New Students

Illnesses can spread quickly in dorms and other living groups, but don’t panic. Here’s what you can do to stay healthy:

  • Clean your hands. Wash your hands frequently and thoroughly with soap and warm water, or use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer.
  • Don’t share towels. Use paper towels after washing your hands, or use a cloth towel that isn’t shared with anyone else.
  • Clean common surfaces. Use a standard household disinfectant, and wash your hands after cleaning the area.
  • Be helpful, but safe. Don’t be afraid to help out your roommate while he or she is ill. You can always offer to pick up some Kleenex or drop off a P-set, but try to avoid close contact with your sick roommate.
  • Remind sick roommates to keep their germs to themselves. It’s okay to remind a sick roommate (nicely, of course!) to cover coughs and sneezes and to clean his or her hands frequently (especially after coughing, sneezing, or tossing a used tissue in the trash).

Monitor yourself closely for the development of symptoms for seven days after contact with your sick roommate. If you develop a fever, cough, sore throat, or other symptoms of illness, call MIT Medical at 617-253-4481 to speak with a clinician and get advice about what to do next.

With the re-emergence of H1N1 influenza (“swine flu”) in the MIT community this fall, an increasing number of undergraduates will be faced with a roommate who is ill. Since MIT does not have space to provide alternate accommodations for sick students or their healthy roommates, and since illnesses can spread quickly in high-density areas such as dorms and other living groups, it’s especially important for residents to take special precautions to prevent the spread of flu.

But first of all, says MIT Medical Chief of Medicine Howard Heller, M.D., M.P.H., don’t panic. “Influenza is contagious,” he says, “but not everyone who has been exposed to the virus becomes ill, and having a sick roommate does not mean that you will get sick, too—especially if you take precautions now.”

Here’s what you can do to stay healthy:

  • Clean your hands. All persons sharing living quarters with someone who is ill, especially those who must come in close contact with the sick person, should clean their hands with soap and water or an alcohol-based hand rub frequently and after every contact with the sick person.

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  • Don’t share towels. Use paper towels to dry your hands after washing them, or use a cloth towel that isn’t shared with anyone else. If each person has a towel of a different color, you’re less likely to get mixed up.
  • Clean common surfaces. Influenza viruses, including the H1N1 virus, are spread mainly through uncovered coughs and sneezes. Respiratory droplets containing the virus can end up on doorknobs, keyboards, and other surfaces. A person may become sick through touching a contaminated surface, and then touching his or her eyes, mouth, or nose. Since the influenza virus can survive on environmental surfaces for two to eight hours, it’s a good idea to clean surfaces that you share with the sick person, such as door knobs, telephones, and bathroom surfaces. Use a standard household disinfectant. Wash your hands after cleaning the area.
  • Be helpful, but safe. Don’t be afraid to help out your roommate while he or she is ill. You can offer to pick up some Kleenex or drop off a P-set, but try to avoid close contact with your sick roommate. If you are washing used linens (such as bed sheets and towels) for the sick person, use household laundry soap and tumble dry on a hot setting. Avoid “hugging” laundry while carrying it to the washing machine to prevent self-contamination. Clean your hands with soap and water or alcohol-based hand rub right after handling dirty laundry. Dirty dishes and eating utensils should be washed in a dishwasher or by hand with warm water and soap.
  • Remind sick roommates to keep their germs to themselves. It’s okay to remind a sick roommate (nicely, of course!) to take steps to prevent spreading his or her illness to others. The sick person should remember to cover coughs and sneezes and to clean his or her hands frequently (especially after coughing, sneezing, or tossing a used tissue in the trash). The sick person should also wear a mask any time he or she might come into close contact (within six feet) of others or when using common areas, like the bathroom. If your sick roommate is not covering sneezes and coughs, you should consider wearing a mask when you are within close proximity.

Following these precautions will lessen your risk of becoming ill, but if you are sharing living quarters with a sick roommate, you should monitor yourself closely for the development of influenza-like symptoms for seven days after contact with the sick person. If you develop a fever, cough, or sore throat, call MIT Medical at 617-253-4481 to report your illness and get advice.
See also:
MIT Medical’s influenza information page
MIT Division of Student Life

The times we spend in our dorm rooms with our roommates always result in memories that make our college experiences unique. We love the lazy Saturday mornings rolling over to chat to each other from across the room, late night study sessions during midterm week and the built-in support system at our access 24/7.

One thing we don’t love, though, is when they get us sick.

There are a number of reasons as to why your roommate could end up sick, but that doesn’t mean you have to get sick too! Here are five tips that’ll help you stay well, even when your buddy isn’t.

