If you’re reading this between early fall and late spring, it’s likely “Cold and Flu Season.” Sounds like a long season, but it is true that cold and flu viruses are in greater circulation throughout the academic year than they are in the summer months. Please read on for information and tips to navigate the season of sneezing, coughing, body aches and more…
Arm yourself with these tips to reduce the risk of infection for yourself and the people around you.
- GET THE FLU SHOT. The best way to protect yourself against seasonal flu is to get vaccinated each year as early in the fall as possible. The NYU Student Health Center administers the vaccine as soon as it is available each season – usually in October.
- COVER YOUR MOUTH AND NOSE WHEN YOU COUGH OR SNEEZE. Use the inside of your elbow or a tissue; avoid coughing or sneezing into your hands.
- WASH YOUR HANDS OFTEN with soap and warm water – especially after you cough or sneeze. Rub hands together vigorously for at least 20 seconds covering all surfaces of the hands. Rinse with warm water and dry using a disposable towel. Alcohol-based hand sanitizers are also effective.
- KEEP YOUR HANDS AWAY FROM YOUR EYES, NOSE AND MOUTH. Most of us touch common surfaces and then our faces much more often than we wash our hands. Try to resist this habit to minimize opportunities to pick up unwanted germs.
- AVOID SHARING utensils, cups, bottles and telephones. If you must share, wash or disinfect the objects before and after using them.
- AVOID CLOSE CONTACT WITH PEOPLE WHO ARE SICK. Flu and cold viruses are spread by respiratory droplets passed from one person to another. Try to stay at least three feet away from sick friends and neighbors.
- STAY HOME IF YOU ARE SICK. Get plenty of rest and drink lots of fluids. This is good for you as well as those you would expose if you go to class, work or elsewhere.
- IF YOU ARE SICK call the Student Health Center at (212) 443-1000 or visit our website at: nyu.edu/health for advice. A triage nurse is available after hours to assess your symptoms and make recommendations for care.
- IF YOUR SYMPTOMS ARE SEVERE seek emergency care by calling 911 or Public Safety (212) 998-2222. Severe symptoms include difficulty breathing, pain or pressure in your chest or abdomen, sudden dizziness, confusion and severe or persistent vomiting.
The best way to protect yourself and others against seasonal flu is to get vaccinated each year as early in the fall as possible. Each year, a multi-strain vaccine is developed that is comprised of the strains predicted to be in most heavy circulation that year. Even when circulating strains don’t match the vaccine exactly, the community is still more protected when more people get the vaccine.
The NYU Student Health Center administers the vaccine as soon as it is available each season—usually in October. Make an appointment at the Student Health Center online at the SHC Open Communicator appointment portal or by calling (212) 443-1000.
Vaccinations are especially important for individuals at higher risk for complications resulting from the flu. These include pregnant women and people with chronic medical conditions such as heart, lung, liver or kidney disease; asthma; diabetes or those who have a compromised immune system.
In addition to getting the flu shot, good hand hygiene and other prevention practices are key. Click here for some useful tips.
PREPARATION AND PLANNING
Be prepared for flu season by having these items on hand:
- Alcohol-based hand sanitizer
- Cough lozenges
- Cough syrup
- Acetaminophen (NOT aspirin)
- Face mask (in case you need to leave your room while you are contagious) — available at most pharmacies
Also stock up on things you won’t want to go out for should you get sick and be out of circulation for a few days:
- Soap, toilet paper, toothpaste and other toiletries
- Regular prescriptions
- Over-the-counter medicines such as anti-diarrheals
- Protein bars, cereal, granola, dried fruit
- Canned food, soups, crackers and other easy to make comfort food
HOW AND WHEN TO ACCESS CARE
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention defines influenza-like illness this way: A fever of 100.4° F or greater, plus a cough or sore throat and possibly other symptoms like runny nose, body aches, headaches, chills, fatigue, vomiting or diarrhea. Fever is often a key factor, although it is not always present.
Most people who get the flu can recover in a week or less with little or no medical attention, even if it feels pretty miserable. Bed rest, plenty of fluids, monitoring and treatment of symptoms with over-the-counter medications can provide relief and contribute to recovery. However, when in doubt, call the NYU Student Health Center (212) 443-1000 or your personal healthcare provider.
