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What is the flu?

Influenza, commonly called the flu, is an infection caused by a group of viruses that change frequently and are highly contagious. Common symptoms include fatigue, fever, headache, muscle aches, sore throat and cough. The best way to prevent the flu is to get an annual vaccine (the flu shot). This is especially important for people more at risk of a serious infection like very young children, the elderly, and anyone with a lung disease or a condition that compromise the immune system. Covering your cough, staying home when sick and frequently washing your hands will help prevent you from spreading the flu if you do become infected. While there is no “cure” for the flu there are things you can do to feel better while your body fights the infection.

Read More about the Flu

Up to date Information about the Flu from the CDC

Should I get tested for the flu?

It depends on your doctor’s recommendation. The symptoms of the flu are very similar to symptoms of other viral illnesses like the Common Cold or COVID19. It is possible to have the flu and other viruses at the same time (including COVID19). Often times a flu diagnosis is made based on your symptoms and testing is not necessary, however if your doctor recommended testing, it is readily available at most Urgent Care Centers and Primary Care Clinics. The most common test is a nasal swab that provides rapid results (typically in one hour or less). As of now there is no combined test for the Flu and COVID19.

Treatment options

Anti-viral medications are available to treat Influenza, however they do not ‘cure’ the virus. According to the CDC anti-viral medications started within the first 2 days of symptom onset may reduce the severity of symptoms, shorten the course of illness by 1 day and reduce the risk of flu-related complications. Anti-viral therapy is recommended by the CDC for patients who are very sick or in a high risk group.

A common anti-viral medication used to help with flu Symptoms is Oseltavmivir, also know as Tamiflu. If your doctor prescribed Tamiflu please take it as prescribed. A typical prescription is for 5 days. The most common side effects of Tamiflu are nausea, vomiting, diarrhea and an upset stomach. If you experience any additional side effects please reach out to your doctor.

Over-the-counter medication

  • Stuffy nose? Take 30mg of Sudafed every 8 hours as needed. Don’t take if you have high blood pressure or are pregnant or breastfeeding. Stop taking it if it makes you feel dizzy.
  • Runny nose? Try Flonase (a nasal steroid). Do two sprays in each nostril once daily for a week.
  • Have a cough? Take Robitussin DM every 4 hours as needed using the dosing cup in the package.
  • Experiencing pain or fever? Take 600mg of ibuprofen (Advil) or 650mg of acetaminophen (Tylenol) every 6 hours with food, as needed.

Home remedies

  • Take a hot, steamy shower to help relieve nasal congestion.
  • Do a sinus flush using nasal saline (found at any pharmacy) to alleviate congestion.
  • Drink tea with honey or suck on a cough drop to help soothe a sore throat.
  • Gargle salt water to help soothe a sore throat. Just add half a teaspoon of salt to 8 ounces of warm water and gargle the water as long as you can in the back of your throat, then spit it out.
  • Stay hydrated with non-caffeinated, non-alcoholic fluids. Drink at least 8 cups a day
  • Get plenty of rest (at least 8 hours of sleep each night).

See a doctor in person if…

You develop any shortness of breath, chest pain, a fever that won’t come down, or feel like you might pass out.

Check in with K Health if…

You’re not seeing an improvement in your health within 2-3 days. Come back and we will re-evaluate your treatment plan. Please keep in mind the flu commonly causes people to feel sick for up to 2 weeks.

David Morley, MD

Dr. Morley specializes in emergency medicine and received his medical degree from the Sackler School of Medicine in New York City. He completed his residency at Thomas Jefferson University Hospital.