Coughs, Colds and ‘Flu’ like illness
These viral infections are collectively referred to as ‘Upper Respiratory Tract Infections’ (URTIs) and are an inevitable consequence of mixing with new people, who might introduce you to viruses that you have not previously encountered.
You will be familiar with the symptoms of headache, fever, runny nose, sore throat, hoarse voice and aching muscles, otherwise known as ‘flu’. Due to the close living conditions associated with living in halls of residence, such viral infections tend to cause epidemics. Whereas previously a careless sneeze would just have affected your family, you can now infect the whole dining hall!
As viruses, rather than bacteria, cause these infections, we have no treatment that affects a quicker recovery than allowing your own body to overcome the invasion.
The symptoms however can be alleviated by the following regime:
- Take two paracetamol tablets and retire to your room (so you don’t infect anyone else).
- Make sure that you drink plenty of clear fluids, ie non-milky drinks.
- Keep cool and resist the temptation to get under lots of warm bedclothes.
- After some three hours, dissolve two Aspirin tablets in water. Gargle with resulting mixture and swallow it down. (or take Ibuprofen) Gargling is especially good for sore throats. (Remember Asthmatics may not be able to take some of these meds.)
- After a further three hours you may start the cycle again and take two further paracetamol.
NB, You must not take more than eight paracetamol in any 24-hour period
By taking something before you are feeling really poorly, you will find that the treatment is much more effective and by alternating between Paracetamol and Aspirin/Ibuprofen you will not reach the toxic range of either drug.
Most viral infections last for about five days and need no other treatment than these simple remedies, however there are occasional complications to simple viral infections, when a bacterial infection takes over:
- Acute ear infection: presents as a painful and deaf ear, affecting only one side.
- Acute sinusitis: acute onset pain of the face centred around one eye or cheek.
- Chest infection (especially affects smokers): chest pains on deep breathing associated
with shortness of breath and coughing up discoloured phlegm.
If you suspect that you are developing one of these infections, you should consult the campus medical team.
Remember a “flu like” illness when you return from a Malarial area needs checking out.
Many people worry that the symptoms of early meningitis are similar to ‘flu’. Meningitis can mimic influenza, however, the symptoms of meningitis soon prevail: -
- A headache so severe, no relief is obtained from Aspirin/Ibuprofen or Paracetamol.
- To move the head off the pillow is agonisingly painful.
- The patient may develop fear of the light, as it causes worsening of the headache.
- The patient becomes drowsy, withdrawn and uncommunicative.
- They may develop a rash (discrete spots rather than pinpricks), which do not blanch when pressed upon with a glass.
- The patient is obviously extremely unwell and getting rapidly worse.
Under these circumstances or if you are worried please telephone for advice straight away.
Please remember to keep an eye open for your fellow students who become unwell.