• Ronnie Shalev, MD

I think I have the flu, now what?

You start to feel body aches, sore throat, fever, and chills. “Oh no”, you think to yourself, “am I getting sick?” Could I have the flu?

We are currently in the peak of flu season and the news and media are talking about all of the flu illnesses and even recent deaths related to the flu. Instead of simple public awareness, it creates high level anxiety about the flu and fear of potential death.

So what are the next steps you should take? Do you need to go to the ER? The answer is no. If you have no chronic medical conditions, are not on chemotherapy or chronic steroids, and have no shortness of breath, vomiting, or diarrhea, then there is NO NEED to seek emergency treatment in the ER. If you feel like you need an actual diagnosis, then you can go to a retail clinic (such as CVS Minute Clinic or Walgreens), an urgent care, or a doctor’s office. Otherwise, you can just assume you have the flu and stay home.

Since there is no cure for the flu, you can treat yourself at home with home remedies and over-the-counter flu medication. Take Tylenol or Motrin for your fever and body aches. Treat your symptoms, there is no reason to be miserable.

Drink plenty (>60 ounces) of water, not soda, coffee, or ice tea...water. Wash your hands often and for at least 20 seconds. Clean and disinfect surfaces in your home to help stop the spread of the infection. If you are sick with the flu, that is not the time to go shopping at the mall or to a grocery store. Stay home so you don’t infect others. Cover your mouth when you cough. Don’t cough into your hand, only into your sleeve or inner elbow.

You should seek emergency medical care if you start having trouble breathing, sudden dizziness, chest pain, severe vomiting and diarrhea, and if you feel lethargic or confused. Otherwise, rest, hydrate, treat your symptoms, and take care of yourself!