Think you have the flu? Here’s what to do

This year’s severe flu season has dominated headlines. Every time someone near me sniffles, coughs or sneezes, I find myself in a slight panic – oh no, have I just been exposed to the flu?! After all, you can catch the flu just by being in the room with someone with the virus.

I’ve never been particularly fearful of the flu. My family gets the annual flu vaccine, we cover coughs and sneezes, wash hands often, and try to avoid those who may be sick. But as the number of local flu cases increases, so has the concern.

You have the flu. Now what?

So what do you do if you find yourself with flu-like symptoms? The flu shares similar symptoms with the common cold: a cough, sore throat, runny nose, and congestion. How do you know if you have the flu? Unlike a cold, flu symptoms come on suddenly and can include fever, headache, fatigue, and aches in your muscles and joints.

If you suspect you have the flu, medical experts offer these five recommendations:

  1. STAY HOME and avoid contact with other people. This limits your risk of exposing others to the virus. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommend that you stay home for at least 24 hours after your fever is gone without the use of a fever-reducing medicine.
  2. CALL YOUR DOCTOR as soon as you think you may have the flu. It’s best to call and not go to the office.  Your provider can usually diagnose you over the phone and if needed, can prescribe an antiviral medication. Antiviral drugs tend to shorten the duration of the illness and reduce complications when taken within two days of getting sick.
  3. TELEMEDICINE visit if it’s after office hours, or your doctor is not available. Telemedicine providers, such as MDLIVE, can address your condition and prescribe needed medications either by phone or video conferencing. The visit might even cost you less than a trip to urgent care or the emergency room.
  4. EMERGENCY CARE. There are certain times when emergency care is needed. Your doctor may recommend the emergency room if your condition worsens or you are in a high-risk group. This includes young children, older adults, pregnant women and people with respiratory, cardiac or chronic conditions.
  5. GET A FLU SHOT – it’s not too late.

Should I get a flu shot?

I’m glad my family was vaccinated, even though reports show the flu vaccine may not be as effective as in other years. Medical experts still recommend the flu shot because it helps reduce the overall number of cases and reduces the severity of symptoms for those who do get sick.

Fortunately, so far our flu shots and increased awareness have helped keep the flu at bay!

For more tips on staying healthy this flu season, check out:

Curious to see how this flu season is different from last year? Check out our flu season graphic for the latest on flu activity.

Karen Feigel

Karen Feigel

A Rochester native, Karen is a regional communications manager at Excellus BlueCross BlueShield. She and her husband live in Pittsford with their three children. Karen enjoys spending time with her family and friends, traveling, music, and whenever weather permits, having coffee (or a glass of wine!) on her patio.
Karen Feigel

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