Spring is Here! Get Outside and Visit Some Farms

The last two winters here in Chapel Hill have been a little rough for all you non-winter, non-cold weather people. But fear not, spring is here (no really I swear)!

Photo: "Blossom Time, Fuquay-Varina" by Universal Pops, flickr creative commons
Photo: “Blossom Time, Fuquay-Varina” by Universal Pops, flickr creative commons

The Azaleas, Dogwoods, and fruit trees are beginning to bloom and the forests are taking on a faint green hue as buds begin to turn to leaves. I love this time of year, and if the trees and bushes are awakening and growing, you know what else is…? Vegetables!

Though Orange County may be best known for Chapel Hill and UNC, farming is a large part of the culture and economy. It has over 604 farms and almost one quarter of the land is agricultural. Crops grown in Orange County include: corn, soybeans, tobacco, and a wide variety of fruits and vegetables. It also has a number of dairy farms and farms that produce beef, pork, chicken, and other types of meat.

So, how does this apply to me or health, you might ask? Great question. Many people believe that eating local is good for your health as well as the environment, and this month Student Wellness is focusing on environmental wellness. The major benefit to the environment is that if you eat local, your food has to travel a much shorter distance from field to plate, which means a lot less fossil fuels burned in the process. Did you know that the average distance food travels is over 1800 miles!

Photo: "Baby Cows!" by Jason Adams, flickr creative commons
Photo: “Baby Cows!” by Jason Adams, flickr creative commons

One of the main reasons I am bringing all this up is that the Annual Piedmont Farm Tour is happening at the end of April (April 25th and 26th), and if you want to take improving your health and the environment one step further, you could ride your bike to one of these farms—Transplanting Traditions Community Farm and Chapel Hill Creamery are both less than seven miles from Chapel Hill.

But even if you don’t do the farm tour, you should try and get out on a bicycle in Orange County. What better way to get exercise than rolling past one picturesque farm after another, with the sun shining and a gentle breeze keeping you cool?

So before you leave Chapel Hill for the summer, visit a farm, go to the farmers market, or ride your bike to Maple View Farm to get some ice cream. You will be helping yourself, getting to know the people who produce your food, and helping the environment all at the same time.

Being healthy is more about what you do than what you look like

If I asked 10 different people what physical health looks like, do you think I would get the same answer? My guess is I would actually get 10 different answers largely because there is no one right answer.

The purpose of this blog is not to try and change your mind about what it looks like to be physically healthy, but rather to suggest that using body image and weight as an indicator of health is misguided. Being healthy is not about how you look, but rather what you do. What you do in your everyday life often plays a very large role in determining your what the real important health indicators like blood sugar levels, triglycerides (fat content in blood), LDL cholesterol, and many others will be.

I think it is time that we start to shift our attention from what people look like to what they do when we think about health. There are so many factors that contribute to health and there are also many things out of our control, but what is in our control, at least somewhat, is whether you try and live a healthy lifestyle.

Body Snark Free Zone Sign by  Treacle Tart (flickr creative commons)
Body Snark Free Zone Sign by Treacle Tart (flickr creative commons)

So what does this mean? This means that you cannot always tell if someone is healthy or not by just looking at them. But—and I say this with a big but– the majority of research shows that being extremely overweight or extremely underweight can be very harmful for your health. We also should maybe rethink how we look at individuals whose weight falls somewhere in between these two extremes and even reconsider what we would be considered overweight. I say this because last year, a large study showed that people that are overweight actually live longer than people who are “normal” weights. I also say this because in the middle of these two extremes is a very large group of people that could, or could not be very healthy but we really cannot tell just by looking at them. What it comes down to is that the deciding factor is what people do in their everyday lives (and genetics), not what they look like. I think if we started to be more concerned with things like how physically active people are, how much sleep they get, and the food they eat (in addition to many other things) instead of what they look like, we as a society could do a better job at not stigmatizing people for being either over or underweight.

