Health and Counseling

Care for your Cold

Susan Quinn is a licensed Family Nurse Practitioner and Director of Health and Counseling services at Nazareth. She shares this guidance.

Why do I have a runny nose, sore throat, and cough?

As the fall semester is in full swing, you may already have noticed many of your friends and classmates are sneezing, coughing or absent from class. It’s pretty early in the cold and flu season but not uncommon when so many people are so close together on a college campus. Not to mention, we are also in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic!

Upper respiratory infections (URIs) or colds are caused by more than 200 viruses. It's extremely easy to “catch” a cold. Rhinovirus is the “standard” cold virus, but colds also come from coronaviruses, parainfluenza viruses, Coxsackie viruses (hand/foot/mouth disease), adenoviruses, echo viruses, and respiratory syncytial viruses.

College campuses are cold “hot zones”!

Most of us typically get one or two viral respiratory illnesses per year. College campuses are a “hot zone” of upper respiratory viruses due to the vast numbers of ill students in close proximity to one another. This may even be a little different this year because we’ve been wearing masks and using hand-sanitizer and cleaning solutions for many months. Because of this, our immune systems are a little less robust and typical viruses are spreading quickly, and are making us feel lousy. It’s important to know how to treat a “cold” once you develop symptoms.

Symptoms

A typical cold virus starts with a mild sore throat rapidly followed by nasal congestion, possible low grade fever, and finally coughing. The nasal discharge may start as clear mucus, but rapidly become thicker and colored over time. Symptoms of a cold usually last 7 to 10 days.

Symptoms of a cold may include:

  • nasal congestion
  • sore throat
  • cough
  • fever
  • body aches
  • fatigue
  • ear fullness
  • swollen glands

Will antibiotics help a viral upper respiratory illness?

No. Most upper respiratory infections are viral, so antibiotics won’t make you feel better faster. Your immune system is your best resource for getting better. Antibiotics can make things worse if you take them when you don’t need to. Your immune system is how your body fights illness. Supporting your immune system is the most important way to get you feeling better.

Antibiotics, when taken for viral infections:

  • Don’t help.
  • Kill beneficial bacteria leading to yeast infections and diarrhea.
  • Cause bacteria become resistant to antibiotics. When you are sick with a bacterial infection, antibiotics may not be effective.
  • May cause side effects or allergic reactions (rash, vomiting and diarrhea).

Do you need an appointment?

Call Health and Counseling at 585-389-2500 for advice about scheduling an appointment if:

  • Symptoms are worsening after 5 days
  • Symptoms are not improving after 10 days
  • Temperature over 101 degrees persists
  • Severe headache
  • Increased facial swelling
  • Very large neck glands
  • Painful joints
  • Skin rash
  • Chest pain
  • Shortness of breath
  • Difficulty swallowing own saliva
  • Persistent vomiting
  • Blurred vision
  • Persistent greenish nasal discharge

After-Hours information

For non-life-threatening medical concerns after hours, please call us at 585-389-2500 and follow the prompts to speak to a triage nurse for guidance.

For life-threatening matters:

  • Call Campus Safety 585-389-2850, if you live on campus.
  • If you live off-campus, dial 911.

Get a COVID test

It’s important to get a rapid COVID test when your symptoms start, as it’s important to find out if you are infected with COVID. That way we can make sure you are safely isolated and getting the care you need.

If you have mild/early cold symptoms, you can be tested:

  • in Shults on Mondays and Tuesday from noon to 1 p.m. in the 1924 room
  • or stop in at Health and Counseling for self-testing, Mondays through Fridays 9 a.m. to noon & 1 p.m. to 3 p.m.

How to care for a cold virus at home

  • Keep an oral thermometer at home. This is the only way to know for sure if you have a fever. You will be asked about your temperature if you call or have a visit with a health care provider. We have disposable thermometers in Health and Counseling. Just ask!
  • Stay hydrated. Clear fluids, like warm broth and sports drinks, are especially good because they replace minerals your body needs that are lost through fever and sweat. Drink at least 8 oz. (1 glass) of water, juice, soup, or tea each hour. This helps prevent dehydration. Do NOT drink alcohol. It contributes to dehydration and can interact with medications.
  • Support your immune system by eating nutritious foods. Eating protein regularly, such as nuts, seeds, meat, fish, eggs and cheese helps your immune system, as well as fruits and veggies which contain many illness-fighting antioxidants.
  • Get enough rest. Your body needs energy to heal. Try going to bed early so you can get better and keep up with your academic requirements. If you miss a class, be sure to communicate with your instructors.
  • Inhale moist air, use saline nasal spray, take steamy showers. This helps loosen secretions.
  • Gargle frequently to soothe a sore throat or calm a cough. Mix approximately 1/4 tsp. salt and 1/4 tsp of baking soda in a glass of warm water. Gargling helps reduce swelling, relieves pain, and helps wash away secretions in the back of the throat. Throat lozenges can also help.
  • Vitamins and supplements. Many people feel that Zicam, Airborne, vitamin C, zinc, and Echinacea help them avoid or treat illness. Some limited studies prove effectiveness, other studies do not.
  • Non-prescription cold and cough medications and pain relievers don’t ‘cure’ you, but they can decrease symptoms so you are more productive during the day and can sleep better at night. Tylenol (acetaminophen) or Advil (ibuprofen) reduce fever and relieve pain. Flonase (Fluticasone) nasal spray reduces nasal inflammation and post-nasal drip (2 sprays in each nostril twice daily during a cold). Mucinex can be taken to thin mucous secretions. Nyquil may help reduce cold symptoms so you can sleep at night. The Naz Bookstore and Wegmans Pharmacy carry many cold medications.
  • Many over the counter cold and flu medications contain a combination of different medicines. Read the ingredients to make sure that you are not “doubling up” on the amount of medication you should be taking. If you have any questions, ask the pharmacist.
  • Avoid alcohol and other drugs, including smoking and vaping.

Keep it to yourself

  • Viral secretions from a cough, sneeze, or even hand-to-hand contact enter your body through mucous membranes (eyes, nose, mouth). Easy ways to spread the virus include touching hands, kissing, opening doors, working-out at the gym, sharing phones/food/drinks, handling money, or being near an ill student in class, on the bus, or at a bar/party.
  • Wear a mask!
  • Cough or sneeze in your sleeve or tissue. Throw out the tissue!
  • Wash your hands with warm water and soap or use alcohol-based sanitizers. Hand washing is the best way to prevent the spread of many illnesses, including colds. Carry hand sanitizer in your book bag.

Be patient

With the above measures, many folks can successfully treat a cold at home. Be patient, as it might take a few days to feel better.

Please contact Health and Counseling Services at 585-389-2500 or email us at health@naz.edu if you have any questions.