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Treatment of Flu

Woman in bed sick with flu

Knowing what to do if you get the flu may help you feel better sooner and prevent others from becoming sick.

Recovering from flu

Most people recover from the flu with little more than rest and spending time at home. Learn when to seek medical care.

If you do become sick and medical attention isn’t necessary, having some "flu-friendly" supplies available can make managing the flu a little easier.

Flu-friendly supplies

Here are a few supplies you might need if you get sick with flu:

  • Thermometer
  • Fever reducers such as acetaminophen (for example, Tylenol) or ibuprofen (for example, Advil or Motrin). Follow the package label or a doctor/nurse’s direction to reduce fever, headache, and muscle, joint, or eye pain.
    Note: Brand names are provided as examples only. It does not mean that these products are endorsed by VA or any other Government agency. Also, if a particular brand name is not mentioned, this does not mean or imply that the product is unsatisfactory.
  • Cough drops, cough syrup, throat lozenges
  • Drinks—fruit juices, soda, tea, sport drinks, or water (avoid caffeine)
  • Light foods—clear soups, crackers, applesauce
  • Blankets or warm covers

If you get the flu

  • Stay home and rest for at least 24 hours, especially while you have a fever.
  • Stay away from young children, seniors and anyone who’s at high risk for complications from the flu.
  • Clean your hands, especially after coughing, sneezing or using a tissue.
  • Cover your mouth and nose when you cough or sneeze, or wear a protective facemask to prevent infecting others.
  • See your doctor if you have trouble breathing, your lips become discolored, you can’t hold anything down, or have signs of dehydration (e.g. lack of urine or dizziness upon standing).

If someone in your house gets the flu

  • Care for the sick person at home
  • Have the sick person stay home do the following:
    • Drink fluids
    • Take fever reducers such as acetaminophen (for example, Tylenol) or ibuprofen (for example, Advil or Motrin). Follow the package label or a doctor/nurse’s direction to reduce fever, headache, and muscle, joint, or eye pain.
      Note: Brand names are provided as examples only. It does not mean that these products are endorsed by VA or any other Government agency. Also, if a particular brand name is not mentioned, this does not mean or imply that the product is unsatisfactory.
  • A sick person is most likely to spread the flu when he or she has a fever or within the first 5 days of becoming sick.
  • Separate the sick person from other people in the home.
  • Have only one person care for the sick person, if possible.
  • Wear a mask over your nose and mouth when caring for someone who’s sick.
  • Encourage the sick person to cover his or her coughs and sneezes with a tissue. Coughing or sneezing into your sleeve also works when a tissue or handkerchief isn’t available.
  • Dispose of used tissues immediately and be sure to clean your hands after using or handling a tissue.
  • Wash all eating utensils and drinking glasses well. There’s no need to separate a sick person’s utensils or drinking glasses or do any special washing or sterilizing.
  • Change the sick person’s bedding and towels frequently. Be sure to clean your hands after touching soiled laundry. No need to clean a sick person’s laundry separately.

When to seek medical care

CALL your health care provider or 1-877-222-8387 to speak to a VA health care provider if you or someone else with the flu:

  • Is unable to drink enough fluids (has dark urine; may feel dizzy when standing)
  • Has a fever for more than 3 to 5 days
  • Feels better, then gets a fever again

Call 911 or get medical care right away if you or a loved one has these symptoms:

  • Shortness of breath or wheezing
  • Coughs up blood
  • Chest pain when breathing
  • Heart disease (like angina or congestive heart failure) and has chest pain
  • Unable to walk, sit up or function normally (others might be the ones to notice this—especially in elderly persons)

Download free viewer and reader software to view PDF, video and other file formats.


Flu self assessment online tool
Infection: Don’t Pass It On
Flu.gov – Know what to do about the flu.

Contact

Health Care
877-222-8387

TDD (Hearing Impaired)
800-829-4833