I would like to emphasize that I am not saying to be whatever size you want because as I said earlier, there is very good evidence to show that this can be very harmful to health. What I am saying is let’s worry more about eating real food, food that has not been overly processed, and exercising in moderation among many other daily activities, and let’s worry less about what size we should be. This means that being “skinny” even if you can eat whatever you want without exercising, does not make you healthy. But it also means for people that get the recommended amount of exercise and eat real food in reasonable amounts, but still weigh more than society says you should, that’s ok.

I think the bottom line is we need to be real with ourselves, and stop using what we look like to determine our health. What we look like in a mirror is meaningless if we are not doing what we should be doing to promote physical health, and vice versa. Let’s start trying to live our lives in a healthier way and use that to measure our health instead of the numbers we see on a scale.

“Guys Nights” and “Girls Nights” (time with friends) are Good for Your Health

I know a lot of couples who do everything together and never hang out much with friends outside of their relationship. I also know couples that only hang out with friends of one of the partners in the relationship, or only engage socially with other couples. I have also noticed since becoming a parent that often social engagements can center around children and events with other parents. Some fathers, mothers, and partners may feel guilty about participating in things like “Guys Nights” or “Girls Nights” or “sports nights” or “movie nights” outside of their relationship, and I have heard people say that they cannot understand why their partner would want to do things without them. These scenarios can lead to tension, unhappiness, pressure, poor communication, and even resentment, none of which facilitate a healthy relationship.

"Ishod, Theotis, & Elijah" by  mor gnar... ,flickr Creative Commons
“Ishod, Theotis, & Elijah” by mor gnar… ,flickr Creative Commons

Turns out however, that hanging out with friends is not only fun and rewarding, but actually helps you not get sick, can actually increase life expectancy , and benefits seem to happen for both men and women. You can check out the links, but the gist is, hanging out with friends increases beneficial hormones, boosts immune function, reduces stress and depression, and improves overall mental and physical health. It also appears that these benefits occur when the socializing occurs with members of the same sex, and part of this could be due to biological hormonal differences (oxytocin vs testosterone) and likely are also due to shared experiences of what it means to be a man or woman. I am certainly not suggesting that all members of the same gender have the same life experiences, but society certainly treats men differently than women, and sometimes people need a space to be with others who have similar experiences and interests. Hanging out with members of the same gender also can remove some of the pressure associated with socializing with members of the opposite gender.

So time spent with the same gender is good, but there is an important caveat. Male bonding, “Guys Nights” or “bromances” if you will may be good for health, but not if they are promoting hegemonic masculinity, or somehow reinforcing male privilege and a gender hierarchy. Guys can hang out together and do “guy things” and not have this result in devaluing typical “feminine characteristics.” Not being a woman, I will not speculate about “Girls Nights” but it is important to makes sure that either gender’s bonding is not causing resentment of the opposite sex. The socializing is about recognizing that, whether socially constructed or biological, there are differences between people and those differences are ok and do not need to be removed.

"Smiling at the sunset (friends)" by Sarah Ross, Flickr Creative Commons
“Smiling at the sunset (friends)” by Sarah Ross, Flickr Creative Commons

Which brings me to my final point. Hanging out with friends, whatever gender or sex they are, is healthy and does not devalue a relationship. The idea of “partner social exclusivity” (I just made up that term but I kind of like it) seems ludicrous, and I believe it is unreasonable to expect one person to meet every single need that you might ever have. People are dynamic and multifaceted, and so relationships should be the same. I also want to say that though the paragraph above is somewhat heteronormative with regards to life experiences, same sex couples also include people with varying experiences and interests and time outside of the relationship can help to validate those experiences and interests.

I do know couple friends who seem to have the exact same interests and are completely happy doing everything together, but I think these are few and far between and part of most healthy relationship is still holding onto individuality. It is about finding that balance between time together and time apart, and the time apart can be a sign of strength, not a deficit in the relationship. So go hang out with your friends. Have a “Guys Night” or a “Girls Night” or a “whatever your interest is night.” It is good for you, and part of finding the balance between partnership and individuality, and also about respecting and valuing both commonalities and differences.

