What To Do If You Are Sick With the Flu

Influenza can range from a mild to severe illness, but most healthy college students infected with the flu virus will recover in 3-5 days without medical attention. If you are sick with the flu see the tips below on how to take care of yourself and to keep others healthy. Remember that you can spread the flu to others during the time period from 24 hours before you get sick until 24 hours after your fever goes away.

• Know the signs and symptoms of flu. Symptoms of flu include fever or chills and cough or sore throat. In addition, flu symptoms can include runny/stuffy nose, body aches, headache, fatigue, weakness, diarrhea, or vomiting. Make sure you have a thermometer available to check your temperature if you feel ill, and over the counter medications containing ibuprofen or acetaminophen to treat fever and flu symptoms. Make sure that you follow dosing guidelines and don't mix different multi-symptom cold and flu medications.

• Stay home or at your place of residence if you are sick, except to go to a health care provider's office, for at least 24 hours after there is no longer a fever (100 degrees Fahrenheit or 38 degrees Celsius) or signs of a fever (have chills, feel very warm, have a flushed appearance, or are sweating). This should be without the use of fever-reducing medications (any medicine that contains ibuprofen or acetaminophen). Staying away from others while you are sick can prevent others from getting sick too. Ask a roommate or friend to check up on you and to bring you food and supplies if needed. Having a "flu buddy" will make sure you know who to call if you need help, and will limit the number of people you might expose to the flu virus. Call your health care provider for advice if you think you might need medical attention-students should call the Student Health Center at 540-458-8401 and ask to speak to the nurse for flu advice.

• Stay in a separate room and avoid contact with others while you are ill. If someone is helping to care for you, wear a mask, if available and tolerable, when they are in the room. Try to maintain a 6 foot distance from others if you are unable to wear a mask. Do not go to class if you have a flu-like illness, until you are no longer likely to spread the virus. Make sure you contact your professor by phone or e-mail to let them know about your illness and make plans to make up any missed assignments, etc.

• Students who do not live in a private room may be asked to stay in the Student Health Center infirmary during the time they are likely to be contagious to avoid spreading the flu to others. An alternative is to ask a healthy roommate to share a room with a friend for a few days until you are no longer likely to spread the virus.

• Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue when coughing or sneezing. Dispose of the tissue in a trash can and wash your hands immediately.

• Wash your hands often with soap and water, especially after coughing or sneezing. Alcohol-based hand cleaners are also effective if soap and water are not available.

• Avoid touching your eyes, nose, or mouth. Germs spread this way.

• Drink plenty of clear fluids (such as water, broth, sports drinks, fruit juices and electrolyte beverages for infants) to keep from becoming dehydrated.

• Contact your health care provider (students should contact the Student Health Center) for possible anti-viral treatment if you are at higher risk for complications from influenza. People at higher risk for flu complications include children under the age of 5 years, pregnant women, people of any age who have chronic medical conditions (such as asthma, diabetes, heart disease or conditions that compromise your immune system), and people age 65 years and older.

• Contact your health care provider right away if you are having difficulty breathing or shortness of breath, feel pain in your chest, have sudden dizziness or confusion, severe or persistent vomiting, or are getting worse. You should also seek medical attention if your flu symptoms improve, but then return with fever or more severe cough.

For more information visit www.flu.gov or call 1-800-CDC-INFO.