A Student's Guide to 10 Common College Illnesses: Symptoms, Prevention & Management

Posted on May 2nd, 2024

Your college years are a time of growth, learning, and exploration. 

However, amidst the excitement and new experiences, it's essential to be mindful of your health. 

Understanding common college illnesses is crucial for maintaining your well-being and academic success. 

From the typical stressors of academic life to communal living arrangements and bustling social environments, college campuses can be breeding grounds for various health challenges. 

By familiarizing yourself with the symptoms, prevention strategies, and management techniques associated with common college illnesses, you can better protect yourself and make informed decisions about your health. 

In this blog post, we'll explore ten prevalent common college illnesses, providing valuable insights into their symptoms, prevention methods, and effective management approaches. 

Whether you're a freshman navigating your first semester or a seasoned senior preparing for graduation, arming yourself with knowledge about common college illnesses is a proactive step towards staying healthy and thriving throughout your academic journey.

College Behaviors & Health

Navigating college life is an exhilarating journey filled with new experiences, academic challenges, and personal growth. However, the transition to college also brings about changes in lifestyle and behaviors that can impact students' health and well-being. 

These are some of the college behaviors that play a significant role in shaping students' overall health:

  • Irregular Sleep Patterns: College students often face irregular sleep patterns due to late-night study sessions, social activities, and extracurricular commitments. This lack of consistent sleep can disrupt the body's natural circadian rhythm, leading to fatigue, decreased cognitive function, and weakened immune response.
  • Poor Dietary Habits: Many college students struggle with maintaining healthy eating habits amidst busy schedules and limited dining options. Fast food, processed snacks, and irregular meal times can contribute to nutrient deficiencies, weight gain, and digestive issues.
  • High Stress Levels: Academic pressures, financial worries, and social expectations can contribute to high stress levels among college students. Chronic stress can negatively impact mental health, leading to anxiety, depression, and difficulty coping with daily challenges.
  • Increased Alcohol Consumption: Alcohol is often a central aspect of social life on college campuses, leading to increased consumption among students. Excessive alcohol intake can impair judgment, increase the risk of accidents, and contribute to long-term health problems.

Now that we've explored the typical behaviors and health challenges associated with college life, let's delve into ten common college illnesses. These illnesses encompass a range of physical and mental health conditions that students may encounter during their academic journey. Understanding the symptoms, prevention strategies, and management techniques for these illnesses is essential for maintaining optimal health and well-being throughout college.

10 Common College Illnesses You Should Be Aware Of

College life is a dynamic and transformative experience, but it also presents unique health challenges that students must navigate. From communal living arrangements to hectic schedules and exposure to new environments, college campuses can be breeding grounds for various illnesses. In this section, we'll explore ten common college illnesses that students should be aware of, along with their symptoms, prevention strategies, and management techniques.

1. Common Cold

The common cold is a viral infection that affects the upper respiratory tract, causing symptoms such as congestion, sore throat, coughing, and fatigue.

  • Congestion
  • Sore throat
  • Coughing
  • Fatigue


Wash hands frequently

Avoid close contact with sick individuals

Practice good respiratory hygiene

Boost immune system with proper nutrition and sleep

Management & Treatment
  • Rest and hydration
  • Over-the-counter cold medications
  • Gargling with salt water
  • Use of nasal decongestants if necessary

2. Influenza (Flu)/COVID (COVID-19)

Influenza, or flu, and COVID are contagious respiratory illnesses caused by influenza viruses and SARS-CoV-2, with symptoms ranging from fever and chills to body aches, cough, and fatigue.

  • Fever
  • Chills
  • Body aches
  • Cough
  • Fatigue
  • Breathing problems

  • Annual flu vaccination
  • Annual COVID vaccination
  • Hand hygiene
  • Avoiding close contact with sick individuals
  • Boosting immune system with healthy habits

Management & Treatment
  • Antiviral medications (if prescribed)
  • Rest and hydration
  • Over-the-counter pain relievers

3. Mononucleosis (Mono)

Mononucleosis, commonly known as mono or the "kissing disease," is a viral infection caused by the Epstein-Barr virus. It often spreads through saliva, leading to symptoms such as extreme fatigue, sore throat, swollen lymph nodes, and fever.

