Flu (short for influenza) is a viral infection of the nose, throat, bronchial tubes and lungs. 

Signs and symptoms

  • Rapid onset of symptoms
  • Fever (greater than 100.4° or 38° C)
  • Headache and/or body aches
  • Tiredness (can be extreme)
  • Cough
  • Sore throat
  • Runny or stuffy nose
  • Diarrhea and vomiting (more common among children than adults)

Acute symptoms usually last 3-5 days, although a cough may remain for up to three weeks.


Influenza is highly contagious and is easily transmitted through contact with droplets from the nose and throat of an infected person during coughing and sneezing. Flu may be transmitted one day before symptoms develop and up to five days after you get sick.

Risk Factors

Children ages 5 and younger are more likely to have health complications from the flu virus because their immune system isn’t fully developed. People over 65 years, pregnant women and people with weakened immune systems are also at higher risk. 

A weakened immune system is less able to fight off flu infection. Certain diseases that place people at high risk include: 

  • Asthma
  • Lung disease
  • Heart disease
  • Metabolic syndrome (high blood pressure, high blood sugar, obesity)
  • A weakened immune system due to diseases (like HIV or AIDS) or medications (like regular use of cancer treatments)


  • Treatment usually consists of resting, drinking fluids and taking over-the-counter medicine
  • For fever and pain, take Tylenol (acetaminophen), two 325 mg tablets every 4 hours for adults. *** (People under age 19 should not take aspirin due to the association with Reye's syndrome.)
  • Stay home until at least 24 hours after you no longer have a fever or signs of a fever (have chills, feel very warm, have a flushed appearance, or are sweating)
  • For cough relief, take Robitussin DM
  • For multiple symptoms, take NyQuil or DayQuil

When to seek care

Call for medical advice if you experience these complications:

  • Earache
  • Cough that is severe and persistent or produces bloody phlegm
  • Sore throat that lasts longer than 5 days
  • Difficulty breathing or shortness of breath
  • Confusion
  • Sudden dizziness
  • Severe or persistent vomiting


  • Wash hands
  • Get an annual flu vaccination
  • Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue or your sleeve (not your hand) when coughing or sneezing
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth
  • Avoid sharing eating utensils, drinking glasses, bottles, or things that are smoked, including e-cigarettes, cigarettes, and hookah
  • Get adequate sleep, eat healthy (especially fruits and vegetables), and exercise
  • Avoid close contact with other people who are sick, if possible
  • If you are sick, keep your distance from others and if possible, stay at home

Campus Resources

Nebraska Medicine University Health Center offers flu shots. They are free for current students and have a charge that can be submitted to private insurance for UNL faculty and staff. 

The Health Center offers health care services to help students feel and stay well. Appointments are required for all visits. To schedule, call 402.472.5000. Learn more about hours.