1. Make sure your roommate visits the health center.

Although you may be completely certain that your roommate is sick, sometimes it’s hard to tell exactly how ill they are. Better yet, it could be impossible to tell what they’ve contracted. Therefore, it’s best that you get your roommate to visit an on-campus health center or a doctor’s office nearby. By doing this, your roommate will know how to treat their illness in a timely manner. The quicker they’re better, the less of a chance you have a of getting sick!

2. Ventilate the room.

Typically, dorm rooms are cramped, confined and warm, creating a concoction for disaster when that roommate of yours is sick. Germs spread at exponential rates, and living in a confined space with a person who is ill could make you more susceptible to that illness. That’s why it’s best to open your windows and leave your dorm room door open as much as possible. The extra ventilation will help circulate fresh air into your living space and lower your chances of getting sick.

3. Lysol is your best friend.

Once you have discovered that your roommate is sick, it’s best to disinfect your room. This should be done as soon as possible to hinder the spreading of germs and bacteria, as well as after your roommate has recovered to ensure that your living space is completely germ-free.

4. Help quicken their road to recovery.

Your chances of getting sick lower exponentially as your roommate starts feeling better and better. So, help them get there! If they need medicine, pick it up for them. If they need some cough drops or bowls of soup, make sure they have them. Not only is this proper roommate etiquette but will help further them down the road to recovery. If they’re not sick, you can’t catch anything either!

5. Give them some space.

Okay, so maybe you’ve aired out the room, bought two cans of Lysol and even dragged your roommate down to the health center yourself, only to find that they’re still sick. Although you may want to be there for your roommate when they’re unwell, you have to remember to prioritize your own health first. This might mean you need some time away from your roommate until they’re better. Consider doing homework in the lounge instead of your room and possibly even sleeping in another friend’s room for a night or two. Remember, it’s better for one person to be ill than two.

It’s hard to be away from home, especially when you’re really ill for the first time. With that said, the best thing you can do is to be there emotionally for your roommate, while also protecting yourself from their illness. If not, they’ll be better before you know it and you’ll be the one who’s ill!

Lead Image Credit: Kelly Sikkema via Unsplash

What to do if your roommate has Influenza (FLU)

Your roommate has been diagnosed with flu. What can you do to keep from getting sick yourself?

First, the symptoms of influenza are

  • Fever
  • Chills
  • Headache
  • Cough
  • Sore throat
  • Runny nose
  • Muscle/joint aches
  • Fatigue
  • Vomiting/diarrhea (sometimes)

Things that can help you stay well

  • Definitely useful
    • Stay away from your roommate as much as possible (but you may need to bring them food or class work).
    • Wash your hands frequently with soap and water, or use an alcohol-based hand cleaner, such as Purell.
    • Avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth.
  • Possibly useful
    • Wear a surgical mask while in your room or apartment (available at pharmacies or if you are a MSU student, at UHP Medical Services).
    • Use Lysol to disinfect any surfaces your roommate touches.

Preventive medications

  • It is not too late for the Flu Vaccine which is the BEST prevention method of influenza.
  • Taking Tamiflu prophylaxis may help prevent influenza if you are around others that are sick.
    • Dosing: One capsule once daily for 7-10 days for “close contacts” (ex. roommates, co-workers) of individuals with active symptoms.
  • Taking Tamiflu or Xofluza (pills) or Relenza (inhaled spray) may help prevent influenza if you have been exposed, but only if you have certain high risk conditions. (See High Risk Groups on the Flu Information page)
    • Dosing: One capsule twice daily if diagnosed with influenza within 48 hours or symptoms (may lessen severity of influenza symptoms and possibly decrease illness duration by 24 hours).
  • The Medications listed above
    • Must be taken for several days to prevent infection.
    • May help lessen severity of influenza symptoms and possibly decrease illness duration.
    • Cost $67 to $150.
    • Require a prescription.
    • Side effects include diarrhea, nausea, vomiting or dizziness, each less than 10% of the time.
  • If you are a MSU student and would like to take one of these medications, contact or visit UHP Medical Services (406-994-2311; see clinic hours here). If you are not a MSU student, contact your personal physician or an Urgent Care clinic.

Additional important points

  • Your roommate is no longer contagious when their fever has been gone (below 100°F or 38°C) for 24 hours, without the use of ibuprofen (e.g. Motrin, Advil), naproxen (e.g. Aleve) or acetaminophen (e.g. Tylenol).
  • If your roommate is getting sicker, encourage them to contact or return to UHP Medical Services, or go to an Urgent Care clinic or Bozeman Deaconess Hospital if after hours.
  • If you become ill with the symptoms described above and are a MSU student, call or visit the UHP Medical Services for recommendations. If you are not a MSU student, contact your personal physician or an Urgent Care clinic.

