Self-care Tips for Common Conditions

Minor illnesses and injuries are part of life, and your college experience is no different. Bucknell Student Health offers the following tips for students feeling under the weather or otherwise unwell.

If you'd like to be seen by Student Health, call 570-577-1401 to make an appointment. In an emergency, dial 911, or contact Bucknell Public Safety at 570-577-1111 to arrange transportation to an emergency room.

Cold and Flu

Common colds and influenza (flu) are caused by viruses and are not treated with antibiotics.

The best treatment for the flu is prevention by getting a flu vaccine every year. Medicine may help lessen flu duration or severity if diagnosed within 48 hours of symptom onset.

Treat common cold symptoms by:

  • Getting plenty of rest.
  • Drinking plenty of fluids.
  • Using a cool mist humidifier in a dry room.
  • Using over-the-counter medicines as per instructions, such as:
    • Acetaminophen for aches/fever.
    • Phenylephrine or saline nasal spray for congestion.
    • Cough drops or lozenges.

Note: See a health care provider for ear pain, fever over 100 degrees for two days or more, painful swelling in neck glands, pain/pressure around eyes or any difficulty breathing.

Gastrointestinal Illness (Nausea, Vomiting and/or Diarrhea)

  • Stop eating solid food but continue to take sips of clear liquids. Begin slowly increasing the number of sips slightly every 15 minutes. If vomiting or diarrhea resumes, wait 30 minutes and begin again from the beginning sips.
  • If you tolerate increasing amounts of clear liquids without vomiting/diarrhea for four hours, try small amounts of simple, bland foods such as bananas, rice, applesauce, toast or crackers. Avoid dairy, spicy foods and citrus. Advance slowly to your regular diet over the next 24 hours.
  • You may try Pepto Bismol as per package directions for diarrhea.
  • See a health care provider for vomiting/diarrhea lasting more than 48 hours, significant abdominal or back pain, if you notice blood or dark colors in your stool or vomit, or if you have signs of dehydration.
  • Signs of dehydration:
    • Urinating less frequently or in low quantity, or dark yellow urine.
    • Headache with possible feelings of "fuzziness."
    • Dry mouth.
    • Muscle cramps.
    • Thirst.
    • Weakness.
    • Lack of tears.

Sore Throat

  • Use ibuprofen or acetaminophen as directed on the package to reduce fever and/or pain. Do not use aspirin.
  • Drink plenty of liquids to maintain hydration, keep the fever down and thin mucus.
  • Gargle with a warm salt-water mix (1/4 tsp. salt in 8 oz. warm water) every two hours as needed to soothe throat and wash drainage from throat.
  • Try ice chips, popsicles or sipping warm tea or soup depending on your preference.

Note: If your sore throat is accompanied by one or more of the following, you should see a health care provider: significant pain, sudden onset, fever of 100+ degrees, general feeling of illness or generalized body rash.

Cuts and Abrasions

Apply pressure with a clean cloth to control bleeding.

If the wound is large, bleeding profusely, caused by an animal or human bite, or has debris, seek prompt medical attention. Otherwise, wash the area with warm soapy water and blot dry with a clean towel.

When the wound is dry, apply antibiotic ointment and cover with a dry sterile dressing/bandage.


The degree of a burn is determined by the layers of skin involved.

First-degree burns involve the upper layer of skin and are characterized by redness, tenderness and some swelling. Sunburn is a first-degree burn.

  • Apply a cool compress or run under cool water until the stinging stops.
  • Use over-the-counter pain reliever as needed and as per instructions.

Note: For large areas of sunburn, increase fluid intake to avoid dehydration. If you develop fever over 100 degrees, chills and/or nausea, seek medical care.

Second-degree burns include all symptoms of first degree with the addition of blistering. Fluid-filled blisters should not be broken.

  • Cover open blisters with antibiotic ointment and clean dry bandage.
  • Seek medical care as soon as possible.

Third-degree burns involve all skin layers including nerve endings. There may be no pain initially because of the nerve damage. Skin may appear white. Burns of this severity should be evaluated in the nearest emergency room.

Tobacco, Drug and Alcohol Self-help

Alcoholics Anonymous resources:

Smoking cessation resources:

Contact Details

Bucknell Student Health


Summer Hours:

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Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday: 08:30 a.m. - 04:30 p.m.
Thursday: 10:00 a.m. - 04:30 p.m.
Saturday & Sunday: 10:00 a.m. - 02:00 p.m.