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Influenza

Influenza is a highly contagious respiratory illness caused by a virus.

What Are the Symptoms?

Symptoms start suddenly with fever (>100.5 F), weakness and fatigue, dry cough, headache, and body aches. Other flu symptoms may include sore eyes, runny nose, sore throat, sneezing, congestion, and burning chest pain. Infrequently, vomiting and diarrhea may occur. Symptoms are most severe for the first 2-3 days of the illness, and it may take 5-10 days to resolve.

How is it Spread?

The flu virus lives in the nose and throat. Coughing, sneezing, nose blowing, kissing, sharing drinks, and hand-to-hand contact spread the virus. Flu symptoms usually start 1-3 days after exposure to the virus.

What Can You Do?

Prevention is the best medicine! Get a flu shot every Fall. Once an outbreak hits campus, it is still not too late to be vaccinated.

Antibiotics are not effective against viruses; however, there are certain anti-viral medications that can help lessen the severity of flu symptoms and shorten the course of the illness by a few days. To be effective, the anti-viral medicines must be started within the first 2 days of symptom onset. Also, these medications may be used to prevent the flu if you have been exposed through a roommate, family member, or close contact with a flu victim. Anti-viral medicine is available (by prescription) at the SHC. There are other things you can do to feel better and help prevent spread of the virus.

Rest at least 24-48 hours after your temperature returns to normal. Do not go to class or social events.

Drink fluids such as fruit juices, tea, soup, jello, Gatorade, soda. Hot drinks may help break up congestion. Avoid caffeinated drinks (may be dehydrating) and milk (may increase congestion).

For fever, aches and pains: Take either Ibuprofen (such as Motrin or Advil) with food, 200 mg, 3 pills every 6-8 hours OR Acetaminophen (such as regular strength Tylenol), 325 mg, 2 pills every 4-6 hours. do not take aspirin.

Contraindications to taking Ibuprofen include allergies to aspirin and non-steroidal anti-inflammatories (NSAIDS), asthma, peptic ulcer disease or history of GI bleeding, and chronic renal disease.

For nasal/sinus congestion: Take pseudoephedrine (such as Sudafed) 30 mg, 2 pills every 4-6 hours (no more than 4 doses in 24 hours) as needed.

For cough: Take an expectorant/suppressant cough medicine (such as Robitussin DM), 2 teaspoons every 4-6 hours (no more than 12 teaspoons in 24 hours).

Write down what time you take your medicines to help you keep track of the doses. Carefully read the label of all combination medications, such as Tylenol Cold and Flu, to avoid over-dosing.

Notify the Student Health Center (804.752.3041) or seek medical attention if you have any of the following symptoms:

  • Persistent temperature over 103 F

  • Shortness of breath, chest pain, or blood-tinged sputum

  • Persistent nausea, vomiting, or diarrhea

  • Thick yellow or green discharge from the nose, sinuses or ears