So… Your Roommate has Influenza (the Flu)

Your roommate has been diagnosed with flu. What can you do to keep from getting sick yourself?

  • Fever
  • Chills
  • Headache
  • Cough
  • Sore throat
  • Runny nose
  • Muscle/joint aches
  • Fatigue
  • Vomiting/diarrhea (sometimes)
  • Definitely useful:
    • Stay away from your roommate as much as possible (but you may need to bring them food or class work).
    • Wash your hands frequently with soap and water, or use an alcohol-based hand cleaner, such as Purell.
    • Avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth.
  • • Probably useful:

    • Wear a surgical mask while in your room or apartment (available at pharmacies).
    • Use Lysol to disinfect any surfaces your roommate touches.
  • It is not too late for the Flu Vaccine which is the BEST prevention method of influenza.
    • There is a limited supply of doses available at the Student Health Service for $20.00 per immunization.
  • Taking Prophylaxis may help prevent influenza if you are around others that are sick.
    • Dosing: One capsule once daily for 7-10 days for “close contacts” (ex. roommates, co-workers) of individuals with active symptoms.
  • Taking Tamiflu (pills) or Relenza (inhaled spray) may help prevent influenza if you have been exposed, but only if you have certain high risk conditions. (See High Risk Groups on the Flu Information page)
    • Dosing: One capsule twice daily if diagnosed with influenza within 48 hours of symptoms (may lessen severity of influenza symptoms and possibly decrease illness duration by 24 hours).
  • The Medications listed above:
    • Must be taken for 7-10 days to prevent infection.
    • May help lessen severity of influenza symptoms and possibly decrease illness duration.
    • Require a prescription.
    • Side effects include diarrhea, nausea, vomiting or dizziness, each less than 10% of the time.
  • Your roommate is no longer contagious when their fever has been gone (below 100°F or 38°C) for 24 hours, without the use of ibuprofen (e.g. Motrin, Advil), naproxen (e.g. Aleve) or acetaminophen (e.g. Tylenol).
  • If your roommate is getting sicker, encourage them to contact or return to the Student Health Service (406-265-3599) or go to the Emergency Room at Northern Montana Hospital.
  • If you become ill with the symptoms described above and are a MSU-N student, call or visit the Student Health Service for recommendations. If you are not a MSU-N student, contact your personal physician or a medical facility.

My Roommate Has the Flu! Now What?

It comes every year, whether you’re ready for it or not. It can pass uneventfully, or it can wreak havoc on your life. It’s invasive, it’s sneezy, and it’s no fun at all.

It’s flu season!

Maybe you’ve managed to avoid the flu so far. Lucky you! But what if your roommate has the flu? Check out a few tips on preventing the flu, even when you can’t avoid contact with someone who has it.

Is the Flu Contagious?

According to the CDC, flu cases spike from December to February. Think your roommate has the flu? According to the Mayo Clinic, these are the most common symptoms of the flu:

  • A fever of 100.4 (F) or higher
  • Fatigue and weakness
  • Nasal congestion
  • Body aches or headaches
  • Chills and/or sweats
  • Dry cough
  • Sore throat

If your roommate checks off several of those symptoms, they’ve likely contracted the flu. The CDC says that the flu is most contagious in the first 3-4 days that someone is infected, so now is the time to act if you’re going to keep the flu virus out of your system. Before you go to the extreme measure of evicting your roommate for excessive sneezing and sniffling, take a few preventative measures to stay healthy while they recuperate.

How to Avoid the Flu When Your Roommate Is Sick

You may not be able to avoid your roommate (unless you pack up and leave for a week), but you can avoid getting the flu. Here’s how:

  • Get your flu vaccine. Flu vaccinations change from year to year to combat the virus most effectively. So, even if you had a vaccine last year, it’s a good idea to get a flu shot. Many walk-in clinics and pharmacies offer flu shots for cheap or even free.
  • Wash your hands. Even though it seems obvious, it’s crucial when your roommate has the flu. Every surface your roommate touches could spread the virus, and since you live with them, you’re likely touching those same surfaces.
  • Clean and disinfect your apartment. How long does the flu virus live on surfaces? The short answer: long enough to infect you. The flu virus can survive anywhere from 8-48 hours on various apartment surfaces, from couch pillows to kitchen countertops. Once you’ve determined your roommate has the flu, keep your apartment germ-free with some extra cleaning efforts for the next several days. Additionally, avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth—doing so provides easy access to nasty flu germs.

My Roommate Is Sick All the Time. What Do I Do?

Sick of getting sick from your roommate’s ever-revolving door of illnesses? Maybe it’s time for a place that’s all your own. ApartmentSearch can help you find the perfect one-bedroom apartment, where the only germs you need to worry about are your own!

Roommate has the flu

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