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Skidmore College
Health Services

Self-Care for Illness

Colds and flu are some of the most common viruses on college campuses. Here is some general information about colds and flu:

  • The common cold is an acute viral infection that is caused by more than 200 different viruses and is highly contagious.
  • The common cold is usually spread by hand to hand contact with another cold sufferer or by shared objects such as utensils, towels, door knobs, lip gloss, cigarettes, drinking glasses, telephones, etc
  • Lack of sleep, alcohol use, smoking, poor nutrition, and stress all can weaken the body's natural ability to fight infection.
  • Because colds and flu are both caused by viruses, antibiotics will not work as treatment. Colds and flu can usually be treated with over the counter medications at home.

The following symptoms do not need to be treated by a doctor

  • Sore or scratchy throat
  • Nasal Congestion
  • Fullness in ears
  • Cough producing clear phlegm
  • Fatigue
  • Headache

If you have these symptoms there are some things you can do that will speed up your recovery time:

  • Rest- getting enough sleep lets your body fight the cold or flu virus
  • Drink fluids- at least 6-8 glasses a day of fluids is recommended while you are recovering. Hot beverages, like tea, can reduce your fever and loosen the congestion.
  • Gargle with salt water- (1/4-1/2 teaspoon of salt per 8oz. of warm water) to soothe a sore throat
  •  Breathe the steam from hot beverages and soup or take a hot shower. The steam will loosen or reduces your nasal congestion.
  • Use a menthol rub (like Vicks Vapor Rub) to help relieve nasal congestion
  • Avoid alcohol- alcohol lowers the body's defense against viruses
  • Avoid smoking - any form of smoke in your lungs impedes the process of clearing mucus from your airways
  • Relieve symptoms - use over the counter medications as needed to relieve symptoms. Make sure that the medication you chose to take for your cold matches the symptoms you are having. Over the counter cold medicine is available in the Skidmore Shop on campus

Some symptoms of cold and flu are also shared by more serious illnesses.

If you experience any of the following symptoms it may be wise to see a health care provider

  • Fever greater that 101 degrees F
  • Severe sore throat
  • Ear pain
  • Difficulty swallowing
  • Vomiting or abdominal pain
  • Difficulty breathing (worse than a stuffy nose)
  • Cough with green or brown phlegm
  • If you have a history of asthma, heart problems, or lung problems
  • Cold symptoms that are not improving or become worse after 7-10 days
  • A severe headache that is not relieved by taking regular pain medicine (Tylenol or Advil, etc)