girl sick with flu

Your Health, Family Health | one year ago

So You Think You’ve Got the Flu. Now What?

If you believe you might have the flu, there are some symptoms to look out for and ways to treat them. Andres Sanchez, MD, explains what to do if you suspect you have the flu and when to seek medical care.

If you believe you might have the flu, there are some symptoms to look out for and ways to treat them. Andres Sanchez, MD, explains what to do if you suspect you have the flu and when to seek medical care.

We’re in the middle of flu season, which means there’s a chance you may find yourself coming down with the virus. While there’s no magic cure to make your symptoms go away completely, Andres Sanchez, MD, an internal medicine physician at Atrium Health Mecklenburg Medical Group - Pineville has some suggestions on what you should do if you suspect you have the flu and when you should seek medical care.

First, determine if you have the flu

People often get flu symptoms confused with a cold, or most recently – with COVID-19. A cold and the flu can both produce sore throats, coughs and runny noses. The flu is often associated with a fever, chills, nausea and body aches. Symptoms can begin to appear within 48 hours after infection and usually improve after 72 hours of symptom onset. The flu and COVID-19 can also present very similarly – both often have muscle aches, fatigue, fevers, cough and congestion. COVID-19 more commonly has loss of taste and smell and GI symptoms such as diarrhea but in general for this upcoming season it will be challenging to tell the difference between flu and COVID-19 without a test.

So you have the flu, now what?

If you determine that you have the flu, there are a couple of steps you should take to treat it. Dr. Sanchez says that how you treat the flu is dependent on your age and certain medical conditions.

For healthy adults, the flu can be treated by rest and hydration. Over-the-counter decongestants can help clear up stuffy noses, and common pain-relieving drugs can be used for aches and to reduce a fever. Staying comfortable and relaxed is key in speeding up the healing process.

For children or adults over 65-years-old, as well as those with compromised immune system, Dr. Sanchez recommends an evaluation by a healthcare provider for an antiviral medicine. This can help reduce the severity of symptoms. For best results, prescribed medications should be taken within 48 hours of symptoms appearing.

Do I need to go to a doctor?

If you’re an otherwise healthy adult with the flu, there is not an immediate need to visit a doctor. However, if your symptoms do not improve after five days, or your symptoms improve and then worsen, a trip to your healthcare provider is recommended. A visit to one of Atrium Heath’s Urgent Care locations can help get you back on track. If you do not want to leave your house, you can also talk to a medical provider through a Virtual or eVisit. However, if your symptoms become life-threatening, such as if you are having trouble breathing or your fever goes above 104°F  please call 911 or visit an Emergency Care location.

Prevention is key

While you cannot turn back time, Dr. Sanchez recommends that you should get a flu shot to prevent getting the flu again next year. Even if your immune system is normally strong, immune systems weaken as we age. The shot can also protect others around you with compromised immune systems from contracting the virus. If you’re a little nervous about symptoms the flu shot may give you, Dr. Sanchez stresses that, “It’s nothing compared to the actual flu.” Getting the flu shot will be especially important this year as flu season collides with the COVID-19 pandemic.