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Minnesota State University, Mankato
Minnesota State University, Mankato

Cold & Flu

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  • You probably have a cold if you have three or more of the following symptoms:  runny nose, stuffy nose, sore throat, cough, hoarseness or voice loss, red eyes.  Your illness is likely caused by a virus.
  • Flu is a type of virus that can cause a severe upper respiratory illness, usually during the late fall and winter months.  In addition to cold symptoms, flu often causes high fever, weakness, headaches, and body aches.
  • Antibiotics are not effective against cold and flu viruses.
  • There are no medications that will shorten the course of the disease.  Some medicines may help relieve symptoms.

There are things you can do to feel better while you are sick:

  • Get enough rest.  If you feel well enough to be up and about, that's all right.  Give your friends and roommates six feet of distance from your coughs and sneezes.  Remember to cover your coughs and sneezes with your sleeve.  Wash your hands after you blow your nose.
  • Drink plenty of fluids.  Your body needs extra fluids when you have a fever.  Extra fluids help keep the mucus more liquid, which can help prevent bacterial complications such as ear infections or bronchitis.  If you have pain with swallowing, you can get adequate nutrition from liquids by drinking water, fruit juices, broth, even pop.
  • You may get pain relief from headaches, body aches, or sore throats by taking acetaminophen and/or ibuprofen.  Acetaminophen, up to 650 mg. is very safe and virtually without side effects.  Ibuprofen may be a more effective pain medication for some people and may be taken as 400 mg every 6 hours.  If ibuprofen upsets your stomach, take it with food or when you have food in your stomach.  It is safe to take these medications on an alternate schedule--650 mg of acetaminophen followed three hours later by 400 mg of ibuprofen.  Medicines like acetaminophen or ibuprofen will not help you get over a cold or influenza faster but may help you feel better while you are sick.
  • If you are bothered by a runny or stuffy nose, you can try a decongestant like Sudafed.  If you find that taking Sudafed late in the day interferes with sleep, ask the pharmacist for a decongestant combined with an antihistamine.
  • If your symptoms last two weeks or are getting progressively worse, make an appointment to come to the clinic.  Occasionally, adults may develop a sinus infection in the presence of a cold, just as an ear infection follows a cold in children.  Many sinus infections are caused by bacteria and are treatable with antibiotics.