How to protect yourself against the flu
Getting vaccinated each year is the best way to protect yourself – and others – against seasonal influenza.
Cornell Health provides FREE annual flu vaccinations for students and other Cornell community members. Visit our Annual Flu Vaccination page for information about our fall flu vaccination clinics, and how to get your vaccination at Cornell Health.
The flu is highly contagious and spreads by contact with the oral and nasal secretions of others who have been infected. To limit exposure:
- Wash your hands often with soap and water (use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer when you don’t have access to a sink).
- Don’t share eating and drinking utensils, lip balms, etc.
- Avoid close contact with people who are sick.
- Avoid touching your eyes, nose, or mouth. Germs are spread when a person touches something that is contaminated and then touches her or his eyes, nose, or mouth.
- Take care of your immune system by eating well, getting plenty of sleep, engaging in physical activity, and managing stress.
What to do if you get the flu
- Rest up. Sleep is the best thing you can do to heal and recover. Although it may be difficult to arrange in your hectic life, your body needs bed rest for at least a day or two to fight off the infection and avoid further complications.
- Stay home. Stay out of classes, work, clubs, etc. until you have been fever-free for at least 24 hours (fever should be absent without the use of fever-reducing medicines.)
- Drink lots of clear liquids. The fever that often accompanies the flu causes your body to use more fluid than usual. To avoid dehydration, drink at least 6 to 8 glasses of water, broth, herbal tea, gatorade, or another non-caffeinated carbonated beverage daily while you’re sick.
- Take in adequate nutrition. Your immune system needs the support of adequate nutrition to recover well (soups, juices, applesauce, and other bland foods may be most comfortable).
- Monitor your temperature. Be aware that you are most contagious when you have a fever.
- Treat symptoms. You may recover more comfortably by taking non-prescription medications to treat symptoms, including ibuprofen or acetaminophen for aches and pains; lozenges for sore throat; decongestants for runny nose (all available in our pharmacy). Do NOT take aspirin or aspirin containing medicines due to the risk of Reye’s Syndrome in young people. When in doubt, call Cornell Health (tel:6072555155) to consult with a nurse.
- Protect others by keeping a distance from others. Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue when coughing or sneezing to keep those around you from getting your germs.
When to get medical assistance
Contact us to consult with a health care provider (607-255-5155) if your symptoms worsen or complications develop, including:
- Difficulty breathing
- Pain or pressure in the chest or abdomen
- Sudden dizziness
- Confusion or change in level of consciousness
- Severe or persistent vomiting
- Severe sore throat, with swollen glands in your neck
- Symptoms improve but then return with fever and a worse cough
- Unidentified rash
- Fever of over 100˚F lasting for more than three days
Antiviral drugs may be suggested (prescription only) for those who are very sick and those who have a greater chance of getting serious flu complications.
How to promote a flu-free campus
Help us spread the word about flu prevention and self-care!
Print and display our flu-related posters and bulletin board materials: see our Flu Campaigns page.