“I never get sick… I do not need the flu shot”

Are these your thoughts when asked if you will get the flu shot this year?

Everyone’s immune system works differently so some people get sick more often than others. Just because you “never” get sick does not mean you are invincible from getting the flu. Influenza is spread by respiratory droplets (from sneezing, coughing, or even just talking) which can directly or indirectly be spread from person to person. If an infected person sneezes and then touches a door handle, you are at risk of getting infected just from touching that same door handle. All it takes is one infected individual on campus to be able to spread it to many, many others.


Why should you get vaccinated against the flu?

Influenza is a potentially serious disease that can lead to hospitalization and sometimes death. Each flu season is different, and influenza can affect people differently, but millions of people get the flu every year. Of those millions, hundreds of thousands of people are hospitalized and thousands or tens of thousands of people die from flu-related causes every year. An annual influenza vaccine is the best way to help protect yourself and others against the flu. Vaccination has been shown to have many benefits including reducing the risk of flu illnesses, hospitalizations and even the risk of flu-related death in children.


How do flu vaccines work?

The flu vaccine contains dead strains of the influenza virus. When vaccinated, these injected dead viruses cause antibodies to develop in the body about two weeks after vaccination. These antibodies provide protection against infection with the viruses that are in the vaccine. Therefore, if you are exposed to the flu later in the season, your immune system will be ready to defend you from getting infected with the virus. A lot of people claim that they get sick right after receiving the vaccine. It is scientifically impossible to get the flu from the vaccine since dead viruses are injected and it takes two weeks for your body to develop antibodies. The reason some people may feel flu-like symptoms after getting the vaccine is because your body’s immune system is triggered when injected with the vaccine but that is a risk with any vaccine you receive.


Who should get vaccinated this season?

Every person over the age of 6 months old should get a flu vaccine every season. The reason you need to get a vaccine every year is because each year, the strains of viruses are a little bit different. Therefore, a new vaccine is created each year to protect you against the projected strains of influenza for that given year.


 When should you get vaccinated?

You should receive your flu vaccine before the flu begins spreading in your community since it takes two weeks for your body to develop the antibodies necessary to protect you. The CDC recommends that people get a flu vaccine by the end of October each year.


Where can you go to get vaccinated?

You can get your flu shot conveniently right on campus at the student health center! Flu shots are available at the pharmacy located on the ground floor. In addition, you can get your flu shot at your doctor’s office, clinics, health department, or at any retail pharmacy.


Lindsay M. Ecclestone, PharmD Candidate 






Stomach Flu – What to Do?

If you have the stomach flu (not really the flu, by the way), which means you have been experiencing nausea and potentially vomiting, no matter how hungry you might be, do not try to eat or drink anything for at least 60 (sixty) minutes after vomiting.  You need to start small and slow.  Try small sips of water or ice chips.  Limit yourself to just 1 (one) teaspoon every 3 (three) minutes until you have consumed about 1/2 (one-half) a cup of water.  Then wait 15 (fifteen) minutes before trying more fluids.  If your nausea has not increased and you do not vomit, you can then try other “clear” liquids.  Clear as in you can see through them.  This would include:

  • water
  • fruit juices that do not contain pulp and are transparent such as grape juice, apple juice, and cranberry juice
  • Kool-aid
  • Tea – sugar or honey can be added, but no milk
  • broth, but nothing solid
  • sports drinks
  • Popsicles, Jell-O and clear hard candy can also be tried

This DOES NOT include:

  • milk products
  • juices that are acidic or contain pulp such as orange juice, pineapple juice, tomato juis and all fruit nectors
  • alcohol (that includes beer and wine)
  • coffee

After 3 (three) to 4 (four) hours, if your nausea had diminished and you have not vomited, you can then try eating some dry foods.  Again, start small and slow and think bland or boring.  Saltines (soda crackers), pretzels, and dry plain toast are good options.

After another 3 (three) to 4 (four) hours with no vomiting or worsening of your nausea you can advance to more substantial food, but again small and slow and boring.  Try some soup with rice or noodles, plain rice, baked potato (no toppings), or bread products (no toppings).

If it has been 24 hours with no incidence of nausea or vomiting you can then progress to a more substantial bland diet and include items such as skinless chicken breast, banana, or applesauce.  Best to avoid fatty, greasy, and spicy foods, as well as milk products.  Give it a day or two for your stomach to recover before resuming your regular diet.

If you find that your nausea and vomiting is not going away and it has been more than 24 (twenty-four) hours since it’s onslaught , schedule an appointment with your doctor.

Maribeth Mulholland M.D.

Wash those germs right off of your hands!

