If you are sick with influenza (the flu), taking care of yourself is very important.
While most people can recover at home with rest and self-care, certain people need to seek early treatment to prevent complications.
Banner Health is here to help you know when to get medical help - whether from your health care provider or emergency care – for flu symptoms.
What should I do if I get sick with the flu?
For most people, the flu can be managed at home. If you have a mild case of the flu and aren’t at high risk for complications, you should do the following:
- Get plenty of rest to allow your body to recover fully
- Stay hydrated by drinking fluids like water, electrolyte beverages or clear broths
- Take over-the-counter (OTC) medications to relieve symptoms like fever, pain and congestion
- Avoid contact with others, especially high-risk individuals (see below), until you are fever-free without medication for at least 24 hours
- Watch for symptoms of serious illness (see below)
- Mild flu symptoms include fever (usually 100.4°F or 38°C), cough and sore throat, runny or stuffy nose, muscle and body aches and tiredness.
Learn more about how to treat the flu.
When should I see my health care provider if I have the flu?
While most people recover at home, certain people must seek early treatment to prevent complications.
If you think you have the flu and are a high-risk individual, or have any of the following symptoms, contact your health care provider right away:
- High-risk individuals: This includes children under the age of 5, adults over 65, pregnant people and people with chronic medical conditions (such as asthma, diabetes or heart disease) and/or weakened immune systems.
- Worsening symptoms: If your symptoms improve but then return with fever and worsening cough and/or sore throat, you may need medical treatment.
- Signs of dehydration: Fever, sweating and decreased appetite can increase the risk of dehydration – especially in children and older adults. Signs of dehydration include decreased urination, dry mouth and being very thirsty.
- Difficulty managing at home: If you find it hard to manage your symptoms with over-the-counter (OTC) medications and home remedies, your physician can offer tests and possibly prescribe antiviral drugs to treat the flu.
Antiviral medications can help reduce the severity of the flu, especially when taken early (within the first 48 hours (about 2 days) of experiencing symptoms). Learn more about flu treatments.
When should I go to the emergency department?
In some cases, the flu can lead to severe complications that require immediate medical attention. If you or a loved one experience any of the following symptoms, call 911 or go to the emergency department right away:
- Difficulty breathing or shortness of breath
- Intense or persistent pain or pressure in the chest or belly (abdomen)
- Severe or repeated vomiting and/or diarrhea
- Sudden dizziness
- Drowsiness, difficulty waking up or not responding
- Coughing up blood
For infants and children
- Age 3 months or younger with a temperature of 100.4°F (38°C) or higher
- Rapid or labored breathing
- Not eating or drinking
- Not urinating (no wet diaper in 8 hours) or no tears when crying
- Sleeping more than usual, having difficulty waking up or unresponsive
- Bluish-colored skin color (lips, hands, feet)
- Showing signs of pain, including stiff neck, headache and sensitivity to light
- Fever with rash
If you are unsure whether you need medical care for the flu, it is always best to call your health care provider for help.
It’s never too late to get vaccinated
There are many good reasons to get a flu shot – even if you’ve had the flu this year or it’s late in the season. That’s because several strains of the flu go around the world every year.
The flu shot boosts your immune system against this year’s most widespread strains. It can also help limit the severity of illness if you catch the flu again.
Learn more about flu vaccination and common myths and facts about flu shots.