I’m hovering in your classes. I’m watching you on the computer and stalking you through the halls. I lurk under chairs and windows and desks, waiting. Waiting for you to lower your guard — waiting for the perfect time to strike. I am the flu.

Many people mistake the flu for a cold. However, they are quite different. A cold begins slowly; the first symptoms include a sore throat and a runny nose. The flu, on the other hand, hits quickly. Headaches, chills and extreme fatigue are very common. The major difference is a fever. It is common for the flu to push fevers up to 104 degrees. If you mistake the cold for the flu, there isn’t a problem, but vice versa can lead to a longer and more severe illness. The flu can knock you out of commission for 2-3 weeks if it’s not taken care of. Plus, it is very easy to spread. You can get it by touching a person or object that has the germ and then touching any open place on your body, such as your nose, mouth, eyes or an open wound. In about seven days, you will be the miserable one.

Don’t want to be miserable? Try vaccination.

The vaccine prevents the flu in about 70-90 percent of adults. The bad news is the effectiveness is dependant on the match between the viruses in the vaccine and what viruses are actually in the air.

The effectiveness is also dependant on how socially accepted a person feels. A recent study at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh showed that the vaccine had a lower response in lonely first-year students. The good news is that the vaccine reduces the severity if the flu does come.
For those who hate needles, you are in luck. A lot of college students are eligible for the nasal mist instead of the shot. The catch? The nasal spray contains a weakened live flu virus instead of the killed virus in the shot. You may get a runny nose for a few days, but at least you don’t have to deal with needles. Anyone who has a weakened immune system or certain health conditions should check with a doctor before getting the nasal mist.

The shot vaccine can give you a headache and low-grade fever for a couple of days; however, compared to the flu, it might be the better option for you.

You can get the vaccine at supermarkets such as Albertsons and Shopko or your local doctor or health clinic. It costs about $10-50. If you want the mist, see if your insurance covers it.

Prevention. All the sources agree. The best way to prevent the flu is to wash your hands, not touch your face, drink lots of water, and take your vitamin C. However, there are many other things you can do to avoid this miserable season:

Take hot showers. No one can explain why, but people who get “steamed” at least twice a week get half as many colds as those who don’t.

Get fresh air. It might be really cold, but at least it isn’t congested. Due to the cold weather, people tend to stay indoors. This makes the air inside stagnant and capable of carrying more germs.

Exercise. There are exercise classes at the school that you can take for 2 credits, and the fees are usually small. The school also offers the exercise equipment to any student.
Eat yogurt.

According to WebMD, eating a cup of low-fat yogurt daily can reduce the chance of getting the cold or flu by up to 25 percent. The bacteria in yogurt stimulates your immune system.

Relax. People who know how to relax can activate their immune systems on demand. However, relaxing doesn’t mean sitting bored. Train yourself to picture an image you find pleasant and calming. Example: Finals canceled.

So you have the flu. Now what?

It’s too late to prevent, and the flu has you in its grasp. Don’t despair; there is hope for you.

Stay warm and rested. No, class isn’t restful. By sleeping and staying warm, your body can direct its energy straight toward the battle within. If you take a day off, you will get better more quickly. Plus, you won’t be passing the germs to others.

Sleep with an extra pillow under your head.
This will help you to breathe. By keeping your head elevated your nose will continue to drain and you won’t get all that congestion in your sinuses.

Drink hot liquids. Drinking hot liquids is a lot like taking a steamy shower. The warmth will soothe your nose and throat and will prevent you from getting dehydrated.

Take your vitamins. Zinc, vitamin C, cod liver oil and Echinacea all help to boost your immune system and help you to get on your feet with the least amount of trouble.

Did you know?

The flu/cold isn’t directly related to the cold weather, but to people staying inside.

Americans pays over $12 billion a year trying to battle the flu.
The flu virus can linger in the air for as long as 3 hours.