When you are sick with the flu, stay home and try to get lots of rest, drink plenty of fluids and avoid using alcohol and tobacco. Limit contact with others as much as possible to keep from infecting them. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommend that you stay home for at least 24 hours after your fever is gone except to get medical care. (Your fever should be gone without the use of a fever-reducing medicine.)
If your symptoms or medical history don't call for you to seek medical care for the flu, the tips below can help you treat symptoms at home.
- Fever, headaches, muscle pain: Use acetaminophen or ibuprofen. Follow the directions on the package, or as your doctor recommends. Aspirin should not be given to children younger than 18 years unless specifically prescribed by a doctor because of possible serious complications. For fever in a child younger than 2 years, consult your doctor.
- Vomiting and diarrhea: Drink plenty of fluids including water, juices and fluids with electrolytes, such as sports drinks and pediatric rehydration fluids. Avoid caffeinated drinks, such as coffee, tea and cola, because they cause the body to lose more fluids.
- Cough: Use a cough suppressant if coughing interferes with sleeping and eating. Check the product label or talk to your doctor or pharmacist about which products to use, their side-effects and dosage. Use all medications only as directed.
- Congestion: Use a decongestant. Nasal sprays may give relief, but do not use them for more than two to three days. Check the product label or talk to your doctor or pharmacist about which products to use, their side-effects and dosage. Use all medications only as directed.
- Sore throat: Drink more fluids, suck on throat lozenges, gargle with warm salt water and spit out the water after gargling. Add moisture to the air with a humidifier. Decrease the use of your voice.
- Antivirals: Your doctor may prescribe antiviral medication. To be effective, antiviral treatment must be started within two days after onset of illness. Check with your doctor if you are at high risk for serious complications from influenza. During a flu pandemic, we do not know how effective current antivirals will be against a pandemic flu virus, or their availability.