Away from Home and Sick: Now What?

Sarah NantaisBlogs

About the Author
Sarah Nantais

Sarah Nantais

Sarah Nantais is a Virtual Help Desk Navigator at Campus Manitoba. She contributes to "The Navigator," our monthly blog focused on student life.

Getting sick isn’t fun, regardless of where you are. It can be especially sucky if you are sick when you’re living away from home for school. You’re surrounded by strangers and you might not exactly remember what you’re even supposed to do. While mum and dad might not be more than a phone call away, this is a chance for you to adult and look after yourself without their help. We’re talking about things like a cold, the flu or strep throat here. Any serious medical issues should be discussed with your family and guardians to make sure you are getting a proper level of care. Now that we’ve got that out of the way, let’s dig into this!

two stuffed animals are tucked into bed with a hot water bottle and some tissue.

Get Cozy, friend

The Cold

You’re half-way through the term. Midterms are over and you’re ready to gear up for finals. You wake up in the morning and feel a scratch in the back of your throat. Not a big deal, right? Chances are you aren’t taking care of yourself properly so that scratch blows right out into a cold. Runny nose, watery eyes, nasty cough. All of these things are now your friend. So what do you do?

There isn’t a cure for the cold, sadly. If your symptoms are pretty intense you can get some over-the-counter cough and cold medicine at your local pharmacy or grocery store. Depending on where you go to school, there might even be a pharmacy right on campus. Some schools also offer a walk-in medical clinic service. We like you, so here’s  nice list of medical services. if you don’t see your school listed, they may have information about medical services in their handbook. See? It’s important to read that thing.

The Flu

A woman sneezes into a tissue.


Despite what you might have heard, the flu is a whole different thing than a simple cold. A cold might knock you out for a day or two and the cough might stick around for a bit. Not the flu! The flu plays for keeps: aches, pains, fever, vomiting, all the fun stuff. This is a beast compared to a cold. If you’re suffering from the flu you’ll feel lethargic and you might have trouble moving. It’s super important to stay hydrated during this time, so if you can enlist support from friends or roommates to keep you drinking water or a sports drink to replenish your electrolytes, do it. Don’t feel bad asking for help. If they can help you, you can help them when they need it. There are over-the-counter medicines you can take for the flu too. They can help you from being completely miserable.

Strep Throat

This is a monster. If the cold is a kitten, the flu a grizzly bear, strep throat is a three-headed dragon who is hungry for lunch. I sadly suffered from strep throat in my first year of university. When it feels like fire is going down your throat every time you swallow, you know it’s bad. Strep throat is an infection and you definitely want to visit the doctor for this. Antibiotics are going to make your life so much easier. Because it’s pretty contagious it can be one of those rampant diseases that takes out an entire dorm. Take it from a survivor: don’t act tough! Just go to the doctor and get it dealt with. I’m a pretty anti-doctor person because I feel like I can just tough it out and I seriously do not recommend that approach for strep throat. I still have nightmares.

Prevention is Key

Now that you know what some of the more common ailments to strike the bodies of students everywhere are, you’ve got to work on prevention. By having some medicine on hand and treating your body right you can potentially avoid the worst of it. Here are some things to keep in mind:

  • Talk to your medical professional. If you feel like you might be getting sick, go to the clinic sooner rather than later! Your doctor might not prescribe any medicine, but they will give you tips on how to manage whatever it is your body is fighting. You can also get the flu shot to help prevent getting the flu.
  • Have some meds on hand. Check your medicine cabinet at home to get an idea of what to have on hand. Pain relievers (such as Advil® or Tylenol®), cold and flu medicine (like DayQuil™ or NyQuil™) will cover most of your bases. It wouldn’t hurt to have a thermometer on hand too so you can take your temperature when necessary.
  • Eat right. I was, and still am, very bad for this. Eating fruits and vegetables gives your body necessary vitamins and minerals that can help prevent colds and flus. Deep fried and convenience foods on a daily basis won’t give your body the nutrition it needs.
  • Take care of yourself. People tend to drop like flies around midterm and exam time. These are super stressful events and that stress can eat away at your body’s resilience to things like a cold. Sleep properly and take time to decompress and chill from studying at least an hour a day.

Last Reminders

Make sure you bring your health card with you to school. You’ll need to present your card to every doctor’s appointment. Without one, you may get charged for the appointment. Don’t worry if you’re from out of province. Most provincial health programs allow parents to continue coverage for their adult children when they’re out of province for school. Check in with your parents/guardians to find out what they have. If you don’t have medical or dental benefits through your parents, you should be covered by your school if you’re a full-time student. If you’re part-time, you can opt-in. Connect with your student union for more details. These benefits will help cover costs of some of your medications and possible treatments.

You’re armed and dangerous now! Go show that nasty cold who’s boss!

About “The Navigator”

“The Navigator” is a monthly blog about student life by the Campus Manitoba Virtual Help Desk. Check back monthly to find more tidbits of wisdom with “The Navigator”. You’ll be sure to find all kinds of information that will help you be successful in your educational journey. Don’t forget to follow us on Facebook and Twitter for more news and information!