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Why am I more likely to get sick at college?

You're more likely to catch a cold or the flu or get a sore throat when you're in college than when you are at home, even if you get enough rest. These illnesses spread quickly because so many students live together in dorms and apartments, eat together in cafeterias, and sit close to each other in classrooms. You can get these illnesses through the air when someone is coughing or sneezing next to you, by rubbing your eyes or nose after having contact with someone who is sick, or by touching something held by someone who is sick. If you smoke cigarettes or you're exposed to second-hand smoke, you're more likely to get a bad cough.


How can I prevent catching a cold/flu or sore throat?

To prevent getting these illnesses:

If you do get sick, be sure to take really good care of yourself and try to avoid spreading your germs to others.


What do I do if I catch a cold or the flu?

How you treat an illness depends on whether it is caused by a virus or bacteria. Colds and the flu are caused by viruses, which you can't get rid of quickly. With a cold you likely have a runny nose, cough and congestion. With the flu, you will usually feel achy and have a fever. You should get a lot of rest, drink plenty of fluids, and treat the symptoms with over-the-counter medicine (medicines you can buy at the pharmacy without a prescription). Always read labels to make sure you are getting the right medicine for your symptoms such as acetaminophen or ibuprofen (no aspirin) for fever or headaches and nasal spray for runny nose. If you have an upset stomach, eat bland foods (cereal, dry toast, rice, or bananas) and drink clear liquids (water, soda such as ginger ale or diluted juice).


Strep throat and most sinus and ear infections are caused by bacteria, and are treated with antibiotics. Go to the student health center if you have a very sore throat, pain in your ears or sinuses, a persistent fever, a bad cough, or difficulty breathing. The staff there can tell you what the problem is and give you antibiotics if you need them. Most students with a strep throat have a sore throat and swollen glands and sometimes fever, but don't have runny nose or cough.


What's the deal with “Mono”?

You have probably heard about “Mono” (Mononucleosis), which is sometimes called “the kissing disease". Mono got this nickname because people can pass the infection through germs in saliva when they kiss, but it can also be passed if someone who is infected shares a water bottle, toothbrush, fork or spoon, or lip gloss, etc. Some people might not have symptoms but may still have the virus and infect other people.


People who have Mono may have a combination of the following symptoms:

Other illnesses can mimic or act like Mono. It's always best to see a health care provider and get checked out instead of diagnosing yourself.


If I think I might have Mono, how soon should I go to the student health center?

If you've had a sore throat for more than a week and are feeling very tired, you should go to the student health center. The only way to find out if you have Mono is to get a blood test called the “Mono spot”. However, even if you do have Mono, there is nothing you can do except to get plenty of rest, eat healthy foods, and drink plenty of fluids (to prevent dehydration). You can go to your classes after your fever is gone but you will likely feel tired for a few weeks. Most people get better within a month, but you may need to talk with your faculty advisor or dean if your Mono symptoms are severe and are causing you to miss many classes. People with Mono should avoid contact sports, or other sports such as jumping, cheerleading, etc. for a month. The good news is that you cannot get Mono again once you’ve had it.


How do I prevent getting or giving Mono germs?

Bruises, Sprains and Strains


What are bruises, sprains, and strains?

If you have swelling, pain, or can't bear weight, you should make an appointment with your health care provider or go to the Student Health Services to be checked. Otherwise, apply ice right away, rest and raise the injured body part on a pillow. Some sprains are severe and may require progressive physical therapy/rehabilitation.


What is a Repetitive Strain Injury (RSI)?

A specific type of serious strain injury is called Repetitive Strain Injury (RSI). Repetitive strain injury includes all kinds of injuries (caused by doing the same movement continuously) to the muscles, nerves, and tendons of your arms and shoulders. You may have heard of bursitis, tendonitis, or carpal tunnel syndrome. People that use computers a lot, for long periods of time without breaks, can get repetitive strain injury.


To help prevent getting repetitive strain injury:

If you have any of the following symptoms, go to the student health center and get checked out:

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Written by the CYWH and YMH Staff at Children's Hospital Boston


Updated: 3/12/2015



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