Have Flu or Cold Symptoms?

Most people can recover at home without the need for medical care. Students with concerns about symptoms can call Cornell Health at 607-255-5155

Flu season has begun!

Influenza is now circulating on campus. Other upper respiratory illnesses like colds, RSV, and COVID are also in circulation among students.

Flu symptoms 

The flu comes on harder and faster than a cold, with more severe and long-lasting symptoms that can make functioning difficult. Common symptoms include:

  • High fever, usually between 100° and 104° F (often begins to subside on the second or third day)
  • Dry cough (which can be severe) and chest pain
  • Runny nose, sore throat, and/or headache 
  • Severe fatigue or weakness, often continuing for days or even weeks
  • Body aches/chills
  • Occasionally diarrhea and/or vomiting (although these are not typical flu symptoms)

Other winter viruses

COVID-19: Flu symptoms can be very similar to COVID symptoms. COVID antigen tests are available for free at the these campus locations. (Here's what to do if you test positive for COVID.)

RSV: Tompkins County is also seeing an increase in RSV (respiratory syncytial virus), a highly contagious, common respiratory virus. RSV typically causes mild cold-like symptoms in older children and adults, but RSV can become severe, especially for infants and older adults. 

If you're sick ...

To help your body fight the flu or other winter virus, rest in bed and drink plenty of fluids. Pain relievers such as acetaminophen or ibuprofen (not aspirin), decongestants, and cough suppressants (all available at the Cornell Health Pharmacy) may keep you more comfortable as you recover.

Protect others by wearing a mask and staying out of circulation. Cover coughs and sneezes, and wash your hands often with soap and water.

When to seek medical care

Most people recover from the flu at home without the need for medical care. However, sometimes influenza leads to a secondary infection, such as an ear infection, a sinus infection, or bronchitis. Less frequently, the flu may cause a more serious problem, such as pneumonia. 

People who are at higher risk of these flu-related complications may benefit from a prescription antiviral medication such as Tamiflu or Relenza. (The flu is always caused by a virus so antibiotics won’t help, unless you develop a secondary bacterial infection.)

See our influenza fact sheet for more details about who is considered at higher risk for flu-related complications, and when to seek care. If you are concerned about your symptoms, please call us at 607-255-5155

Medical excuses for missing class

Cornell Health does not provide excuses for routine illnesses, injuries, and mental health problems that may lead to missed classes, labs, studios, exams, or deadlines. 

Cornell University expects that students are honest with their professors regarding their ability to complete work, and professors are expected to work with students on these issues. Academic advising staff and associate deans are available to provide assistance to students or faculty members who have concerns about attendance issues. 

Please refer to our Health Excuse Policy for more detail.

Vaccination & other prevention strategies

Even if you've already had the flu this season, it's a good idea to get your flu shot annually. And be sure to stay up to date on your COVID boosters.

You can also protect yourself and others by avoiding close contact with people who are sick – and if you are sick, wearing a mask and limiting your contact with others. Cover coughs and sneezes. Wash your hands often with soap and water, and if soap and water aren't available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer. Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth as germs can spread from your hands this way.