Being young and relatively healthy can protect many students from contracting the influenza virus, but being in crowded areas such as a college campus can increase your chances of getting the flu and other viruses.
The influenza or “flu” virus is spread mainly from person to person through coughing or sneezing by people with the influenza virus in their system. Sometimes, people can become infected simply by touching something with the flu virus on it. This virus can then be transferred from the hands to a person’s mouth or nose. Most healthy adults may be able to infect others beginning one day before symptoms develop and up to five days after becoming sick. This means that you may be able to pass the flu to someone else before you know you are sick, as well as while you are sick.
Common symptoms of the influenza virus include but are not limited to: high fever (102.0-104.0 orally), congestion, cough, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, and body aches (which can be caused by the high fever). If you have an appointment with a health care provider within the first 24-48 hours of developing symptoms, then you can be prescribed medications that can help ease some of these symptoms.
The influenza vaccine or “flu shot” is normally given around the first week or two of October depending on availability of the vaccine. One misconception is that the flu vaccine gives you the flu virus. Like any vaccine, there is the potential to have mild fever and cold-like symptoms which can mimic the flu. Once you receive your vaccine, you actually are not protected from the flu virus for 2 weeks. So this means that you should refrain from exposure to known sick persons until your 2 weeks has passed. Remember, if you receive a flu shot but are exposed to someone with the flu before your coverage begins (2 weeks), or you may have been exposed several days before you received the vaccine, then you develop flu symptoms. This is how and why patients tend to believe that the vaccine made them sick. Now you know the rest of the story!
Not only should you protect yourself by getting the vaccine, but you should also use daily preventive measures to stay healthy:
- Wash your hands frequently
- Cough into the bend of your elbow or use a tissue to cover your mouth and nose
- Don’t share drinks or utensils with others, especially if you or they are under the weather
- Exercise daily
- Get plenty of rest
- Eat a well-balanced diet
Please call or visit Student Health Services to receive more information on the flu and other health care related issues you may have while attending Loyola University New Orleans. We are located on the lower level of the Danna Center, directly below the Orleans Room and can be reached at (504) 865-3326. For more information about our services please visit our website at http://studentaffairs.loyno.edu/health
Lannie Guidry, FNP-BC