If you are pregnant or have any chronic illness, you’re at greater risk for complications, so please call the Student Health Center (212) 443-1000 or your personal healthcare provider. After hours medical advice is also available by calling the Student Health Center at (212) 443-1000.
If you experience any of the following warning signs, seek emergency medical care by calling 911 or NYU Public Safety at (212) 998-2222:
- Difficulty breathing or shortness of breath
- Pain or pressure in the chest or abdomen
- Sudden dizziness
- Severe or persistent vomiting or diarrhea
- Symptoms improve but then return with fever and worse cough
If you become ill, appropriate self-care will be essential to recovering without complications. Good self-care practices can also help protect the health and well-being of others.
- Stay home. Do not go to class, work, or social events. Stay in and rest up until your fever is gone for a full day (24 hours) without the use of fever-reducing medicine. This will protect others from catching your illness.
- Monitor your temperature.
- Drink plenty of fluids. Dehydration can increase headaches and fatigue.
- Rest as much as possible. If you must study while you are sick, take frequent breaks and naps; you will be able to return to your usual schedule sooner if you rest while you’re sick.
- Practice good personal hygiene to prevent the spread of flu to others. See the tips here.
There are many over-the-counter medications that can help you through the worst symptoms of flu. Here are some suggestions.
FEVER, BODY ACHES, MILD HEADACHE:
- If you have a fever of greater than 100.4°F, take acetaminophen or ibuprofen (fever reducers) as per the label directions. These medications may also help with mild headache and body aches.
- WARNING! People under 19 years of age should not take aspirin (acetylsalicylic acid-containing products) if they have the flu; this can cause a rare but serious illness called Reye’s syndrome.
- Nasal decongestants (pseudoephedrine, phenylephrine) can help with a stuffy nose. Note that some decongestants are paired with an antihistamine (e.g., diphenhydramine, doxycyclamine) which can cause drowsiness.
- Nasal decongestant sprays (e.g.,oxymetazoline nasal, phenylephrine nasal) should only be used for a maximum of 3 days to avoid a side effect called “rebound congestion.”
- Saline nasal mist or drops can be used to relieve nasal mucous membrane dryness and congestion.
- Over-the-counter cough medications containing guaifenesin act as expectorants, thinning and loosening mucus and congestion in your lungs and throat. Dextromethorphan is a cough suppressant that can help if you have a dry cough or a cough that is preventing you from sleeping.
MULTI SYMPTOM COLD MEDICATIONS:
- Using these products (e.g., Dayquil, Nyquil, Theraflu) can result in your taking more medications than you actually need, so it is important that you read the label or ask your pharmacist for help choosing the right product for your symptoms. Keep in mind that most of these preparations contain acetaminophen and you should not take additional doses of acetaminophen when taking them.
IMPORTANT: Please consult the label on any medication prior to use for proper dosing. Do not take multiple over the counter medications without consulting a pharmacist or medical provider. Also, If you have any allergies, please let your provider or pharmacist know before taking any medication.
If you miss class because you are ill, please contact your instructors directly to request an accommodation. In addition, please also notify your academic adviser. The Student Health Center does not provide medical excuse notes.
Buddy up with one or more friends to look out for each other during flu season. A flu buddy is someone you can call, text or email if you get sick, and who will check on you from time to time, to see if you are okay or need anything — and someone for whom you’ll do the same.
- Identify one or two friends early in the season and agree you’ll look out for each other.
- Talk over the ways in which you may each need support if you should become sick with the flu.
- If you are roommates and one of you gets sick, keep a physical distance of at least three feet (6 feet if you are at high risk), and you both should consider wearing a face mask in your shared space. You can still support each other without infecting each other.
- Use disinfectant wipes to clean shared high-touch surfaces like refrigerator door handles, doorknobs, counter tops and remote controls.
- Do not share utensils, pens, keyboards, cell phones or other personal items.
- Agree to cover your coughs and wash your hands thoroughly and frequently.
- Agree to be vigilant about staying healthy. Follow the prevention tips here.
IF YOU ARE AT RISK
If you have had close contact with someone who has had influenza and have a risk factor for complications, you should consult with the Student Health Center (212) 443-1000 or your healthcare provider as to whether you should receive preventive treatment. You can also access emergency medical care by calling 911 or NYU Public Safety (212) 998-2222.