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.
For information about COVID-19, visit the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website: https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/index.html
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. Stay home if you feel sick, except to seek medical care.
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 September 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
Some symptoms of COVID-19 and flu can be similar. If you feel sick or think you’ve been exposed to COVID-19, call your healthcare provider for medical advice and testing as recommended.
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 2- 4 days after symptoms begin and then should start 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 healthcare professional.
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
Have a cold or the flu? Remember, stay home if you feel sick. These self-care practices may help you start feeling better in addition to knowing how to choose the right over-the-counter medication to help with symptom relief.
Get plenty of rest
This is not the time to be up all night. Your body may require more sleep than usual when you are sick.
For Fever >100°F (37.8°C)
For fever and muscle aches, take acetaminophen or ibuprofen. Follow dose and warning directions. If you are under age 21, do not use aspirin because there is an association between influenza and Reyes Syndrome.
Drink lots of liquids
Drink 8-12 glasses of fluid a day. Water, juice, soup, Jell-O, and herbal tea are great choices. Steam from hot drinks help open airways and soothe an irritated throat. Avoid carbonated drinks, caffeine and alcohol.
For Stuffy Nose
For congestion, try a salt water (Saline) nasal spray. Spray each nostril several times a day, generally every two hours if needed.
Sick Meal Requests
Students who are ill can receive pre-packaged healthy meals provided by Mason Dining Services – visit dining.gmu.edu for Sick Meal Request info.
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.
Cover Your Cough
Cover your nose and mouth when you sneeze or cough and remember to wash your hands frequently.
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 the throat moist.
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 Ibuprofen|
|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|
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