Living Well

What Do I Do? I Think I Have the Flu!

What Do I Do? I Think I Have the Flu!

Author: Peter DeBlieux, MD, University Medical Center Chief Medical Officer and Pulmonary Critical Care Physician

This year’s flu season as been an active and aggressive one. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the disease has reached its peak, but many more people are expected to be infected with the flu before all is said and done.

So, what do you do if you have the flu?

Prevention

Physician giving a vaccine

Get your vaccine – it’s the best defense against the flu.

It’s not too late to get the flu shot. The flu vaccine reduces your likelihood of getting the flu. However, if you do get the flu, the vaccine is still beneficial, as it reduces the likelihood of hospitalization and death as a result of the disease.

Flu virus are spread by contact with droplets that go airborne when an infected person sneezes or coughs. You can get the flu by inhaling the droplets or touching objects where the droplets have landed, which means…

person washing hands

Handwashing – You should wash your hands often with soap and water.

Scrub for at least 20 seconds, then dry.  If soap and water are not available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer.

African American man with head on desk at work, sick

Is it a cold or flu?

Early on, it is difficult to distinguish the difference between a cold and influenza. According to the CDC, colds are usually milder, and people with colds are more likely to have a runny or stuffy nose. The flu can result in a series of health problems, such as pneumonia, bacterial infections, hospitalizations and, in some cases, death.

Here’s how you can tell:

Staying Healthy During Cold and Flu Season

Symptoms

These can vary from person to person. Although the flu is a respiratory disease, it can affect your entire body, including the gastrointestinal system.

Common symptoms include:

  • Cough, often severe
  • Extreme exhaustion
  • Fatigue for several weeks
  • Headache
  • High fever
  • Runny or stuffy nose
  • Severe aches and pains
  • Sneezing at times
  • Sometimes a sore throat
  • Vomiting and diarrhea

According to the CDC, you’re contagious a day before the symptoms start and 5 days after.

Nurse on the phone review prescription

Call your doctor to see if an antiviral medication is appropriate for you, but keep in mind that medication such as Tamiflu is not helpful after two days of symptoms.

If you have the flu, don’t interact with people who are sick. Especially if you have cold symptoms or have fever greater than 100.3. Stay away from others until you have not had symptoms for 24 hours.

Woman laying down, blowing nose, sick
Avoid close contact with people who are sick, especially if you have cold symptoms or have fever greater than 100.3.

Stay away from others until you have not had symptoms for 24 hours.

If you’re sick:

  • Cover your cough and sneeze with a tissue – not your hands.
    • Try not to touch your eyes, nose, and mouth.
    • Wash your hands frequently.
    • Clean and disinfect surfaces and objects that may be contaminated with germs like the flu.

Get smart this flu season, not sick!

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