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Colleges and Colds

AHH! The worst thing that could have possibly happened, happened. You came down with a cold during midterms! What do you do?        

AHH! The worst thing that could have possibly happened, happened. You came down with a cold during midterms! What do you do?        

What do you do when you get sick in college? This was a legitimate worry that I had coming in (one only heightened by the pandemic) but I was worried it was a stupid question. Now I know— it’s definitely not!

Here are the facts:

  • Dorms can make it hard. Being sick in a dorm with a roommate you haven’t known for that long is hard! Being sick away from home (potentially for the first time) is hard!
  • We’ve experienced a pandemic for several years. Even colds can be more nerve-wracking than before.
  • Carleton is fast-paced! Missing class is not exactly ideal.

So, how do you manage?

Here’s a list of my tips to combat a plague at Carleton.

First: preemptive measures. It’s a good idea to get a little medicine cabinet for your dorm BEFORE you get sick! Here’s a list of things I always include:

  • Ibuprofen and/or Tylenol
  • Pepto Bismol & Tums
  • Cold Medicine (I try to get a pack with day and nighttime included)
  • Vitamin C Immune Support 
  • Thermometer
  • A Covid Rapid Test
  • Band-aids
  • Triple Antibiotic
  • Tissues

It’s also a great idea to keep water in your room, whether it’s a water filter in the provided dorm minifridge or extra water bottles. Gatorade is also good to keep in your room— sometimes staying hydrated is harder than you think!

sick supplies
My medicine box! (Also included: a sewing kit, Hot Hands, and contact solution)


sick supplies
And the “medicine cabinet” where the box stays (also known as Ren’s Closet)


Okay, so now you’re sick— you wake up intending to go to class, but you feel capital G, Gross. In this day and age, the first thing you should do is take a Covid test. While it’s good to keep a rapid test in your room, our health center (SHAC) will also provide free testing. If you test positive, you should follow these guidelines.

Even if you test negative, it’s still a good idea to let your roommate know you’re sick and stay home from class. Though this is your call, staying home is usually the best option. It allows you to get the rest you need to recover and limits the number of people you expose. If you do need to go to class, wear a mask! If you don’t go to class, email your professor!

Every time I’ve had to stay home from class due to sickness, I was nervous to email my professors. But they always understand if you can’t come to class. They’ll tell you what to do to catch up (i.e. get notes from a classmate, watch a video, or reschedule that exam). Sometimes, Zooming into class is even an option.

My biggest piece of advice about academics while you’re not feeling well: ask for what you need! Even though it can be scary to ask, I have never once had a professor deny me an extension or accommodation when I need one. This also goes for your friends and roommate. If you need someone to pick up food for you or grab some cold medicine from the store, there will always be someone who is able to do this for you. Our motto at Carleton is “Carls help Carls,” and it’s definitely true.

carls help carls
The rumors are true!


Other than that… sleep! Drink water! Take time to get better. Sometimes, I think a cold during midterms is the universe telling me, “Take a break! Slow down!” Because usually, I need a reminder.



Ren (they/them) grew up catching salamanders, recklessly climbing trees, and running around barefoot in the Appalachian Mountains in a small town in North Carolina. They are a junior double major in Art History and Studio Art, and love spending time in the arb, Sayles Hill Campus Center, and the Weitz Center for Creativity. Ren is the co-president of Carleton’s QuestBridge chapter and works with other equity programs on campus.