Coughs and Colds
College students are enough to make anyone sick. They're sitting next to you in class sneezing and sniffling. They're touching doorknobs with their germy hands. And let's not even think about public restrooms.
It's a wonder you don't have one four-year cold for your entire time at Indiana University. Short of living in a plastic bubble, there are steps you can take to protect yourself.
Cough, Cold, and Sore Throat Prevention
- Be considerate. If you need to sneeze, cough, or wipe your nose in class, tuck your face into the crook of your elbow to keep germs from spreading.
- Wash your hands frequently.
- Consider an annual flu vaccination, available at the IU Health Center each fall.
- Get plenty of rest.
- Stay home if you can.
Cough, Cold, and Sore Throat Symptoms
Pay attention to your specific symptoms. Visit the IU Health Center Medical Clinic if your cold lasts longer than 10 days or you develop any of these symptoms:
- Fever of 100 degrees lasting more than 24 hours
- Sore throat lasting more than 3 days
- Significant pain in ears or sinuses
- White spots on or near tonsils
- Shortness of breath
Cough, Cold, and Sore Throat Treatment
Many types of over-the-counter (OTC) medications are available to relieve your cough, cold, or sore throat. Many cold remedies treat more than one symptom. They key to choosing the right medication is identifying your specific symptoms and reading the label. Avoid taking medications for symptoms you don't have. Also, pay attention to the side effects. Finally, if you are pregnant, or think you might be, don't take anything without talking to a medical professional first.
Analgesics such as acetominophen (Tylenol), ibuprofen, or naproxen can relieve headaches, pain, and fever. Always take them with a full glass of water.
Decongestants are used to treat stuffy noses. They can be taken as pills or nasal sprays. Some commonly used generic names are phenylephrine, pseudoephedrine, and oxymetazoline.
Antihistamines can temporarily relieve runny noses, watery eyes, and sneezing. Some may cause dizziness or drowsiness, so be careful. Some generic names include chlorpheniramine, diphenhydramine, loratidine, or cetirizine.
Expectorants help get rid of phlegm or mucus when you cough by loosening the fluid in your lungs. If you take an expectorant, you need to drink additional fluids (water) for it to be effective. The common generic name for expectorants is gualfenesin.
Suppressants are useful at night if a cough is keeping you awake. Otherwise, it's better to try to cough as much as possible to clear the infection from your respiratory passageways. The most common generic name for suppressants is dextromethorpan.
Cough syrups frequently combine both ingredients. Think carefully about your symptoms and read the label before you decide.
- Don't mix cold medications without talking to a pharmacist or medical professional. Stay within the recommended dosage.
- Avoid alcohol while taking cold medications.
- Avoid cold medications with alcohol content, such as Nyquil and Vicks Formula 44.
- Get plenty of rest.
- Drink 8-12 cups of extra fluids, preferably water.
- A saline nasal rinse or neti pot used 1-2 times a day can relieve nasal symptoms.
- Chicken soup shows evidence of anti-inflammatory properties. The fluid and heat don't hurt either.
- Gargle with warm salt water (1/2 teaspoon of salt per 8 ounces of water).