Advice, Campus Life, Lifestyle

How to take care of yourself when sick in college

I woke up two Sundays ago with a pounding headache. Chalking it up to a minor cold because I had tested negative for COVID-19 the night before, I tried to ignore it and go about my day. That proved to be impossible since my head felt like it was going to explode.

As someone who thankfully does not get headaches often, I was in my personal torment.

I quickly googled ‘How to alleviate headache symptoms’ and went down the rabbit hole known as WebMD. Over the next 10 minutes, I managed to diagnose myself with every illness known to man — a task I was extremely unqualified to do. Nevertheless, I managed to ignore my relentless overthinking and began attempting to treat my headache symptoms. 

I tried hydrating. I tried Advil. I tried taking a nap.

A mug of tea and a tissue box. Mia chronicles her latest sick experience and shares some advice for when college students fall ill. COURTESY OF KELLY SIKKEMA VIA UNSPLASH

Every single method I tried failed to work, and my symptoms only continued to worsen. In addition to a stuffy nose and a pummeling headache, I had developed a feeling of pressure throughout my face. With my newly developed symptoms, I was able to narrow down the possibilities and predict that I had a sinus infection. So, I began to treat myself for a sinus infection. 

I tried using a saline spray. I tried over-the-counter decongestants. I tried sleeping it off. But nothing worked. 

Monday morning was worse than the entirety of Sunday. 

I had barely gotten any sleep the night before due to an unexpected rapid development of pressure in my jaw. To put it quite frankly, that night I was in such great pain that I wanted to pull my teeth out. At that point, I knew I had to see a doctor. I immediately began to look up the closest urgent care clinic. The nearest location required appointments and, of course, I could not get one for that morning. 

After more searching, I was surprised to find a clinic a quick Uber ride away with a wait time of zero minutes. I quickly packed a few necessities and ran out of my dorm. When I arrived 10 minutes later, I was shocked to find a line of 15 people already waiting. Each person seemed to take longer checking in than the last. By the time I reached the front of the line, it had been two hours.

Two hours of me standing in line waiting to just check-in. 

At that point, I was exhausted, frustrated and in even more pain. Taking care of myself while sick for the first time alone had to be the low point of the semester. I wanted to lay in bed, watch TV and have zero responsibilities. Instead, I was standing in line thinking about the microeconomics midterm that I had on Friday and the advising appointment later that day that I might have to reschedule because the wait was so long.

The check-in and registration process went back and forth with my out-of-state health insurance. Another hour passed before I was called to be seen by a doctor. 

After finally having my appointment, everything started to look up from there. 

The doctor was incredibly kind, knowledgeable and confirmed my self-diagnosis. She determined I had a severe sinus infection. I was prescribed antibiotics for the next week and was sent on my way. 

Luckily, there was a pharmacy down the block. The pharmacist helped me navigate generic versus brand name medication and filled my prescription on the spot.

A week later, I’ve finished my antibiotics and am as good as new. I am incredibly grateful to have access to extraordinary healthcare. If you are sick and taking care of yourself, it will get better. 

A piece of advice I could give would be to reach out to your loved ones when you feel sick. Two brains are better than one, and they may be able to help you decide what to do in your current situation. 

Also, if you are not feeling well, give your body rest. As college students, we are in a never-ending cycle of class, homework and extracurricular activities. It is okay to step back sometimes and give your body the rest it truly deserves. 

Finally, if you go to urgent care, be prepared to wait, regardless of what the website states — or at least be aware that may be a possibility. 

We are inevitably going to get sick at some point in college. All we can do is try to take care of ourselves with healthy habits and lots of rest.

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