With the cold comes cold and flu

With the cold comes cold and flu

By Nicole Livingston, Eagle Life Writer


Fall is here and winter is fast approaching. That means bouts of the cold and flu are not far behind.
According to the Center for Disease Control, the prime time for influenza, commonly called “the flu,” to spread is during the fall and winter months.

In addition, the Center for Disease Control says that there are over 200 viruses that cause the common cold. So, how do people know if they have a simple cold or a full-blown flu?

While the common cold and the flu share many of the same symptoms, flu symptoms are usually more intense, according to Molly Stableton, a nurse practitioner at Rockwood Clinic.

“It can take people down for a good week before people feel like they can come back to the world,” said Stableton.

According to Stableton, flu symptoms can include body aches, joint aches, fever, cough, runny nose, sore throat, fatigue, wheezing and shortness of breath. Whereas the common cold symptoms include a runny nose, sore throat and, in some cases, a low-grade fever.

Stableton says that students should see a doctor if they are having trouble managing their symptoms or staying hydrated and nourished. Typically, the severity of symptoms vary from individual to individual.

Laurie Hays, program coordinator of student life, says that one of the most important things students can do to prevent the spread of the flu is to simply stay home when they are sick.

“And when I say stay home, I mean out of classes, out of work so you’re not spreading that germ,” said Hays.

Stableton and Hays agree that another important thing students should do for preventative measures is to get a flu shot. Though the shot will not protect against every virus, it will protect against the one that is predicted to come through the area, according to Hays. To give students a more convenient access to the vaccine, part of students’ health and wellness fee provides funds for flu shots.

“As part of your health and wellness fee you pay, the flu shot is also included in it. So, we try to bring the flu shot to the students so it’s available to them,” said Hays.

According to the Center for Disease Control, employees of the center collect data related to the flu year-round. Findings are reported weekly through the months of October through May. The center releases these reports online. The findings include the different viruses that are occurring, the geographical locations the viruses are in and other general impact information the flu has on the human population.

According to Stableton, the scientists’ findings at the Center for Disease Control determine which flu vaccine is administered to the general population in a certain area. Stableton says that some side-effects of the flu vaccine are pain at the injection site and sometimes a low-grade fever.

Stableton also says that the vaccine does not contain a live virus, so students will not get sick from getting a flu vaccine. However, it takes about two weeks for the vaccine to fully protect people from getting the flu so if they are exposed to the virus in that window of time, they could still contract the virus.

In addition to getting a flu vaccine, grade school methods of getting rid of virus exposure are some of the tried and true methods of prevention.

Hays and Stableton recommend practicing good hand hygiene to prevent the spread of germs. Washing hands under warm water with soap greatly minimizes germ spreading. Stableton says singing the ABCs or “Happy Birthday” is a method to time your hand washing in order to keep hands clean.

She also says that hand sanitizer is only a quick fix. After the fourth time using a hand sanitizer, people should take the time to wash their hands with soap and water.

Hays and Stableton say that people should cover their mouths when they cough or sneeze. Stableton suggests coughing into their arm to avoid getting germs on their hands thereby spreading the germs to everything the person touches.

Stableton says that it is usually recommended for people to return to their work or school when they have been free from a fever for 24 hours without the use of a fever-reducing aid such as acetaminophen [Tylenol].

Stableton says that taking vitamins such as zinc and vitamin C are also good preventative measures to guard against the flu. Treatment methods include rest, fluid intake and, sometimes, over the counter medication for symptom relief.
Hays recommends that students visit Rockwood Clinic any time they are feeling ill since it is covered by their health and wellness fee, especially for students from the west side of the state who cannot make it home to their primary care doctor. The flu can last up to 10 days, according to Stableton. The length of the illness depends on an individual’s immune system.