How to Stay Healthy When Your Roommate Is Sick

College dormitories are well-known for germ infestation and dissemination. What can you do to protect yourself if your roommate is sick? And what should every college student know about the most common infections on campus?

Sanaz Majd, MD
Episode #222

1.        Viruses:  By far the most common cause. These include such viruses you may have heard on the news, called Norovirus, Rotavirus, and Adenovirus.

2.       Bacteria:  According to a large study of over 30,000 stool cultures obtained from 10 hospitals shows that 5% of GI illnesses are caused by bacteria. Viruses are much more common. These bacteria include E.Coli, Salmonella, Shigella, and Campylobacter.  Bloody diarrhea, in particular, is more concerning to be bacterial in origin.

3.       Parasites:  These bugs are even less commonly a cause of stomach illness than bacteria. Their prevalence is higher in outside countries and is more of a concern in those who travel.

What’s important to note is that no matter which type of bug, gastroenteritis is typically self-resolving. What is most concerning is the severity of dehydration that may ensue, via loss of fluids in diarrhea or with vomiting. When it is more serious, patients are often hospitalized for intravenous fluid administration.

Prevention of Gastroenteritis

Whether or not your roommate is suffering from these nasty bugs, you can do the following to help prevent their spread:

·  Wash your hands frequently: After shaking hands, taking out the trash, changing diapers, touching your face, and using the restroom. Wiping commonly shared items with an anti-bacterial wipe is also wise—telephones, door handles, windows, lamps, etc.

·  Practice safe food handling:  Wash your fruits and veggies thoroughly, cook your food according to recommended temperatures, and avoid drinking unpasteurized milk. At restaurants, make sure your meat, seafood, and poultry are cooked well-done.

It goes without saying, for both of the above highly infectious illnesses, please stay home. 

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Please note that all content here is strictly for informational purposes only.  This content does not substitute any medical advice, and does not replace any medical judgment or reasoning by your own personal health provider.  Please always seek a licensed physician in your area regarding all health related questions and issues.

Image courtesy of Shutterstock.


About the Author

Sanaz Majd, MD

Dr. Sanaz Majd, a board-certified Family Medicine physician who graduated from Drexel University College of Medicine in Philadelphia. She sees everything from pediatrics to geriatrics, but her special interests are women's health and patient education. She also loves to teach, and has been doing so since her college days.

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