Flu Relief: What to Do If You Get the Flu

If you find yourself lying in bed with the flu, it's important to understand some basic ways to seek comfort while you try to get better. Try some of these common ways to get some flu relief so that you can rest comfortably sooner, rather than later.

Get the Vaccine
Even if you believe you have been exposed to the flu, it's not too late to get the vaccine. Talk to your doctor at once. He may give you the vaccine or start you on an antiviral drug that could prevent you from catching the flu or at least lessen your symptoms.

What to Do First
The influenza virus often hits hard and fast. One minute you feel fine, the next deathly ill. Symptoms of the flu are often much more severe than cold symptoms, although they can be hard to differentiate in some people. Scratchy throat, runny nose, coughing and sneezing, fever, body aches and headache are some early signs that a flu might be creeping upon you.

Children may start with vomiting and diarrhea. In adults, these symptoms most often come from food poisoning or other viruses not related to flu.

If you find yourself sick with the flu, don't try to tough it out. Go to bed as soon as possible. If you live alone, tell someone that you think you have the flu and ask him or her to check on you in a few hours. The flu can be a serious disease itself, but sometimes people who think they have the flu are actually having a heart problem or other medical problem.

Take your temperature. The flu usually starts with a fairly high fever, often with alternating chills and sweating. If you don't have a fever, you may just have a bad cold or you may be having other medical problems. If chest pain is occurring, or you are having trouble breathing, call your doctor immediately or go to an emergency room.
If you have a fever, your head is aching, you are coughing and sneezing, light hurts your eyes and you hurt all over your body, you probably have the flu. Before climbing into bed in a dark room, call your doctor. He will advise you if he wants you to come to the office or go to an emergency room. People with chronic diseases such as diabetes, lung, heart, kidney or liver problems, asthma, are pregnant or those who are immune compromised may be asked to come to the office or hospital.

How to Feel Better
There are anti-viral drugs that can lessen the symptoms of the flu. Your doctor will decide if you are a good candidate for them. He will also decide if you need antibiotics to prevent complications. Most people will not need antibiotics and antibiotics do not have any effect on the flu virus itself. Do not treat yourself with antibiotics unless a doctor advises you to use them.

Most people will be told to go to bed and treat the symptoms. Use pain relief medications for your headache, body aches and fever.  Do not use aspirin on children under 18 years of age during any viral illness. It can lead to Reyes Syndrome, a potentially deadly condition.

Drink plenty of fluids. If you have a sore throat, use a throat spray, gargle with salt water or suck on cough drops or hard candy. Cough syrup or cough drops can ease coughing.

If your nose, head and chest feel congested, placing hot and wet cloths on your head or a steamy bath or shower may help. A steam vaporizer with or without medication added might also help. Rubbing the chest with mentholated creams may offer relief.

You can purchase an over-the-counter decongestant, either a liquid or tablet, to use, but avoid those that also contain antihistamines. Antihistamines do not help with colds or the flu.

Get rest. Do only what is vitally necessary. Take a few days off of work. If you are a mom, ask for family help. Sleep and rest helps your body recuperate and a few days off at the beginning of the flu may make you feel like your old self faster. Flu symptoms can last for up to two weeks, and most people feel better in five to seven days. You are contagious from about a day before you felt the symptoms to three days after major symptoms end.

Recognizing Complications
The flu is more likely to result in complications than a cold. Every year, many Americans die from the flu or its complications. Someone with the flu should be monitored carefully. Complications may show up early in the disease or even when the patient seems to be getting better. Complications are more likely in children under 24 months, adults over 65, women in the last two trimesters of pregnancy and those with other chronic diseases.

If you experience any of the following symptoms, call a doctor or go to an emergency room:

  • High fever
  • Semi-consciousness, extreme confusion and difficulty with speech or understanding
  • Seizures
  • Difficulty breathing or painful, extremely noisy and labored breathing
  • Chest pain, coughing up blood or coughing so hard it causes vomiting
  • A nasal discharge that is thick, green and foul smelling
  • Severe pain over the sinuses
  • Neck pain and stiffness
  • Severe back or spinal pain
  • Body pain that gets progressively worse

If a patient seems to be getting better and then suddenly seems very ill again, consult a doctor.

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