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Treatment for the Flu: What You Need to Know

Millions of Americans catch the flu each year. It isn’t pleasant, but there are ways you can help yourself feel better.

How is the flu diagnosed?

The flu is primarily diagnosed by a medical provider based on your symptoms. You can even speak to a medical provider virtually to be diagnosed.

The most common flu symptoms are:

  • Fever

  • Chills

  • Fatigue

  • Headache

  • Body aches

  • Sore throat

  • Congestion

  • Runny nose

  • Cough

  • Shortness of breath

The flu can also be diagnosed through lab tests. PCR flu tests can even identify the type of influenza that’s causing your symptoms.

How long does it take to get the flu (post-exposure)?

When an influenza virus enters your body, it starts to replicate and attack your body’s tissues. In about 1 to 4 days, you will begin to have symptoms of the flu.

When should I see a doctor for flu treatment?

You should see a doctor for your flu symptoms if:

  • You have a fever that improves, but suddenly gets worse

  • Your flu symptoms last longer than 2 weeks

  • You have concentrated pain in one area

  • You develop thick mucus and a persistent cough

  • You are in a high-risk group

People with the highest risk of severe flu complications include:

  • People aged 65 years and older

  • Those with chronic conditions, such as heart disease, diabetes, or asthma

  • People who are pregnant or up to two weeks post-partem

  • Nursing home residents

  • Children younger than 5 years (with the highest risk being for children under 2 years)

See a medical professional right away if you’re at a higher risk of complications. Prescription antiviral treatment for the flu can help protect you, but it needs to be taken quickly.

How is the flu treated?

The most common treatment of flu symptoms is self-care at home. There are also over-the-counter medicines that can ease your flu symptoms. These include painkillers, decongestants and cough syrups.

For high-risk patients, it’s important to get a medical provider involved in your flu treatment. Antiviral medications can reduce the length of illness and lower the chances of complications. Antivirals are most effective when used within the first two days of having symptoms.

Are there any home treatments for the flu?

Most flu cases resolve themselves with rest and home treatment. If you have the flu, self-care is important for a faster recovery.

Home treatments for the flu:

  • Get plenty of rest to help your body’s immune system do its work. Rest includes getting lots of sleep and reducing your daytime activity levels.

  • Drink lots of water and other fluids. This will help prevent dehydration and also help ease a sore throat. Herbal teas, water, and soups are good options. Avoid caffeinated drinks.

  • Use hot compresses or heat packs to ease sore muscle pain.

Frequently Asked Questions

Is the flu common?

The flu is a very common and infectious illness. In the United States, about 3% to 11% of people get the flu each year. The flu circulates rapidly in the colder months, but you can get it at any time of year.

Does the flu cause any complications?

Some common flu complications include ear and sinus infections. Pre-existing conditions like asthma or diabetes can also become worse as a result of the flu.

Severe flu complications include inflammation of the brain, heart, and other tissues. Organ failure, sepsis, and viral pneumonia can also result from flu infection.

When should I go to the ER for flu treatment?

The flu can be serious. If you have any of the following symptoms, please seek immediate medical help.

Severe (emergency) symptoms of the flu:

  • High fever (over 103°F or 40°C)

  • Difficulty breathing

  • Little to no urination

  • Persistent pain in chest or abdomen

  • Dizziness

  • Confusion

  • Extreme muscle pain and weakness

  • Seizures

  • Cyanosis (lips or fingernails take on a bluish hue on light skin, or a grey or whitish hue on darker skin)

Still unsure about your flu symptoms? Schedule a virtual visit

The flu is common, but it doesn’t have to be quite so miserable. To get treatment for the flu and many other medical needs, you can see an expert healthcare provider online. WellNow Urgent Care’s medical team can help get you the right care when you need it the most.

Discuss your cold or flu symptoms with our on-demand medical team. Start your virtual visit now.

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Information contained in this blog is for informational or educational purposes only and does not substitute professional medical advice or consultations with healthcare professionals. The content is not meant to be complete or exhaustive or to apply to any specific individual's medical condition. Always refer to the personalized information given to you by your doctor or contact us directly.