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Colds self–care

Colds

You usually start having cold symptoms 1–3 days after contact with a cold virus. Symptoms may include:

  • scratchy or sore throat
  • a cough
  • sneezing and a runny or blocked nose
  • watery eyes
  • blocked ears
  • a slight fever (37.2 to 37.8°C)
  • tiredness and headache

A cold is different from the flu (influenza). The flu usually develops more quickly. You’ll have fever and muscle aches within a few hours and will generally feel sicker than with a cold.

Self–care when you have a cold

  • get plenty of rest
  • drink lots of fluids – such as water, fruit juice, soups, herb teas
  • let your College RA/Warden or flatmates/friends know you are unwell
  • wash your hands after coughing, sneezing or using tissues

There are no medicines (incl. antibiotics) that cure a cold. However, you can treat your symptoms with medicines such as painkillers, nose drops or sprays, cough syrups and drops, throat lozenges and decongestants. (Check with your doctor or pharmacist before you take any of these if you’re already taking other medicines.) Always read the medicine instructions and ask your doctor or pharmacist if you are not sure.

When to see your doctor

Most colds last only a week or two and you probably won’t need to see a doctor. However, you should see your doctor if you get any of these symptoms with your cold:

  • an earache that gets more painful
  • wheezing, shortness of breath or trouble breathing
  • chest pain
  • skin rash
  • a sore throat that gets more painful, or has white or yellow spots
  • a cough that gets worse or becomes painful
  • a temperature of 38.6°C or higher that lasts more than 2 days
  • shaking chill
  • a headache that lasts several days
  • if your lips, skin or nails look blue, or you’re feeling confused, it is important to seek medical advice as soon as possible

Meningitis

Meningitis is a bacterial disease caused by Neisseria meningitidis. There are various groups of bacteria including groups A, B, C, Y and W.

  • 1-2 people in 10 who survive have long term complications
  • 1-2 people out of every 10 will die

Those most at risk are:

  • adolescents and young adults aged between 15-19 years
  • smokers
  • those living in residential colleges and crowded accommodation
  • binge drinking
  • having another respiratory condition eg influenza
  • having a condition affecting the immune system
  • Māori and Pacific ethnicity

Symptoms of meningitis can develop suddenly and include:

  • a high fever
  • headache
  • sleepiness
  • confusion
  • abdominal pain
  • joint and muscle pains.
  • a stiff neck
  • dislike of bright lights
  • vomiting
  • a rash consisting of reddish-purple pin-prick spots or bruises that don’t fade with pressure

What to do       

  • if you or your friend/ family are worried you are seriously ill, get medical attention straight away or call an ambulance by dialing 111
  • say what the symptoms are
  • you can also call Healthline free on 0800 611 116, 24 hours a day – even if you have already been seen by a health professional
  • vaccination reduces the risk and is very effective – For more info www.immune.org.nz

NOTE: Meningitis ACWY vaccination is free for 13 to 25 year old residents in college accommodation

Useful contacts

  • Student Health
    Tel 0800 479 821
    Open Mon–Fri 8:30- 5pm
    Wed 9:45am start
    Evenings 5pm to 8:30pm semester only
  • Healthline – nurse advice 24/7
    Tel 0800 611 116
  • Or go to
    • Dunedin Urgent Doctor and Accident Centre – 18 Filleul Street  8am–10pm
    • Emergency Department( emergencies only) Dunedin Hospital- Great King Street, Dunedin