Temperatures fall, student illness rises

Thaija Evans, Verge Designer

Gruesome coughs, falling leaves and chilly nights are finally here as the fall season blooms.

Allergies and the common cold linger around campus, spreading from student to student.

Sheila Baker, medical director of Health Service, said most students come into the clinic suffering from allergies and upper respiratory tract infections during the fall season, when school starts.

“Community living does increase risk for sharing infection, because more people are sharing the same space,” Baker said. “They live, learn, play, eat, exercise all together, and so you’re not getting away from those germs. You’re constantly being exposed.”

Baker said indoor activity is a leading cause in spreading viruses.

“When we move indoors because the seasons change, we do see more infections. Generally, those infections start in children who do not know how to prevent spread because they’re not good at personal hygiene,” Baker said. “Then they spread their infections to the people that work with them: their parents, their babysitters, daycares, schools. And then it comes around to the rest of us.”

She said certain viruses and bacteria, like those that cause influenza, thrive in cold weather, causing diseases to spread at a quicker pace.

Allergies are a different story, though.

“For allergies, really, it’s what that person is sensitive to. For people who are more sensitive to pollens of grains like corn and beans, during harvest time they’re going to be really affected,” Baker said. “Some people are more allergic to grass and trees. Well, those are everywhere.”

As the sweltering 90-degree weather turns frigid, local weather channels are under pressure to accurately predict the day’s conditions.

Cameron Craig, climatology and geology instructor, said people make fun of geologists for frequently being “wrong.”

“It’s hard to predict the weather exactly, so what we do is use pattern recognition,” Craig said. “So things that we’ve seen in the past, we can use those things to understand what will happen in the near future.”

Craig said he and his students use models to calculate temperatures, precipitation and when to expect these conditions.

“Understanding the atmosphere is not easy,” Craig said. “If we were to actually understand the atmosphere to its most minuscule detail, then we would be geniuses. But we are unable to understand every intricate aspect of the atmosphere. That’s why it continues to be a challenge. We’re getting better at it, but it is a challenge.”

Craig said he cannot tell this early in the season if this winter will be unbearably arctic.

“Psychologically, people start to feel the fall-like temperatures, (and) they automatically want to know what the winter is going to be in store for us,” Craig said. “But we don’t know that until we get closer to the season because it’s just the end of September.”

He said modern-day technology, like satellites and radars and continued research, will help meteorologists forecast the weather more precisely.

Still, students are already busting out their fall gear.

William Harrison, an undecided sophomore, said he prefers fall so he can express his interesting fashion style.

“I love heat too, but I like layering up more,” Harrison said.


Thaija Evans can be reached at 581-2812 or [email protected].