The flu has been spreading quickly across the United States this season, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Friends and family are getting sick left and right. Being a college student surrounded by sick people during peak flu season is not ideal, and that’s why it is particularly important to know what flu symptoms are, as well as how to treat and prevent the virus.
According to the CDC, flu symptoms include, but are not limited to: a cough, sore throat, stuffy nose, headaches and fatigue.
Be careful, though. It’s easy to confuse flu symptoms with those of the common cold.
“If your symptoms persist for long periods of time, so over a couple days, then you probably have the flu,” says Lauren Luchetti, peer health educator at North Central. “Also, if you have a fever, you’re going to have the flu as opposed to a cold.”
The CDC says the flu is primarily spread from person to person contact, so if the flu virus is contracted, make sure to stay home and rest so others don’t get sick. It’s not necessary to seek medical treatment unless symptoms are overly severe.
For college students, it can be difficult to stay in when there are projects to do and tests to take, but the flu can be highly contagious, which is why it’s best to keep isolated.
As the CDC notes, adults can spread the flu virus starting one day before symptoms appear. Symptoms typically start one to four days after the virus is contracted. After symptoms become visible, it’s possible to be contagious for five to seven days.
While treating the flu is important when sick, it’s even more important to take certain measures to keep from becoming infected in the first place.
“The number one way (to prevent illness) is to wash your hands,” says Luchetti. “A big one that isn’t talked about too much is (to) watch how stressed you are because when you do get stressed, your immune system functioning goes down, and that increases your susceptibility to getting sick.”
The CDC states that the best way to prevent the flu is to get a flu vaccine, such as the flu shot.
Other basic ways to stay protected are to keep hands away from the eyes, mouth and nose, disinfect frequently touched surfaces, and use hand sanitizer when soap and water are not available.