Being Uncomfortable Can be Good for You

Photo: Into the White by Corey Templeton, Flickr Creative Commons
Photo: Into the White by Corey Templeton, Flickr Creative Commons

As I walked to work last Thursday on a breezy, brisk (one might say down right cold) 12 degree morning, I noticed the slow onset of pain in my fingers, as the blood left them and moved towards the center of my body. This is an amazing evolutionary adaptation which basically keeps our most important organs functioning in really cold weather, but anyways. The wind bit my face and the hair on the back of my neck stood on end. It was cold, and I am guessing like many others, I found myself thinking, I wish it would warm up a little.

Along the same lines, I also often find myself longing for changes in the weather during summers in the Triangle. For me, they are too hot and humid. I don’t like 90 degrees and 90 percent humidity. When I am out working in that kind of weather, and instantaneously the sweat starts beading up on my forehead and rolling down my back, I just want to get out of it, into the comfort of my air conditioned house. But in moments like both of these (hot and cold) I often have to tell myself to stop, and instead I try to be mindful and present with the discomfort, and I have realized that being uncomfortable is a really good thing.

It seems like the majority of engineering, innovation, and technology today is geared towards making things easier or making people more comfortable: lotion and baby wipe warmers, driver and passenger side climate control in cars, heated floors, the newest fastest computer and cell phone, and of course all the grab and go, disposable EVERTHING! They all seem really nice and why shouldn’t we buy, use, and throw away all these comforts? We shouldn’t because too much comfort is not good for any part of our health, even our mental health. According to brain scientist Gregory Berns of Emory University School of Medicine, “The two key factors in long-term life satisfaction are novelty and challenge,” and being too comfortable does not allow for either of these. Additionally, it is also not good for the health of the environment, the workers who make these cheap disposable products, and it is not even good for you in the long run.

Photo by Live Life Happy, Flickr Creative Commons
Photo by Live Life Happy, Flickr Creative Commons

In order to learn, we have to step out of our comfort zone, and in order to appreciate the good we have to experience a little bit of the bad. I hope that you understand that I am not promoting constant discomfort, pain, or suffering. I cannot tell you where that line is for you, and it is different for everybody. I am simply saying that resilience, growth, and mental and physical health are often born from a small bit of discomfort. Exercising often hurts, but it makes you stronger and healthier. Eating healthy food is not always fun, but it allows you to really appreciate the “comfort foods” when you have them once in a while. Resilience and positive ways of dealing with stress are often achieved in the presence of adversity. And to bring me back to where I started, in order to appreciate that perfect 75-80 degree, sunny, low humidity day and really be mindful of how great it is, sometimes you need to sweat and sometimes you need to freeze (a little). If you live your life in a climate controlled world, with every want and need met, and no discomfort, you never grow.

Club Sports and Intramurals: A great way to get some exercise and become involved!

With the end of the semester come finals, and often, lots of stress. But the good news is at the end of the week you are done (congratulations)! Whether you finish strong or limp across the finish line, the semester is over and you cannot change the past. What you can do is enjoy your time off, get some rest, and look to the future and a fresh start in January. And if I may, I would like to make a recommendation for the spring semester: do something new and something that will help you with all that stress that school can bring. Become part of some sort of extracurricular physical activity, preferably one that gets your heart rate up.

Photo: Going up for the frisbee in the fog by Nathan Rupert, Flickr Creative Commons.
Photo: Going up for the frisbee in the fog by Nathan Rupert, Flickr Creative Commons.

Now before you say, “I don’t have time for exercise,” or “but I don’t like to exercise,” stop. One, you do have time for a little exercise, but often you will not do it unless you set aside a time for it. If you continually say, “I will exercise when I have free time,” you will always find something else you could be doing. Additionally, if you have hours and hours each month to check Facebook, tweet, Instagram, watch movies, online shop, play video games, or any other things that your normal day entails, then you likely have time for some exercise. Second, exercise will help all the other parts of your life as well. So many studies show that exercise not only improved physical health, but mental health as well including stress and depression. And if you don’t like to exercise, fear not! There are many options for exercising that don’t feel like a chore, including many club sports and intramural activities.

