5 Tips for Feeling Better If You Get the Flu - Crozer-Keystone Health System - PA

Published on November 22, 2016

5 Tips for Feeling Better If You Get the Flu

It starts with that hot burning feeling in the back of your throat, a runny nose and a cough. Before you know it, you’re stuck in bed with a fever, chills, body aches and maybe even a bad cause of nausea. It’s the flu, and it’s absolutely no fun. Despite your best efforts to stay healthy throughout the winter months, sometimes getting the flu is unavoidable. If you do get it, there are some things your doctor can do to help you feel better and others that you can try yourself to relieve your symptoms.

But, I Got My Flu Shot…

“Flu season in the United States typically runs from October to May,” says Dorothy Slavin, M.D., Crozer-Keystone Health System Infectious Disease physician. “We usually recommend that people get immunized for influenza in October, to provide protection throughout flu season. However, if they cannot be immunized then, we continue to recommend they be vaccinated until flu season is over.”

However, this is no guarantee that you won’t get the flu. In fact, researchers estimate that the flu vaccine is about 60 percent effective, which means that you still may get sick even if you got a shot. There are a few reasons why the flu shot isn’t perfect. First, there is a two-week window after you receive the shot before the vaccine provides full protection. This means that if you’re exposed to the flu virus within those two weeks, you could get the flu.

Also, the flu vaccine covers several strains of the flu virus, but not all of them. If you’re exposed to one of the strains not covered, you could get the flu. And finally, the flu vaccine works differently for some people, especially young children and the elderly, and may not provide immunity for the entire flu season.

Tips for Feeling Better

“Most people who get the flu have a sore throat, runny nose, a high fever and chills,” Dr. Slavin says. “You’ll also have pretty severe body aches to the point where you can’t even touch your head – your hair hurts, everything hurts.”

If you’re battling the flu, the following strategies can help:

  1. Take an Antiviral Medication: Your doctor may prescribe an antiviral medication to help shorten the duration of the flu and the severity of your symptoms. Keep in mind that the flu is caused by a virus, not bacteria, so antibiotics will not help.
  2. Stay Hydrated: It’s important to drink fluids to stay hydrated, especially if you are vomiting. Dehydration can make your nausea and headache worse and, in severe cases, may lead to a trip to the emergency room for fluid replacement.
  3. Stay in Bed: Rest is one of the keys to your recovery. This is the time to catch up on sleep, have someone else do the housework and take a break from exercising. Your body needs all available energy to fight the virus and recover.
  4. Take a Pain Reliever: Over-the-counter pain relievers such as ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin), acetaminophen (Tylenol), and cold and flu medications can help relieve your symptoms. Be careful not to overdose, as some cough medications may also contain the same pain relievers you’re taking in pill form. It’s also important to talk to your doctor before taking the medications if you have stomach problems, liver disease or high blood pressure.
  5. Humidify: Keeping the air humid will help to clear nasal passages and ease your sore throat. Use a humidifier, take a hot shower or boil water and inhale the steam (be careful of steam burns).

“Every year, we see people who are otherwise healthy who wind up very sick from the flu,” Dr. Slavin says. “They can end up on a ventilator, and I’ve even seen young people die from the flu. So it’s definitely important to get the vaccine.”

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