Why do college freshmen get sick?

Updated: Jul 21, 2020

Studies show us the average college freshman gets an acute illness several times during the course of their first two semesters. This results in increased stress and decreased class attendance. Why is this such an unhealthy time for a generally healthy demographic?

  1. New environments mean new germs. Our immune systems recognize and quickly manage viruses we've been exposed to in the past. A novel virus needs and gets more attention from our immune system, which shows up as symptoms of illness. Fever, increased mucous production, diarrhea and other symptoms are our body's way of trying to get rid of something unrecognized. With students coming from all over the country, and even from all over the world, they are not only sharing life experiences with each other, they are sharing new viruses.

  2. Poor sleep health, common in college students, results in poor general health. Sleep is a busy time for our bodies. It is when we restore cells, rid toxicities, lay down new neural communications and so much more. Without proper sleep, our immune systems suffer.

  3. Likewise, increased stress, experienced by most, if not all, college freshmen, wreaks havoc on our immune system. Unseen, but so dangerous, anxiety and depression rob our body of it's ability to fight off illness.

  4. Having just left home, and the supervision of caring parents, many college students make poor choices when it comes to nutrition. They indulge in snacks and drinks high in sugar and preservatives. These impair the abilities of our immune fighting cells, leaving us not only more vulnerable to contagious illness, but also more susceptible to general ailments like headache and GI distress.

  5. Good hygiene is often overlooked on college campuses. If you have ever been to a frat house, the evidence is clear. Dirty surfaces, shared cups and unwashed sheets are breeding grounds for germs.

With a little attention to overall health and wellness, many of the illness and discomforts encountered in college can be avoided. It is possible to do well academically, have a great time, and stay out of the doctor's office!

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