For me, physical activity means getting into the Carolina North Forest for runs, and joining road bike group rides in Chapel Hill. In addition to this, last year I joined the UNC Cycling Team, which includes a wide variety of individuals who have all different ability levels and who enjoy all different types of biking. Maybe this is something you would like to try, but if not, there are so many opportunities to participate in club sports, and intramural activities here at UNC. These include: basketball, soccer, tennis, ultimate Frisbee, football, rugby, and so many more. These are great opportunities to meet people, create social networks, and get exercise at the same time. These also can be really helpful for motivation on those days when you would rather just curl up in bed, but you know that getting some exercise would be good for you and you would enjoy doing it once you got out there. Not everyone is self-motivated, however, how or why you get out there is not the important thing, but rather that you get out there.

Olympian Tours Colorado Trip (by Jed Hinkley)
Olympian Tours Colorado Trip (by Jed Hinkley)

So, if you’ve wanted to become involved with some sort of sport or activity, there’s no time like the present. This is the perfect time and there are so many options to choose from. After all, college is about trying new things and meeting new people. It is also about becoming immersed in the culture and involved with the school. What better way to do that then with a bunch of other students, faculty, and staff that like doing the same things that you do. Your heart, your head, and your grades will be better for it.

Find Your Own Reason to Quit Smoking

Today is the Great American Smokeout! I have to be honest. I did not have this day marked on my calendar because I am not a smoker. However, my wife and my mother used to be a smokers and they were able to quit, and my mother-in-law is a smoker who is currently trying to quit (this is for you Patty).

"The Last Time" by Morgan, flickr creative commons
“The Last Time” by Morgan, flickr creative commons

The Great American Smokeout is a day sponsored by the American Cancer Society, and occurs on the third Thursday of November every year. The purpose of the day is for smokers to use the day to start a plan to quit or plan ahead of time and actually quit on the day. Smoking is the # 1 cause of death in the United States and kills 467,000 people every year. I could go on and on about why smoking is bad for you, and, in fact, that is what most websites and other sources of media do. The Cancer Society’s page for the Great American Smokeout, tells you about all the health benefits of quitting smoking. But I am not going to do that. And you know what? I would not even recommend looking at those facts, if you don’t want to. You can even ignore the number of people that die from smoking every year because we all know that smoking is bad. You do not need to be told again.

We as promoters of public health always want people to look at the data and then make decisions based on what the numbers say. We think that if we tell people how bad cigarettes or soda or french fries are for you, then you will just stop. And the ironic thing is that we know from data that this doesn’t work, but we keep doing it. So I am not here to tell you how bad smoking is for you. What I am here to tell you is that if you want to quit, figure out why you really want to quit, or what your motivation for quitting is. I think for a heck of a lot of people it is not because cigarettes are bad for you, and that is totally fine, but I am guessing that there might be other reasons for quitting. Maybe it is because they are really expensive. Maybe it is because you can’t smoke anywhere anymore, and it is a real pain in the butt to have to sneak around to find a place to smoke. Maybe it is because there are 4 cigarette companies in the Fortune 500 and you don’t want to support huge corporations. Maybe it is because cigarette companies have marketed their products to kids. Maybe you are motivated by social justice and don’t like the fact that tobacco companies disproportionately market and sell in low-income neighborhoods. Or maybe, like my wife and mother, you are motivated to quit because of a bet (my dad and I made those bets).

