Is it just the common cold or something worse?

As the weather changes, you may begin to feel a heaviness in your head that may be more than just the stress of homework assignments accumulating. But who’s to know whether you are catching a simple cold that will last a few days or a more sinister monster like influenza?

Jodi Egeland, Medical Director of Student Health Services, has some answers for students who are conscious of getting sick and are striving to prevent infection.

“The symptoms of flu can include fever or feeling feverish/chills, cough with or without chest pain, sore throat, runny or stuffy nose, muscle or body aches, headaches and fatigue (tiredness),” Egeland said. “Cold symptoms are usually milder than the symptoms of flu. People with colds are more likely to have a runny or stuffy nose. Colds generally do not result in serious health problems.”

Egeland also said that influenza usually has a sudden onset, accompanied by bad headaches, bad body aches, fatigue, runny or stuffy nose, and high fever, often presenting with sore throat and/or cough. Some patients will even experience vomiting and diarrhea.

“Patients describe feeling like they got ‘hit by a truck,’” Egeland added.

But there’s good news! If you can spot the signs early enough and are honest with yourself, you can treat yourself before the cold worsens. But contrary to what a parent may have told you when you were a child, orange juice may not be as beneficial as believed.

“However, taking vitamin C before the onset of cold symptoms may shorten the duration of symptoms,” stated a public Mayo Clinic online article. “Vitamin C may provide benefit for people at high risk of colds due to frequent exposure.”

So instead of using orange juice as your go-to, try the source instead — the oranges themselves. Keep an orange or two in your bag and eat one in class or whenever you have a free minute. It will ease your mind too and send fewer stress hormones rushing to your brain.

Chicken broths also help, especially bone broth, which is slow-cooked and so provides a healthier alternative to other broths.

Dr. Campbell McBride, author of Gut and Psychology Syndrome agrees, and says that gelatin helps “heal and seal” the gut, and in doing so is helpful for reversing leaky gut syndrome and improving digestive problems.

Aside from becoming conscious of which foods will help cold and flu symptoms, factor in that right now you spend most of your days at school or in a public setting, like the Coffee Hag or the library. You are constantly around people as you study, and you have a higher chance of getting sick. Even when you’re not studying, you usually spend time catching up with friends or getting to know others from class.

Sometimes the best thing you can do is to do yourself a favor and stay inside and away from others as much as you can this season by watching Netflix or curling up with a book.

MNSU Student Health Services is open Monday, Wednesday, and Friday 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. and Tuesday and Thursday 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. You can call 507-389-6276 to schedule an appointment or talk with a nurse. Visit their website for further information about influenza at http://www.mnsu.edu/shs/influenzainformation.html

Egeland made clear that the best way to prevent the flu is by getting a flu vaccine each year. The MNSU Student Health Services has flu vaccines available for $25 or can submit to your insurance.

If you do develop influenza, Egeland gives the following recommendations:

• Stay home to avoid contaminating others
• Cover your cough and sneezes
• Practice good hand washing
• Get plenty of rest
• Drink lots of fluids
• Get a thermometer and monitor your temperature
• Take over-the-counter medications like ibuprofen and acetaminophen to treat symptoms

If you have extreme flu symptoms, Egeland said you should be evaluated. These symptoms
include, but are not limited to:

• Difficulty breathing
• Neck that is more stiff than sore
• Headache that doesn’t respond to ibuprofen and acetaminophen
• Sore throat so bad that you can’t swallow liquids or medicines
• Vomiting so much that you can’t keep down liquids and medicines
• Fever that won’t fall below 101° F while taking ibuprofen and acetaminophen
• Flu symptoms that seem to improve but later worsen

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