Health FAQs

Do you have questions about your health? We're here to help!

Frequently Asked Questions

What is norovirus?

Norovirus is the name given to a group of viruses that cause an intense gastrointestinal illness. The symptoms of norovirus infection usually include nausea, vomiting, diarrhea and some stomach cramping. Sometimes people also have low-grade fever, chills, headache and a general sense of tiredness.

How do people become infected with noroviruses?

Norovirus infections are extremely contagious. People can become infected in several ways including:

  • eating food or drinking liquids that are contaminated with norovirus
  • touching surfaces or objects contaminated with norovirus and then touching their mouths or eating
  • having direct contact with other people who are infected, or who have recently had norovirus infection

How long does the illness last and how long are people contagious?

The acute symptoms of norovirus infection last one to three days in most people. People infected with norovirus become contagious when they develop symptoms. They continue to be contagious for at least three days after all their symptoms disappear.

What treatment is available for people with norovirus infection?

Since norovirus is a viral illness, it cannot be treated with antibiotics, as antibiotics are only effective usually against bacterial illnesses. Currently there is no antiviral medication that works against norovirus. Because dehydration from loss of fluids through vomiting and diarrhea is the most serious health effect resulting from norovirus, treatment includes drinking plenty of clear fluids to prevent dehydration. Although it is not usually necessary for people to see a health care provider, they should call to discuss their symptoms and how best to manage them. People who experience dizziness or lightheadedness while standing should definitely contact a health care provider.

How can you avoid catching or spreading norovirus?

To avoid spreading: It's advisable to stay away from places where people gather (e.g., classes, dining hall) and to be extremely careful about handwashing, especially after using the bathroom. Remember, these precautions should be taken not only while you have acute symptoms, but for at least three days after your symptoms disappear. You may return to your normal activities once you no longer have symptoms. Health care workers and food handlers should NOT return to work for 72 hours after symptoms have resolved.

To avoid catching: WASH YOUR HANDS FREQUENTLY, especially after using the bathroom and before eating or preparing food; use soap and water or antiseptic hand cleaners; don't share glasses, plates or cooking utensils; avoid using any toilet or sink marked as closed in the residence hall.

What should you do if you develop symptoms?

Resident and commuter students who develop symptoms should contact the Health Center (617-521-1020) during business hours, or Simmons Public Safety (617-521-1112) when the Health Center is closed to report illness and for advice.

Faculty and staff who develop symptoms should contact their manager. If you are sick in a bathroom on campus, please contact Public Safety (617-521-1112) who will arrange to have the bathroom cleaned. Contact your healthcare provider if you think you are becoming dehydrated or have any other concern.

What is the flu?

Influenza viruses are always changing, so an annual flu vaccination is recommended for everyone over 6 months of age. Even in otherwise healthy people, flu can cause 5-7 days of aches and fever that interfere with work and school. For those at a higher risk of developing complications from getting the flu – young children, people 65 and older, pregnant women and people with certain health conditions such as heart, lung or kidney disease or a weakened immune system – getting a flu shot is especially important.

What are symptoms of the flu?

The symptoms of the flu typically include abrupt onset of fever and chills, a nonproductive cough, sore throat, aching muscles, runny nose and a headache.

How is the flu spread?

The influenza virus is spread through the air from the respiratory tract of an infected person. It is also transmitted by direct contact with respiratory droplets. An infected person is likely to spread the virus one to two days before the onset of their symptoms and up to four or five days after symptoms begin.

How do I prevent getting and spreading the flu?

  • The best way to prevent getting the flu each year is with a flu vaccine. Some additional steps to prevent its spread are:
  • Wash your hands often with soap and water or use an alcohol based hand sanitizer especially after coughing or sneezing.
  • Cough or sneeze into your sleeve or cover your nose and mouth with a tissue. Discard the tissue after use and wash your hands.
  • Try not to touch your eyes, nose or mouth.
  • If you do get the flu, stay home and avoid contact with others for at least 24 hours after the fever has ended.

If You Have the Flu

Please call the Health Center at 617-521-1020 if you have any questions or would like more information.

Nutrition and Dietetics

To support students in developing healthy relationships to food, nutrition, and their bodies. The dietitian works with students to help them understand their eating patterns and make changes to enhance their nutritional health.

What student concerns can the dietitian address?

The dietitian sees a range of students — students with eating disorders, students who are dissatisfied with their bodies, students who are curious about nutrition, student athletes, students with food allergies and more.

