Student laying sick in bed under the covers surrounded by used tissues.

Finals are just around the corner and whether you’re living in a residence hall, studying at the library, going to class or attending an event, you’ll be close to your fellow Buffs. While this togetherness can bring relief during a potentially stressful time of year, it also creates opportunities for illnesses and diseases to spread. Here are some ways to stay healthy and tips on what to do if you feel sick.

Most common illnesses during this time of year

Finals are a time when students experience increased stress and lack of sleep.  This can adversely affect the immune system and lead to more illness. Currently, Medical Services has seen an increase in these symptoms:

  • Fever
  • Sore throat
  • Headaches
  • Fatigue
  • Eye redness and crusting

Ways to prevent illness

Viruses like the flu and common cold typically last 7 to 10 days, meaning you may experience a stuffy nose, body aches, fatigue and sore throat for a while. Practicing healthy habits can help keep you from getting sick or spreading illnesses to others. Follow these tips to stay healthy and feel your best.

1. Get vaccinated

Since antibiotics don’t work against viruses, it’s important to get vaccinated against illnesses like the flu and COVID-19. 

2. Practice good hygiene

Washing our hands often—after using the bathroom, before eating, after class—can help prevent the spread of disease. When available, use warm water and soap to wash your hands for at least 20 seconds. Hand sanitizers with at least 60% alcohol are a good alternative when water and soap aren’t available. You can even pick up a free travel-sized bottle of hand sanitizer for your backpack from Health Promotion on the third floor of Wardenburg Health Center.

3. Sharing isn’t caring

We all stay healthier when we look out for one another. Sharing items like lip balm, food and drinks, vape products and eating utensils can cause illnesses to spread. Avoid sharing personal products and utensils to keep yourself and your friends healthy.

It’s also important to keep your living space clean by wiping down commonly touched surfaces like door knobs, light switches and countertops with disinfectant. You can also help prevent the spread of illnesses by coughing and sneezing into your sleeve, elbow or a tissue.

4. Support your immune system

Your immune system is impacted by everything you do: what you eat, how much you sleep, your stress levels, etc. This means that eating regular, balanced meals; hydrating with lots of water; and getting 7 to 9 hours of sleep each night can help strengthen your body and immune system. When you’re well-rested, well-resourced and well-nourished, you’re more capable of fighting off infections.

This semester, try to make it a priority: Stick to a consistent sleep schedule, carry a refillable water bottle and fuel up on vitamin-dense fruits and vegetables. Finding time for movement and sunshine is also good for your health. Take a walk with friends, toss around a Frisbee or simply open the blinds!

5. Make time for yourself

When our mental health is cared for, our physical health follows. It’s important to take time to relax, organize your thoughts and find healthy ways to manage everything you have going on.

Prioritizing self-care mentally and physically is key to a healthy, balanced semester. Schedule time to practice mindfulness, engage in stress-relieving activities and connect with people you care about. 

What to do if you’re feeling sick

Whether you’re feeling sick with a cold, flu, COVID-19 or another illness, there are campus resources to help. Here is what you should do if you feel sick.

1. Stay home

If you’re not feeling well, stay home. Limiting your contact with other people can help reduce the spread of illnesses. 

2. Inform your instructors or boss

If you’re going to miss class or work due to illness, give your instructors or boss a heads up. Let them know that you aren’t feeling well and will be staying home. Be sure to ask about making up assignments, projects or exams if you are going to be out that day. 

3. Call before visiting a medical clinic

If you’re not sure why you’re feeling sick, calling ahead can be a good way to determine if you need to seek care in person. Students can speak with a nurse in  Medical Services by calling 303-492-5101. This line connects students with medical staff who can discuss your symptoms and treatment options, including whether it’s appropriate to take care of yourself at home or seek medical attention.

4. Continue to practice self-care

If you still find yourself under the weather, try these tips: Drink warm liquids like tea to soothe a sore throat and stay hydrated, get extra rest to let your body recover and use over-the-counter remedies as appropriate to find relief. Your body works hard to fight off viruses and get you back into peak condition, so be kind to it!

Free cold and flu supplies, including cough drops, tissues, tea, honey sticks, gargling salt and more are available at the Health Promotion office on the third floor of Wardenburg Health Center. You can also stop by the Apothecary Pharmacy at Wardenburg Health Center to purchase full-size over-the-counter medications and prescriptions. 

5. Seek emergency care if needed

If you or someone you know is showing any of these signs, seek emergency medical care immediately:

  • Trouble breathing
  • Persistent pain or pressure in the chest
  • New confusion
  • Inability to wake or stay awake
  • Bluish lips or face

Call 911 or call ahead to your local emergency facility. You can also contact your medical provider if you experience any other symptoms that are severe or concerning.

Campus resources

Free flu clinics

All CU Boulder students can schedule a free flu shot at Medical Services. They also provide drop-in clinics throughout the week. Check out the schedule online or learn more about the flu vaccine.

Medical Services

For general medical care and support, you can make an appointment with Medical Services at Wardenburg Health Center or visit their drop-in clinic at the Village Center in Williams Village. Schedule an appointment online or call 303-492-5432. 

Apothecary Pharmacy

The Apothecary Pharmacy on campus can fill prescriptions and has a wide selection of over-the-counter remedies. Pick up medications at Wardenburg Health Center or get them delivered to Health and Wellness Services at the Village Center. Curbside pickup is also available.