Flu and COVID-19 FAQ's

During cold and flu seaseon, we can reduce the spread of colds, flu and other viruses on our campus if we get our flu shot and continue to follow many of the preventive measures that are already in place.

Updated March 2024

Since COVID-19 and Influenza are present within our community, it is extremely important to get a flu shot as soon as possible to help prevent a co-infection with both viruses. 

Below are some frequently asked questions that may address some of your concerns about flu, flu vaccine, colds, and COVID-19. 

Frequently Asked Questions about the Flu Vaccine

Does the University Health Center recommend getting the Flu Shot?

Yes. The University Health Center encourages students, faculty and staff to get the flu shot every year. Students and others with underlying medical conditions are also strongly advised  to get the flu vaccine.


How can I tell if I have the Flu vs. COVID-19?

Influenza (“the flu”) and COVID-19 are contagious respiratory illnesses that are caused by different viruses. However, because they can have similar varying degrees of signs and symptoms, ranging from no symptoms (asymptomatic) to severe symptoms, it can be difficult to distinguish them on the basis of symptoms alone. Common symptoms shared between COVID-19 and the flu include:

  • Fever or feeling feverish/having chills
  • Cough
  • Shortness of breath or difficulty breathing
  • Fatigue (tiredness)
  • Sore throat
  • Runny or stuffy nose
  • Muscle pain or body aches
  • Headache
  • Vomiting and diarrhea
  • Change in or loss of taste or smell, although this is more frequent with COVID-19

Typically, a person experiences flu symptoms anywhere from 1 to 4 days after infection; and a person experiences COVID-19 symptoms 2 to 14 days after infection. Cold symptoms (from other respiratory viruses) can also be similar, but are usually milder.

What should I do if I am experiencing symptoms?

Because it is hard to distinguish between the cold, the flu and COVID-19, anyone experiencing the symptoms listed above should take a COVID-19 test. Free self-test kits are available at the University Health Center. If you have questions about testing, you may also contact the HEAL line for advice. 

If you have COVID or the flu, and you have a fever (defined as a measured temperature of 100.4 degrees Fahrenheit or higher), you are advised to stay home from class or work until you have been fever free for 24 hours without fever-reducing medication (like Tylenol or Advil). You should also consider seeking medical care any time you feel unwell, and call the UHC with any questions or concerns. Please be sure to follow guidance to prevent spreading germs to others.  

Patients with underlying medical conditions please see your healthcare provider within 24-48 hours.

As always, if you are really feeling unwell, we advise you to stay home and seek medical care. 

When to Call 9-1-1 or Go to a Local Emergency Facility

If someone is showing any of these signs, call 911 or call ahead to your local emergency facility.

  • Difficulty breathing or shortness of breath
  • Persistent pain or pressure in the chest or abdomen
  • Persistent dizziness, confusion, inability to arouse
  • Seizures
  • Not urinating
  • Severe muscle pain
  • Severe weakness or unsteadiness
  • Fever or cough that improve but then return or worsen
  • Worsening of chronic medical conditions
  • Inability to wake or stay awake
  • Pale, gray, or blue-colored skin, lips, or nail beds, depending on skin tone

When should people get the Flu Shot?

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the best time to  get the flu shot is in September and October.  However as long as the flu is circulating, it’s beneficial to receive the flu shot through January or later. 


Where can I get a flu shot?

The University Health Center has the flu vaccine available beginning in late September.  There are also many locations in and around College Park where you can find the flu vaccine. The CDC has a flu vaccine finder on their website to help you find the most convenient location for you.



In addition to getting the flu shot, how else can a person prevent the flu?

The University Health Center encourages getting the flu vaccine in addition to maintaining good hygiene practices. These include frequent handwashing with soap and water for at least 20 seconds or using hand sanitizer, covering your mouth and nose when coughing or sneezing by using your elbow or tissue and properly disposing of used tissues, frequently cleaning high touch surfaces, getting 7-9 hours of sleep regularly, eating nutritious meals, staying hydrated, managing stress, avoiding close contact with others, and staying home when sick. Encouraging friends and family to also get the flu shot and follow these recommendations will help prevent the spread of the flu.

What should a person do if they get the Flu?

For most individuals, the flu can be treated at home with rest, monitoring temperature and taking fever reducers (such as Tylenol or Advil), preventing dehydration by drinking water, drinking clear liquids, treating your cough and sore throat using lozenges, honey, and decaffeinated tea or over the counter cold medications. However, it is important that those who are immune-suppressed seek medical care within the first 24-48 hours of symptom onset.  If the flu is diagnosed within 48 hours of the symptom onset, in some cases antiviral medications can be prescribed which may help shorten the duration of symptoms and lessen the chances of developing complications of the flu. Antibiotics will not treat the flu, since the flu is caused by the influenza virus, and antibiotics are used to treat bacterial infections. 


Will a COVID test or flu test be available to make the distinction for people who report symptoms?

The University Health Center can perform both a rapid influenza test and a rapid COVID antigen test, with results typically available in around 30-60 minutes.

How can I be excused from class?

Students who are sick and unable to attend class should follow the university’s Excused Absence Policy and communicate with their professors. Faculty should provide students who must be absent an opportunity to make up missed work, as they have always done, in ways that are appropriate to the delivery method, course materials, and course content. Employees should be in touch with their supervisors if they are unable to work due to illness.