There have never been so many reasons to focus on giving your immune system a boost. Here are just a couple. First of all, the obvious, if you are exposed to the novel coronavirus, you want to increase your chances of not getting it, because even though as a young adult, you will likely be asymptomatic or have only mild symptoms, you will end up in lockdown on campus. Whether you are an incoming freshman or a returning student, you have already given up too much of your life to this pandemic.
Second, as hard as it is to believe (or remember) you can get sick from things other than COVID-19! If you are lucky enough to have in-person classes, you want to make it to as many of them as possible, and don't want illness setting you back.
Next, our immune systems function by memory, and all the mask wearing has the downside of preventing you from being exposed to the normal germs which trigger your immune system to stay strong and watchful. It needs your help to stay on guard and effective.
The masks also carry their own risks as you will be rebreathing recycled air for hours on end, and inhaling whatever went into the manufacturing of the fabric. This can cause lethargy and respiratory difficulties.
Finally for our purposes, though the list could go on, it is important to be kind to your immune system now, because undoubtably, with all the rules and restrictions and changes that are bound to come, your stress level will be high. Stress is an enemy to your immune system.
Be proactive. Get into some proven immune boosting habits now.
Fight stress. Make time each day to check in with yourself and monitor your stress level. Pay attention to when stress is high and when it is low. Choose to spend more time in the activities that are lowering your anxiety.
Sleep. College and healthy sleep don't really go hand in hand. However, good sleep habits are proven to boost your immune system and as a bonus, decrease stress. This coming semester will be a good time to focus on better, more consistent sleep, as social gatherings will be fewer. Choose sleep over Netflix. Netflix will be there in the morning.
Food. The grab-and-go only options on campus may make it even more difficult to maintain a healthy diet. On top of limited choices, you will have more cravings because of smaller portions. Also, because you may not be sitting at a table enjoying a meal with friends, your emotional need for food will be left unfulfilled. This is a feeding ground for snacking. Plan ahead so you make better choices. Keep only healthy snacks in your room, as the chips and the cookies will be a temptation your immune system would prefer you avoid.
Drink more water. Start now. Drinking at least 1/2 your body weight (lbs) in ounces of water each day is a great habit to get into. Staying hydrated will help your energy level, your digestive system, your skin and of course, will give your immune system a boost.
Exercise. Some colleges are more restrictive than others, but all are putting controls on indoor activities. Take off your mask and get outside as often as possible. If you have to leave campus to do it, it is worth the effort. There is no evidence that you will get sick outside if you are separating from others. Think about what you can do outside when you get to school, start doing it now, and pack accordingly.
If you think supplements might help boost your immune system, make sure they are well vetted and manufactured at a reliable source. If you have any concerns about what you should take, reach out to your doctor. If you feel rundown or often unwell, definitely contact your physician for ways to feel better, and get the most out of college.