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Health Service

Vassar College

Colds are one of the most common infectious illnesses in college students. Typical symptoms include sore throat, cough (either dry or small amounts of clear or white mucous), teary eyes, stuffy or runny nose, sneezing and/or fatigue. These symptoms can last 5-12 days.

What to do

  • Get plenty of rest.
  • Gargle with salt water - Mix one teaspoon in a large glass of warm water every four hours. This helps to reduce the swelling in your throat as well as reduce pain.
  • Drink adequate fluids- Warm liquids may soothe the throat and help loosen secretions, relieving nasal congestion. Some find that ice-cold liquids are more soothing.
  • Over-the-counter cold medications may be helpful.
  • Acetaminophen (Tylenol) or ibuprofen can relieve pain and fever.
  • A decongestant can help relieve congestion. - It does not cause drowsiness, however some find that its stimulating properties can make sleep difficult. A nasal decongestant spray is helpful for nighttime but be sure to follow the directions for use.
  • A mild antihistamine can help relieve a runny nose. - It may cause drowsiness so may be recommended for night use.
  • Cough syrup for cough relief
  • Be sure to check labels on cold medications as many have more than one medication and many have side effects and precautions.
  • Take a warm (steamy) shower several times a day (especially at bedtime). - Inhaling warm, moist air can be very soothing and will loosen up secretions.
  • Use disposable tissues and dispose of them properly. Wash your hands frequently and limit your contact with others to prevent the spread of infection. Hand sanitizers (installed on campus) or personal containers can be very helpful at preventing the spread of the many cold viruses.

When to get medical attention

  1. If your cold lasts longer than a week with your symptoms worsening or not
  2. Discolored or bloody mucus from your nasal passages
  3. Fever (greater than 100.5 degrees Fahrenheit) lasting more than three days, not relieved with acetaminophen or ibuprofen, and shaking chills
  4. Painful breathing, wheezing, or shortness of breath
  5. Severe headache or stiff neck
  6. Painful swelling of the neck glands
  7. Difficulty swallowing/managing your own saliva
  8. An extremely red throat and white patches on the throat or tonsils
  9. Personal history of rheumatic fever, heart disease, kidney disease, lung disease,
or other chronic illness