Monday, May 25, 2015

Disease in Dorms: How to stay healthy


Dorms tend to be vectors of disease. MIT dorm Next house recently had to email out about several cases of food poisoning/stomach bugs. Mono is a common disease in colleges, not just because of kissing but also due to the sharing of unwashed (or insufficiently washed) eating utensils. Colds, flus, stomach bugs: these sorts of viruses love the life of a barely washed underfed overstressed college student. Most dorms will have mice. Many of the MIT frats have issues with bed bugs. I hope that you're beginning to get the idea:

  • It's easy to get sick in a dorm because things are dirty and gross

I've also written about dorm pests in the kitchen and how to store your food safely in a dorm.

Not only that but people don't take care of themselves:

  • stressed

  • under fed

  • few fruits and veggies

  • lots of junk food/ take out

  • sleep deprived

  • lots of travel

  • exposure to lots of people

i think we all know the trope of the student during finals week who hasn't showered and barely subsists on redbull and ramen.



I'm really going to encourage you to eat well and rest well while at college. All of those items in the list are risk factors for getting seriously sick. 

Trust me when I say that taking care of yourself will provide exponential returns.

I've written before about Mooch Ethic. Basically the relevant bits are:

  • people are lazy and don't take care of themselves or each other. 

This is really common in dorms and can seriously harm radical or alternative communities.This sort of ethic can hurt everyone, especially through the spread disease!

I've seen so many people completely unable to connect their week long cold to their poor eating habits. Or confused about why they're grumpy and confused when they've just finished bragging about how little sleep they got. Whatever benefits they got from shaving off minutes of self was gobbled back up by time spent blowing their nose and/or vomiting.

Eat green food: Eat fresh healthy food

Take a few moments to grab an apple or salad from your dining hall. Pick up a banana from Verde's or the Stata food exchange. Carry a granola bar and peanuts with you. Choose the non-pizza option when offered free food.


Eat food : Drink water

If you can, cut out soda and sugary drinks. Reserve redbull or espresso for when you really need the caffeine. Not only will this make the caffeine more effective when you really need it, but it will also keep your body hydrated.

Drink water. Carry around a water bottle. Fill it up. Drink from it.

Clean your water bottle! If you're carrying it around all the time, remember to periodically clean the bottle and change the water filter. Don't drink weird moldy water.

I'm one of those people who loves to stress eat. I eat when I study. I just need something to do with my body to keep it kind of engaged. Plus studying takes a lot of energy!

So I keep snacks like green beans, peanuts, raisins, granola around. Of course, you should have snacks that you enjoy and that work for your tummy. If you can't find any healthy ones you like or can't store food in your room, sugarless gum is a good alternative. A few treats like milano cookies or oreos are fine; just don't use them as replacements for meals!


Now a good friend of mine very wisely pointed out that people from low income homes may be more used to certain kinds of veggies (such as canned veggies) so that what's offered in the dorm dining may be unfamiliar and unappetizing. Similarly another friend has an allergy and the lack of labeling has made it difficult for her to vary her meals in the dining hall.

I don't have solutions to these problems. Unfortunately. But I can suggest connecting with other women at your dorm who are facing the same issues. You might be able to pool resources to make your own food. Or leverage more pressure on a particular dining hall to meet your needs. Also, check to see if there are any options such as "comfort food" or religious specific meals: These options might be better labeled or more fit your palette.