"Today I Quit Smoking" by Sibel, Flickr Creative Commons
“Today I Quit Smoking” by Sibel, Flickr Creative Commons

My point in all of this is, you don’t need to let the “professionals” tell you why you should quit smoking because they may have no idea what motivates you. If you want to quit smoking, find the thing that is going to make you quit and keep going back to that. It is not important how or why you get there–it is just important that you get there. For my mother-in-law, it is because her husband, my father-in-law, just passed away three months ago from sudden cardiac arrest, and her grandson, who she is raising, is scared to death that the same thing is going to happen to her. We all have our reasons. Good Luck.

How to Not Get Sick

Have you been sick recently? I know that my family is just coming out of a persistent and lingering head cold that turned into a fever, lot of coughing, and a double ear infection for my daughter. I also heard that folks around campus were talking about the #uncplague. Yep, it is that time of year again: Cold and Flu season, which warrants the annual reminder about what to do to not get sick.

And I have three suggestions:

Photo (Wash Hands Frequently) by (Fairfax County), Flickr Creative Commons
Photo (Wash Hands Frequently) by (Fairfax County), Flickr Creative Commons

The world is certainly on high alert right now when it comes to contagious diseases, with thousands of people in Western Africa suffering and dying from Ebola, and cases starting to pop up in the United States and across the globe. However, though this current outbreak is devastating and scary, the Flu kills many more people each year on average than Ebola ever has. According to the CDC the number of deaths due to the flu has ranged from as low as 3,000 to as high as 49,000 per year in the United States in recent years.

The Flu is often spread by people getting the Flu virus on their hands from touching someone or something that a sick person has coughed on, sneezed on, or touched, and then touching their face. You may remember from the movie Contagion that people touch their face 2,000 to 3,000 times a day. This might be a bit of an overestimate, but in a recent study, random people touched their face 3.6 times an hour and with the same hand also touched common objects that others had touched. So wash your hands and stop touching your face so much.

Photo (Flu vaccinations make their way to U.S. Army in Europe) by (U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Europe District), Flickr Creative Commons
Photo (Flu vaccinations make their way to U.S. Army in Europe) by (U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Europe District), Flickr Creative Commons

Get a flu shot. You do NOT get the Flu from a Flu shot. Let me say that again: you do NOT get the Flu from a Flu shot. Some people do get a low-grade fever and headache from the vaccine, but this is just the body reacting to the foreign substance, not the Flu. According to the CDC, vaccines given to children have saved more than 732,000 lives and trillions of dollars over the last 2 decade. There is also absolutely no evidence that the Flu vaccine –or any other vaccines– present significant harm, and the idea that vaccines cause autism is a complete myth. The worst that could happen is that the Flu shot does not provide protection for the strain of the Flu that is being passed around but, even in that case, there is nothing lost by getting the shot. Most people who work in public health will agree that vaccinations are one of the most important innovations of modern medicine and protect not only the individual getting the shot, but others around them.

Lastly, if you are sick, stay home. Email your professors, let group partners know that you are sick, or tell your coaches that you cannot come to practice. I am as guilty as anyone I know of breaking this rule regularly, and there is still part of me that thinks I just need to “tough it out” and work through it. Unfortunately, our society often still rewards or finds it admirable when individuals fight through a sickness, but we need to change this norm. I am not saying take advantage of a sickness. If you have a sniffle or a tickle in your throat I might not advise that you lay in bed all day, but if you truly are sick, you are protecting others by staying home. You also most likely will not get much out of being in class or at a meeting if you are not feeling well.

So wash your hands, get your shot, and stay home when you feel bad. It will help you and the rest of us as well. (Oh, make sure you sleep, exercise, get lots of antioxidants, and stay hydrated as well)

How is Your Intellectual Health?

This year at Student Wellness we are shifting our focus from addressing specific health issues to understanding how health issues and behaviors impact the different Dimensions of Wellness. These include Physical, Emotional, Spiritual, Social, Environmental, Financial, Cultural, and Intellectual.

Historically, many of us may have thought about health as the absence of disease. If you ask a 4-year-old if they are healthy, they would probably respond yes, as long as they did not have a cold, the flu, a broken arm, or are confined to a hospital bed. However, we now recognize that being healthy is more than just not being sick, and it is also more than having chiseled abs and eating spinach with every meal.

