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What Do I Do If I Have Flu-like Symptoms?

Flu symptoms include a fever, usually greater than 100-101 and a sore throat and/or cough.  The cough may be significant.  The flu also usually comes on fairly suddenly (within a few hours to a day) and is accompanied by significant fatigue and body aches.  Many people describe it as feeling like they were "hit by a truck".

There are some things you can do on your own to help alleviate the symptoms and feel better sooner, as well as to minimize the spread of the illness to others:

1.     Go home or stay in your dorm room if you are sick.  If you have to stay on campus, do not leave your room until your fever has resolved for at least 24 hours without the use of fever reducing medications.  Ask your RHD about getting food delivered to your room.  If you must leave your room, like to go to the bathroom, wear a mask.  These will be available through your RHD as well.

2.     Keep your hands clean.  Wash frequently with soap and water, or use alcohol based hand sanitizer.  Hands are the main mode of transmission of these viruses, so keeping them clean is critical to preventing the spread of the illness.  Do not touch your face, especially your eyes, nose and mouth.  These are points of entry (end exit) for the virus.  Cover your coughs and sneezes, either with a tissue or your sleeve.  If you use a tissue, throw it away and wash your hands immediately.

3.     Drink plenty of fluids and get plenty of rest.  These are the most effective ways to help you feel better.

4.     Take Tylenol (acetaminophen) or Motrin (ibuprofen) for the fevers and aches/pains.  Avoid mixing multiple cold medications as this can lead to overdosing ingredients like acetaminophen that may be present in many different combination medications.

5.     Call your doctor, or if you are on campus the Student Health Service right away if you have any of the following:

          a. You  are pregnant

          b. You have chronic lung disease such as asthma, COPD, chronic bronchitis or emphysema.

          c. You are diabetic or have other illnesses which affect your immune system such as cancer, HIV, immunodeficiencies, etc. or if you are on immunosuppressive medications like steroids, transplant medications, or chemotherapy.

         d. You have severe symptoms from the flu such as: shortness of breath, chest pain, abdominal pain, fainting or severe lightheadedness.  If you have these symptoms you should seek immediate medical attention by going to the emergency department at the hospital or calling 911 (2111 on campus).

 

 6.     You do not have to see a doctor or medical provider if you are otherwise healthy and do not have any of the illnesses or symptoms mentioned above.  The vast majority of people with the flu have mild symptoms and recover within a few days without any special treatment.  There are antiviral medications available, but these are only to be used for very ill (hospitalized) patients or those with high risk conditions such as those listed above.  CDC and WHO guidelines recommend that healthy adults DO NOT take antiviral medications for the flu.  This will help preserve the supply so that those that really need them will be able to get them.  Minimizing the use of these medications also helps to prevent the resistance that could develop if they are overused, much like the overuse of antibiotics has led to many antibiotic resistant bacteria (like MRSA).