When to seek treatment for flu

Follow these guidelines to make sure you get the right care.

January 15, 2020


An annual flu shot is an important way to protect yourself from the flu. If you haven’t gotten your shot yet, there’s still time to protect yourself. Simply contact your Polyclinic primary care provider’s office to schedule an appointment. 

If you or a loved one has the flu, below are care guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

How do I know if I have the flu?

You may have the flu if you have some or all of these symptoms:

  • Fever (note that not everyone with flu gets a fever)
  • Cough
  • Sore throat
  • Runny or stuffy nose
  • Body aches
  • Headache
  • Chills
  • Fatigue
  • Sometimes diarrhea and vomiting

What should I do if I get sick?

Most people with the flu have mild illness and don’t need medical care or antiviral drugs. In most cases, you should stay home and avoid contact with other people, except to get medical care.

But if you have symptoms of flu and are in a high-risk group, or if you're very sick or worried about your illness, contact your health care provider. 

People at high risk of serious, flu-related complications are:

  • Children under age 5, especially children under age 2
  • Adults age 65 and older
  • Pregnant women
  • Residents of nursing homes and other long-term care facilities
  • People with medical conditions, including asthma, heart disease and diabetes
  • Non-Hispanic Black, non-Hispanic Native American or Alaska Native and Hispanic or Latino

If you’re in a high-risk group and get flu symptoms, contact your doctor. They will determine if you need testing and treatment.

Are there medicines to treat the flu?

Yes. Your doctor may prescribe an antiviral, a drug that can help you feel better faster and may prevent serious complications. Antivirals work better the sooner they are started. Learn more at the CDC.

If I’m a little sick should I go to the ER?

No. The emergency room should be used if you are very sick. Do not go to the emergency room if you are only mildly ill. If you go to the emergency room and don’t have the flu, you may catch it from people who do have it.

If you get sick with flu symptoms and are at high risk of flu complications or you are concerned about your illness, call your doctor for advice. If you have the emergency warning signs of flu sickness listed below, go to the emergency room.

What are emergency warning signs of flu?

In children:

  • Fast breathing or trouble breathing
  • Bluish skin color
  • Not drinking enough fluids
  • Not waking up or not interacting
  • Being so irritable that the child doesn’t want to be held
  • Flu-like symptoms improve, then return with fever and worse cough
  • Fever with a rash

Get medical help right away for any infant with any of the following:

  • Unable to eat
  • Trouble breathing
  • No tears when crying
  • Far fewer wet diapers than normal

In adults:

  • Difficulty breathing or shortness of breath
  • Pain or pressure in the chest or stomach
  • Sudden dizziness
  • Confusion
  • Severe or constant vomiting
  • Symptoms that improve then return with fever and worse cough

How long should I stay home if I’m sick?

The CDC recommends staying home for at least 24 hours after your fever is gone, except to get medical care or other necessities. Your fever should be gone without the use of a fever-reducing medicine, such as Tylenol®.

Until that happens, stay home. Don’t go to work, school, travel, shop, or attend social events and public gatherings. In addition:

  • Stay away from others as much as possible to keep from infecting them.
  • Wear a face mask, or cover coughs and sneezes with a tissue if you must leave home, for example, to get medical care.
  • Wash your hands often to keep from spreading flu to others.
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The information provided is for general informational purposes only and is not intended to be medical advice or a substitute for professional health care. You should consult an appropriate health care professional for your specific needs.