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Fall is here, and for Pickens Technical College students, the leaves turning colors, the crisp air, and the apple cider signals that classes are starting up again. Pickens classes are fast-paced and require hours of hands-on experience to pass and move on to a lucrative career. In order to get the most for your tuition money, you have to show up to class. And you can’t show up to class if you’re sick. With winter approaching and outside temperatures falling, everyone is more susceptible to viral infections like colds and influenza, as well as a host of bacterial infections and a treasure trove of infectious diseases that start to get the upper hand over our immune systems this time of year. How can you avoid flu season this year?

Before we dive into a few tips for staying healthy, I have to make this PSA: If you’re sick, don’t come to class. Recognize the symptoms and understand that you are contagious and could be the cause of others’ missing time. Let the virus die in you and keep it from spreading.

Wash Your Hands

This is a no-brainer that (hopefully) we all do already. We know to wash our hands after using the bathroom, before we handle food, etc., but in flu season, on campus, you should constantly remind yourself to wash your hands frequently throughout the day. There are millions of potential pathogens being transferred from person to person via doorknobs, computer keyboards, desk surfaces, etc. The more you clean your hands, the less likely you are to spread or contract a disease.

Mind Your Vitamins

By the time you start popping Vitamin C tablets when you’re sick, it’s too late. Vitamins can’t cure any disease, but they can help your body fight off infections before they make you sick. In the wintertime, not only are the days shorter and darker, inhibiting the production of Vitamin D from sunlight, but foods with high vitamin content are more difficult to find. Fortunately, grocery stores still carry fruit and vegetables in the winter and fall, the most important time of year to mind your vegetable matter.

Consider a Flu Shot

It’s not required and it’s most important for the elderly, who could suffer life-threatening conditions if they get the flu. If you know you get the flu every year, consider getting a shot. Not only will you protect yourself, but you’ll also protect everyone you come in contact with this season.

Don’t Overdo It

Of course, you’re working hard and hard work can be stressful. Everyone is pushing themselves at PTC to do their best, so some anxiety and stress are expected. However, stress can sometimes weaken the body’s immune system. Even though you’re working hard to succeed, you still have time to get plenty of rest and to allow yourself to unwind.

Stay Clean

Make sure your clothes and your home are relatively clean this winter. Dirty dishes, unwashed clothes, and trash laying around can turn into breeding grounds for all kinds of bacteria and viruses. You don’t have to wash your clothes every day, just be mindful of the potential pathogens you’re taking to school with you every day and try to minimize them.

We all want to stay healthy this year. Think of it as your duty to not only keep yourself from getting sick and missing class time but also to help your classmates stay healthy so they can succeed, too.