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Self-care information – influenza and meningitis

Monday 23 May 2022 9:54am

Even though winter has not started, influenza is already here. There are simple things you can do to look after yourselves, your mates, and your whanau.

Caring for yourself with influenza

The best thing you can do is rest at home until you feel better. Stay home from work or school and away from other people while you are unwell. Other things you can do are to:

  • Keep hydrated to replace fluids you lose because of fever and sweating
  • Drink mainly water and avoid tea, coffee and alcohol as they dry you out even more
  • Sip fresh lemon juice mixed with honey and hot water, or gargle salt water to soothe a sore throat or dry cough
  • Eat only light food when you are hungry
  • Use a damp cloth to cool your forehead and limbs
  • Shower or bathe regularly and keep bedding clean and dry


Influenza is caused by a virus, so antibiotics do not help.

Take paracetamol or ibuprofen to help relieve fever, body aches and headache. Ask your pharmacist about other medicines such as lozenges or gargles to ease symptoms such as sore throat, runny nose, and cough.

If you have any of the symptoms below, seek immediate medical attention:

  • A high fever that doesn’t come down, especially if you are pregnant
  • Chills or severe shaking
  • Difficulty breathing or chest pain
  • Purple or bluish discoloration of lips, fingers, or toes
  • Seizures or convulsions
  • Signs of other serious conditions, such as meningococcal disease

For more information refer to the Health Navigator New Zealand website:

Influenza – Health Navigator New Zealand

If you have had COVID previously it is unlikely that you will have another COVID infection within 90 days of that infection. Tell your warden at your college or your flatmates that you are unwell and have them check in with you while you are unwell. Wear a mask while around others to protect them.

University coursework and exams

You do NOT need a medical certificate for any University course work, assignments, tutorials, labs, or any other related study.

Please see the University Examinations website for advice on applying for special consideration for exams:

Examinations – University of Otago

Useful phone numbers:

  • Student Health
    Tel 0800 479 821
    Hours: Mon–Fri 8.30am–8.30pm (Wed 9.45am opening)
  • Healthline
    Nurse advice 24/7
    Tel 0800 611 116
  • Life-threatening emergencies: 111
  • Dunedin Urgent Doctor and Accident Centre, 18 Filleul Street
    Tel +64 3 479 2900
    Hours: 8am–10pm


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, e.g. 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 visit the Immunisation Advisory Centre website:

The Immunisation Advisory Centre

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

Last review date: 19/05/2022
Student Health Services, University of Otago