What You Shouldn't Do When You Have the Flu


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. Although even healthy people can get really sick and die from the flu, a majority of flu deaths occur in people that are in high-risk groups. Adults over the age of 65, young children under 2 years old, pregnant women, people with chronic medical conditions such as asthma or heart disease and anyone with a compromised immune system are more likely to develop complications from the flu, be hospitalized with it or lose their lives to it.

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 health care provider or even an urgent care clinic. And many people don't need medical treatment at all when they have the flu.

If you or your child are experiencing difficulty breathing, chest pain, confusion, sudden dizziness or severe lethargy, 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 health care 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. Tamiflu and Relenza are the most commonly prescribed antiviral medications in the United States for the flu. 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. 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 also risk exposing other people to your germs. And of course, most people that attempt to work when they are sick are not very productive. 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 that is causing a lot of vomiting and diarrhea—you most likely have gastroenteritis, not the flu.


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.

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