Have you ever considered the door knobs/handles in your dorm?  Think about it for a minute.  How many people live in your dorm?  All of those people are going in and out of the dorm, perhaps multiple times each day and every time they do they are touching those knobs/handles.  And then you come along and you touch that knob/handle.  You have just exposed yourself to the germs that were on the hands of everyone else who used that knob/handle – YUCK!

Now consider the door knobs/handles of your classrooms and buildings.  How many people are taking classes in those buildings?  Again, every time you touch that knob/handle you are exposing yourself to the germs that were on the hands of everyone else who used that knob/handle – again YUCK!

Is it any wonder that college students get sick?!!  The most effective thing you can do to avoid getting sick, according to the CDC, is to wash your hands.  Frequent washing will help to limit the transfer of bacteria, viruses, and other microbes. 

What is the right way to wash your hands?

  • Wet your hands with clean running water (warm or cold) and apply soap.
  • Rub your hands together to make a lather and scrub them well; be sure to scrub the backs of your hands, between your fingers, and under your nails.
  • Continue rubbing your hands for at least 20 seconds. Need a timer? Hum the “Happy Birthday” song from beginning to end twice.
  • Rinse your hands well under running water.
  • Dry your hands using a clean towel or air dry.

Don’t underestimate the power of hand washing! The few seconds you spend at the sink could save you trips to Student Health Services.

Submitted by Tina Comston, M.Ed.

Medical Mythbusters – Can you catch the flu from the flu vaccine?

Q: I’ve heard that you the flu shot can give you the flu.  Is that true?

A: Definitely not! This is one of the most pervasive and frustrating medical myths out there. The flu shot contains only dead virus so there is no way it can infect you.

It is possible that the shot can induce an immune response that gives you flu-like symptoms such as muscle aches or a low grade fever, but nothing compared to getting the actual flu.  If you do get the flu after a flu shot, it is likely that you were exposed to the flu or another illness before getting the shot, since it takes about 2 weeks after your shot for full immunity to develop. The flu vaccine doesn’t guarantee 100% protection; it is always possible to catch a strain of the flu not included in the vaccine.

Certain people who are at especially high risk of complications from the flu definitely need to get vaccinated every year, but the flu shot is available to anyone who wants to avoid getting the flu.

You can find information on getting the flu vaccine at OSU Student Health Services here.  

Angela Walker, Med IV (Ohio State College of Medicine)

John A. Vaughn, MD (Ohio State Student Health Services)

Reviewed by Tina Comston, M.Ed. (Ohio State Student Health Services)

Remembering the Pandemic Flu

photo: ehow.com


Get your vaccination

It was this time two years ago that we were bracing for the return of pandemic influenza to campus.  We had already dealt with cases in the spring.  Were we in for a “second wave”?  Everyone was asking:

  • “When are we getting the pandemic flu vaccine, and who should get it?”
  • “Should people get their ‘regular’ flu shot?”
  • “How disruptive would this be to classes, student activities, afternoons at the Shoe?”

We have since learned that we need to stay vigilant about influenza. Not just new strains, but even the seasonal flu, which causes:

  • more than 36,000 deaths every flu season, mostly in infants and the elderly
  • nearly a quarter of a million hospitalizations every year
  • millions of missed days at work or school

Influenza continues to plague us in an era when vaccinations have led to declines in many of the most deadly diseases in history.  Why?  Because influenza virus changes rapidly and often.  Many years we are challenged by new strains or ones we haven’t seen in a while so sometimes our flu season is worse than other years and this effects the strength of our seasonal vaccine.

So, what should you do about the flu???

  • Wash your hands
  • Get a flu vaccine once every fall
  • Avoid exposure to ill persons and avoid sharing your illness if you get sick
  • Maintain a good immune system by good diet and exercise
  • Wash your hands

Oh, did I say wash your hands twice?  Well, for good measure, once you are done surfing our blog on your laptop that two of your roommates borrowed when you were out, and is now sitting on your lap in a local coffee house, where your hands have come in contact with dozens of surfaces that can harbor virus particles, why don’t you go wash them a third time??!!!

Flu shots are available at Student Health now, and are just as effective early as they are late in protecting you this winter.  The price is reasonable, and the process is easy.  Watch our calendar for our big walk-in events, get a shot while you pick up medicines in our pharmacy, or call 614-292-4321 and schedule an appointment. 

Welcome back, and have a healthy year!

Roger Miller, MD
Student Health Services
The Ohio State University

I’ve never had this many colds. Is something wrong with me?


The Columbus Dispatch ran a special health section about colds and flu this weekend which included a number of fairly well-done pieces. I found a few informative bits myself, and am going to use this quote from local primary care provider Donna Donati, MD: “Colds spend four days coming, four days here, and four days going.” For those of you keeping score, that’s 12 days. I’d add a few days at the end, actually, for nasal congestion and cough to resolve completely.

