‘Tis the Season…For Coughs and Colds

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With temperatures dropping and students hunkered down together in classrooms, libraries and dorm rooms, the germs are starting to fly around campus.  Not surprisingly, there is an uptick in students looking for help from the Student Health Center, and demand for appointments is high.

“Most of what we are seeing so far is the common cold, symptoms like sneezing, coughing, stuffy and runny nose, sore throat, achiness and chest congestion,” said Dr. John Vaughn, Director of Student Health at Duke.

Vaughn said symptoms can last anywhere from three days to two weeks. “It’s not fun if you have those symptoms, but it’s not unusual, particularly at this time of year.”

Because colds are caused by viral infections that resolve on their own, Vaughn said the Student Health Center is encouraging students to try “the TLC mom prescribes at home” before heading to Student Health. The TLC that Vaughn recommends: getting plenty of rest, drinking plenty of fluids, and managing the symptoms with over-the-counter medications.

Symptoms that suggest a more serious and/or treatable illness and that merit attention from the Student Health Center include:

  • A fever above 100.4º F, especially if it is associated with shaking chills, headache, loss of appetite or trouble breathing
  • A cough that lasts longer than 10 days
  • A cough associated with chest pain, trouble breathing or coughing up blood
  • A sore throat severe enough to make swallowing difficult

Vaughn also recommended flu shots. “We are still early in flu season, so we are strongly encouraging all students to get their flu shot, either at the Student Health Center or one of the many flu shot clinics that we are offering around campus.  The actual flu -- true Influenza infection -- is much more severe than a common cold or sinus infection, even in young healthy people, so getting the flu shot is a good way to minimize the chance of getting the flu, or at least minimizing its impact if you do get it.”

Vaughn said the Student Health Center stands ready to help any student in need of medical attention. “Every member of our team at Student Health is dedicated to the care and well-being of every student,” he said. “We’re here if and when you need us.”  For help, students can:

call 681-WELL (681-9355) to speak with a triage nurse.  If the triage nurse is busy helping another student, you can leave a message and it will be returned the same day.

  • come to the Student Health Center during normal business hours (8:30 p.m.-5p.m. Monday through Friday) to speak to a triage nurse in person. 
  • can make an appointment online if you have signed up for Duke MyChart.  There have been some technical glitches with that system, however, so if you are having concerning symptoms, it is better to call or come in. 

Student Health also has same-day appointments available; if a triage nurse determines that you need to be seen that day, you will be seen. 

Student Health also offers a Saturday walk-in clinic from 9 a.m.- 1 p.m. (excluding breaks).  Some resources aren’t available on weekends, but there is a nurse and health-care provider available to see you.

For more information on appointments, services, flu clinics and more, please visit  http://studentaffairs.duke.edu/studenthealth


Photo Credit: http://depts.washington.edu/hhpccweb/sites/default/files/legacy_files/im...