When I feel sick... FAQs

How can I tell if I'm getting a cold or the flu?

Colds and flu are the most frequent health complaints found on college campuses, and these are generally caused by viruses, NOT bacteria; so antibiotics won't help — and there is still no cure!

Symptoms of the common cold are localized in the head and you may have sneezing, a runny nose, stuffy head, headache, sore throat, cough, or a hoarseness, fever below 100.5 degrees, and it can last from 7 to 10 days. Flu includes many of the common cold symptoms and may also be accompanied by a tired feeling, aches and a fever above 100.5 degrees.

What about this cough?

A "productive cough" is one that clears mucus from the throat. To make mucus easier to cough up, use a cough medicine containing an "expectorant," inhale cool mist or steam, or gargle with warm, salty water. If mucus is green, yellow or bloody, seek help.

When you're turned inside out, is it something you ate?

Mild food poisoning probably strikes everyone at some time. Vomiting, cramps, and diarrhea may begin from one to six hours after eating. Food poisoning is usually caused by eating foods left out too long, i.e., dairy products, potato and chicken salads, sausage, ham, dried beef, chicken or turkey gravy, mayonnaise or foods prepared with mayonnaise such as salads, sandwich spread, etc. Partially cooked meat and poultry stuffing, leftovers and canned foods that are not reheated are also likely culprits. Seek help if you suspect food poisoning.


Be sure you are getting enough fiber (fruits, vegetables, whole grains, etc.), fluids and exercise. Avoid laxatives. There is no rule that says you must have a bowel movement every day.

I'm so stuffed up!

Try steam and hot drinks to help drainage. Don't use decongestants for more than three days without consulting a physician. Clear nostrils gently. Blowing hard through one nostril, or while squeezing both nostrils nearly closed, may cause mucus to infect ears and sinuses. Seek helpif mucus is yellow or green.


Overeating, stress, emotional upset and sensitivity to certain foods may produce pain, a burning sensation, belching or gas. Try antacids such as Maalox, Mylanta, Rolaids or Tums.Seek help if the problem continues.

Is it "all in your head"?

Muscular tension from stress accounts for 80% of all headaches. Stress can be psychological (worry over grades, relationships, etc.). It may be physical (reading while slumped in a chair, drinking too much caffeine, or simply "overdoing it"). Headache pain is dull, steady, concentrated in the front or back of the head, or like a band around the head. Try warm compresses, massage, relaxation, Tylenol or other aspirin substitutes. Seek help immediatelyif any headache arrives with lightning speed and severity or is accompanied by vision problems, mental confusion, stiff neck and fever, pain in an eye, ear, or on one side of the head.

Student Care & Wellness
Health & Recreation
Health Center
Last Updated:
March 21, 2017
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