Student Health Service

To Promote and Advance the Health and Wellbeing of our Students

The Common Cold

COLDS are common in all ages year round. They are caused by viruses and cannot be cured by antibiotics. Occasionally, a cold may be complicated by a bacterial infection such as a sinus infection, an ear infection, or a more serious illness. Antibiotics are useful when a bacterial infection occurs. To lower your chances of catching a cold during cold and flu season, wash your hands frequently with soap and water, and keep your hands away from your face.


  • Sore throat
  • Nasal congestion and/or runny nose
  • Swollen glands around the neck, or under the arms
  • A dry cough, or a cough with phlegm
  • Headache
  • Mild fever, usually less than 101o F, for a day or two
  • Muscle and/or joint aches
  • Poor appetite for several days
  • Mild stomach ache or cramps
  • Diarrhea, nausea, and sometimes vomiting
  • Fatigue
  • Sensitive eyes


Here are some things to do to help the symptoms of a cold:

  • FATIGUE: Get plenty of rest–it’s the most important treatment of all!
  • POOR APPETITE: Drink liquids (8-10 large glasses per day). These soothe the throat, loosen secretions and help relieve nasal congestion. Eat what appeals to you.
  • DRY COUGH, SENSITIVE EYES: Humidify the air with a cold steam vaporizer. Avoid fumes or irritants like cigarette smoke or house hold solvents.
  • FEVER, HEADACHE, MUSCLE ACHES: Don’t worry about a fever under 101o F (it may help fight the cold). For fevers over 101o F use: Ibuprofen (Addaprin, Advil, Motrin) Acetaminophen (Aminofen, Tylenol). MAKE CERTAIN OF THE CORRECT DOSE.
  • NASAL CONGESTION: An oral decongestant (Sudanyl, Sudafed, Pseudoephedrine) may decrease nasal congestion. Breathing moist air can soothe inflamed nasal passages.
  • SORE THROAT: A sore throat does not necessarily mean that strep throat or tonsillitis is present. Gargle with a solution of 1/2 tsp salt in a small glass of warm water every 2 to 4 hours to help reduce swelling, cleanse the throat and lessen pain. Lozenges or throat sprays are also useful.
  • DIARRHEA/VOMITING: These symptoms are best treated with a clear liquid diet (clear juices, broth, Gatorade, flat soda, popsicles, juice bars, sweetened tea).
  • COUGH: A mild cough usually does not mean there is a bronchitis or pneumonia. A cough syrup with expectorant (such as Robitussin DM) may help. Try not to take this during the day so the cough can help to clear your infection.



  • A cold lasting over 10 days
  • Fever over 103o F not responding to the above treatments
  • Any fever lasting more than 3 days
  • Cough producing large amounts of yellow or green phlegm
  • Abdominal pain without diarrhea, especially if located in the right lower side of the abdomen, and associated with vomiting and loss of appetite.
  • Very severe sore throat and difficulty swallowing
  • Vomiting lasting more than 12 hours
  • Bloody mucous form nasal passages
  • Painful swelling of neck glands
  • Painful wheezing or shortness of breath
  • Severe headache
  • White patches on back of throat or tonsils, or an extremely red throat