Overview of Influenza/Flu

Seasonal flu is a contagious respiratory illness caused by an influenza virus. It is generally seen November thru March of each year.

Signs & Symptoms

Symptoms of flu are similar to those of a cold but are often more severe and start very suddenly. They usually develop 1-4 days after exposure and can last for several weeks. Most people feel better within a week but may have a lingering cough and fatigue. Symptoms may include:

  • Fever
  • Chills
  • Muscle aches
  • Headache
  • Fatigue or weakness
  • Dry cough
  • Less common symptoms: runny nose, sneezing, sore throat


  • Annual flu shot or flu mist nasal spray is the most effective method of prevention.
  • Wash your hands frequently with soap and water.
  • Try not to touch your eyes, nose or mouth. Germs often spread this way.
  • Stay home when you are sick (CDC recommends that people with influenza-like illness remain at home until at least 24 hours after they are free of fever (100° F / 37.8°C), or signs of a fever without the use of fever-reducing medications.)
  • Cover your mouth with a disposable tissue when coughing and sneezing. Throw tissue in the trash can.
  • Try to avoid close contact with sick people.


There is no cure for the flu. Antiviral medications may be useful for high-risk individuals. They may make influenza symptoms milder and may also prevent serious influenza complications. Antiviral medications are by prescription only. Contact the advice nurse or your provider for more information. Please note that Antibiotics do not work against viruses.

The following will help you feel better and treat your symptoms while your body fights off the virus:

  • Get lots of rest
  • Drink plenty of fluids
  • Inhale steam from a hot bath or shower to relieve congestion
  • Use hard candies and cough drops to soothe a dry throat
  • Gargle with warm salt water to soothe a sore throat
  • Avoid close contact with others
  • Avoid smoking, caffeine and alcohol
  • Over the counter medications (take as directed on the package):
    • Acetaminophen or ibuprofen for fever, body aches, headaches and sore throat
    • Cough medication

How We Can Help

  • If you would like to be seen by our medical staff, please contact our Appointment Desk to schedule an appointment.
  • Also, our Advice Nurse service is available at no charge for all UC Davis students to discuss health concerns and the need for medical care.
  • Vaccinations are available at SHCS Medical Services beginning each fall.
  • Over the counter (OTC) products to control the symptoms of seasonal flu are available for purchase at our Pharmacy, which is located on the first floor of the UC Davis Student Health & Wellness Center.