Flu (Influenza)

One of the best ways to help protect yourself and the Mason community is to get your flu shot each year. SHS offers flu shots for students, faculty, and staff. Available seasonally, while supplies last.

Flu Signs and Symptoms

People who have the flu often experience the sudden onset of some or all of these signs or symptoms:

  • Fever (>100°F or 37.8°C) or feeling feverish/chills
  • Cough
  • Sore throat
  • Runny or stuffy nose
  • Muscle or body aches
  • Headaches
  • Fatigue (very tired)
  • Some people may have vomiting and diarrhea, though this is more common in children than adults

A fever generally lasts 2-3 days, a runny nose 5-10 days, and a cough can last up to 2-3 weeks.

Understand the difference between a cold and the flu
 

If you have the flu or think you have the flu:

  • Stay in your residence, away from work and school, and limit contact with others as much as possible for the duration of your illness and until 24 hours after your fever has subsided without the use of fever reducing medications.
  • If close contact with others cannot be avoided, wear a surgical mask during your interaction.
  • Contact college professors, friends, and others via email or phone. Student Health Services does not provide medical excuses.
  • Cover your mouth and nose when you cough or sneeze
  • Wash your hands frequently with soap and water
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth.
  • Consult your health care provider if you have asthma, heart disease, kidney disease or are pregnant because you may be at high risk for flu related complications.
  • Students who are ill can receive pre-packaged healthy meals provided by Mason Dining Services. Information and details about the sick meal request is available at http://dining.gmu.edu/health/sick-meal-request/.

Flu-like Illness Self Care

Drink plenty of liquids, about 8-12 glasses of fluid a day, to hydrate your mucous membranes. Water, juice, soup, Jell-O, ice pops and tea are great choices. The steam from hot beverages helps open airways and sooths an irritated throat. Avoid soda, carbonated drinks, caffeine and alcohol.

For fever and muscle aches take over-the-counter acetaminophen (Tylenol) or any brand of Ibuprofen. Ibuprofen should be taken with some food in your stomach. Be sure to follow the dosing and warning directions carefully. If you are under 21 years of age, do not use aspirin for treatment of fever or pain (there is an association between influenza and Reyes Syndrome).

Get plenty of rest. This is not the time to pull all-nighters. Your body may require more sleep than usual when you are sick.

For cough and congestion keep your airway moist by taking a steamy shower or using a hot steam vaporizer. Clean the vaporizer daily with a mild vinegar solution so germs are not added to the air.

For congestion, try a salt water (saline) nasal spray.  Try spraying each nostril several times a day, generally every two hours if needed.

For throat pain try gargling with salt water.  Mix ½ teaspoon of salt in 8 ounces of warm water and gargle several times a day.  You may also consider throat lozenges or hard candies to keep your throat moist.

When Should You Seek Medical Attention

Most healthy adults can manage a mild to moderate episode of flu at home by following the self-care above.  Generally, the flu symptoms will peak in approximately 48 hours and then should begin to improve. Each day should be a better day after the illness peaks. If your symptoms worsen or persist seek medical attention by contacting Student Health Services or other health care facilities.

Consult your physician immediately if you have a known medical condition such as pregnancy, diabetes, asthma, heart disease, kidney disease or any other disease that may affect you immune system.

Seek medical attention immediately if you experience any worsening symptoms, such as difficulty breathing, chest pain, dizziness, increased or persistent headache, neck stiffness or rash.

Additional information

Centers for Disease Control

Virginia Department of Health

US Department of Health and Human Services