  • Extreme fatigue
  • Sore throat
  • Swollen lymph nodes
  • Fever
  • Body aches

  • Avoid sharing utensils, drinks, or personal items
  • Practice good hygiene
  • Limit close contact with infected individuals

Management & Treatment
  • Rest and hydration
  • Over-the-counter pain relievers
  • Avoiding strenuous activities
  • Monitoring for complications like enlarged spleen

4. Gastrointestinal Infections

Gastrointestinal infections, including viral and bacterial gastroenteritis, are common among college students due to shared living spaces and dining facilities. Symptoms may include diarrhea, nausea, vomiting, abdominal cramps, and fever.

  • Diarrhea
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Abdominal cramps
  • Fever

  • Hand hygiene, especially before eating
  • Avoiding contaminated food and water
  • Proper food storage and preparation
  • Disinfecting shared surfaces regularly

Management & Treatment
  • Fluid replacement to prevent dehydration
  • BRAT diet (bananas, rice, applesauce, toast)
  • Over-the-counter anti-diarrheal medications
  • Rest and avoiding spicy or greasy foods

5. Stress and Anxiety Disorders

Stress and anxiety disorders are prevalent among college students due to academic pressures, social challenges, and lifestyle changes. Symptoms can vary widely but may include persistent worry, irritability, difficulty concentrating, muscle tension, and sleep disturbances.

  • Persistent worry
  • Irritability
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Muscle tension
  • Sleep disturbances

  • Time management and prioritization
  • Healthy coping mechanisms like exercise and relaxation techniques
  • Seeking social support
  • Limiting caffeine and alcohol intake

Management & Treatment
  • Counseling or therapy
  • Stress management techniques
  • Medication for severe cases
  • Lifestyle changes to reduce stressors

6. Substance Abuse and Addiction

Substance abuse, including alcohol and drug misuse, is a significant concern on college campuses. Excessive alcohol consumption, recreational drug use, and misuse of prescription medications can lead to addiction, impaired judgment, accidents, and long-term health consequences.

  • Increased tolerance
  • Withdrawal symptoms
  • Neglecting responsibilities
  • Legal or financial problems
  • Continued use despite negative consequences

  • Education on the risks of substance abuse
  • Setting limits on alcohol consumption
  • Avoiding peer pressure
  • Seeking help for mental health issues

Management & Treatment
  • Counseling or therapy
  • Support groups like Alcoholics Anonymous
  • Medication-assisted treatment
  • Lifestyle changes and coping strategies

7. Foodborne Illnesses

Foodborne illnesses are caused by consuming contaminated food or beverages contaminated with bacteria, viruses, parasites, or toxins. Common pathogens include Salmonella, E. coli, norovirus, and Listeria. Symptoms can include nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, abdominal pain, fever, and dehydration.

  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Abdominal pain
  • Fever
  • Dehydration

  • Proper food handling and storage
  • Thorough cooking of meats and eggs
  • Washing fruits and vegetables
  • Avoiding cross-contamination
  • Using clean utensils and surfaces

Management & Treatment
  • Hydration
  • Resting the stomach (BRAT diet: bananas, rice, applesauce, toast)
  • Over-the-counter medications for nausea and diarrhea
  • Seeking medical attention if symptoms persist or worsen

8. Sexually Transmitted Infections (STIs)

Sexually transmitted infections (STIs) are infections transmitted through sexual contact. Common STIs among college students include chlamydia, gonorrhea, genital herpes, and human papillomavirus (HPV). Symptoms can vary depending on the type of infection but may include genital sores, pain during urination, abnormal discharge, and itching.

  • Genital sores
  • Pain during urination
  • Abnormal discharge
  • Itching or irritation
  • Pain during intercourse
  • Swollen lymph nodes

  • Practicing safe sex with condoms
  • Limiting sexual partners
  • Getting tested regularly for STIs
  • Communicating openly with sexual partners about STI status

Management & Treatment
  • Antibiotic or antiviral medications
  • Partner notification and treatment
  • Regular STI screening
  • Education on safe sex practices

9. Mental Health Disorders

Mental health disorders, including depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder, and eating disorders, can significantly impact college students' well-being and academic performance. Symptoms can vary widely but may include persistent sadness, changes in appetite, mood swings, and suicidal thoughts.

