Viral Infections


Preventing viral infections:

The best prevention against viral infections is vaccination.

Viruses such as the cold or flu spread from person to person through in respiratory droplets of coughs and sneezes. Germs also can be spread when a person touches respiratory droplets from another person on a surface like a desk and then touches their own eyes, mouth or nose before washing their hands. The best way to prevent this cycle is by:

  • Coughing or sneezing into your elbow or sleeve, not your hands.
  • Washing or sanitizing your hands after using shared equipment, such as a computer.
  •  Washing hands often with soap and hot water for at least 20 seconds. While there’s no substitute for good hand washing, an alcohol-based hand sanitizer is a good alternative if the soap is not available.
  • Avoid shaking hands, especially with those who seem to be ill.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth as much as possible.
  • Not sharing items that touch your mouth, such as lip balm, eating utensils or drinkware.
  • Following illness, wash clothes and bedding in hot water. Solid surfaces or items that cannot be washed should be disinfected with a product clearly labeled as a “disinfectant.”
  • Staying home if you’re sick.

You can also strengthen your immune system by taking care of your body all year.

  • Eat a healthy diet that includes plenty of fruits, vegetables, and water.
  • Prioritize sleep – sleep deprivation can weaken your immune system.
  • Get regular physical activity.
  • Manage your stress levels.

Need help with diet, exercise, sleep or stress? Contact Student Wellness

Treating Viral Infections:

Antiviral medications are available for the treatment of Influenza, though it’s essential to be diagnosed
and treated quickly after symptoms begin. If you develop flu-like symptoms, come into the Student
Health Center as soon as possible to be tested for influenza.

If you feel like you have a common cold, and not the flu, it’s best to stay home, rest, and follow the
self-care methods, below. Not sure if it’s the cold or the flu? Compare symptoms.

There is no treatment for most viral infections. Antibiotics will not help a viral infection and will only
increase antibiotic resistance. Most people will recover from a viral infection on their own, though there are some things you can do to relieve your symptoms:

  • Take pain medications and fever reducers.
  • Use a humidifier or take a hot shower to ease sore throat and congestion.
  • Drink warm liquids, such as tea, to hydrate and soothe sore throats.
  • Drink plenty of fluids. If you’ve been vomiting or have diarrhea, sports drinks or clear broths can help replace lost electrolytes.
  • Stay home and get plenty of rest.

Unfortunately, vitamin C will not help to shorten or prevent a cold. Zinc supplements have been shown
to shorten a cold, but only by one day if taken within the first 24 hours of symptoms. Some studies
suggest that elderberry extract may boost the immune system, though these studies are small and more research is needed.

Sometimes, people mistake the “stomach flu” for influenza. These are two separate infections! Viral
gastroenteritis, the technical name for the stomach flu, causes inflammation of the stomach and
intestines that leads to vomiting and/or diarrhea. Influenza, on the other hand, causes symptoms like
high fever, congestion, muscle aches, and fatigue. The influenza virus very rarely causes stomach
troubles.

Gastroenteritis is spread similarly to other infections – by touching contaminated surfaces or objects
and then touching your face or mouth. They can also be spread through contaminated food or water.

When should I be seen by a doctor?

It can be hard to know when to go in and when to stay home. While there’s no co-pay at the Student
Health Center, staying home when you’re sick can help to prevent the spread of illness to other
students. If you’re debating whether or not to come in and be seen, find information on when to stay home, when to come in, and when to go to the ER.

Sign up for Code Purple:

In the event of a serious outbreak or other campus safety concerns, students will be notified through
the Code Purple Emergency Notification System. Sign up for code purple or double-check that your information is current to ensure that you receive these notifications.