Coughing, sneezing and stuffy noses — all may be symptoms of what seems to be "Spirit Splash fever" spreading among UCF students.
The annual Spirit Splash brings thousands of students together to celebrate UCF Homecoming Week, by jumping into the Reflecting Pond, raving with friends and catching shirts and rubber ducks.
While that seems like fun and games, many students claim they were left sick and injured after the event.
"I drove home with my friend a little after the event and I started to feel stuffy on the way home," said freshman accounting major Caitlyn Reyes — who ended up getting sick for a few days after the event.
Even after getting a cold for weeks, Reyes still found the experience worth it saying, "I've been dying to go in that fountain and it was fun."
After jumping into the water, students tend to stay in for about a half an hour, dancing, splashing and catching prizes. Prior to Spirit Splash, UCF cleans the pond on Thursday and adds chlorine to help sterilize the water.
With the event starting at 2 p.m., students made lines and groups beginning at 9 a.m. for shirt distribution and to be the closest to the pond.
However, with the flu season in full effect, students may have already put themselves in danger before even stepping foot in the water.
Besides getting sick, some students take home battle scars in the form of minor scrapes and bruises after Spirit Splash.
"This year we had several students treated at the EMT tent for minor scrapes," said OSI communications coordinator David Oglethorpe in an email. "However, to our knowledge, this was the extent of any injuries during Spirit Splash."
To minimize injuries, Homecoming creates measures such as extra volunteers and an EMT tent for students. There were 100 volunteers to maintain control before students were allowed to enter the water. And new this year, volunteers went into the pond with students to slow them down as they ran in.
"During the event, Homecoming and OSI professional staff are constantly monitoring the crowd to ensure that unsafe behavior is immediately addressed," Oglethorpe said. "Over the past two years, the event has been temporarily halted to address unsafe behavior."
To prevent any sickness, some students take precautions to try and get ready for the event.
"I just usually relax during Homecoming Week and sleep a little more," Melissa Doan, a junior industrial engineering major, said.
Doan has participated in Spirit Splash for three years and has never been sick afterward.
"The water gets to at least mid-thigh for me and I end up getting soaked. There was one year where I was shivering in the pond but I still didn't get sick," Doan said.
First-timer Olivia Wederbrand, a freshman marketing and hospitality management double major, said luck played its role in the fact that she didn't get sick.
"I'm pretty lucky. I feel like I was one of the few who didn't get sick," Wederbrand said. "I went back and showered and brushed my teeth and used mouthwash. I really just got bruised and stepped on a bunch."
As for participating next year, Wederbrand said, "I might. I didn't get a duck but that's probably because I'm so short."
There may be different reasons as to why students get sick after Spirit Splash. Dr. Michael Deichen, director of UCF Health Services, said that most students get sick because of the fact that it is flu season.
"Spirit Splash coincides with flu season. Whenever large public events occur that involve close proximity to others, more persons will get colds and flus," Deichen said.
Students who are still having cold symptoms from Spirit Splash or who are just feeling under the weather can visit the UCF Health Services on campus to receive the proper treatments.
"Students can reduce this risk with good hand hygiene, avoiding rubbing their eyes and nose and trying to get adequate sleep. The flu shot is the best defense for influenza and is available for free to students at Health Service," he said.