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.