What to Do if You Become Sick With the Flu

Published: 01/30/18

Think you may have contracted the flu virus? Here’s what to do if you believe you are getting sick.

Assess your symptoms.

First, it’s important to recognize the symptoms of flu since other illnesses such as colds and respiratory infections can look or feel like the flu but may not require the same treatment.

Symptoms of the flu include:

  • Fever or feeling feverish/ chills (though not everyone with the flu will have a fever)
  • Cough
  • Sore throat
  • Runny or stuffy nose
  • Body aches
  • Headache
  • Chills
  • Fatigue
  • Sometimes diarrhea and vomiting

Contact your health care provider.

If your symptoms are severe, or you’re concerned about your illness, contact your family doctor or health care provider.

If you or a loved one are in a high risk group and develop flu symptoms, it’s best to contact your provider at the first sign of illness. High risk includes: young children, pregnant women, people with certain chronic health conditions such as asthma, diabetes or heart and lung disease and seniors 65 years and older.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends that high risk individuals get antiviral treatment as early as possible, since the benefit is greatest if treatment is started within two days after onset of the flu. Make sure to remind your provider of your high risk status.

Stay home.

Not only is it important to get plenty of rest, it’s important to limit your contact with other people – except to get medical care – to prevent spreading the flu. So if possible, stay home from work, school or other activities that require you to go out. This includes traveling, running errands, attending social events or public gatherings.

How long should you stay home? The CDC recommends staying home for at least 24 hours after your fever is gone and you no longer have to use a fever-reducing medicine, such as acetaminophen (Tylenol®).

If you must leave home, for example to get medical care, consider wearing a facemask or cover coughs and sneezes with a tissue. Wash your hands often to keep from spreading the flu to others.

Take prescribed medicines.

Your doctor or health care provider may prescribe an “antiviral” drug to help you feel better faster and prevent serious complications. Antiviral drugs are different from antibiotics. They are prescription medicines and are not available over-the-counter.

Make sure to follow your provider’s instructions for taking your antiviral prescription and any other medications.

Practice selfcare while sick.

It’s important to take care of yourself if you have the flu. Make sure to:

  • Get plenty of rest.
  • Drink lots of fluids/ stay hydrated.
  • Avoid close contact or limit contact with other members of your household so you do not make them sick.
  • Try using a humidifier which can help slow the spread of tiny flu particles that are airborne.
  • Enlist a family member or friend who can look in on you or bring healthy meals to your home if you’re too sick to properly care for yourself.

Know the ‘emergency warning signs.’

If you are only mildly ill, you do not need to go to the emergency room since the emergency room should be limited to those who are very sick. What’s more, if you go to the emergency room and you do not have the flu, you may catch it from those who do.

However, if you have any of the following ‘emergency warning signs,’ you should go to the emergency room immediately:

In children:

  • Fast breathing or trouble breathing
  • Bluish skin color
  • Not drinking enough fluids
  • Not waking up or not interacting
  • Being so irritable that the child does not want to be held
  • Flu-like symptoms improve but then return with fever and worse cough
  • Fever with a rash

In addition to the signs above, get medical help right away for any infant who has any of these signs:

  • Being unable to eat
  • Has trouble breathing
  • Has no tears when crying
  • Significantly fewer wet diapers than normal

In adults:

  • Difficulty breathing or shortness of breath
  • Pain or pressure in the chest or abdomen
  • Sudden dizziness
  • Confusion
  • Severe or persistent vomiting
  • Flu-like symptoms that improve but then return with fever and worse cough
“The Flu: What To Do If You Get Sick” Web. 24 Jan., 2018.
“The Flu – Caring for Someone Sick at Home.” Dec. 2010.