What to do if you have the flu

What do you do if you come down with the flu virus?

Mother on phone reading thermometer

It’s not too late to visit your doctor for a vaccination to prevent catching influenza. But if you already have the virus, here’s what you need to know.

In 2012, ADC doctors saw about 70 percent more cases of flu in the clinic than they did the year before. In January 2013, The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported flu cases in Texas were decreasing, but the annual season can last as long as May.

Do you have the flu?

Colds and flu are often confused, but they are different. Flu comes on suddenly. It can lead to complications such as pneumonia, bronchitis, and ear infections. It can make chronic health problems worse, like asthma and congestive heart disease. It can even lead to death.

If you have some, or all, of the following symptoms, you may have the flu.

  • Fever
  • Cough
  • Sore throat
  • Runny or stuffy nose
  • Muscle or body aches
  • Headache
  • Fatigue
  • Vomiting and diarrhea (More common in children)

If you are sick . . .

Doctors say you should stay home and avoid contact with other people if you have flu symptoms. That way you can help prevent spreading the illness. The only exception is when you choose to seek medical care.

Most people with mild illness don’t need to visit a doctor, but you should call your provider if you are at high risk for flu-related complications or are worried about your symptoms.

Your doctor may decide to prescribe an anti-viral medication. These medications can reduce the effects of the illness milder and/or the amount of time you are sick. Studies have shown they work best if taken within two days of getting sick.

It is important to pay attention to your symptoms. If they worsen, you should call your health care provider.

Warning signs for flu symptoms

  • Difficulty breathing or shortness of breath
  • Chest pain
  • Sudden dizziness
  • Confusion
  • Severe or persistent vomiting
  • Flu-like symptoms that improve but then return with fever and worse cough

How long does it last?

Some people need two weeks to recover from flu. But some people recover in just a few days. It depends on how severe your illness is.

You should stay home and avoid being around other people until your fever has been gone at least 24 hours without using fever-reducing medicines (Ibuprofen, acetaminophen, etc.).

Prevention is key

Although flu season may have already peaked, doctors say it could stretch into May. It’s still important to take steps to prevent the disease.

  1. Get the flu shot (it’s not too late!)
  2. Wash your hands (Watch this video for the best way to wash your hands.)
  3. Cover your cough and sneezes with your elbow (Watch this video for a demomonstration.)
  4. Stay home when you’re sick