March 10, 2010

Illin’ But Not Sick

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Spring Break is right around the corner, and after weeks of exams and cold weather there’s not a student at Cornell who isn’t looking forward to the week off.   Whether you’re jet-setting off to a sunny location, or taking the week to relax in the now not-so-cold Ithaca, hopefully you can use the time to unwind after several stressful weeks at school.Jennifer Austin, a communications specialist at Gannett Health Services, noted that Spring Break offers a wonderful opportunity for physical and mental rest and relaxation. She encouraged students to, “Use [Spring Break] as an opportunity to strengthen your immune system before the big push that is final exams.”               The week off is a great time to catch up on hours of lost sleep and to rest your body. The last few weeks of school afterwards are usually among the most stressful for students who find themselves confronted with mnay a term paper and final exam. For students staying in Ithaca, Austin advised, “Find ways to get outside and plan time to get together with friends.” Cornell’s Outdoor Education Program provides all kinds of outdoor equipment rentals, so take time to explore the many gorgeous places Ithaca has to offer. And if the weather is lousy, Austin suggests getting a “light box” that provides exposure to full-spectrum light while sitting at a desk or reading. It’s not a trip to Cabo, but it can combat the feeling of “winter blues” that is so prevalent in Ithaca and other similarly sunless climes. If used wisely, Spring Break can be a rejuvenating time that will set you up to do the best you can at the end of the semester. If you’re lucky enough to be going on vacation for Spring Break — either to somewhere sunny or to a mountainside ski resort — keep in mind that this week is the best time to get some rest before heading back to the stresses of school. Before leaving, make sure you’ve taken care of any prescriptions and medicines you’ll need for the week. Austin says that Gannett anticipates a bump in pharmacy business before Spring Break, as it is a great place to buy sunscreen, sleep masks and other travel necessities. “Call ahead if you need a prescription refill and consider other supplies when you come in to pick it up,” she advised. Make sure that your family or any other emergency contacts have an itinerary for your trip so they know where you are and have phone numbers for places you are staying.  Cell phones are risky to rely on, especially if you’re in a foreign country.  Also, make sure you know your health insurance information.  If you are hurt while away, it is good to know whether your health plan will pay for your care, including transport for you if the help you need is not provided nearby.  (SHIP, the Cornell provided insurance, does cover this.)Even if you are careful, Spring Break disasters can still happen.  Lisa*, a student in the College of Arts and Sciences, went to the Dominican Republic last year for Spring Break.  She recalled, “One of the last few days I ate something bad, and became extremely sick.  The last two days of my trip, I couldn’t go out at all, and when I came home I was so sick that I needed to be hospitalized.” She continued, “I spent a day in the hospital with an I.V., since I had not been able to eat for a few days.”Some things — such as food poisoning — are unavoidable mishaps.  If you do become ill, Gannett has 24/7 phone consultation available to provide advice for student who are in trouble and unsure what to do.  However, there are many ways to ensure that your Spring Break is safe.  Remember to wear sunscreen! Get some sleep while you are away, and make sure to still eat well.  Always secure your belongings and keep your luggage with you at all times.  Try to keep your money in different places, so that if anything is to get stolen you won’t be stranded.  Most importantly, be careful with alcohol and drug intake.  Not only can over doing it lead to health and safety problems, but if you wear yourself out with a week of constant partying and no sleep, you will come back from break needing another vacation.Gannett will still be open normal hours during spring break, except for Saturday, March 20 when it will be closed.  Their website,, offers extensive information about taking care of yourself and has a spotlight on how you can stay safe during Spring Break.Spring Break is a time to relax, get outside and enjoy a respite from the stresses of class and work.  Don’t let foolish decisions or being unprepared ruin a great week.  Stay safe, and have fun!  RLD

Original Author: Rebecca Velez