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What To Do if You Have the Flu

woman coughing into her arm

Reviewed by: Amy Surdam and Amy Hinshaw

Each year, 8% of the United States population gets sick from the flu. If you or a loved one has the flu, you know how unpleasant it can be. Even mild flu cases can leave you in bed or on the couch for a few days’ rest.

When you’re not feeling your best, it helps to know how to recover from the flu quickly. Keep reading to learn more about this common illness, including signs and symptoms, steps to feel better and when to seek treatment for the flu at urgent care.

Common Flu Symptoms

Often, flu symptoms come on suddenly. Signs you’re getting the flu include some or all of the following: 

  • Cough
  • Fever or chills 
  • Sore throat
  • Runny or stuffy nose
  • Headaches
  • Muscle or body aches
  • Fatigue and weakness

It’s important to note that not everyone with flu will have a fever. Additionally, some people may have vomiting and diarrhea, though this is more common in children than adults.

Most people resolve uncomplicated flu signs and symptoms between three and seven days. However, cough and fatigue can persist longer, especially in older adults and those with chronic lung disease.

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Steps to Take if You Have the Flu

If you’re experiencing the above symptoms, learn what helps with the flu so you can start feeling better:

1. Avoid Contact With Others

On the first day of your symptoms, call work or school and tell them you won’t be coming in for a few days. The flu is highly contagious, so you’ll want to protect those around you. If you must leave home for any reason, you can prevent the spread of the flu by wearing a mask, covering coughs and sneezes with a tissue and washing your hands regularly.

2. Rest

The best remedy for the flu is rest. Take advantage of your time off from work or school to lie in bed or on the couch, read, watch a movie or take a nap as your body battles the virus.

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3. Drink Plenty of Fluids

Another simple yet effective remedy for the flu is to drink plenty of liquids. It doesn’t have to only be water — sports drinks, fruit juice and broth-based soups also count to keep your body hydrated. Because flu symptoms can cause a runny nose and sweating due to fever, dehydration can occur if you don’t increase your fluids to compensate.

4. Take Over-the-Counter Medications

If you have a fever, it’s simply because your body has increased its temperature to ward off the flu virus. To treat uncomfortable symptoms or aches, you might try an over-the-counter medication like acetaminophen, ibuprofen or naproxen, depending on your health care provider’s suggestion. For a cough, you might try an expectorant, which can help clear mucus from the airway.

5. Take a Hot Shower

Taking a hot shower can help you clear up any congestion. Make sure the shower is hot enough to create steam in your bathroom, which is what will help relieve your stuffy nose. A hot shower can also help you feel more relaxed.

6. Run a Humidifier

A vaporizer or mist humidifier can help ease congestion and coughs in those with the flu. This is especially helpful if the air in your home is dry, though it’s essential not to use warm mist and clean your humidifier regularly to prevent bacteria and mold growth.

7. Try a Lozenge

Lozenges dissolve slowly in the mouth to lubricate irritated tissues of the throat. Some lozenges also have an anesthetic to ease the pain and contain menthol or eucalyptus, which can help cool and soothe a scratchy throat. They can also help to suppress a cough temporarily.

8. You May be Eligible To Take Antivirals

You may be eligible to take antivirals for the flu if you are diagnosed within 48 hours. Antivirals help improve symptoms and decrease the duration of illness. Testing for flu can be done at your local urgent care center.

Caring for Someone Who Has the Flu 

If you’re caring for someone who has the flu, there are a few ways you can avoid getting sick yourself, including: 

  • Avoid being face-to-face with the sick person: When caring for someone with the flu, wear a mask or avoid being face-to-face with them if possible. This way, you can avoid getting sick and be prepared to help your loved one through their illness. 
  • Place a sick child’s chin on your shoulder when holding them: When caring for a child sick with the flu, place their chin on your shoulder, so they can’t cough near your face.
  • Wash your hands often: According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), handwashing can prevent about 20% of respiratory infections. If you’re caring for someone who’s ill, wash your hands regularly to prevent the spread of germs and stay healthy. Use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer if soap and water aren’t available.

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When Should You Seek Medical Attention

It’s essential to know when to seek treatment for the flu. Most people’s symptoms are generally mild and resolve within a few days. Others are at risk for flu-related complications, including people over 65, people who are pregnant and those with certain medical conditions.

You should seek medical treatment for your child if they exhibit the following symptoms:

  • Fast breathing or trouble breathing
  • Bluish lips or face
  • Severe muscle pain
  • Dehydration
  • Chest pain
  • Not alert or interacting when awake
  • Seizures
  • Any fever in a child younger than 12 weeks
  • Worsening fever or cough
  • Worsening of chronic medical conditions
  • Fever above 104 degrees Fahrenheit

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Adults should get medical help for the flu if they experience:

  • Difficulty breathing or shortness of breath
  • Persistent dizziness, confusion, inability to arouse
  • Constant pain or pressure in the chest or abdomen
  • Not urinating
  • Seizures
  • Severe muscle pain
  • Worsening fever or cough
  • Severe weakness or unsteadiness
  • Worsening of chronic medical conditions

Emergency Room vs. Urgent Care for the Flu

The CDC says you should only go to the ER if you’re experiencing emergency warning signs of the flu, such as chest pain, confusion, respiratory distress or difficulty breathing. You can also go to the ER if you’re at high risk of experiencing complications from the flu.

For milder flu symptoms, you can go to urgent care for relief. They can help with symptoms like congestion, cough, sore throat, headache and fatigue. Urgent care can test for the flu if you’re unsure whether you have it and possibly prescribe you an antiviral. Because symptoms are so
similar to COVID, it is likely COVID testing will be conducted at the same time.

Get Flu Treatment at SouthStar Urgent Care

Getting the flu can be uncomfortable and inconvenient, but there are several ways to feel better and recover quickly. While it’s essential to go to the ER when you show emergency signs, you can go to urgent care for flu symptoms that are mild to moderate.

At SouthStar Urgent Care in Louisiana, we can help relieve those irritable symptoms of the flu. Our highly trained team can help you recover while providing excellent customer service every step of the way. If you’re looking to prevent the flu, a SouthStar location near you is offering flu shots. Find a clinic near you for treatment or a flu shot.

flu treatment at urgent care