What You Shouldn't Do When You Have the Flu

There are some things you just can't avoid, like getting the flu. It's even possible to have the flu even if vaccinated.

The Center's for Disease Control and Prevention even reports that vaccine protection varies from "season to season," and also on the age and health status of person receiving it and thier vaccine 'match' between the viruses in the vaccine and those in circulation. The good news is for the vaccinated or unvaccinated that may get the flu, there are 10 things to do to make the seasonal sickness and symptoms less cumbersome.


Don't Expose Yourself to People in Flu High-Risk Groups

A woman in bed due to her sickness

Dave and Les Jacobs / Getty Images

The flu can make even the healthiest among us feel miserable. For some people, it can also be life-threatening. While healthy people can die from the flu, most flu deaths occur in high-risk groups with compromised immune systems, including adults over the age of 65, children under age two, pregnant and postpartum women, and people with other chronic medical conditions.

Since you are contagious with the flu from a day before symptoms start until five to seven days after you get sick, it's important to be aware of who you come into contact with.


Don't Go to the Hospital With the Flu Unless You Really Need To

Most people that go to the hospital with flu symptoms don't need to be there. If your symptoms aren't life-threatening or needing immediate treatment, you shouldn't go to the Emergency Department. Each flu season, ER's get overcrowded because people head straight there when they think they might have the flu.

Many people could get the same treatment (which would be faster and cheaper) from their primary healthcare provider or even an urgent care clinic. And many people don't need medical treatment at all when they have the flu, according to the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention.

If you or your child are experiencing difficulty breathing, chest pain, confusion, or sudden dizziness, you should seek immediate medical attention. There are certain times when a trip to the hospital with the flu is warranted. Unfortunately, most people that go don't fall into these categories.


Don't Assume You Know When You Should See a Healthcare Provider for the Flu

Not everyone needs to seek medical treatment when they have the flu, but there are times when you should. If you aren't having an emergency and don't need to go to the hospital, you may still need to see your healthcare provider.

Knowing what to watch for in yourself and your child when you have flu symptoms is important.


Don't Ask Your Healthcare Provider for Antibiotics for the Flu

Antibiotics don't kill viruses. Influenza (the flu) is a virus and antibiotics are useless against it. Although many people believe their favorite antibiotic will cure any illness they have, that just isn't the case.

If you have been diagnosed with the flu, don't push your healthcare provider to prescribe an antibiotic.

If your symptoms and health warrant it, there are antiviral medications that can be taken to shorten the duration ​of your flu symptoms. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration recommended four approved influenza antiviral medications in the U.S. during the 2020-2021 influenza season, including Tamiflu and Relenza.

They don't work quite like antibiotics do (meaning you won't necessarily feel better within 48 hours like you usually do with antibiotics) but they can reduce the severity of the illness and help you get better faster, even if by a day. These medications are most often prescribed for people in flu high-risk groups.


Don't Try to Continue Your Daily Activities With the Flu

With few exceptions, you need to stay home when you have the flu. Not allowing yourself time to rest will increase the amount of time that it takes you to recover. You risk exposing other people to your germs, especially in the first three to four days when you are still symptom-free. And of course, most people who attempt to work when they are sick are not very productive. So if you have the flu, stay home. Your coworkers will thank you.


Don't Diagnose Yourself With the Flu If You Have a Stomach Virus

The flu is a respiratory illness. Occasionally some people (usually children) may experience vomiting and diarrhea with the flu, but the primary symptoms are fever, body aches, headache, cough, and exhaustion. If you have an illness causing a lot of vomiting and diarrhea, this could be gastroenteritis, also called the "stomach flu," but is not caused by the influenza virus.


Don't Believe Everything You Read on the Internet About the Flu

Scroll through your Facebook Timeline, Twitter feed or just do a Google search and you will find all sorts of miracle cures and treatments for your flu symptoms. People share these articles and posts with little concern about whether or not they are accurate. If a friend shared it, it must be true, right?!

Of course, that isn't true. Anyone can post anything on the internet. Unfortunately, many of these claims can be not only inaccurate but also dangerous.

11 Sources
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Vaccine Effectiveness: How Well Do Flu Vaccines Work?

  2. The Center's for Disease Control and Prevention. People at Higher Risk of Flu Complications.

  3. Time. Hospitals Overwhelmed by Flu Patients Are Treating Them in Tents.

  4. The Centers of Disease Control and Prevention. Flu: What To Do If You Get Sick.

  5. AARP. 9 Symptoms You Should Never Ignore.

  6. U.S. Food and Drug Administration. WARNING. Antibiotics don't work for viruses like colds and the flu.

  7. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Influenza Antiviral Medications: Summary for Clinicians.

  8. McGill Office for Science and Society. Treating the Flu with Tamiflu.

  9. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Key Facts About Influenza (Flu).

  10. MedlinePlus. Gastroenteritis.

  11. Nature. The Biggest Pandemic Risk.

By Kristina Duda, RN
Kristina Duda, BSN, RN, CPN, has been working in healthcare since 2002. She specializes in pediatrics and disease and infection prevention.