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Cold & Flu Prevention


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flu season

Influenza (commonly known as the flu) and colds are among the most common infections of the respiratory system. People often confuse the two, calling a bad cold the "flu" or vice versa. There are some key differences between these two unwelcome visitors even though they are both caused by viruses and are both likely to occur during the winter months. However, the information here is as useful in July as it is in January.

As a college student, you are even more likely to catch the flu! College students live in close quarters with their roommates, share bathrooms, and participate in social activities that make them more prone to catching the flu. A hangover and dehydration may also weaken your immune system making you even more susceptible.

EIU Medical Clinic offers FREE flu shots for all EIU students. These shots are available at the EIU Health Service while supplies last. For more information, please call 581-2727. Keep in mind that it is never too late to get a flu shot this year!

Coles County Health Department Flu Clinics

Help Stop the Flu

In addition to taking personal responsibility for hand washing, covering your cough, and getting vaccinated (when appropriate), please take a few moments to encourage flu prevention among others in the Eastern community. We must acknowledge the generous support of Cornell University Gannett Health Services in helping us create many of these handouts and posters.

Flu IQ

Cold Basics

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) there are over 200 viruses that can cause the common cold. The rhinovirus is the most common type. The signs and symptoms of a cold include:

  • sneezing
  • stuffy or runny nose
  • sore throat
  • coughing
  • watery eyes
  • mild headache
  • mild body aches

These symptoms can last for up to two weeks. If symptoms last longer than 10 days, are not relieved by over-the-counter medications, or a temperature of over 100.4o F presents, contact a medical provider.

Flu Basics

Influenza, also known as the flu, is a contagious disease that is caused by the influenza virus. It attacks the respiratory tract (nose, throat, and lungs) in humans. Influenza usually occurs during the months of November through April.

Influenza types A or B viruses cause epidemics of disease almost every winter. In the United States, these winter influenza epidemics can cause illness in 10% to 20% of people and are associated with an average of 36,000 deaths and 114,000 hospitalizations per year.

Flu symptoms include:

  • fever 100o F or higher
  • cough
  • sore throat
  • runny or stuffy nose
  • severe body aches
  • headaches
  • chills
  • severe fatigue

While flu and cold symptoms are very similar, flu symptoms are usually more persistent and severe than cold symptoms.

Seek medical services if experiencing any of the following:

  • feeling weak or dehydrated and not able to consume enough liquids
  • difficulty breathing or shortness of breath
  • pain or pressure in the chest or abdomen
  • confusion
  • severe or persistent vomiting
  • sudden dizziness
  • flu-like symptoms that improve but then return with fever and worse cough

For the myths and truths about the flu and flu shot, click here.


What are the symptoms of influenza?

Influenza symptoms usually include a high fever lasting 3-4 days, prominent headaches, fatigue/weakness lasting 2-3 weeks, extreme exhaustion, cough/chest discomfort, and often severe general aches and pains.

How is the Influenza Virus Spread?

Influenza is spread, or transmitted, when a person who has the flu coughs, sneezes, or speaks and sends flu virus into the air, and other people inhale the virus. The virus enters the nose, throat, or lungs of a person and begins to multiply, causing symptoms of influenza. A person with influenza is contagious starting the day before symptoms start and can continue for up to 1 week.

What Can I do to Protect Myself Against the Flu?

You can protect yourself from getting the flu by practicing good hygiene including frequent hand washing with soap and water and covering your nose and mouth (preferably with a tissue) when you cough or sneeze. Drinking plenty of fluids, eating a well-balanced diet and getting plenty of rest will keep your immune system healthy. If you are sick, stay home from work or school to avoid passing anything on to others.

Tips for cold and flu prevention:

  • Washing your hands is the single most important step in preventing the spread of diseases. Since your hands come in contact with nearly any bodily fluid that you might have, not to mention other sources of germs, it is extremely important to wash them often. We all use our hands much more frequently than we realize and they come into contact with millions of germs a day. So, do you think you wash your hands enough? Are you doing it properly? This step-by-step guide will show you how to wash your hands effectively so you know that you are minimizing your risk. 
  • Avoid close contact. Avoid close contact with people who are sick. When you are sick, keep your distance from others to help protect them from getting sick too.
  • Stay home when you are sick. If possible, stay home from work, school, and errands when you are sick. You will prevent others from catching your illness.
  • Cover your cough. Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue when coughing or sneezing. It may prevent those around you from getting sick.
  • Clean your hands. Washing your hands often will help protect you from germs. Wash your hands for at least 30 seconds to effectively kill germs. You can measure the time by singing the "Happy Birthday" song twice.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose, or mouth. Germs are often spread when a person touches something that is contaminated with germs and then touches his or her eyes, nose, or mouth.
  • Clean and disinfect your "shared spaces" more often than other times of the year. Remember phones, keyboards, steering wheels, office equipment, and other items used by several people during the day.
  • Get enough sleep. During sleep, your body's immune system goes into high gear to protect you from illness. Lack of sleep can reduce immune functioning, making you susceptible to sickness.
  • Drink more water. In the fall and winter, it is easy to overlook your thirst and get dehydrated. Make sure you consume 8 glasses a day.
  • Listen to your body. If you are less than 100%, you will feel better and recover faster if you led yourself rest.
  • Finally, be sure to visit your doctor if you are running a fever.

For more cold and flu information, please visit the CDC cold and flu website.