What to do if you have the flu

September 11, 2009

As the fall semester creeps into its second month, Penn State's medical professionals continue their mission to educate the campus population about how to stay healthy and avoid the H1N1 virus this flu season. However, students, faculty and staff may still encounter the illness and should know what to do if they have the flu.

The flu is a serious respiratory infection that affects millions of people each year and spreads easily through the respiratory droplets of an infected person. Symptoms of seasonal and the new H1N1 flu are similar and impossible to distinguish based on symptoms. Although recovery may take several days, most people recover from the flu (including H1N1 flu) with rest and proper self-care strategies.

What are flu symptoms?
Fever (usually 100 degrees or greater) and cough and/or sore throat. Other symptoms may include: body aches, chills, mild headache, runny nose and/or nasal congestion, and occasionally vomiting or diarrhea.

Seek medical attention if you experience any of these symptoms:
— Difficulty breathing or shortness of breath
— Pain or pressure in the chest or abdomen
— Sudden dizziness
— Confusion
— Severe or persistent vomiting
— Flu-like symptoms that improve, then return with fever and a more severe cough
— Severe headache or neck stiffness
— Difficulty swallowing fluids

What should I do if I’ve been diagnosed with the flu or have influenza-like symptoms?

People who are pregnant, have a chronic medical condition (such as asthma, diabetes, cystic fibrosis or heart disease) or who are immunocompromised, are at greater risk for developing severe illness from the flu. If you, or anyone you have been in close contact with while ill, have these conditions, contact UHS or a healthcare provider as soon as possible.

Go home to recuperate, if possible. You may return to work or school once you have recovered and are fever-free for 24 hours without the use of fever-reducing medication. If you live in a residence hall and cannot go home, contact your area Residence Life office for assistance in making room arrangements. You will need to wear a mask anytime you need to leave your room (such as to use the bathroom).

Campus residents who cannot go home and cannot self-isolate in their room will be escorted by their Residence Life staff to the commons desk to check into an isolation room. The student will be able to sign up for box meals at the commons desk. The meal cost will be charged to their campus meal plan. Campus residents who are self-isolating (in their residence hall room) will be able to have a friend or roommate pick up a box meal at the commons desk. The friend will need to provide the sick student’s ID card number so that box meals can be charged to their campus meal plan. Employees who are experiencing flu-like symptoms should stay home from work and avoid contact with others.

Actions you should take:

— Isolate yourself in your room or home until 24 hours after fever has cleared without the use of fever-reducing medications. If you live with someone, you may need to wear a mask to prevent the spread of your illness.

— Let someone know that you are sick. Ask a friend or family member to check on you daily while you’re not feeling well.

— Cover all coughs and sneezes with a disposable tissue and discard immediately into a trash can.

— Wash hands frequently with soap and water or an alcohol-based hand sanitizer — especially after coughing, sneezing or wiping your nose.

— Increase your fluid intake.

— Have personal care items available such as hand sanitizer, tissues, over-the-counter medicines to treat flu symptoms, a thermometer, and fluids. It takes about a week to recover from the flu so make sure you have enough supplies available for this time period.


Take over-the-counter medications as needed for relief of symptoms.

University Health Services’ clinicians will follow the CDC recommendations for prescribing antiviral medications for students. See www.cdc.gov/h1n1flu/recommendations.htm for additional information.

For more information, visit:
University Health Services at www.sa.psu.edu/uhs
The Office of Human Resources at Penn State at http://www.ohr.psu.edu/HealthMatters/H1N1.cfm

Penn State's Flu Resources page at flu.psu.edu
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention at www.cdc.gov/h1n1flu/qa.htm or www.cdc.gov/flu/about/disease/index.htm.


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Last Updated November 03, 2009