The Disappearing Intellectual
Photo (The Disappearing Intellectual) by (Truthout.org) , Flickr Creative Commons

This month we are focusing on intellectual health and it really got me to thinking: what the heck is intellectual health, and am I intellectually healthy? My initial reaction is, “Of course I am intellectually healthy. I am ‘open minded.’ I try to stay up to date on current affairs and think globally. I must be doing great, right?”

Well…not necessarily. These could be part of intellectual health, but it is more than this.

Intellectual health is not about “knowing lots,” or being able to quote Nietzsche and sound “wicked smart” (insert Boston accent). I looked up Intellectual Wellness on a number of different sites, including ours, and found one definition from The University of New Hampshire that I really liked (though I liked ours as well).

Intellectual wellness is being open to new ideas, thinking critically, and seeking out new challenges.

So what does this mean? When we say we are open-minded, are we really open to new ideas, or only things that we may not have known about or experienced but fit very nicely within our world view? Do we really think critically about our deep founded beliefs and question why we believe what we do? Do we challenge ourselves on a daily basis, and when I say challenge I don’t mean by overcoming our fear of heights or running a marathon, but I mean challenge ourselves intellectually and culturally?

I think a lot of us don’t, regardless of where we stand on the cultural or political spectrum. So as you begin this new school year, I challenge you, and I challenge myself to not only focus on our physical and emotional health but also on our intellectual health. Hang out with people who are different than you. Go someplace that you would not normally go where people think and act differently than you. Take a class that is totally outside of your comfort zone. You will be healthier for it.

A Drinking age of 21 Saves Lives but Binge Drinking Still Persists

How do you feel about the drinking age in the United States? Do you think that we should be more like other Western countries whose legal age is 18? Or do you think that the current drinking age is the safest/best option?  It seems like the legal drinking age is one of those issues where people tend to take one side or the other and try to justify their position, regardless of evidence or most current research.

Well folks, I am here to say that changing your mind is possible, or at least it is possible to be swayed.  I have long been a proponent of lowering the legal drinking age to 18, in part because of all the other rights and responsibilities given to 18 year olds, and in part because a higher drinking age makes alcohol the forbidden fruit, which leads to sneaking around and other high risk behaviors. However, recent evidence has caused me to question my initial stance, because I now realize that  a drinking age of 21 really does save lives. Raising the drinking age (which happened in 1984) has been shown to delay the age that many people start to drink and therefore reduces the risk of developing dependency (aka alcoholism) later in life. It also reduces the incidence of drinking and driving among individuals under the age of 21.

But what about Europe? They have a lower drinking age and it seems to work for them; why can’t it work for us?  I have uttered these words myself many times, but research is also working to disprove this argument. Emulating Europe may work for many other health topics (healthcare, nutrition, physical activity) , but Europe’s rate of binge drinking among youth is higher than the United States, and 15 European Countries have a higher rate of deaths due to alcohol than the United States, including Germany and France. I think when it comes to preventing dependency and saving lives, particularly due to drinking and driving, the case is closed on the drinking age of 21.

So the evidence is clear about how drinking age impacts drinking and driving accidents and age of first consumption. But how do we change social norms around drinking on college campuses and how does the drinking age of 21 impact high risk drinking among college students? Binge drinking is consuming five or more drinks in a row.  The graph below shows the2-week prevalence of consuming five or more drinks in a row among college students vs. young adults who are 1 to 4 years beyond high school (12th graders are included for comparison). The general trend is in the right direction, but it does not appear that the 1984 national mandate of a drinking age of 21 has made a significant impact on high risk drinking (though I have not run a statistical analysis of this). The rate of binge drinking also appears to have flat-lined somewhat since 2002 for college students. High Risk Graph

The graph below shows the percent of people who used alcohol in the past month by different age groups. As you can see, the heavy alcohol use and binge drinking was highest among people aged 21-25 followed closely by 18-20 year olds. Age and Drinking


Here at UNC, while nearly a quarter of undergraduate students do not drink at all, 65.2 % of underage students consumed alcohol in the previous 30 days, and 43% of students reported binge drinking in the past 2 weeks according to the 2012 Core Survey on Alcohol and Other Drugs, a bi-annual assessment conducted campus wide.

