Common Health Issues
Below are descriptions of a few common health problems found on college campuses. If you suspect you are ill, please contact the Student Health Center for evaluation and treatment. Please do not self-evaluate.
The Common Cold
The common cold is a plague we all suffer from about twice a year. Symptoms usually begin 2-3 days after infection and last 2-14 days. Common symptoms include:
- A scratchy throat
- Stuffy nose
You can get a cold by touching your eyes or nose after you touch surfaces with germs on them. You can also inhale the germs. There is no cure for the common cold; antibiotics will not work on the common cold. Washing your hands is the best protection against the common cold.
For relief, try getting lots of rest, drink plenty of fluids, gargle with salt water, use cough drops or throat sprays, and take over the counter pain or cold medications to help ease symptoms.
Influenza is a contagious respiratory illness caused by influenza viruses. It can cause mild to severe illness. Flu season begins as early as October and can last as late as May. Symptoms of the flu include:
- Fever (usually high)
- Extreme fatigue
- Dry cough
- Sore throat
- Runny or stuffy nose
- Muscle aches
- Stomach symptoms such as nausea, vomiting, or diarrhea
Flu is spread mainly through coughing or sneezing. Most healthy adults can infect others beginning one day before symptoms develop and up to five days after becoming sick. This means you can pass the flu on to someone else before you know you are sick as well as while you are sick. Anyone with suspected symptoms of influenza should not be in class for a minimum of one week. You may return to class if you are no longer running a fever and symptoms are gone.
Vaccination is the best way to prevent and limit the spread of influenza on a college campus. APU offers annual flu vaccinations for $20 per person for students and staff on a first-come, first-served basis. No appointment is required for vaccinations; they are offered beginning in October and ending in early spring. The flu shot cannot give you the flu illness. People who should not be vaccinated include:
- Those with severe allergy to chicken eggs
- Those who have had a severe reaction to an influenza vaccination in the past
- Those who have developed Guillain-Barre syndrome within six weeks of getting an influenza vaccine in the past
- People who currently have a moderate or severe illness with a fever
Consult with your physician if you have concerns regarding the flu vaccination.
MRSA Methicillin-Resistant Staphylococcus Aureus (Staph)
Staphylococcus aureus, often referred to simply as “staph,” are bacteria commonly carried on the skin or in the nose of healthy people. Approximately 25 to 30 percent of the population are colonized (when bacteria are present, but not causing an infection) in the nose with staph bacteria. Sometimes, however, staph does cause an infection. There are two general classes of this bacteria:
- Health care associated MRSA found in hospitals, and nursing and group homes
- Community associated MRSA found in schools and community settings
MRSA is transferred from person to person through direct contact with infected wounds, and the hands and personal items of infected people. Students who have skin infections that are covered pose no health risk to other students and should be able to attend classes. Roommates should follow good hygiene techniques as listed below. Students with open or draining wounds should be directed to the Health Center. Living areas do not need disinfecting treatments unless there has been an open, draining wound with blood or pus. If this occurs, contact the Office of Facilities Management at Ext. 3527.
To help prevent the spread of MRSA:
- Cover skin abrasions or cuts with clean, dry bandages until healed.
- Wash your hands frequently with soap and warm water for 20 seconds.
- Don’t share personal items such as towels, razors, etc.
- Shower before and after contact sports/competitions/events that involve potential skin-to-skin contact.
If you think you may have MRSA, come to the Student Health Center for further evaluation.
Strep is a common bacteria that lives on the skin. Strep throat is a bacterial infection in the throat and tonsils. The throat gets irritated and inflamed, causing a sudden, severe sore throat. Symptoms of strep throat include:
- A sudden, severe sore throat
- Pain when you swallow
- Fever over 101 F
- Swollen tonsils and lymph nodes
- White or yellow spots on the back of a bright red throat
Strep throat can be passed from person to person though breathing, coughing, or sneezing. It typically takes 2-5 days after contact to feel symptoms. Remember, there are other viruses and bacteria besides Strep that can cause a sore throat.
If you think you have strep throat, come to the Health Center for further evaluation. We can do a throat swab or culture to test for the presence of strep bacteria.
Mononucleosis, typically called “mono,” is caused by a common human virus known as Epstein Bar, a member of the herpes virus family. Symptoms of mono include:
- Sore throat
- Swollen lymph glands
- Sometimes a swollen spleen or liver
Transmission of the virus requires contact with saliva from an infected person. Mono is called the “kissing disease” because of how it is spread. Most people resolve the infection on their own within four months. Because mono can cause the spleen to enlarge, those infected should not play contact sports. Since mono is a virus, antibiotics are not helpful. Once you have mono, you carry the virus for the rest of your life. This rarely causes any health problems, however.
If you think you have mononucleosis, the Health Center can give you a blood test known as a “monospot” to find out for sure.
Scabies is an infestation of the skin with a mite called sarcoptes scabei. Infestation is common, found world wide, and affects people of all races and social classes. Scabies can cause burrows (track marks) or a rash on the skin. Scabies are commonly found in the webbing between the fingers, the skin folds on the wrist, elbow, or knee, and other body parts. Scabies causes intense itching, especially at night. Sores can develop on the body from scratching. Symptoms of scabies infection may take 4-6 weeks to begin. Scabies cannot live away from the host for more than 72 hours. Without treatment, scabies can live on the host for one month.
Scabies spreads rapidly under crowded conditions where there is frequent skin-to-skin contact between people, or through sharing of clothing, towels, or bedding with an infected person. Animals do not transmit scabies. You cannot get it from your roommate unless you’ve had close personal contact with him/her.
Scabies is treated with a prescription medication that is applied to the skin for eight hours then washed off. Itching may continue for 2-3 weeks after the treatment has been done. This does not mean that you are still infested. There are medications available to help with the itch. Students who have been treated may return to class after 24 hours. Bedding, towels, and clothing need to be washed in hot water.
Contact the Health Center for further evaluation if you think you have scabies.
Food poisoning is the result of eating toxins or organisms in contaminated foods. Most food poisoning occurs from common bacteria like Staphylococcus or E.coli. Often times, food poisoning occurs when foods are left unrefrigerated too long or food preparation techniques are not clean. Food poisoning can affect one person or it can occur as an outbreak in a group of people who all ate the same contaminated food. Symptoms of food poisoning generally start within 2-6 hours after eating contaminated foods and include:
- Nausea and vomiting
- Abdominal cramping
- Fever and chills
Most people recover from the common types of food poisoning within a couple of days. The goal is to feel better and avoid dehydration. Drink clear fluids to replace those lost by diarrhea and vomiting. Do not eat solid foods until the diarrhea has passed. Avoid dairy products, which can worsen diarrhea.
If you have diarrhea and are unable to drink fluids, you may need medical attention. Contact the health center if:
- You have diarrhea and are unable to drink fluids due to nausea or vomiting.
- You have diarrhea for more than 2-3 days.
- You have a fever over 101 F.
- You have blood in your stool.