What to Do When You Have the Flu

If suddenly your spouse or child starts feeling fever and ache in body, then you should have an idea that it is probably flu. Flu comes quickly in comparison with common cold but not dangerous. Wondering what to do when you have the flu? We have some really effective tips for you.

Do You Get a Flu or Cold?

Before listing treatment, let's first identify if you get a flu or cold. Flu or influenza is caused by upper respiratory problem but in some cases the condition can become severe like pneumonia. It is imperative to mention that children, elders and pregnant ladies or other immuno-compromised patients can catch heart problems, diabetes and asthma from flu.

Cold can occur at any time throughout year, but flu is a seasonal problem that is very common around mid-spring season and peak in winters. The ways of catching flu and cold are mostly similar which includedirect contact with the infected patients. In most cases, the causative agent of flu is influenza virus (A, B and C). Due to variations in strains, a new flu vaccination is needed each year.

Some common symptoms of flu include:

  • Dry cough
  • Sore throat
  • Fever
  • Shakiness
  • Ache in head, muscles and body
  • Stuffy nose
  • Fatigue

What to Do When You Have the Flu

You are now quite clear about the conditions and symptoms you may face, but what can you to do relieve the discomfort? Below are some effective methods you can try.

1. OTC Medications Can Help

OTC medicines may not help in reducing the severity of flu but are still used to alleviate the symptoms. Some suggested OTC medicines are listed here:



Pain Relievers

Painkillers help to relieve pain and alleviate headache, back and muscle ache which accompanies flu. Some medicines which come under this category include acetaminophen, aspirin, naproxen, and ibuprofen.

Children under 18 should not be given aspirin if they have symptoms of flu. Aspirin can cause Reye's syndrome in children, although it isn't common but is a severe disease and can prove fatal sometimes.

Cough Supplements

These medicines help in the inhibition of cough reflex, which controls dry cough when there's no mucus. Robitussin is a drug that comes under this category.


These drugs help in relieving stuffy nose which mostly accompanies flu. Some of the decongestants include Phenylephrine and Pseudoephedrine. Decongestants must not be used by hypertensive patients as it increases the pressure of blood.

Antiviral Medicines

Antiviral medicines work effectively to reduce flu severity in the first 2 days development of symptoms. Also, as its name indicates, it can work to treat viral infection. Commonly used antiviral medicines include zanamivir, amantadine, oseltamivir and rimantadine.


This medication can help to relieve symptoms like runny nose and itchiness in eyes. First generation antihistamines include doxylamine, dimenhydrinate, brompheniramine, dimenhydramine. With sedative effects, they may make you sleepy as well. To avoid such effects, you can try second generation of antihistamines; two types available locally include Loratadine and Cetirizine.

Combination Medicines

Many OTC medications of cold and flu can have more than one category which helps in treating multiple symptoms of flu at a time.

2. Flu Vaccination

As a precaution, you can have flu shots every year to avoid the flu. It's not particularly a treatment but experts recommendevery individual older than 6 months to have the flu shot each year.

October or November are the months recommended for vaccine shots, because it allows your body to develop antibodies to flu before the peak of flu season—December to March. You should confirm with your doctor whether you really need it or not before having a vaccine shot, as they are not for everyone.

3. Be Mindful of Spreading

Another important thing is to stop the spread of your flu germs to save others, this can be done by:

  • Covering your nose and mouth using tissues, whenever you are sneezing or coughing.
  • Throw the used tissues away immediately after the use.
  • Use antibiotic soap to wash the hands regularly.
  • Use surface cleaners to avoid germs.

If possible, take a leave from work and take rest until you feel okay and there are no more infections. The fever usually fade away naturally without medicines, so you'd better staying at home for at least 24 hours before getting rid of the fever.

Home Remedies to Get Rid of Flu

Here are some home remedies that can also answer the question of what to do when you have the flu.

1. Keep Hydrated

Dehydration can make your illness even worse. It is recommended to consume ample amount of fluids including water, broths and other drinks. You can also have them using straw or an ice cubes or pops. In any case fluids relieve the sore throat.

2. Have Rest at Home

If your symptoms are severe, make sure to take ample rest and fluids. It will prevent the spreading of germs by staying in a room and keeping it clean. You can have steam baths or use humidifiers for better breathing. Gargling with salt and warm water will also soothe your throat.

3. Add Humidity

For soothing sore throat and nasal congestion, moist air helps the most. Get steam baths more than once a day and you can only sit in bathroom and inhale steam with shower on for few minutes. You may also use a humidifier but make sure it's clean.

4. Make a Tent

Heat some water to boil in a pot. Then cover your head with a towel like a tent, close your eyes and breathe deeply leaning over the hot water. Stay in the same position for 30 seconds. You can also add few drops helping to bust the phlegm. Repeat the procedure to relieve congestion.

5. Be a Sucker

To ease your sore throat and cough, you can also try cough drops, hard candy or lozenges for throat. They relieve the throat and cough surprisingly and are effective than most medicines.

6. Gargle with Salt Water

It is so much annoying for mucus collects on back of throat and even when we lay down. To get rid of that, gargle with the solution of warm water and salt. Gargling with salt water solution can also help to ease runny and stuffy nose.

7. Apply Neti Pots

For stuffiness, nasal irrigation helps to ease it and reduce risks of sinus infection. Neti pots are available in health and medicine stores or you can also use saline bottles. Buy or prepare salt water, pour in a nostril and leave to run it out from the other by clearing the nasal passage.

When to Seek Emergency Care

When it comes to the issue of what to do when you have the flu, one essential is to be clear about when to take emergency care to avoid serious issues.

For Children:

  • Fast and trouble in breathing
  • Skin color getting bluish
  • Low intake of fluids
  • No interaction or waking up
  • Rashes with fever
  • Too much irritation even on being held
  • Improvement of symptoms but then returning of them with even worse conditions

For Infants:

If you notice the following signs in your infants, take him to emergency immediately:

  • Eating inability
  • Breathing problem
  • Crying without tears
  • Diapers aren't as wet as before

For Adults:

  • Breathing shortness with difficulty
  • Pressure or pain in abdomen or chest
  • Feel dizziness suddenly
  • Severe and frequent vomiting
  • Improvement of symptoms but then returning of them with even worse conditions.
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