What is Flu (Influenza)?
The flu (influenza) is caused by a respiratory virus that usually occurs in the Northern Hemisphere between October and April. There are two types, A or B and the severity varies from year to year. Unlike the common cold, the flu begins suddenly with high fever, body aches and fatigue.
What is the Common Cold?
The common cold is a viral syndrome that causes over 90% of the nasal congestion, low grade fever, chills, sore throat and general aches and pains that people experience. Because it is caused by a virus, it is not affected by the use of antibiotics. A cold usually resolves in 7-10 days.
Prevention and Precautions
Guard against getting colds and flu by eating healthy food, getting enough sleep, decreasing stress, and limit or do not use of tobacco products or smoke. Limit the spread of infection by avoiding crowded places and wash your hands often. Cover your mouth when you cough or sneeze.
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. The flu shot helps your body make antibodies to the Flu. Since new strains of the influenza virus develop each year, the vaccine must be updated and given yearly. Flu Shots are offered starting around the end of October through the season til March or April.
Cold vs. Flu Signs and Symptoms
People who have the flu or a cold often experience some or all of these signs and symptoms. Some people who have the flu may also have vomiting and diarrhea, though this is more common in children than adults.
|Fever||> 101°F (37.8°C), lasting 3-4 days||None or < 101°F (37.8°C)|
|Cough||Dry, sometimes severe, can last up to 2-3 weeks||Hacking|
|Headache||Yes, common||Not common|
|Body aches||Yes, common, can be severe||Not common or mild|
|Tiredness and weakness||Very tired, can last 2-3 weeks||Mild, brief - lasting less than 1 week|
|Stuffy nose (congestion)||Sometimes||Common|
When Should You Seek Medical Attention
Most healthy adults can manage a mild to moderate flu-like illness at home with general self-care practices. Generally, the flu symptoms will peak (be the worst) around 48 hours or 4 days and then should begin to get better. Each day should be a better day after the illness peaks. If your symptoms get worse or last a long time, get medical attention by contacting Student Health Services or another doctor or clinic.
Contact your doctor immediately if you have a known medical condition such as pregnancy, diabetes, asthma, heart disease, kidney disease or any other disease that may affect your 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.
Tips for Feeling Better
Feeling ill or have a cold or the flu? Self-care tips may help you start feeling better in addition to knowing how to choose the right over-the-counter medication to help with symptom relief.
What medicine will help my symptoms?
Many cold and flu medicines are available “over the counter”. This means they are usually located on the shelves of the store and that you can buy it without a prescription from a health care provider. But, when you are feeling sick and are standing in front of store shelves FILLED with medicines….how can you choose the one that will best help you?
Choose the right medication for your symptoms by checking the ACTIVE INGREDIENTS label. This will be the actual or generic name for the drug. This is not the “brand name” marketed by a specific company.
IMPORTANT! Always read labels carefully and follow the instructions. Many medicines can contain similar drugs. Never double-up on the same medicine to avoid overdosing on an ingredient. Some of the medications can also interact with prescription medications you may be taking, or cause side effects like drowsiness or insomnia.
|SYMPTOM RELIEF OF||CHOOSE MEDICATION WITH||ACTUAL/GENERIC INGREDIENT|
|Fever, pain, sore throat, body aches||Pain reliever (analgesic)||Acetaminophen or Ibuprofin|
|Coughing||Cough suppressant||Dextromethorphan (DM)|
|Runny nose, watery eyes, sneezing||Antihistamine||Diphenhydramine|
|Thins out mucus||Expectorant||Guaifenesin|
|Congested nose and chest, sinus or facial pressure||Decongestant (D)||Phenylephrine or Pseudoephedrine|