  • Persistent sadness or hopelessness
  • Changes in appetite or weight
  • Loss of interest in activities
  • Fatigue or low energy
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Suicidal thoughts or behaviors

  • Prioritizing self-care and stress management
  • Seeking counseling or therapy
  • Building a support network
  • Educating oneself about mental health

Management & Treatment
  • Therapy or counseling
  • Medication
  • Lifestyle changes
  • Support groups or peer counseling

10. Sleep Disorders

Sleep disorders, such as insomnia, sleep apnea, and restless leg syndrome, are common among college students due to irregular schedules, stress, and lifestyle factors. Symptoms can include difficulty falling asleep, waking frequently during the night, excessive daytime sleepiness, and irritability.

  • Difficulty falling asleep
  • Waking frequently during the night
  • Excessive daytime sleepiness
  • Irritability or mood changes
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Impaired performance or function

  • Establishing a regular sleep schedule
  • Creating a conducive sleep environment
  • Limiting caffeine and electronic devices before bedtime
  • Managing stress and anxiety

Management & Treatment
  • Cognitive-behavioral therapy for insomnia (CBT-I)
  • Medications (for severe cases)
  • Lifestyle changes
  • Sleep hygiene practices

The Benefits of Telehealth for College Students

In today's fast-paced world, convenience is key, especially for busy college students juggling classes, extracurricular activities, and social engagements. Unfortunately, this often means that students neglect their health due to the inconvenience of scheduling and attending in-person medical appointments. However, telehealth services offer a solution to this common issue by providing convenient access to healthcare from the comfort of one's dorm room or apartment.


Telehealth eliminates the need to travel to a physical clinic, making healthcare more accessible to students, particularly those living in rural areas or without reliable transportation.


With telehealth, students can schedule appointments that fit into their busy schedules, reducing the need to miss classes or other commitments for medical visits.


Telehealth services often have lower costs compared to in-person appointments, making healthcare more affordable for students, especially those without insurance coverage.


Students may feel more comfortable discussing sensitive health issues from the privacy of their own space, enhancing confidentiality and promoting open communication with healthcare providers.

Continuity of Care

Telehealth allows students to maintain consistent communication with their healthcare providers, ensuring continuity of care even when they are away from home during breaks or vacations.

Mental Health Support

Telehealth platforms offer access to mental health professionals, providing students with convenient options for addressing stress, anxiety, depression, and other mental health concerns.

Prescription Refills

Through telehealth services, students can easily request prescription refills and medication management, ensuring they have access to necessary medications without interruption.

Health Education

Telehealth appointments can include educational components, empowering students with knowledge and resources to make informed decisions about their health and wellness.

Time Savings

By eliminating travel time and wait times typically associated with in-person appointments, telehealth saves students valuable time, allowing them to focus on their academic and personal pursuits.

Technology Integration

As digital natives, college students are comfortable with technology, making telehealth a natural fit for their healthcare needs. The integration of technology enhances engagement and facilitates communication between students and healthcare providers.


What is Frat Flu?

"Frat Flu" is a colloquial term used to describe the combination of symptoms, including fatigue, sore throat, and congestion, often experienced by college students during or after fraternity or sorority events.

Are There Any Specific Vaccinations or Preventative Measures Recommended for College Students?

College students should ensure they are up to date on routine vaccinations, including those for influenza, meningitis, and human papillomavirus (HPV). Additionally, practicing safe behaviors such as using condoms to prevent sexually transmitted infections (STIs) and avoiding sharing personal items like drinks or utensils can help reduce the risk of illness

What Should I Do if I Start Experiencing Symptoms of Illness While Away at College?

If you start experiencing symptoms of illness while away at college, it's important to rest, stay hydrated, and seek medical advice if symptoms worsen or persist. Consider utilizing telehealth services for convenient access to medical care without leaving your campus.

Related: Healthcare at Your Fingertips: Exploring the Advantages of Telehealth

Wrapping Up

Understanding common college illnesses and how to manage them is crucial for students' well-being. 

At MD Jarmon, PC, we're dedicated to providing telehealth services that cater to the unique needs of college students. From urgent care to weight management and male enhancement services, we offer comprehensive healthcare solutions accessible from the comfort of your dorm room or apartment.

Don't let illness derail your academic journey. Get in Touch Now!

Contact us today at [email protected] to learn more about our telehealth services and how we can support your health and wellness needs. Take control of your health and thrive in your college experience with MD Jarmon, PC.

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