Things Not to Say When Someone Has the Flu

If you have ever had the flu, you know how terrible it makes you feel. If a friend or family member gets it and you want to help out, that is wonderful. But sometimes well-meaning people end up saying things that hurt rather than help. Here is our list of things not to say to someone with the flu so you don't make that mistake.

"You Look Awful"

Woman sick in bed.

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Honestly, no one wants to hear this. Ever. Even if it's true, there is no need to tell someone that they look terrible. It isn't helpful and can only hurt the other person's feelings. Everyone looks awful when they are sick, especially if they have the flu. Just be nice and keep your comments to yourself.

"You Should Have Gotten a Flu Shot"

Nurse giving a flu shot

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Maybe they did get a flu shot and got the flu anyway because it hadn't had time to provide protection yet, they got a strain of the flu that wasn't covered by the flu shot or they just weren't able to get full protection from it. Or maybe they didn't get a flu shot but made that decision for of a good reason. Chances are, you don't know for sure whether or not they got a flu vaccine and why they made the choice they did. Even if they didn't get the vaccine and they should or could have, there are better ways to handle that conversation than "I told you so" when they are sick.

"You Shouldn't Have Gotten a Flu Shot"

Young girl getting a shot

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Telling someone that the flu vaccine somehow caused their illness or made them more likely to get the virus isn't just unhelpful, it's also just plain wrong. There is no scientific evidence that the vaccine causes the flu. The virus in the flu vaccines is either killed or inactivated, making it impossible to give someone the flu. This comment only perpetuates the myth that flu vaccines cause more harm than good.

"You Need Antibiotics"

Antibiotic capsule


The flu is caused by the influenza virus and antibiotics don't kill viruses. Taking antibiotics for the flu (or any other virus) won't help make you better any faster and can lead to antibiotic resistance, making it harder to treat bacterial infections in the future.

Antiviral medications ​well-meaning for people with the flu, so encouraging the sick person to call his health care provider to see what options are available is the best thing to do.

"You'll Be Feeling Better in a Day or Two"

Family with sick children

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While there is a small chance this is true, many people that get the flu are sick for a week or longer, not just a few days. Instead of telling someone how they will feel in a few days (which is impossible to predict), encourage them to take it easy and ask for help if they need it.

"Vomiting Is the Worst"

A man vomiting

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The flu is not a stomach virus. Its symptoms do not typically include vomiting and diarrhea and while a case of gastroenteritis (aka "stomach flu") is terrible, it bears the well-meaning resemblance to the actual flu.

"Let Me Give You a Hug!"

Don't Get Sick

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Unless you want to get the flu as well, it's best to keep your distance when someone you know has it. Although it's a nice gesture, hugging, kissing and other physical contact only increases your chances that you will get sick too.

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