Contracting the flu may seem like a little inconvenience, but in some situations, the viral sickness can cause major issues, requiring urgent medical care or even hospitalisation.
Here are some ways that can help you get rid of the flu in the least possible time.
Between 2010 and 2020, the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimated 12,000 to 52,000 deaths, 140,000 to 710,000 hospitalisations, and 9 million to 41 million illnesses because of uncured flu.
"[The flu] is one of the few viral respiratory illnesses that we can actually treat specifically," Susan J. Rehm, MD, infectious disease specialist at the Cleveland Clinic, told Health.
“Antiviral medications are specific to the influenza virus, and they actually inhibit the virus from reproducing. And in that way, [they] can help people have a milder case of flu and get better faster,” said Dr Rehm. “They are the only things that are proven to make a difference in terms of the severity or duration of illness.”
The following antiviral medications are available by prescription:
Tamiflu (oseltamivir phosphate), an oral antiviral drug.
Relenza (zanamivir), an inhaled antiviral.
Rapivab (peramivir), administered intravenously.
Xofluza (baloxavir marboxil), an oral antiviral drug.
Antiviral medications can be a lifesaver for people with a high risk of complications from the flu, including older adults, young children, and pregnant women.
People with underlying health conditions such as diabetes, cancer, or heart or lung disease.
However, antiviral medications may not be necessary for people with a low risk of complications.
“Most healthy people who develop influenza infection do just fine by getting plenty of fluids and rest and do not need an antiviral medication unless they have severe infection,” Pritish Tosh, MD, an infectious disease specialist at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn., told Health.
That said, in some cases, antiviral medications may still be helpful.
“I have no reservations about prescribing it to low-risk patients,” Scott Bernstein, MD, an internist at Bon Secours Medical Group. “There is a rapid flu test that gives the results in 10 minutes. So, a [healthcare provider] can easily wait for the test to return before prescribing the drug.”
The key to the effectiveness of antiviral medications is when you begin taking them. Antiviral medications work best within the first 48 hours of illness. Although, it can still be beneficial to take antiviral medications after that timeframe.3
“What it will probably do is shave off at least a day from the illness,” explained Dr Rehm. “That illness that might normally last five to seven days hopefully would last a day or two less.”
Knowing some of the most common flu symptoms is essential to ensure that you seek treatment in time. For that, there's a mnemonic: FACTS, which stands for fever, aches, chills, tiredness, and sudden onset, said Dr Rehm.
Other flu symptoms can include:
Runny or stuffy nose.
Vomiting (more common in children).
Diarrhea (more common in children).
"The typical flu, in most patients, causes fever and achiness for two to four days. But they are often left with a dry cough and tiredness that can last awhile," said Dr Bernstein. Drinking plenty of fluids and taking fever-reducing medication is essential to treating your symptoms, added Dr Bernstein.
It can be easy to get dehydrated when you're sick. Whether you're vomiting or your appetite is low, it's important to stay hydrated by consuming clear liquids like water or soup. You'll also want to avoid drinking alcohol or anything with caffeine, such as soda, coffee, or tea.
Getting help is easier than ever, emphasised Dr Rehm.
"There are so many ways to access care these days, whether it's a phone call to [a healthcare provider's] office, a virtual physician visit, or virtual healthcare provider visit, or a trip to urgent care," added Dr Rehm.
You should seek immediate medical attention if you or your child experiences any of the following:
Fever (for children younger than 3 months).
Staying home from work or school and avoiding going out in public while recovering from illness is also important, noted Dr Rehm.
"That's both for yourself and the other people around you," explained Dr Rehm. "The reality is that you really do need to stop and allow yourself to get better because if you keep going with the flu, that probably increases your risk for complications, as well as exposes everybody around you to the virus."
The CDC recommends staying home for at least 24 hours after your fever is gone without using medication that reduces your fever.
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