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Health / Safety

Cold and flu prevention on a college campus

February 4, 2013

Reports show that this flu season may prove to be one of the most severe in recent history. College lifestyle habits and living situations play a role in spreading colds and flu on a campus.

Because of this, CSU has implemented an online flu self-reporting system for students and employees. If you feel flu-like symptoms, log on through RAMweb to report your illness. This will prevent you from needing to go to the Hartshorn Health Center or your doctor to get an excused absence. Be sure to contact your professors or supervisor in addition to registering in the system. Make arrangements for any missed assignments or exams in advance if possible.

In addition to helping keep campus healthy by limiting the spread of flu when you are sick, work to prevent getting the flu by following these tips from the CSU Health Network:

  • Protect yourself with seasonal flu vaccinations every year as recommended by the CDC.
    Unfortunately, the supply of influenza vaccine at the CSU Health Network has been depleted for this season. Many pharmacies in Fort Collins may still have vaccine available, although it is suggested that you call first to inquire. CSU Health Network Flu/Cold Prevention and Treatment Resources

    For more information about flu vaccines, see the CDC quick facts website.
  • Practice good hand hygiene.
    Wash your hands with warm, soapy water for 20-30 seconds, especially after coughing or sneezing. Alcohol-based hand cleaners also are effective, unless your hands are visibly soiled or grossly contaminated.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth.
    Germs spread this way.
  • Perform routine cleaning.
    Studies have shown that the flu virus can survive on surfaces and can infect a person for 2 to 8 hours after being deposited on the surface. Clean items and surfaces likely to have frequent hand contact like doorknobs, phones, keyboards, counters, desks, remote controls, refrigerator handles, etc.
  • Try boosting your immune system with a few strategies
    • Sleep hygiene - 7 to 8 hours of sleep is optimal for most people.
    • Stress management - Deep breathing and relaxation techniques can be helpful in managing stress. Chronic stress can make you more inclined to colds and/or the flu.
    • Physical activity - Aerobic and strength building exercise several times a week builds long-term immunity against viruses.
    • Healthy diet - Include plenty of fruits and vegetables a day, as well as whole grains and healthy sources of fat and protein. 
  • Know the signs and symptoms of the flu.
    In general, the flu is worse than the common cold. Symptoms such as fever, chills, body aches, headache, extreme tiredness, and dry cough are more common and intense with the flu. Some people who have been infected with the influenza virus also have diarrhea and vomiting. 

    Colds are usually milder than the flu, and people with colds are more likely to have a runny or stuffy nose, often accompanied by sneezing. Sore throats can be common. Colds generally do not lead to more serious health problems, such as pneumonia, bacterial infections, or hospitalizations, but the flu can.

    For more information, visit the CDC Seasonal Flu page and information page about antibiotics.
  • Practice respiratory etiquette.
    Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue when you cough or sneeze. If you don't have a tissue, cough or sneeze into your elbow or shoulder, not into your hands.
  • Stay home if you have flu or flu-like illnessuntil 24 hours after resolution of your fever and respiratory symptoms. Your fever should be gone without the use of fever reducing medicine.  Don't go to class or work; socially distance yourself from others. Ask a roommate or friend to check up on you and to bring you food and supplies, if needed.

Take care of yourself

If you do come down with the flu, take care of yourself:

  • Drink clear fluids - Water, soup broths, and herbal tea can help you stay hydrated.
  • Ibuprofen or Acetaminophen - Take to reduce fever and relieve body aches; use as directed.
  • Antiviral medication - Antibiotics won't work for viral infections – such as the flu and a cold. Antiviral medication may help for specific strains of the influenza virus, but only when given within 48 hours of the onset of symptoms. Ask your doctor if this therapy might benefit you.  Antibiotics and antiviral medications do not treat the common cold.
  • Avoid smoking and alcohol use - Smoking may increase your symptoms, especially cough, or make you more prone to develop bronchitis and pneumonia. Alcohol dehydrates the body.
  • Sleep - Get enough sleep to feel completely rested and allow your body to heal.
  • Soothe a sore throat - Gargle warm salt water (1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon salt in 8 ounces of water).
  • Decongest - Use camphor or menthol rubs to clear nasal passages.
  • Inhale - Breathe the steam from hot beverages, and also take deep breaths when in the shower.

For more information about homecare, visit these CDC pages: The Flu: What To Do If You Get Sick and The Flu: Caring for Someone Sick at Home.

Seek medical attention 

If you become ill and experience any of the following warning signs, seek emergency medical care.

  • Difficulty breathing or shortness of breath
  • Pain or pressure in the chest or abdomen
  • Severe headache
  • Very stiff neck
  • Sudden dizziness
  • Confusion
  • Severe or persistent vomiting
  • Flu-like symptoms improve but then return with fever and worse cough