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What to Do if You Think You Have the Flu

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January 22, 2020

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Flu season is in full swing, and viral infections are spreading. What should you do if you think you have influenza? These tips can help, from knowing when to see a doctor to staying home from work or school.

When to Seek Care for Possible Influenza

Many people get infections in the wintertime, which can make it hard to decide when to seek care for suspected influenza.

When You May Not Need to Seek Care for Influenza

For an otherwise healthy adult with mild fever and generalized aches and pains, if you don't feel short of breath and don't feel like you need to seek care, you can usually simply stay home and avoid being in the community so as to avoid spreading the virus.

When You May Need to Seek Care Influenza

The following groups should consider being evaluated by a healthcare provider if you think they may have the flu, as early treatment is usually the most effective:

  • Adults who feel very sick or who are short of breath
  • Children
  • Adults over 65
  • People with chronic medical conditions (chronic kidney disease, liver disease, diabetes, obesity and others)

When to Seek Emergency Care for Influenza

Sometimes influenza symptoms come on very quickly. If you have high fevers, are feeling short of breath, or have a chronic medical condition, you may want to be seen at an urgent care or emergency department, especially if it's over a weekend or after clinic hours.

The influenza virus can put you at risk for getting a bacterial pneumonia. In this situation, you may start to feel better for a few days after initially feeling sick, then suddenly feel much worse. This downturn may be a sign of a bacterial infection that may need antibiotics, and being urgently evaluated would be advised. Otherwise, as long as you are gradually improving over the course of time (approximately one week), urgent evaluation is generally not needed.

Treatments for the Flu

There are a number of treatments available for influenza. One of the most common is Tamiflu. Treatment is generally recommended for people if they have been sick for less than 48 hours. After that period, the benefit of influenza antivirus medicine starts to decrease because your body is already doing some of the work on its own.

Depending on how sick a person is or their underlying health issues, there still may be some benefit to treatment even if it's been more than 48 hours. Talk with your doctor about the right treatment options for you.

How Long Should I Stay Home if I Have the Flu?

Knowing how long to stay home from school or work if you have the flu can be difficult. If you have documented influenza, the CDC recommends that you stay home for seven days from the onset of the illness or until 24 hours after your fever has ended, whichever one is longer.

The reason for this recommendation is to prevent contagiousness and spreading the illness to other people. Employers and schools should also be aware of these recommendations for the good of their employees and students.

What to Do if a Family Member Gets the Flu

Viruses move about the home and in families. Here's what you can do to protect yourself from getting sick if a family member or someone in your household gets the flu.

Get a Flu Vaccine

It's not too late to be vaccinated! People can become contagious up to 24 hours before showing symptoms of the flu, so the best way to prevent getting is to be vaccinated. Click here to see options for getting your flu shot.

Use Good Hygiene

Viral particles from surfaces into our body, so thoroughly wash your hands with soap and water, sanitize surfaces, and avoid touching your face.

Talk with Your Doctor if You Have a Medical Condition

People with certain medical conditions such as immune problems should consider talking with their doctor if a family member gets the flu. You may benefit from getting preventative anti-flu medications.

 

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