Most people with flu have 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.
If, however, you have symptoms of flu and are at increased risk for complications, are very sick or worried about your illness, contact your health care provider. CDC recommends prompt early treatment for people who have flu or suspected flu who are at higher risk of serious flu complications, such as people with asthma, diabetes, or heart disease.
Antiviral drugs can help treat flu illness:
- Antiviral drugs are different from antibiotics. Flu antivirals are prescription medicines (pills, liquid, intravenous solution, or an inhaled powder) and are not available over the counter.
- Antiviral drugs can make illness milder and shorten the time you are sick. They might also prevent serious flu complications, like pneumonia, when treatment is started early.
- It’s very important that antiviral drugs be started early after symptoms begin to treat people who are very sick with flu (for example, people who are in the hospital) and people who are sick with flu and have a greater chance of getting serious flu complications, either because of their age or because they have a higher risk medical condition. Other people also might be treated with antiviral drugs by their doctor. Most otherwise-healthy people who get flu, however, do not need to be treated with antiviral drugs.
Studies show that flu antiviral drugs work best for treatments when they are started within two days of getting sick. However, starting them later can still be helpful, especially if the sick person has a higher-risk health condition or is very sick from flu (for example, hospitalized patients). Follow your doctor’s instructions for taking these drugs.
Antibiotics won’t help
When you have flu, antibiotics will not help you feel better. Antibiotics don’t treat the flu virus, and their side effects could cause harm.
Side effects of antibiotics can range from minor issues, like a rash, to very serious health problems, such as:
- Antimicrobial-resistant infections, which are difficult to treat and cure
- C. diff infection, which causes severe diarrhea that can lead to severe colon damage and death.
More information about appropriate antibiotic use is available at Antibiotic Do’s & Don’ts | Antibiotic Use | CDC.
If you get sick:
Take Antivirals Drugs, if a health care provider prescribes them
Take everyday precautions to protect others while sick
- While sick, stay away from others as much as possible to keep from infecting them.
- Cover your nose and mouth with a tissue when you cough or sneeze. Throw the tissue in the trash after you use it and wash your hands.
- Wash your hands often with soap and water. If soap and water are not available, use an alcohol-based hand rub.
- Clean and disinfect surfaces and objects that may be contaminated with germs like flu.
Stay home until you are better
- If you are sick with flu-like illness, CDC recommends that you stay home for at least 24 hours after your fever is gone except to get medical care or for other necessities. Your fever should be gone without the use of fever-reducing medicine.
- See Other Important Information for People Who are Sick.