Flu symptoms include fever, body aches, chills, headache, congestion and coughing. Influenza is a contagious illness caused by viruses that infect the nose, throat and lungs, sometimes in similar ways to a common cold. However, the flu can also cause severe illness and even lead to death — especially in babies, elderly and sick people. The flu is much more dangerous than a cold, and flu symptoms are more severe.
Should I Get a Flu Shot?
The best way to prevent the flu is to get a flu vaccine each year. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, everyone 6 months and older should get a flu shot every year. Since the flu is spread from person to person through respiratory droplets, you can also protect yourself by limiting close contact with people who have signs of the flu, washing your hands often, and keeping your hands away from your mouth, nose or eyes.
Do You Think You Already Have the Flu?
If you have influenza symptoms, visit your doctor to receive a diagnosis. Antiviral medication can lessen the severity of influenza, especially if started within two days of getting sick.
It’s especially important to see a doctor if you have asthma or other lung problems, diabetes, heart or kidney disease or a weakened immune system.
If you cannot see your doctor on short notice, find a Sutter Walk-In Care near you for a same-day visit.
Walk-In Care staff can help if you have mild flu symptoms, such as fever, aches and cough. You can also get a diagnosis and flu treatment, if needed. And, if it turns out you don’t have the flu, you can get a flu shot there. Flu season lasts until March or April, so you can still protect yourself even in winter.
If you feel really sick and have a moderate to high fever, you may need more urgent medical care.
- Visit Urgent Care if you have non-life-threatening symptoms, such as moderate fever, cough, chest congestion or vomiting.
- Head to the Emergency Department if you’re experiencing life-threatening symptoms, such as a high fever, severe chest congestion, pain in your chest or abdomen, difficulty breathing, or sudden dizziness or confusion. Please note that emergency departments care for patients based on medical urgency, and not necessarily on a first come, first served basis.
Does your child have signs of the flu? You should contact your pediatrician if your child:
- Cannot or will not drink enough fluids.
- Stops urinating or doesn’t make tears when crying.
- Vomits repeatedly.
- Cries for long periods of time and can’t be comforted.
- Has flu-like symptoms that improve at first, but then return with a fever and worsening cough.
- Has asthma or other lung problems, diabetes, heart or kidney disease or a weakened immune system.
Seek emergency care if your child’s skin turns blue or gray, if he or she struggles to breathe or breathes very fast, is sleepy and cannot be woken, or cannot interact with you.
Flu Care at Home
You can treat mild flu symptoms at home. For good self-care:
- Get plenty of rest. If you have signs of the flu, do your best to avoid exposing others to the virus.
- Take over-the-counter pain medication, such as aspirin, ibuprofen and acetaminophen. Ask your doctor for alternatives if you are allergic to these medications. Pregnant women should not take ibuprofen and children should not take aspirin.
- Drink plenty of fluids, especially water, soups and drinks with electrolytes.
- Take antiviral medications if prescribed by your doctor.