As cold season is hitting University of Connecticut, students can combat the common cold by recognizing their symptoms early and treating them before they get worse, Ellyssa Eror, Medical Director of UConn Student Health Services, said.
The most important step to treat a cold is to get plenty of rest, eat healthy food and drink fluids, Eror said.
“Treatment is focused on supportive care so that you can feel better while your immune system is fighting the infection,” she said. “ Decongestants can help with nasal congestion as can irrigation with nasal saline. Acetaminophen and/or ibuprofen can help reduce both fevers and body aches.”
Symptoms of the flu overlap cold symptoms, so it can be difficult to self-diagnose, Eror said.
“Symptoms of the common cold tend to be less severe and these viral infections are less likely to cause serious health complications like pneumonia or require hospitalization,” Eror said. “Headache, runny nose, sore throat, fever, cough, body aches and fatigue are symptoms common to both the flu and the common cold.”
In contrast with colds, the number of flu cases has decreased, Eror said.
“These infections are caused by viruses other than the influenza virus and tend to cause milder disease,” Eror said. “Our flu season peaked in mid-February and we have seen dwindling numbers of flu cases since. Many students are experiencing viral infections, but it is not the ‘flu.’”
The main difference between cold and flu are that the flu is only caused by the Influenza virus, while a cold could come from any number of viruses, Eror said.
“It can be confusing. Both are infections caused by viruses. Technically , the flu (influenza) is only caused by the Influenza virus and can be treated with prescription anti-viral medications such as Tamiflu,” Eror said. “ The common cold can be caused by any number of viruses and… they can occur year round.”
A flu shot now will not help during the current cold season, but it is never too early to plan to get one for next flu season, Eror said.
“Getting a flu shot now will not protect you from the non-flu viruses that are causing the majority of illness we are seeing on campus,” she said. “However, don’t forget about next fall…It can take up to two weeks to build an immune response after becoming vaccinated so it is best to get your flu shot before the next flu season is underway. Our vaccine for the 2019-2020 flu season will be available starting in September. Plan ahead!”
Rachel Philipson is a campus correspondent for The Daily Campus. She can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.