By Laura Acuff, Opinion Editor
With the start of flu season looming more than a month away, many students are reporting sick; surprising the ACU Medical Clinic staff.
“We’re seeing the numbers of students that we would see during flu season,” said Kathy Stokes, medical clinic office manager. “We haven’t seen the flu, but a lot of it that’s going around is the common cold, bronchitis, upper respiratory infections, and there’s been a huge influx just in the students coming in sick and calling in sick needing appointments.”
While the cooler months between November and March constitute the traditional flu season, Stokes said the clinic also faces an increase in student traffic after Welcome Week.
Stokes said freshmen recovering from the week’s activities combine exhaustion with the general stress of starting college, ultimately weakening their immune systems and increasing the possibility of falling ill the first few weeks of school.
This year’s influx, however, occurred too late to be attributed to Welcome Week, Stokes said.
However, despite unusual numbers, Stokes said the nurses and three physicians staffing the Medical Clinic have kept waits to a minimum. Still, she said she recommends calling ahead for an appointment when possible.
“We’re trying to move the students in quicker,” Stokes said. “The walk-ins, we try to fit them in between the regular appointments, and they may have to wait a little bit, but if they’re really not feeling well, they need to try to get in as soon as possible. They need to come in as soon as they’re not feeling well, so we can try to catch it early.”
Tori Valadez, sophomore elementary education major from El Paso, recently visited the clinic after catching a cold.
As a first-time visitor, Valadez filled out a few customary forms before her evaluation with a nurse, but she said the paperwork was quick and she felt satisfied with the service.
“I was OK, and the nurse did a good job,” Valadez said. “I felt like she was very helpful.”
Although Valadez needed no prescription, she said over-the-counter medications, taking vitamins and drinking fluids aided her recovery.
Stokes also said washing hands, drinking liquids to stay hydrated, relaxation, plenty of sleep and regular meals assist in preventing illness.
According to the medical Web site WebMD at www.webmd.com, some ailments become contagious before symptoms even surface, so staying up-to-date with immunizations and vaccines may prove vital in preventing illness.
Other disease-prevention strategies include avoiding touching the mouth, eyes or nose without first washing hands; covering the mouth and nose when coughing or sneezing and avoiding sharing personal items and toiletries, according to WebMD.
When that fails, however, Stokes said students should visit the Medical Clinic as soon as they begin to feel ill.
“We’re having some that are waiting until they’re really, really, really sick,” Stokes said. “It’s just dragging out and takes that much longer for them to get better, so they’re missing more class, which causes more stress for them.”
Students may visit the clinic anytime Monday through Friday to seek nurses’ attention, which is free-of-charge, Valadez said. Physicians, who may prescribe medicine, work Monday, Wednesday and Friday. Medical charges are issued to students’ ACU accounts.
While physicians usually only excuse students from class for time spent in an appointment, those suffering from contagious ailments may be excused for
past and future absences from classes, depending on circumstances and the doctor’s prerogative, Stokes said.
The ACU Medical Clinic is located on the east end of McKinzie Hall, main level, and is open Monday through Friday from 8a.m.-noon and 1-4:30 p.m. For more information or to make an appointment, students can call 674-2625.