How to avoid colds and flu

It is during the winter months that we often see a higher number of students with viral infections, such as the flu, colds, and viral gastroenteritis, but these can show up at any time. We want to remind the University community to be especially vigilant with preventive practices, such as careful handwashing, avoiding contact with persons who are ill, not sharing personal items, and staying home if you are ill to avoid further spread of the virus. If you are feeling unwell for longer than the expected amount of time, see your health care practitioner.

The Common Cold is a viral infection of the upper respiratory tract (nose and throat). Most people recover after 5 to 10 days.

Influenza (Flu) is a viral infection of the respiratory system (nose, throat and lungs). Most people recover within one to two weeks. Those with weakened immune systems are at higher risk for complications.

Viral Gastroenteritis or Norovirus Infection (sometimes called “stomach flu”) is not a flu at all. It is an intestinal infection marked by watery diarrhea, abdominal cramps, nausea or vomiting, and sometimes a fever. It is most commonly caused by contact with an infected individual. Depending on the cause, symptoms usually resolve after 24 to 48 hours. Read more about the Norovirus on the Toronto Public Health website.

There is no effective treatment or cure for these viral infections, so prevention is key. See below for tips on staying healthy.

Colds and flu

Colds usually last 5 to 10 days, but a flu can rob you of your energy for up to 2 weeks. That’s a lot of lost study time!

sad dog with hot water bottle on head

What you can do to stay healthy

Taking care of your overall health can help your body fight off a cold or flu virus:

  • Get adequate rest (7-9 hours/night) and moderate, regular exercise (at least 30 minutes/day on most days of the week).
  • Eat a nutrient-rich, well-balanced diet.
  • Minimize stress.
  • Limit how much alcohol you drink.
  • If you smoke, try to quit.

Stop the spread of germs:

  • Wash or sanitize your hands frequently.
  • Cover your cough/sneeze.
  • Avoid sharing personal items and avoid contact with others who are sick.  

Get the flu shot: