making sure to practice safe drinking practices such as consuming food before enjoying a drink are all good ways for college students to avoid the effects of alcohol abuse.
Mental Health Issues
There are many mental health issues that develop among university students that manifest as a result of school stress, homesickness, and trouble adapting to a new place and making new connections. Illnesses such as body dysmorphic disorder, anxiety, panic disorders, and depression are all common among college students, with 50% of college students claiming that their mental health issues influence their work in school. Although there is no way to prevent developing a mental illness, factors such as proper eating, sleeping, exercise, and hygiene patterns can alleviate some of the symptoms of certain mental health disorders. In order to get treatment for a mental health issue, arrange an appointment with a psychologist or social worker. The Medical Station offers social work services, for which you can book an appointment here.