What To Do If You Get the Flu

It’s officially peak flu season and many of us are experiencing the side effects. ProMedica family and sports medicine physician Matthew Rennels, DO, talks about the symptoms and treatment of the flu, and what you can do to help avoid contracting the virus in the first place.

Symptoms

The flu is a respiratory tract infection that can affect your whole body. It usually starts abruptly with fever, tiredness, headache, muscle aches, sore throat and a cough. Many illnesses begin with flu-like symptoms, so it can be hard to determine if it’s the influenza virus that caused you to be sick.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), you cannot tell the difference between the flu and COVID-19 by symptoms alone. A test is necessary to determine whether it is the flu, COVID-19 or another illness.

Treatment

If you think you may have the flu, Dr. Rennels recommends avoiding hospital or emergency care treatment unless medically necessary. “I recommend that patients talk with their primary care provider to get a recommendation on where to go. Use urgent care if needed and, if that’s not available, then go to the emergency room if absolutely necessary. Your primary care provider should be able to direct you to the best place for the symptoms you have.”

Treatment for the flu depends on your symptoms and other factors, including your overall health and any other health conditions that could make the sickness more severe. Rest and increased fluids are important and certain medicines may help relieve you of symptoms such as congestion, aches and fever.

Prevention

Dr. Rennels says flu season may last through the end of February or even into March, depending on the weather, as the flu virus is most easily passed around in the colder weather.

To avoid contracting or spreading the flu, wash your hands well and often, and keep them away from your eyes, nose and mouth. Don’t share personal items such as drinking cups or toothbrushes. A person with the flu can spread the virus from the first day (before having symptoms) to up to seven days after becoming sick.

Finally, it’s not too late to get the flu and COVID-19 shots, which reduces your risk of contracting the viruses. Contact your primary care provider to schedule your vaccination.