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Haverford College
Health Services

Health Services: Managing the Common Cold

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Learn the symptoms, medication tips, and more.

Method of Spreading

  • Colds are not spread primarily through coughing or sneezing
  • Colds are commonly spread hand-to-hand. If you touch the hands of an infected person and then touch your eyes or nose, you are more likely to infect yourself.
  • You can catch a cold if you touch your eyes or nose after touching a hard, non-porous surface, such as a doorknob, shortly after an infected person has touched it.

Symptoms

Sore Throat, Sneezing, Muscle Aches, Headache, Low Grade Fever, Loss of Appetite, and Runny Nose – including nasal discharge that might be thick, opaque, or discolored; this discharge is part of the common cold unless it lasts more the 14 days

The aches and pains we call a cold are really signs that the body is fighting the infection. The symptoms usually last 2-14 days. A cough may last longer but as the illness improves, the cough is usually dry and the fever has gone away.

Medication Tips

  • Most infections are VIRAL (NOT BACTERIAL) – ANTIBIOTICS WILL NOT MAKE YOU BETTER FASTER!
  • Treatment is directed at the symptoms causing you the most distress:  Ibuprofen for the fever and muscle aches (acetaminophen will work only on the  fever). An Antihistamine can ease congestion, especially mucous dripping down your throat. Cough medicine with ingredients like dextromethorphan or guiafenisin may be helpful.
  • Do not drink alcohol when taking cold medicines
  • Check with your physician if you are taking prescription medication before taking over the counter cold medications

Self-Help Tips

  • Eating soups and drinking hot liquids often eases nasal congestion by loosening secretions.
  • Drinking plenty of liquids, such as water or juice, can help soothe your throat.
  • Decrease your intake of caffeinated beverages.
  • A humidifier in your room may be helpful. Taking a long, hot shower may help relieve congestion and cough.
  • Get plenty of rest!
  • WASH YOUR HANDS FREQUENTLY! DO NOT TOUCH YOUR EYES, NOSE OR MOUTH UNLESS YOU HAVE JUST WASHED YOUR HANDS.
  • STOP SMOKING.
  • Cover your nose and mouth when coughing and sneezing. Avoid shaking hands with those who are coughing and sneezing.
  • Do not share drinking glasses.

FYI

  • The common cold resolves without antibiotic treatment.
  • Treatment with an antibiotic does not shorten the duration of the illness.
  • Purulent green or yellow secretions do not benefit from antibiotic treatment.

Self-Care Cold Center

Open during Health Services hours when college is in session

Students may self-treat their own minor cold/flu symptoms. Students may help themselves to Acetaminophen (Tylenol), Ibuprofen (Motrin, Advil), and Sinus Relief medicine. Instructions for taking these medications are posted in Self Care Cold Center. Salt packets and cough drops are also provided. A thermometer and mirror are available to help with their own evaluation of illness.  There is not a charge for the above cold supplies. These same supplies are available in the Security Office 24 hours a day.

Suggested Supplies for Dorm Rooms

 

  • Thermometer
  • Ibuprofen and /or acetaminophen for fever and body aches
  • Cough drops
  • Over the counter cold/cough medicine
  • Salt for gargling (1/2 tsp in ½ cup warm water)
  • Gatorade, teas, ginger ale, bottled water
  • Soup, cup of noodles (can opener, measuring cup)
  • Crackers
  • Tissues
  • Antibacterial soap, hand sanitizer
  • >Disinfectant wipes to clean keyboards, door handles, and remotes – to prevent the spread of germs