If you become ill with influenza, the CDC recommends:
- Stay home from work or school
- Avoid contact with others except to get medical care.
- Get lots of rest
- Drink plenty of liquids
- Avoid using alcohol and tobacco
Note: Influenza and COVID-19 are both contagious respiratory illnesses caused by different viruses. Because some of the
symptoms of influenza and COVID-19 are similar, it may be hard to tell the difference between them, and testing may be needed to help confirm a diagnosis.
Contact your primary care provider if you have flu-like symptoms to learn the best treatment for you.
There are over-the-counter (OTC) medications to relieve the symptoms of influenza (but never give aspirin to children or teenagers who have influenza-like symptoms, particularly fever). Remember that serious illness from influenza is more likely in certain groups of people, including people 65 and older, pregnant women, people with certain chronic medical conditions and young children.
Be aware of emergency warning signs that require urgent medical attention.
Care for children
Children, especially very young children may be more susceptible to severe complications of seasonal influenza.
Influenza can be a serious medical condition for younger children. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC):
Children commonly need medical care because of influenza, especially before they turn 5 years old. Severe influenza complications are most common in children younger than 2 years old. Children with chronic health problems like asthma and diabetes are at especially high risk of developing serious influenza complications.
Children younger than 6 months of age
Children younger the 6 months of age are not approved to be vaccinated against influenza, so they are particularly vulnerable to influenza and its complications.
The best protection for children this young is for caregivers (both in and outside the home) to be vaccinated against seasonal influenza.
Children from age 6 months to 5 years old
The CDC notes that this age group is in danger of contracting influenza and may suffer serious consequences.
According to the CDC, more than 20,000 children younger than 5 years old are hospitalized because of influenza. Even children in this age group who are otherwise healthy are at risk simply because of their age.
To protect their health, all children 6 months and older should be vaccinated against influenza each year. Vaccinating young children, their families and other caregivers early in the influenza season – September or October – can help protect them from getting sick.
Children with chronic medical conditions may need special care in avoiding or treating influenza.
Care for seniors
Anyone 65 years and older are at high risk for serious complications from influenza.
According to the CDC, 90 percent of seasonal influenza deaths and more than half of hospitalizations occur in people 65 years and older each year.
The most important step is to get a vaccination for the seasonal influenza each year early in the fall. Even if you aren't vaccinated early, it is still important to get the flu shot because you are at risk for the seasonal influenza through spring.
Others at risk
If you have a chronic medical condition such as heart disease, diabetes and so on, you may be at even greater risk for serious complications from influenza. Consult your doctor and take the recommended steps to care for yourself.
You should be aware of symptoms that signal a medical emergency.
In children, emergency warning signs that need urgent medical attention include:
- Fast breathing or trouble breathing
- Bluish skin color
- Not drinking enough fluids
- Not waking up or not interacting
- Being so irritable that the child does not want to be held
- Flu-like symptoms improve but then return with fever and worse cough
- Fever with a rash
In addition to the signs above, get medical help right away for any infant who has any of these signs:
- Being unable to eat
- Has trouble breathing
- Has no tears when crying
- Significantly fewer wet diapers than normal
In adults, emergency warning signs that need urgent medical attention include:
- Difficulty breathing or shortness of breath
- Pain or pressure in the chest or abdomen
- Sudden dizziness
- Severe or persistent vomiting
- Flu-like symptoms that improve but then return with fever and worse cough
Seek emergency medical care if you or someone you know is experiencing any of the emergency symptoms above.