flu

What to do if you get sick

Should I come to UHS?

  1. If you have flu-like symptoms, stay home
  2. If you have concerns about your symptoms, or are at high risk of complications* call UHS at 608-265-5600
  3. When to seek medical treatment »

*Young children, adults age 65 and older, pregnant women, and people with certain chronic medical conditions)

Stay home if you have flu-like symptoms

If you have flu-like symptoms, there is very little you can do but stay home from school and work to give your body the rest it needs (and to prevent spreading the flu to others!) Unfortunately, the flu is caused by viruses, so a doctor’s visit for antibiotics won’t help.

The most severe symptoms usually improve after two to five days, but may last up to a week. Coughing and fatigue may persist for several weeks. Most people are able to return to work and class after five to seven days.

In the meantime:

  • If you are sick with flu-like illness, stay home for at least 24 hours after your fever is gone without the use of fever-reducing medicine.
  • Monitor your temperature and keep your fever down with acetaminophen or ibuprofen.
  • Drink tons of fluids (two to three liters per day)! Warm water and hot tea can help alleviate a dry cough.
  • Remember, the flu and cold are viral infections, antibiotics will not help.
  • If you have concerns about your symptoms, or are at high risk of complications*, call UHS at 608-265-5600.

Flu Shopping List

  • A thermometer
  • Juices or sports drinks
  • Acetaminophen (brand names include Tylenol; generic brands are fine) and/or ibuprofen (brand names include Advil, Motrin, and Nuprin; generics are fine) and/or naproxen (brands include Aleve; generics are fine).
  • If you’re under the age of 19, do not use aspirin, to avoid the risk of Reye’s syndrome.
  • Avoid multi-symptom remedies, which often contain unneeded medication or contain doses of specific ingredients which may be too low to be effective.
  • If you have a sore throat, try non-prescription throat lozenges that numb the back of the throat.

Other ways to soothe your flu symptoms

  • Get as much bed rest as possible.
  • Monitor your temperature and keep your fever down with acetaminophen or ibuprofen (use according to label directions). If symptoms are severe, alternate acetaminophen (650 mg) and ibuprofen (400 mg) every two hours.
  • Those pain relievers should also help if you’re having headache or body aches.
  • If you’re under the age of 19, do not use aspirin, to avoid the risk of Reye’s syndrome.
  • A lukewarm bath or shower can help reduce fever.
  • A vaporizer or humidifier can make your nose, throat, and chest feel better by adding moisture to the air.
  • Don’t overdress. Wear only enough clothing to not to be chilled.
  • Don’t smoke. Smoking irritates inflamed nasal passages and irritates the cilia, which clear mucus from the lungs.

How long should I stay home if I’m sick?

CDC recommends that you stay home for at least 24 hours after your fever is gone except to get medical care or for other things you have to do and no one else can do for you. (Your fever should be gone without the use of a fever-reducing medicine, such as Tylenol®.) You should stay home from work, school, travel, shopping, social events, and public gatherings.

What if my roommate has flu symptoms and can't go home?

  • In the dorms: If your roommate needs self-isolation because they have an flu-like-illness, they will need to stay in the dorm room except to use the bathroom, seek healthcare, or for an emergency until they no longer have a fever for at least 24 hours without using fever-reducing medications. Wash with soap and water or use hand sanitizer prior to and after using shared bathroom facilities. Students are expected to use these to keep their room as clean as possible out of respect for their roommate. Wipe surfaces with disinfectant surface cleaning wipes.
  • In an apartment: Try to give the sick person their own room. If there is more than one sick person, they can share the sick room if needed. Wash with soap and water or use hand sanitizer prior to and after using shared bathroom facilities. Wipe surfaces with disinfectant surface cleaning wipes.
  • Consider rooming with other campus friends when possible.
  • Avoid being face to face with the sick person. If possible, it is best to spend the least amount of time in close contact with a sick person.
  • Wash your hands often and the right way. If soap and water are not available, use an alcohol-based hand rub.
  • Remind the sick person to cover coughs and clean his or her hands with soap and water or an alcohol-based hand rub often, especially after coughing or sneezing.

When should a person definitely seek medical treatment?

The flu without complications can be managed by time and conservative treatment measures and does not require a visit to a clinician. Most otherwise healthy people recover fully within seven to ten days.

High risk of complications
Contact your health care provider if you develop flu-like symptoms and have asthma, diabetes, a weakened immune syndrome, are pregnant, or have other chronic lung, heart, blood, or neurologic diseases.

Dehydration, fever, difficulty breathing
See a health care provider if you are unable to drink fluids and are becoming dehydrated; have a persistent fever (102°F / 38.8°C, or higher) that does not respond to aspirin, acetaminophen, or ibuprofen; or experience difficulty breathing.

No improvement or complications
See a health care provider if your symptoms do not improve at all after a week, or if rare complications develop, including the following:

  • ear infection, characterized by significant ear pain, fever, or decreased hearing
  • sinusitis, which produces facial pain lasting longer that one week or yellow-green or dark cloudy nasal discharge
  • pneumonia, characterized by chest pain; shortness or breath; cough productive of dark green, brown, or bloody sputum
  • fever over 102°F (38.8°C) unresponsive to aspirin, acetaminophen, or ibuprofen use or lasting longer than 72 hours

I have to miss class because of the flu. Does UHS give medical excuses?

Students should communicate promptly with their individual professors if they have to miss class due to illness. UHS does not generally give medical excuses. This policy resembles those of many other major universities; it is consistent with the recommendations of the American College Health Association and is supported by the UW-Madison Dean of Students. Read more »

More information on taking care of yourself while sick is available on the CDC website.