What happens at an initial nutrition visit?

At the first nutrition visit, the nutritionist works with students to understand what they are hoping to gain out of nutrition counseling, answer any immediate questions, and ask students about their nutrition history. Initial visits are 45-60 minutes long.

What are some nutritious options for eating on campus?

Here are some recommendations for dining options at Simmons.

What are healthy snack options?

Here are some healthy snack options and here are some ideas for how to eat when exercising.

What is emergency contraception?

Emergency contraception (EC), sometimes referred to as "the morning after pill," is a safe and effective way to prevent pregnancy after unprotected intercourse (such as sex without contraception, or when a contraceptive fails). EC contains the same hormones used in birth control pills. The most widely used formulation of EC is sold under the brand name "Plan B."

How does emergency contraception work?

The hormones in EC pills work by preventing the ovaries from releasing eggs (ovulation) and by thickening the cervical mucus, which interferes with the ability of sperm to reach an egg that might already have been released. Emergency contraception is a form of birth control; it is not an abortion pill and cannot trigger an abortion.

How effective is emergency contraception?

Emergency contraception is quite effective. Although it can be used up to five days (120 hours) after unprotected intercourse, the sooner it is started, the more likely it is to be effective. If started within 72 hours after unprotected intercourse, it is 89% effective; only 1 out of 100 women will become pregnant after using EC during that time period. Of course, emergency contraception doesn't protect against sexually transmitted diseases. Also, it shouldn't be used as a form of ongoing birth control as there are other forms of birth control that are more effective. If you take EC and your period is a week late you should follow up with a pregnancy test.

How safe is emergency contraception?

Emergency contraception is very safe. It has been used for more than 30 years, and during that time, no serious complications have been reported. The most common side effect is nausea, which usually goes away within 24 hours. Also, if used frequently it may cause menstrual periods to become irregular. If you use EC and are concerned about any symptoms you experience, contact a provider at the Health Center at 617-521-1020. You will be able to reach a provider even when the Health Center is closed.

How can I get emergency contraception?

The Simmons Health Center offers emergency contraception. Call during our hours of operation for an appointment. If you are a Simmons undergraduate living on campus, EC is free of charge, as your visit is covered by the student health fee paid by all undergraduates (not including Dix scholars). If you are a Dix Scholar or a graduate student who has not paid the health fee, you will be asked to pay at the time of your appointment.

If you need EC during a time the Health Center is closed, or if you are away from campus, you can purchase EC without a prescription at any Massachusetts pharmacy.

For more information about EC or to make a Health Center appointment, please feel free to contact us at (617-521-1020). The following websites also contain additional information about EC:

Simmons University Health Services is committed to providing health care and support to individuals of all gender identities, expressions, and sexual orientations. We understand that transgender, non-binary, and/or gender non-conforming students may have individual needs that require informed and supportive healthcare providers and services.

What educational background does Health Center staff have in transgender health care?

All staff at Simmons Health Services participate in professional development and activities with the goal of increasing knowledge and understanding regarding issues that affect transgender and gender non-conforming students.

Health Services has invited speakers including Cei Lambert, Patient Advocate of the Transgender Health Program at Fenway Health, who spoke about transgender issues to Health Center staff. Previously, staff attended a workshop on understanding and supporting transgender and gender non-conforming students in higher education, by Dr. Susan Marine, whose doctoral research focused on the experience of transgender students at women's colleges. Staff also attended an all-day training presented by the Office of Pluralism and Leadership at Dartmouth College. Many staff have attended additional trainings and workshops on campus and independently.

What medical services are available to transgender students at Simmons Health Services?

We provide informed primary and gynecological care to transgender and gender non-conforming students. We refer to the Simmons Counseling Center for concerns regarding gender identity and gender dysphoria. We refer to outside specialists for hormonal and surgical treatments.

Does Health Services provide gender affirmation hormone treatments and surgeries?

With our location in Longwood medical area, students have access to a number of high-quality specialists in transgender health. Given proximity to Fenway Health, a regional leader in transgender health care, many students seek their resources and expertise. Students with existing prescriptions for hormone therapy can consult a provider at Health Services regarding refills.

What services will my insurance cover?

Coverage of gender-affirming treatments will vary by insurance policy. You should check your policy to determine your specific coverage. Details of the Simmons University health insurance plan can be found on the Health Insurance page.

What are some additional transgender community resources?