It’s pretty typical for the average adult to have five or six colds through the course of cold and flu season, which, if you’re keeping score, means SIXTY-plus days of viral misery. In other words, two-plus months of snot does not necessarily mean you’re dying or have a “weak immune system” (a common complaint). It means you’re normal.

For more great information from the Dispatch on how to handle cold and flu season:

This year’s flu vaccine

How to wash your hands

Sick at work? Health experts say ‘Go home’.

Vitamins? Zinc? Soup? Everyone has a ‘cure’.

Fighting patients’ pleas for antibiotics

Your head says cold but your body says influenza

Can you jog when your nose runs?

Victoria Rentel, MD
Student Health Services
The Ohio State University

How well does the flu shot work?

Q: BuckMD, can you share some information of flu vaccine efficacy?

A: Thanks for your question.  Vaccine efficacy is measured in a number of ways. Depending on the organism, sometimes we can measure antibody or other immune response markers in the blood of vaccinated vs. unvaccinated people.  Sometimes, we compare clinical outcomes, such as death or hospitalization rates, or missed work or school days, in the two populations. 

With flu vaccine, most experts look at the level of a particular antibody (hemagglutination inhibition antibody, or HI) to say whether the vaccine gives enough response to protect a person against getting the flu.  Most of this year’s flu vaccines produce a protective level of these antibodies in 90% or more of human test subjects. 

However, this percentage is inflated somewhat due to pre-existing immunity.  If I get vaccinated against a particular strain this year, and it happens that I also was vaccinated against that strain 3 years ago, then I might have a higher antibody level than if not previously vaccinated. 

Looking more at how many people get sick as a measure of efficacy, the vaccines protect about 60-70% of those immunized. (Am. J. Epidemiol. (2008) 168 (12): 1343-1352. doi: 10.1093/aje/kwn259 First published online: October 29, 2008, accessed 11/2/10) These studies are much more difficult to perform. 

For more details, take a look at each vaccine’s package insert information at the FDA website:


For an intricate discussion of viruses, read:

Mandell: Mandell, Douglas, and Bennett’s Principles and Practice of Infectious Diseases, 7th ed., 2009.


Virology, in Microbiology and Immunology Online, University of South Carolina, 2009, http://pathmicro.med.sc.edu/mhunt/flu.htm, accessed 11/2/10.

Roger Miller, MD, OSU Student Health Services


Posted in flu

Important FLU guidance from national organizations

 The snow is melting, finals are approaching, and then:   SPRING BREAK!!!

As you make your spring break plans, whether they involve a sunny beach or a ski slope, or perhaps just a restful time at home or with friends, BuckMD wants you to be safe and healthy.  The American College Health Association and the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention also want to remind you of the risk for H1N1 influenza.  Even though the number of cases is much less than in the spring and fall of 2009, there can still be exposures with travel and large grouping of people.  Please read this important joint statement for more information.

If you haven’t been vaccinated against H1N1 flu, it is not too late!  Vaccine is still available at Student Health, at many doctors’ offices around the community, and at through Columbus Public Health.  If you have questions, please call Student Health Services at 293-4321, or email us at: buckmd@studentlife.osu.edu

Roger Miller, MD for BuckMD

National Influenza Vaccination Week

In recognition of the conclusion of National Influenza Vaccination Week, BuckMD would like to remind all Buckeyes of the importance of preventive measures to reduce your risk of the flu and other infectious diseases.

CDC and Aetna Communications bring us “Smart Tips from Some Germ Experts”.  These kids really know their stuff!  Good tips for us to keep in mind, even after H1N1 is a distant memory.


 For more information, visit the CDC’s Immunization Action Coalition

Roger Miller MD, for BuckMD



Making the flu beautiful!

The Visual Miscellaneum

I recently stumbled across a blog called Information Is Beautiful.  It is written by a London (England, not Ohio unfortunately)-based “independent visual & data journalist” named David McCandless.  In his own words: A passion of mine is for visualizing information – facts, data, ideas, subjects, issues, statistics, questions – all with the minimum of words.  I’m interested in how designed information can help us understand the world, cut through BS and reveal hidden connections, patterns and stories underneath. Or, failing that, it can just look cool!

The reason I’m mentioning all of this on a health blog is that he has created a very cool and informative article about the H1N1 vaccine that presents the information in a visualized format.  I encourage you all to check it out – especially those of you who are more “visual” learners – and let me know what you think.  With all of the amazing resources on our campus, couldn’t we develop similar alternative information delivery systems here at Ohio State?

John A. Vaughn, MD (Ohio State Student Health Services)