What to Do if You Get the Flu

October 20, 2023
Picture of a man with the flu lying in bed and looking at a thermometer.

Have you recently woken up from a deep sleep, only to find that you still feel exhausted and maybe even under the weather? It’s happened to all of us—and sometimes, that feeling could mean that you have the flu. The flu, or influenza, is a contagious respiratory illness caused by influenza viruses that affect the nose, throat, and sometimes, the lungs. Symptoms can range from mild to severe, and may include:

  • Fever
  • Chills
  • Body aches
  • Fatigue
  • Congestion
  • Cough

Let’s learn about ways to prevent the flu and when to seek help from a provider.

Should I See a Doctor for the Flu?

If you are in a high-risk group or experience severe symptoms, seeking medical care is advisable. High-risk individuals include those who are under two years of age or over 65 years of age, immunosuppressed, pregnant, living in a nursing home, or morbidly obese. The following symptoms are considered severe:

  • Difficulty breathing or shortness of breath
  • Severe chest pain
  • Confusion or sudden dizziness
  • Severe or persistent vomiting 
  • Flu-like symptoms that improve but then return with a fever and worsened cough

For those who aren’t in high-risk groups or experiencing severe symptoms, rest and self-care at home are usually sufficient.

However, if you're uncertain about your symptoms or they worsen, consulting a medical professional can provide peace of mind. A PCR flu test using a nasal swab can be done at PhysicianOne Urgent Care to help clarify your diagnosis with lab results in minutes.

What Are Treatment Options for the Flu?

Over-the-counter medications such as ibuprofen and acetaminophen can help relieve fevers and body aches caused by the flu, but they won’t eliminate the influenza virus from your body. Be sure to read the labeling on all over-the-counter medications carefully to ensure proper dosing and to confirm there are no contraindications to you taking the specific medication (for example, underlying liver or kidney disease, history of increased bleeding, or hypertension). Avoid salicylates such as aspirin, especially in children under the age of 18, because of their association with a dangerous condition called Reye’s syndrome. Over-the-counter cough suppressants have not been shown to be of great benefit. 

Aside from pain relievers, you may also try the following steps to help ease your flu symptoms:

  • Stay hydrated – Drink plenty of fluids to help prevent dehydration and support your body's recovery.
  • Get adequate rest – Allow your body to heal by getting enough sleep.
  • Consume warm liquids – Soups and warm beverages can soothe a sore throat and provide comfort.
  • Use a humidifier – Adding moisture to the air can help relieve congestion and ease breathing.

Individuals with the flu should remain home from work, school, and other populated environments until their symptoms have resolved. This is very important to limit the spread of infection to others. Studies have shown using face masks and good hand washing practices at home within the first 36 hours of illness can reduce the spread of infection to other household members.

Should I Take an Antiviral Medication?

Antiviral medications, such as oseltamivir (Tamiflu), are sometimes prescribed for high-risk patients or those requiring hospitalization due to the flu. These medications are not available over the counter and should be taken as directed by a healthcare provider. It's important to note that oseltamivir works best when started within 48 hours of symptom onset, so if you are in a high-risk group it is important to seek treatment right when symptoms present. As with all medications, oseltamivir has potential side effects. These can include nausea, vomiting, and possible neuropsychiatric symptoms.

How Long Will I Be Sick For?

Patients with uncomplicated influenza often gradually improve over two to five days although the illness may last for one week or more. Some patients experience persisting symptoms of weakness or easy fatigability that can last for several weeks. Remember, being proactive and getting an annual flu immunization can help protect you from developing this uncomfortable, potentially serious infection.

Receive Expert Care When You Need It at PhysicianOne Urgent Care

At PhysicianOne Urgent Care, we're dedicated to your well-being. Whether you're seeking guidance on flu symptoms, treatment, or prevention strategies, our skilled healthcare providers are here to offer professional support. Our urgent care centers in Connecticut, Massachusetts, and New York are open 365 days per year with extended hours for your convenience. You may choose to walk in or book a visit using our online portal, but we also offer integrated 24/7 telehealth services that allow you to connect with a local provider remotely, from the comfort of your own home. We also accept most major health insurance plans and offer affordable self-pay rates. We look forward to helping you make a full recovery from the flu when you visit us for treatment.

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I had to take my son in for an ear infection following a sudden change in temperament at daycare. He was inconsolable the entire car ride but when we got there and by the time we left this care facility he was back to his normal happy go lucky little two year old boy. I highly recommend PhysicianOne Urgent Care.
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