How to cure the back-to-school cold

Seven ways to stay healthy this fall

Being proactive about your health can help you avoid the easily-caught back-to-school cold.

As someone who usually spends the entire fall semester dealing with a never-ending sinus cold, I’ve picked up many tricks for warding off the most unpleasant symptoms of dreaded back-to-school illness.

Every September, students flood back to Kingston for the start of the new academic year. While exciting, this influx of bodies brings with it tons of new germs. In August, Queen’s classrooms and common spaces are calm oases with sanitized surfaces. By September, they quickly turn into perpetually sticky, crowded mosh pits. It’s impossible for campus sanitation workers to keep up.

In this state of things, it’s inevitable that germs will spread and infect students.

While it’s relatively easy to manage a cold during O-week when there’s less academic responsibilities, having one during midterm season is unbearable. If that’s where you fear your back-to-school cold is leading you, here are some cures to try, from one sick Gael to another.

Carry hand sanitizer at all times

It’s imperative to have bottles of hand sanitizer on you constantly. Have one in your backpack, one in your purse, one in your coat pocket, another in your gym locker, stash a few in every room of your house, and always have one on your person.

Use it obsessively. If you’re sitting in class and blow your nose, slather your hands with some hand sanitizer. In that 10-minute rush between classes when you’re pushing doors to leave buildings and opening doors to enter new ones, don’t touch your face before using that handy-dandy bottle again.

Washing your hands is the way to go when you’re near a sink, but hand sanitizer is a smart, quick alternative when you’re on the go.

Make tissue boxes your must-have accessory

Let’s face it, with a cold, you’ll be blowing your nose every thirty seconds.

As university students, if we leave class every time our nose runs, we might just miss a whole module of our course. Classes move too fast to let a little cold slow us down. Pull up to class with a tissue box in tow (but not the travel-size ones with five tissues, because those help nobody).

Drink lemon ginger tea with honey

Lemon is an immune system booster, which is exactly what you need when you’re sick. Ginger helps to settle your stomach, and honey will soothe your sore throat.

Brew a big batch of this concoction every morning, put it in your travel mug, and drink it all day long. This is a great idea even if you have yet to catch a cold, because there’s a good chance it can help you avoid it.

Always make time for adequate sleep

As students, we sometimes forget just how important it is to get a full night of rest every night. We study hard, work part-time jobs, participate in clubs, and are members of teams, and sometimes our commitments wear us thin.

To ward off the back-to-school cold, you have to make time for sufficient sleep. Force yourself to get a full eight hours—put it in your day planner or on your to-do list if that’ll motivate you to follow through. All those other tasks to do will still be there in the morning. Remember, sleeping won’t hinder your productivity. It’ll improve it.

Take NyQuil when you need a quick fix

This isn’t an ad (but if anyone who works for NyQuil reads this and wants to sponsor me, that would be cool too).

But seriously, as someone who gets sick for weeks and sometimes months at a time, it can be hard to get a good night’s sleep when your own coughing keeps you up.

Finding a cold medicine that addresses your symptoms and actually helps to soothe them can be a quick fix. I would warn against using drowsy cold medicine for too many nights in a row though, or it might be more difficult to fall asleep without it when your cold is finally gone.


When you’re blowing your nose all day, you have to replenish that expelled liquid, as gross as it sounds. Make a conscious effort to drink lots of water, even if it hurts your throat on the way down. It’s important not to be dehydrated when you’re already feeling sick.

Get your flu shot

The best way to make sure your back-to-school cold doesn’t turn into a debilitating flu is to get immunized. Colds weaken your immune system, making you more susceptible to other viral infections.

Getting your flu shot is easy, and the pain doesn’t last long enough to make skipping it justifiable. Protecting yourself and those around you from catching the flu is worth the hassle.


These fixes are my secrets to avoiding or recovering from the back-to-school cold, and I think they’ll help you too. If all else fails, at least you might score a couple days of bedrest catching up on sleep and binging hours of Netflix shows.

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