When did your snot change colors? Yuck. Two ideas rush through your head: call mom or head straight to the hospital. Or maybe both. Balancing schoolwork and taking care of ourselves isn’t easy as first-time independent adults in college; add on a fever and a runny nose and you’ve got a disaster. It’s important to listen to our bodies and answer the question, “Do I need to stay home and rest with Netflix or take a trip to the doctor?”
You know the symptoms: a runny and/or stuffy nose, sore throat and a cough thrown in for good measure. Rest up so your cold can run its course off of you and into the sunset to infect someone else. University of Florida’s Student Health Care Center’s Director Guy Nicolette knows rest can cure a cold and many other illnesses. “Get the amount of rest your body needs to feel refreshed the following day, eat balanced meals with everything in moderation, avoid substances that are known to impair your body’s functioning, get a reasonable amount of exercise and try not to worry too much about life’s minor ups and downs,” said Nicolette. However, if you experience symptoms like pain in your face, severe vomiting, swollen glands in the jaw or neck, head to the doctor or whatever health services your college offers. Call the hospital if you have difficulty breathing, shortness of breath, chest pain and other abnormal symptoms. You could be dealing with more than a common cold.
Ugh, this one here is a doozy. Fevers can mean so many things and can lead to a myriad of diagnoses. If you’re dealing with a high fever that cools off after a few hours of lying in bed and eating chicken noodle soup, you’ll be fine. If your fever lasts longer than seven days, you have a severe headache, chest pain, rash or parts of your skin are red and swollen, go to the ER immediately. These accompanying symptoms are a possible sign of a more severe illness like meningitis.
3. Anything Stomach-Related
Pepto Bismol can cure an upset tummy, but unfortunately it cannot stop severe gastrointestinal problems. If you notice that you run to the bathroom more than is normal, head to a doctor to seek their advice. Hopefully that is as far as you need to go, In some cases, your doctor may refer you to a specialist because you could possibly be suffering from constipation, IBS or Crohns. The sooner you learn the problem, the sooner you’ll find healthy ways to cope with that big bowl of greasy spaghetti you are tempted to swallow whole.
4. The Lovely Menstrual Cycle
To all my lady friends, it’s vital you know the difference between the common cramp and a severe issue with your body. We ladies can handle pain, but sometimes we forget different kinds of pain lurk, pointing to potential problems in our health. If your menstrual cycle is so intense that you are overwhelmed with pain before, during or after your period, it’s time to see a doctor. You could be suffering from serious conditions like endometriosis or PCOS. Nicolette said, “I encourage every student patient to ask questions, and to ask as many as they can think of. Research before the visit can help if it is on the correct topic, but that can be challenging when the diagnosis is not known yet. Medical care is still not easily performed by computer algorithms, so it is best left in the hands of qualified providers in most instances.” It takes courage to stand up and say, “No, something is wrong and I’m going to get help.” Periods already suck, girls. Let’s make sure they don’t get any worse by seeing a specialist if necessary.
Everyone has dealt with an infection every now and then. Whether from a little paper cut or a slip down the stairs, sooner or later we all end up with cuts and bruises. As soon as you can, wash the injured area and treat it appropriately; covering a cut with a band-aid or get stitches for more serious injury. As your body heals, it is in danger of infection, so make sure you keep it safe from exposure. If the area of injury shows signs of redness, swelling, pus, or other abnormal signs, take a trip to the clinic. Better to have the nurse clean up your boo-boo then you ending up with an amputated leg later, okay?
6. Sore throat
Sore throats are so much fun, am I right? The scratchy sensation you feel in your throat that makes you wonder if your cat had a go at your tonsils. If you experience the usual sore throat, drink some tea, rest up and recover. If your symptoms persist or they progressively worsen over time, make an appointment with a doctor. You could be dealing with strep throat or tonsillitis, an inflammation of the tonsils. Let the doc check that throat so you can go back to singing pop songs in your car with no shame.
Headaches can be a pain in the neck, pun intended. Look, if the occasional headache comes by for a visit and leaves after an hour or so with the help of Extra Strength Tylenol, you’re good. If your headache persists for a significant amount of time, your senses become more sensitive, or your headache evolves into a migraine, it’s a sign that you need help. Dr. Cecilia Arango of Bond Clinic said, “Keep a record and see if it is associated with some food or smell or even stress. In cases of migraine headaches, this could be associated with stress, lack of sleep or some food or odor. Take meds, starting with over the counter, and move to prescription if the condition does not improve in one hour.”
