Sniffles and Strep: What to Do When You're Sick at College

No one likes being sick when they're at college. You miss class, you miss someone to take care of you, you miss breathing through your nose. Here's how to survive sick days in college.

We all know when you have a room full of 18–30 small children whose immune systems are developing as slowly as their notion to cover their mouths when they cough, everyone gets sick. That’s why your friends majoring in Elementary Education always carry around disinfectant and wash their hands every five minutes. College is pretty much the same. Yes, most people know how to use tissues now, but students are packed into tight living spaces and lecture halls with desks that get cleaned maybe twice a year. Then there’s the “Mom isn’t here” issue that famously leads to staying up until all hours because Mom isn’t around to say that’s a bad idea.

On top of that, moving shocks your immune system because of all the different microbes floating around. With some students moving as far as across the whole country for school and dealing with airports—a whole new level of petri dish­—getting sick at college is as common as breathing. So how do you deal with it? Grab your Nyquil and Airborne and settle in for a quick college sick day rundown. Note: we’re talking physically ill sick, not day-after-a-big-party “sick.”

Don’t go to class

Missing class is undesirable because you might miss something important. But if you’re sick enough that you can barely get out of bed, let alone walk to class and actively participate, you’re better off missing it. It’s an easy way to infect everyone in your class, who won’t appreciate it. A couple of good qualifiers: if you have a fever or need a nap after walking from your bed to the bathroom, don’t go to class.

Related: Important Academic Do's and Don'ts to Help Sick Students Keep Up

Talk to your professor

When you realize you’re too sick to go to class, email your professor immediately. Let them know you’re feeling under the weather and ask them if they can send you the PowerPoint or other material they’re going to cover in class. If there’s something going around campus, the professor will likely already know and appreciate you keeping it to yourself. Be aware of the class attendance policy (if there is one), and be prepared to show a doctor’s note at the next class. By the way…

Go to the doctor

Once more for the people in the back: go to the doctor. Or the school nurse, or the closest urgent care center. Especially if your symptoms include sore throat, fever, and/or swollen glands—go to the doctor. Those are all common symptoms of the flu, mono, and strep throat, which all run rampant on college campuses. They’re all super contagious and super unpleasant. College health services have seen it all, so your first step should be to call them up and ask for an appointment. Even better is that they often have antibiotics on hand, so they can fill prescriptions in-house instead of having you drag yourself to a pharmacy.

Keep it clean

Yes, you’re sick and your nose is stuffy. But those tissues need to make it into a trash bin, especially if you have a roommate, because they will hate you for getting them sick. You should have disinfecting wipes for general cleaning up, but make sure you use them on things that you both touch like the doorknob and TV remote. When you start feeling better, put your sheets through the wash so those germs aren’t hanging around. And take out the trash so all those used tissues go where they belong.

Related: How to Stay Healthy in College

Sleep

The reason you’re not going to class is so you can recuperate, and you can’t do that if you don’t sleep. Wrap yourself up in your blankets and spend the day resting. Remember back in high school how you’d watch daytime television between naps when you had to stay home from school sick? Do that now. And don’t forget to hydrate! Drinking water is important in everyday life, but especially when you’re sick.

Parting tips

No one wants to be sick at college—you miss class, you miss the outdoors, you miss breathing without the scent of Visine. So here are some ways to avoid the plague. The #1 thing is to get your flu shot as soon as it’s available. If you don’t have a doctor in the area, many pharmacies have them available and most insurance companies cover the total cost. Your school may also host a free clinic for flu shots. And if you don’t like needles, see where the nasal spray version is available.

Additionally, be sure to:

  • Eat healthy foods—veggies, fruits, proteins—and make sure you get vitamin C (think citrus) and antioxidants (think berries).
  • Get six to eight hours of sleep a night.
  • Take immune supplements before and after you travel through airports or train and bus stations.
  • Clean off gym equipment before and after you use it.
  • Wear flip-flops or shower shoes if you share a bathroom with the whole floor.
  • Sharing is caring, but don’t share drinks and things because of germs.
  • Wash your hands thoroughly and often!

For more advice on surviving college life, check out our Student Life section.

Like what you’re reading?

Join the CollegeXpress community! Create a free account and we’ll notify you about new articles, scholarship deadlines, and more.

Join Now

Tags:

About Kara E. Joyce

Kara E. Joyce is an editor and writer who frequently contributes to CollegeXpress. When she isn’t hunched over editing material, you can find her powerlifting in the gym, pirouetting in a dance studio, or planning her next adventure.

 

Join our community of
over 5 million students!

CollegeXpress has everything you need to simplify your college search, get connected to schools, and find your perfect fit.

Join CollegeXpress
Monica

Monica

High School Class of 2023

Being a sophomore in high school, I never really worried about college. I thought it wasn't important to worry about until senior year. Through this program opportunity I came across, I realized how important it is to start looking at colleges early and start planning ahead. CollegeXpress has opened my eyes to what colleges require, what colleges are near me, and what they offer. The daily emails I get from CollegeXpress really help me look at the different options I have and what colleges I fit into. Without this website, I would not be taking the time out of my day to worry about what my future will be nor what opportunities I have. I could not be more grateful for such an amazing and useful website. It's thanks to CollegeXpress that not only me but my family now know how much potential I have in to getting into these colleges/universities that we thought were out of my reach.

Aaliyah

Aaliyah

High School Class of 2022

My mother signed me up for a couple of scholarship contests through CollegeXpress. I was also able to do some research and compare the different schools on my list. I was able to see the graduation rates and different programs that helped me decide on Adelphi University. I will continue looking for some scholarships for my start in September.

Josiah Kegg

Josiah Kegg

High School Class of 2021

I want to sincerely thank you all for this amazing website that's legitimately helped me find so many different scholarship opportunities. I've been stressing out for the longest time about paying for college since I would rather stay out of debt and have been working days trying to find any scholarship opportunity. When I found CollegeXpress, I discovered many easy scholarships that have given me hope for the future. Thank you and God bless!

Nazira Abdelkhalek

Nazira Abdelkhalek

$2,000 Community Service Scholarship Winner, 2014

I am very honored to be this year’s recipient of the Multicultural Student Community Service Scholarship! This scholarship is vital to helping me achieve and fulfill my dreams, and gives me confidence and motivation as I begin my college career. The CollegeXpress website has been invaluable over the past year as I planned my educational and professional goals. I highly recommend it to all students as they begin to focus on their college and career interests. The website is a wonderful guide to schools and scholarships.

Bri'Yana Brown-Dunn

Bri'Yana Brown-Dunn

High School Class of 2022

CollegeXpress helped me gain interest in many colleges/universities and many scholarships. I would say the most helpful thing CollegeXpress has done for me is sending me emails that tell me certain types of colleges are interested in me as well as emails about scholarships that I can look at and possibly apply for.

College Matches
X

Colleges You May Be Interested In

Covenant College

Lookout Mountain, GA