‘Tis the season… to feel the sniffles. The cold weather added to the stress of finals and being stuck indoors all day is a recipe for a health disaster. This is especially true for college students who live in cramped and crowded dorm rooms where germs travel quickly from resident to resident. Luckily, many common ailments can be treated quickly. Here’s what you need to know.
Did you get your flu shot this year? If not, head to your campus’ health office and get yours today. It is most likely free or low-cost.
However, if you miss the flu shot and catch the illness, don’t fret. You can get through this. The first thing you need to do is to check in with your campus nurse. You may have a chance to take an antiviral if you go early. If you are unable to be seen, the next step is to hydrate. Send your roommate out to get your sports drinks, broth soup, and fresh water. Don’t be afraid to give yourself a fever reducer or cough syrup as well, if need be. Besides that, take time to rest up, sleep often, and stick to your own room until your illness has completely passed.
2. Cold/Upper Respiratory Infections
The common cold sounds harmless, but it can really interrupt your busy schedule. Headache, stuffy nose, cough — who needs it? Luckily, colds are relatively harmless and go away pretty quickly, but there are no medicines that can truly make it disappear completely.
Instead, try to reduce your symptoms by steaming up the bathroom with a hot shower or using a humidifier in your dorm room. You can even buy nose drops or a neti pot if your worst symptoms are that annoying, stuffed up feeling.
3. Strep Throat
That itchy, tired, sore throat may be a bacterial infection known as streptococcal pharyngitis or more commonly, strep throat. If you’re having trouble swallowing or have a fever and swollen glands, chances may be that you caught it. See a doctor if your fever gets above 103 degrees or if your symptoms worsen where you have trouble breathing or your lymph nodes become tender or swollen.
In the meantime, you can treat this with over-the-counter pain and fever medications. You can help your throat along by gargling a mix of salt and warm water. But because strep throat is a bacterial infection, you should seek a doctor and get a prescription for an antibiotic that will help you feel better in 24 hours.
4. Food Poisoning
Your stomach is turning in knots, you can’t keep anything down, and you’re seriously regretting those smelly tacos from the cafeteria: you probably have a case of food poisoning. Food poisoning occurs when you accidentally consume food that hasn’t been properly prepared or has been contaminated. It’s unfortunately common in colleges where cafeterias produce mass amounts of food for students or in dorm rooms where students are using things like microwaves or unwashed utensils to cook for themselves.
It’s hard to know if you actually have food poisoning because you can see signs of it within hours or up to weeks! But most likely, you will have a fever, upset stomach, and abdominal cramps. Like the flu, it is important to stay hydrated and to watch your symptoms. Don’t wait too long to be seen. If you have been sick for over 48 hours, it’s time to go in.
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