Common College Illnesses


Dec 7, 2017


College campuses are known for many things. Unfortunately, the presence of various illnesses and highly contagious diseases is one of them. There are a variety of causes at play – college students often deal with high stress, irregular sleeping patterns, poor diets and may not be accustomed to taking care of themselves. Regardless of the cause, students and parents should be aware of these common illnesses that plague college campuses so they can take necessary preventative measures where possible.

Upper Respiratory Infection

Also known as the common cold, upper respiratory infections are extremely common in just about any location where many people congregate. Students spend their days close to one another, often sharing books, door handles, desks and so on. Couple that with the ease with which sickness is spread, and it’s no wonder college campuses are breeding grounds for bacteria that cause the common cold.

There’s not much one can do to stave off getting a cold, other than try to stay away from those who have one. But for students who do catch a cold this season, drink lots of fluids, rest and take over-the-counter fever-reducers and nasal decongestants until it runs its course.


Freshmen seem to be affected by meningitis more than any other students or age groups, primarily because bacterial meningitis affects young adults the most and because of the proximity of dorm life.1 The illness can be both bacterial and viral, with bacterial meningitis being the most dangerous.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends preteens receive their meningitis vaccinations at age 11 or 12 and then receive a booster at age 16. Incoming students who’ve never been vaccinated can still get their vaccinations – it’s recommended young adults 19 to 24 do so more than others. Some colleges may require students to be vaccinated for bacterial meningitis.


More commonly known as the stomach flu, gastroenteritis typically includes symptoms such as vomiting, diarrhea, nausea, stomach cramps and a low-grade fever. Gastroenteritis is often spread through contaminated food and drink. Though college-aged people are least likely to deal with serious complications from the stomach flu, the illness can still be worrisome, especially for those who may already be sick or have an otherwise compromised immune system.

The virus can only be spread through ingestion, so the best way to prevent gastroenteritis is simply washing your hands often – especially before you eat. Treatments include drinking clear liquids, eating foods like crackers and taking over-the-counter medicines.


Like the common cold, influenza, commonly referred to as the flu, often strikes schools during the winter en masse. It’s spread very easily, either by simply talking, shaking hands or being near someone who is coughing or sneezing. The CDC reports the flu virus can spread through the air for up to six feet.2 The proximity of dorm and lecture hall life makes college campuses a spawning ground for the influenza virus.

If you’re a parent, the best thing you can do is get your college student a seasonal flu shot right around when the new school year begins or any time during flu season. Since that age group isn’t a high-risk group, they will likely only need one vaccine.

Athlete’s Foot

Tinea pedis, better known as athlete’s foot, thrives in dark, damp places, such as dormitory communal showers. It’s recommended students who live in dorms always wear some sort of shower shoe to protect themselves from the itchy fungal infection. Also, do not share shoes and change your socks often. Athlete’s foot isn’t serious, but it can be a significant annoyance. It’s often treated with over-the-counter or sometimes prescription ointments.

Human Papillomavirus (HPV)

It’s estimated that four out of five adults will have human papillomavirus (HPV) at some point.3 Couple that with the fact that HPV most commonly affects adults under the age of 24, and it’s no surprise HPV is a recurrent issue on college campuses. Though most people won’t show symptoms and HPV will often go away on its own, it’s smart for students to receive the HPV vaccine to prevent any potential complications and to prevent the spread of HPV. Women can receive the HPV vaccine up to the age of 26, while men can up to the age of 21.

Get Professional Health Care at Complete Care ER and Urgent Care Locations

Although most of the above-listed illnesses are common, preventable and treatable with home remedies, there may be times when something becomes more serious. In those unfortunate circumstances, the compassionate health care providers at Complete Care can get you or your Texas or Colorado Springs area college student back up and running to class.

At Complete Care, we provide urgent care, family practice, hospital services and so much more across seven locations throughout Texas and Colorado Springs. Visit our Services page to find out how we can help you today!