Kleenex, medicine, and a pair of feet lie near the edge of a couch, while their owner lies propped up, sneezing and sniffling.
Home > Healthy Living > What to do when you have the flu

What to do when you have the flu

When it comes to the flu, 2018 is turning out to be quite scary. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) has reported the highest rates of hospital admissions for influenza since the flu pandemic of 2009.

Fortunately, there are ways to monitor and stay on top of your symptoms. If you or a loved one have the flu or are feeling under the weather, take a moment to learn when your symptoms indicate it’s time to call a nurse line or visit your doctor or urgent care center. You can even print the following symptoms-based guide and keep it handy for the future.

When to call a nurse line:

  • If symptoms improve, then worsen
  • If you have a chronic health condition (e.g., heart or lung conditions, diabetes, asthma, etc.)
  • A sore throat lasts for more than 5 days
  • Congestion for more than 2 weeks
  • A cough for more than 3 weeks
  • A fever of more than 101 that lasts for more than 3 days

Visit your primary care doctor or urgent care center if you have:

  • A fever over 103 or fever that doesn’t improve after taking fever-reducing medication
  • Ear pain or a persistently sore throat
  • Sinus pain
  • Flu symptoms while pregnant
  • An inability to eat or drink

Go to the emergency room immediately if you have:

  • A weakened immune system (e.g., due to cancer, HIV, etc.)
  • A fever over 103, with confusion
  • Difficulty breathing or rapid breathing
  • An inability to stay hydrated
  • Difficulty breathing or feeling extremely short of breath
  • Chest pain
  • Extreme sleepiness

What are respiratory infections anyway?

Respiratory infections are contagious viruses that occur in your upper respiratory tract (nose, throat, pharynx, larynx, and bronchi). The most common symptoms include fever, muscle aches, headache, cough, nasal congestion, sore throat, and fatigue.

The common cold, sore throat, sinus infection, and influenza (flu) all fit within the larger category of respiratory infections. (Some symptoms that are more specific to the flu are a high fever and muscle aches.)

Should I get a flu shot?

Yes. Flu shots dramatically decrease the odds of getting the flu; however, even individuals who have had flu shots still occasionally come down with the flu or illnesses with flu-like symptoms.

While some people can feel mildly ill for a few days after receiving the flu vaccine, it’s important to remember that getting a flu shot does not cause the flu.

How long until I feel better?

Most people recover within one to two weeks. However, influenza can cause more serious illness if you have a weakened immune system or a chronic medical condition like diabetes or heart disease. The flu can also be more serious for children, the elderly, and pregnant women.

The sooner you’re able to start antiviral medication, the better. But unless you’re experiencing severe symptoms, the best place to start is usually with a call to an advice nurse.

*We do not provide medical advice. The medical information we provide is intended for educational purposes only. Such information is not a substitute for the care and advice from your healthcare providers. Consult your doctor for medical advice.

Register for Castlight
Already have an account? Log in