In a month that has seen New Haven’s temperatures drop to the single digits, Yalies are catching and spreading colds in higher numbers than during the rest of the year.
The common cold, though usually not an ailment severe enough to cause serious problems, becomes more of a concern for Yale students during the winter season, said Dr. James Perlotto ’78, chief of student medicine at Yale University Health Services. Several students with cold symptoms said they had mixed feelings about the care available to them at UHS.
Perlotto said there are many ways students can protect themselves against colds caused by common viruses, including practicing good hygiene, maintaining a healthy diet and getting plenty of rest.
“It’s very hard for students, I know, but 7 to 8 hours [of sleep] during the flu and cold season is very important,” he said. “Getting a flu vaccine also helps prevent colds, and they are available to all students at Yale.”
Perlotto stressed that good nutrition is also important, noting that helpful antioxidants are found in many fruits and vegetables. Extra doses of Vitamin C, he said, do not prevent colds, and may in fact cause kidney stones. He recommended Vitamin E instead.
Tim Ellison ’09, who caught a cold about three weeks ago, said he has seen the number of sick people grow in the weeks since winter break. He said he thinks he picked up his illness from another student, perhaps even his roommate.
“I was around so many sick people,” he said. “I was in a class and was literally passing Kleenex to other people.”
R.J. Price ’09 said he also noticed that colds have been spreading across the campus and within his own suite.
“It started with one of my roommates,” he said. “In a matter of days, five out of the six of us were sick.”
Ellison said he first realized he was seriously ill when he woke up with a fever of over 101 degrees a few weeks ago. His freshman counselor took him to UHS in the middle of the night, Ellison said, and he went home several days later.
“They said it was a virus, so I just took pain medication,” he said. “Then I went on antibiotics, and whatever I had seemed to have cleared up. But then I got sick again, and I’m still pretty stuffed up.”
Danny Park ’07 said he has been sick on and off for several days and that although his fever has since come down, he is still coughing. Park said he treated his fever symptoms by drinking water and taking Robitussin, NyQuil and DayQuil, though he also made a trip to UHS, which he said was helpful.
But Price said he had a more negative experience at UHS.
“I went to [UHS] at 5 in the morning because I had a pounding earache,” he said. “They gave me an antibiotic, and it went away pretty quickly. But it was like they were mad at me for being sick. … The nurse stuck me in the room for 45 minutes. It was not a good experience.”
Perlotto said Student Medicine does its best to talk to students about treatment options and even offers PowerPoint presentations on cold prevention. He said students should also look on UHS’ Web site for information.
Joanne, a receptionist at Student Medicine who asked to be identified only by her first name, said that while students sometimes complain about the treatment options at UHS, the staff is working hard to keep Yale’s student body healthy.
“We do our very best to treat them,” she said. “We are here to serve the students, and we think we do a good job.”
UHS officials are currently working with members of the Yale College Council to evaluate the results of a survey last semester that measured student satisfaction with and knowledge of available health services.