By 2:30 p.m. on Dec.. 6, 35 people had already come into University Health Service seeking flu vaccinations, mostly because they worried that potential sickness could get in the way of studying.
An increased number of visits to UHS is common during this time, as the student body grows more cautious, not wanting to jeopardize exam studying.
“Though we usually do more flu treatment early in the school year, what we see during exam time is the usual number of infections, but people can’t afford to be sick for even two or three days and they get very anxious,” UHS director Robert Winfield said.
This anxiety is what leads students like LSA freshman Shreya Sinha to stay healthy so that class attendance does not begin to lag.
“I don’t think I will miss any class no matter how bad I feel because, especially now with finals, I can’t miss any of the information covered,” she said.
Those students who end up missing class say it leaves them behind others in the class.
“I think (being sick) will definitely make my final grades worse, and it has been very stressful trying to catch up on all the work I had to do. I feel like I missed out on a lot of information,” RC freshman Halley Kim said.
The actual number of sick students may not rise dramatically around finals time, but the stress accompanied with finals increases as students become overwhelmed, Winfield said.
“There have been many studies done on the impacts of stress on the immune system … One of the earliest, in the 1970s, showed that people who got laid off from their jobs had higher rates of cancer, infections and appendicitis than people who didn’t,” Winfield said.
Students who visit UHS because of illness will find a number of techniques for coping with exam-time stress.
“When students show up plagued with stress, they are usually anxious and unable to sleep because of the heavy workload. We suggest over-the-counter cold medicine to help them sleep, but usually just talking with students helps a lot. Occasionally, students are deeply affected by stress and will need counseling or a few long nights of good sleep, which might require sleeping pills,” Winfield said.
Especially for freshmen, the independence of living at college can be an added source of stress. Students said they find themselves with a greater level of responsibility for getting a doctor’s note, keeping up with class work, studying and taking care of themselves all at the same time.
“At home teachers were more lenient about missing work. Here it is harder. It’s much more of a personal responsibility to attend class here than it was in high school where I could miss classes easily and it wasn’t a big deal,” Sinha said.
For many, exam-related sickness and stress can be beaten without time-consuming or complicated treatment, Winfield said.
“I encourage students to relax and think through what they have to do, not become overwhelmed and cause stress to build up. Just doing that often leaves them feeling much better,” Winfield said.