Vaden Medical Director Robyn Tepper talks about students and the flu

Dr. Robyn Tepper, medical director at Stanford’s Vaden Health Center

Stanford makes it easy for students and other members of the university community to get vaccinated for the flu. Dr. Robyn Tepper explains why.

Why should students get the flu shot?

Perhaps the better question is why would anyone pass up the chance to prevent an illness with a fever of 102 to 103 degrees and body aches that feel like you were hit by a truck? The quarter system is fast paced and very unforgiving, and students need to be able to focus and perform at their best. Many classes require attendance. A case of the flu can sabotage a student’s best efforts. In addition, it can lead to serious medical complications for students with other risk factors, including asthma or diabetes.

How does Stanford make it easy for students to get the flu shot and avoid becoming ill?

The flu shots are free. Students will have many, many opportunities to have a flu shot over the next few months. Shots are given at Vaden Health Center weekly during our Monday flu clinic from 3 to 6 p.m., or a student can ask for one during a routine visit at Vaden. They are given in five of our dining halls across campus, and there are several other flu events on campus, including in White plaza. The schedule of shots is easily accessible. I encourage parents to point it out to their students.

How many students get vaccinated for the flu at Stanford?

Last season we vaccinated close to 5,000 students.

What happens if a student becomes ill with the flu?

Most students will have a mild case and recover. They should stay home from class and avoid the dining halls. They should have meals delivered and have fluids and medication to control fever on hand. Students with more severe symptoms, or who are at risk of complications, should be seen within the first day or two to consider antiviral treatment.

Residential staff—resident assistants, peer health educators or resident fellows in particular—are typically aware when students become ill. They are very well connected to us and generally have a very good handle on what is going on in their residences. They can help direct students to the care they need, whether that is simply self-care measures or access to a higher level of medical care through Vaden Health Center of Stanford Hospital. Students and residential staff also have access to medical advice from a Vaden physician 24/7 to help with decisions around medical issues.

In addition, we have a long-standing system at Stanford that tracks illnesses circulating in the dorms so we can intervene early if we see a cluster of ill students. An intervention might include hygiene kits, education or extra cleaning services when appropriate.

Do you have any advice for parents about how they can help their students stay healthy at Stanford?

• First, make sure your student is fully immunized. Infectious diseases spread easily in dorm-style living environments.
• Second, remind your students about handwashing and covering a cough appropriately.
• Third, make sure they are equipped with sunscreen, a thermometer and a first aid kit with some basic over-the-counter medications.
• Fourth, encourage them to wear a helmet when they are biking.
• Finally, if they are going to study abroad, make sure they visit a travel clinic so they are prepared to travel safely.