8. Back pain
Back pain can result from poor posture and being forced to carry heavy backpacks to and from classes for years. A heating pad and Tylenol can help, but sometimes that doesn’t work. If your back pain persists, please head to your doctor and voice your concerns. You only have one spine; use it well.
There goes the stomach flu leaving its slimy mark on campus. No one wants to spend their day cooped up at home, groaning with an ice pack on their head and a trash can close by for emotional support. Please, take your medicine, drink fluids, rest, rest, rest! Stay in bed, take your meds as your doctor tells you and stay away from other people. Seriously. Spread love, not the flu. In regards to illness in general, Nicolette said, “[Students need to] take care of themselves nutritionally, get proper sleep and develop proper coping skills for stress.”
What, this? This isn’t an emergency! Not so, dear reader. Asthma, while capable of control with medication and inhalers, can still cause strong symptoms in certain situations. If stress, pollen or recent illnesses like a cold or flu circle your life, take care of yourself. If you’re facing problems with breathing, hear wheezing in your lungs or feel a series of symptoms that strain your energy and overall health, again—head to the doc.
Part of adulthood involves actually taking care of your body. Educate yourself and start building relationship with your doctor, and take the first step in getting rid of that suspicious cold.
Not Your Common Cold: The 4-1-1 on 3 Major Illnesses
Written by Nicole Eisenberg, sophomore, marketing and finance, University of Maryland, College Park
Kim Possible isn’t the only person who can get the 4-1-1. This old 90s Disney Channel diva stops super villains in their tracks; find your inner super hero and stop these evil illnesses from ruling your fall semester.
Mononucleosis, commonly known as “mono” or “the kissing disease,” affects mostly high school and college students in the developed world, says The New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene’s Bureau of Communicable Disease. Spread through “person-to-person contact via saliva,” mono can easily become an epidemic in the ‘hooking up culture’ of college campuses. What’s important is to know the signs, so that you are not spreading the virus; this would only create some very sloppy seconds.
Gettysburg College Nurse Practitioner and Director of Health Services Fred Kinsella explained that students should be on high alert for a very sore throat that lasts longer than a week, swollen or sore neck glands, a fever around 101-102 degrees, general body aches and immense fatigue. He explained that if a student does not have a history of mono, the health center suspects that this is the case even more so.
Appendicitis is most common in people of ages ten to thirty, according to the National Digestive Diseases Information Clearinghouse. Although it is a relatively common disease, inflammation of the appendix is tricky to deal with, according to Kutztown University Assistant Director of Clinical Services, William Lenbzinski. Just a few days ago, Lenbzinski had a student who, after being examined, did not seem to exemplify any telling symptoms of appendicitis; five hours later, the student had his appendix removed at a local hospital.
This disease can sneak up on you, but Lenbzinski suggests looking for “rebound tenderness.” Rebound tenderness is a pain in your “right, lower quadrant” (think below the belly button and three-fingers’ length to the right). When you press in on the spot and release the pressure, the pain occurs once you release your hold. Sometimes, Lenbzinski said, the rupturing of an ovarian cyst mimics appendicitis so campus health centers send female students to the hospital for radiological studies when in doubt.
Meningitis, a disease in which 15 percent of cases end fatally, is most common in the “under 5’s, the 16-25’s, and the over-55’s,” reported the Meningitis Foundation of America. Since most college students are smack in the middle of the 16-25’s age group, it’s important to know the warning signs of this deadly disease.
Kathy Woodward, MD, the Medical Director for the Division of Adolescent and Young Adult Medicine at Children’s National Medical Center, stressed the importance of seeking action quickly when it comes to meningitis. She describes a common horror story in which a student might be seen at a party on a Friday night, and when people do not see him or her come out of the dorm room on Saturday morning, they don’t think anything of it. When somebody goes to check on this student on Sunday, he or she is found expired.
To prevent this tragic fate, students can receive the meningococcal vaccine. Woodward explained that the vaccine is effective with three strains of the disease, and luckily, the fourth strain only accounts for ten percent of all cases.
She explained that students should look out for a light rash that looks like broken blood vessels, a sudden and severe headache, fever, vomiting and a stiff neck (towards the back of the neck). Students who have these symptoms should go to the emergency room as fast as possible. Woodward also stressed that if you have been in contact with somebody who has meningitis, start taking a three-day antibiotic to prevent your exposure to the bacteria as soon as possible.
So what’s the sitch? Now there is none, since you’ve got the 4-1-1 on mono, appendicitis and meningitis. Make sure to track down those symptoms on your college campus, so you can save your friends and yourself.
*Article updated March 17, 2016 by Nicole Eisenberg to include “Not Your Common Cold: The 4-1-1 on 3 Major Illnesses.”