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Influenza (The Flu)

Influenza is an illness which affects the entire respiratory tract from the nose and throat down to the bronchial tubes and lungs. While uncomfortable up to a week or so, influenza usually resolves completely on its own and is not usually dangerous to healthy people. It is caused by a group of viruses. Unfortunately these viruses keep changing from year to year, forming new outer coats which our immune system can’t recognize. This means that even if you had influenza in the past, this year’s virus may be different enough to infect you again. The peak time in which influenza occurs is December through March.

Influenza spreads readily by direct contact with nasal mucus from an infected person or by inhaling droplets coughed or sneezed into the air. The Influenza Vaccine, administered in September through the end of FLU SEASON, is usually effective in preventing illness. You may also lower your chances of catching influenza by washing your hands frequently with soap and water or by frequently using an alcohol based hand sanitizer, and by keeping your hands away from your face.

For more information from the CDC:
Influenza Prevention
Influenza Symptoms

INFLUENZA SYMPTOMS USUALLY INCLUDE:

  • Fever 101 to 103 degrees
  • Sudden onset of symptoms over several hours
  • Severe muscle and joint aches
  • Fatigue

NOTE: Vomiting and Diarrhea do not usually occur with Influenza.

INFLUENZA SYMPTOMS MAY ALSO INCLUDE:

  • Sore throat
  • Nasal congestion and/or runny nose
  • Dry cough, or a cough with phlegm
  • Headache
  • Sensitive eyes

TREATMENT:

In the majority of people, influenza, like most viral illnesses, is self limited. This means that your own immune system will adequately combat the infection within 5-10 days. Here are some things to do to relieve the symptoms of influenza:

FEVER, HEADACHE, MUSCLE ACHES:
For fevers over 101 degrees use: Ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin, etc.) or Acetaminophen ( Tylenol). Make certain of the correct dose (400-600mg Ibuprofen with food or 650mg Acetaminophen every 4 hours but not more than 3000mg in 24 hours as needed). Avoid aspirin as this may be associated with Reye’s syndrome.

FATIGUE:
Get plenty of rest–it’s the most important treatment of all. Fatigue may be the last symptom to subside.

NASAL CONGESTION:
An oral decongestant (Sudafed) may decrease nasal congestion. Breathing moist air can soothe inflamed nasal passages.

SORE THROAT:
Gargle with a mixture of 1/2 tsp. salt in an 8 ounce glass of warm water every 2-4 hours to help reduce swelling, cleanse the throat, and lessen pain. Lozenges or throat sprays are also useful.

COUGH:
A cough syrup may help. However, do not overuse a cough suppressant because some cough is helpful in clearing your infection. Drink lots of fluids (the equivalent of 6 to 8 eight ounce glasses of water a day).

POOR APPETITE:
Drink plenty of fluids to soothe the throat, loosen secretions, and help relieve nasal congestion. Eat and drink healthy foods that appeals to you.

CALL THE STUDENT HEALTH SERVICE (336.758.5218) IF YOU DEVELOP:

  • Symptoms lasting over 5 days without signs of improvement.
  • Fever persisting for more than 2 or 3 days or any fever over 103 degrees not relieved by Acetaminophen or Ibuprofen.
  • Severe cough or cough producing large amounts of phlegm.
  • Severe sore throat and difficulty swallowing.
  • Wheezing, shortness of breath, or chest pain.
  • Severe headaches.