At Student Wellness we try and use a risk reduction public health approach because it has been shown to be a more effective and realistic way of approaching alcohol use for college students. This means that we recognize that the only way to completely remove risk for people under the age of 21 is by abstaining, while at the same time recognizing that many students will choose to drink.  For students who do choose to drink, we want to help them minimize the risks as much as possible.  It is with this philosophy in mind that we talk to students who do decide to drink about using alcohol in moderation and how to eliminate risk as much as possible. As members of the Carolina community, it is important to know that many perceptions around alcohol use on college campuses are incorrect and a large proportion of students do not drink at all. These misperceptions seriously impact how we norm alcohol use on this campus.  At the same time, we should recognize that binge drinking is a real problem that needs to be addressed and a drinking age of 21 has not significantly reduced the prevalence.  We also need to acknowledge that binge drinking is not necessarily a normal part of college life for all students, and there are real long term health impacts from binge drinking.

Regardless of which side of the drinking age debate your are on, the end goal should be to recognize that drinking does not have to be part of college life, but if you choose to drink, there are ways it can be done in safer and healthier manner. Be safe and have a good summer!


Spring is Here and so are the Allergies

The weather is warming up, the birds are waking back up, the grass is beginning to grow, and the Magnolia and Dogwoods are blossoming. Ahh, spring in Chapel Hill is FINALLY here.






And if you are anything like me so are the allergies. You might be asking yourself right now, “Am I getting another cold?” And maybe you are because there have certainly been a lot of those around lately, but there is a good chance that it is just your overactive immune system trying to fight off pollen. But how can you tell if what you are experiencing is a cold or allergies? Well it is not so easy, and sometimes it is hard even for doctors to tell but the Mayo Clinic lists some common symptoms of each.   There are some symptoms however that are signs that it is one or the other.


  • Sore Throat
  • Could cause fever or aches and pains
  • Potential fever
  • Usually only lasts 5-7 days

These symptoms are rare with Allergies.


  • Itchy, watery eyes
  • May last longer than a week or symptoms may be present off and on

This is very rare with a cold.

 Some people often do not realize they are suffering from allergies because they have never had them before, but unfortunately, you can develop allergies at any time in your life. I was not allergic to anything (except poison ivy) until my early 20s and then I started to get allergies in the fall, and now I get them in the fall and spring. So what are you to do? Well whether it is a cold or allergies, you want to treat the symptoms with an antihistamine. Some common examples include over-the-counter Benadryl (beware of drowsiness with Benadryl), Claritin, or Zyrtec. They help to get rid of some of that annoying nasal drip (i.e. mucus). You also can treat them with corticosteroids, and decongestants (if you have a stuffy nose). Nasal sprays may also be helpful, such as a saline spray just to rinse out allergens, or a more powerful prescription nose spray such as Flonase to combat symptoms. For those with chronic allergies, another possible and more permanent solution is Immunotherapy or allergy shots. This is the process of getting a series of shots over 3-5 years, that contains some of the allergen. The idea is to introduce the allergen into your body so that eventually your body recognizes it is not harmful. I know people often use this if they develop allergies to pets and do not want to give up their fury friends, and can be extremely helpful in combating environmental allergies too

north-carolina-state-flower-1If you have tried over-the-counter treatments and think you may need something stronger you can make an appointment at Campus Health Services. If starting allergy shots is something that you and your physician decide, you can get them right here on campus throughout the year.

So if you are constantly blowing your nose, and rubbing your itchy eyes, I empathize. Take some antihistamines and get out and enjoy this weather that we have been waiting so long for. Just don’t rub your face in the grass, instead smell the roses (haha) because they actually have almost no airborne pollen.