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Think You Have The Flu? Here's The Best Treatment Plan

Health officials prescribe Mom's advice: stay home, rest up and drink fluids. You also can use over-the-counter remedies or get a prescription for anti-viral drugs.

You can treat flu-like symptoms without medication. Photo Credit: flu.gov.
You can treat flu-like symptoms without medication. Photo Credit: flu.gov.
If you've been diagnosed with the flu, or if you have flu-like symptoms, health officials echo what Mom would tell you to do: stay home.

You can treat flu symptoms with and without medication. While over-the-counter treatments may help you feel better, they will not make you less contagious. A doctor can prescribe anti-viral drugs that can make the illness shorter or milder and prevent serious complications.

The Centers for Disease Control point out that most people with the flu experience mild illness and do not need medical care or antiviral drugs. If you get sick with flu symptoms, in most cases, you should stay home and avoid contact with other people except to get medical care.


The Department of Health and Human Services flu information website, flu.gov, explains that you can treat flu symptoms without medication by:

  • Getting plenty of rest.
  • Drinking clear fluids like water, broth, sports drinks, or electrolyte beverages to prevent becoming dehydrated.
  • Placing a cool, damp washcloth on your forehead, arms, and legs to reduce discomfort associated with a fever.
  • Putting a humidifier in your room to make breathing easier.
  • Gargling salt water (1:1 ratio warm water to salt) to soothe a sore throat.
  • Covering up with a warm blanket to calm chills.
Do you have a home remedy that you swear by? With flu cases increasing, now's the time to share your secret! Tell us in the comments section what you do to feel better.

Over-the-counter treatments that can help alleviate symptoms include decongestants, cough medicines and throat lozenges, and pain relievers such as acetaminophen (Tylenol, for example), ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin or Nuprin, for example), or nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, known as NSAIDs (Aleve, for example).

Although many people don't need medical attention, if you have symptoms of flu and you are in a high risk group and/or you are very sick or worried about your illness, you should contact your health care provider. Certain people are at greater risk of serious flu-related complications, including young children, elderly persons, pregnant women and people with certain long-term medical conditions. 

Those health care providers will determine whether you need a flu test and additional treatment. Your doctor may prescribe antiviral drugs that can treat the flu. These drugs work better the sooner they are started.

The FDA currently recommends two anti-viral treatments for the flu: Tamiflu (oseltamivir phosphate), for patients two weeks and older, and Relenza (zanamivir), for patients five years and older.

Flu season is here, with cases widespread in Virginia, but it's not too late to get a flu shot or nasal spray. Check out these previous stories:

Flu Season Is Here, But It's Not Too Late To Vaccinate:
See where to get a flu shot near you.

Flu Season: How To Know If That's What You've Got:
One in five Americans gets the flu, and here's how to know whether you've got it.

For more information about influenza, its symptoms, prevention and treatment, or cases reported, you can visit flu.gov, the CDC, the Virginia Department of Health, or the District of Columbia Department of Health.

You may also want to check out these related links provided by flu.gov:

The Flu: What To Do If You Get Sick

Get Smart: Know When Antibiotics Work

FDA Tamiflu Information

FDA Relenza Information

The best way to take your over-the-counter pain reliever? Seriously.

What You Should Know About Flu Antiviral Drugs

Antiviral Drugs: Seasonal Flu (Podcast)

FDA Expands Tamiflu’s Use to Treat Children Younger Than 1 Year


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