There are certain good health habits that can help prevent the spread of colds, flu, and other illnesses.
- Get vaccinated against the flu.
- Avoid close contact with people who are sick. When you are sick, keep your distance from others to protect them from getting sick too.
- Cover your nose and mouth with a tissue when you cough or sneeze – and dispose of the tissue afterward.
- If you do not have a tissue, cough or sneeze into your sleeve.
- Wash your hands after you cough or sneeze – with soap and warm water, or an alcohol-based hand cleaner.
- If you get sick, stay home from work or school. You will help prevent others from catching your illness.
Practicing a healthy lifestyle can also reduce your risk of influenza and other diseases. Adequate rest, regular exercise, a balanced diet, and stress management are all proven strategies to boost your immune system. Be sure to drink plenty of water to keep mucous membranes hydrated and resistant to the flu virus. Frequent cleaning of hard surfaces such as telephones, doorknobs, desks, countertops, and handrails is also helpful.
The common cold can be caused by any of more than 200 viruses, which attack and multiply in the cells that line the nose and throat. Common colds are most commonly spread by hand-to-hand contact.
Symptoms of colds can include:
- Scratchy or sore throat
- Clear nasal discharge
- Tenderness around the eyes
- Stuffy nose
- Tearing (watery) eyes
- Full feeling in the ears
- Body aches
- Cough, dry or with clear or white mucus
- General “tired” feeling
You should contact a medical practitioner if you experience:
- Discolored or bloody mucus from nasal passages
- Pain or tenderness around the eyes
- Painful swelling of the neck glands
- Cough with production of discolored mucus
- Painful breathing, wheezing, or shortness of breath
- Severe headache
- Fever greater than 100.5°F for longer than two days
- White patches on the back of the throat or tonsils or an extremely red throat
- Chronic, unusual fatigue
The common cold can be treated with over-the-counter medications including:
- Pseudophedrine (Sudafed) for congestion
- Antihistamines for runny nose
- Dextrometorphan for dry coughs
- Cough syrup with an expectorant (Robitussin) for coughs with phlegm
The Flu is a viral infection that can infect the nose, throat, and chest. The flu may last from a few days to a couple of weeks.
Student Health offers flu vaccination at the clinic and across campus.
Flu vaccination can greatly lower your chance of getting the flu. The best time to get vaccinated is from the middle of October to the middle of November, because most people get the flu in the winter. The vaccine does not cause the flu, but you may feel sore or weak or have a fever for a couple of days.
Flu shots are especially important for those in the following adults:
- Individuals with chronic health conditions such as asthma, heart disease, diabetes, and cancer
- Persons who have immunosuppression (caused by medication or HIV/AIDS)
- Adults age 50 or older (even if healthy)
- Children age 6 months - 18 years
- Health care workers
- Women who are pregnant during the flu season
- Household contacts and care givers of children under age 5 and other high risk groups
- Anyone who wants to prevent the flu
Signs and symptoms of the flu include:
- A fever, usually high, that lasts three to four days
- A prominent headache
- Muscle aches and pains
- Fatigue and weakness
- Stuffy nose
- Sore throat
- Chest discomfort and cough
Seek medical care as soon as possible if you have flu symptoms. Medications are now available that can help reduce the severity and duration of the flu, if administered early – preferably within the first day or two. Bed rest is recommended if you have a fever, are feeling very tired, or ache all over. Stay in bed for a few days until you feel well enough to go back to normal activities. Taking acetominophen (eg. Tylenol) will reduce your fever and help relieve discomfort. Fluids should be increased while infected with the flu.
Know the Difference between a cold and the flu.
- A cold and the flu (also called influenza) are alike in many ways. But the flu can sometimes lead to more serious problems, such as the lung disease pneumonia.
- A stuffy nose, sore throat, and sneezing are usually signs of a cold.
- Tiredness, fever, headache, and major aches and pains probably mean you have the flu.
- Coughing can be a sign of either a cold or the flu, but a bad cough usually points to the flu.
Know when to visit your health care provider. You usually do not have to see a provider right away if you have a cold. But you should call your doctor in these situations:
- Your symptoms get worse.
- Your symptoms last a long time.
- After feeling a little better, you develop signs of a more serious problem. Some of these signs are a sick-to-your-stomach feeling, vomiting, high fever, shaking chills, chest pain, or coughing with thick, yellow-green mucus.
For more information, please contact Student Health Services at 701-777-4500.
- Medline Plus (www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/commoncold.html)
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Issues in Child Care Settings, The Common Cold
- US Food and Drug Administration. What to do for colds and flu. (www.fda.gov/opacom/lowlit/clds&flu.html)