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What To Do if You Get the Flu

If you are unlucky enough to get the flu, here's what you can to do take care of yourself and keep from spreading the virus to those around you. Even if you are vaccinated, you can still get the flu, especially if you are older or have a chronic illness or the current flu vaccine is not as effectively matched to this year's virus.

Recognize the symptoms. The flu often seems like a cold. How do you tell the difference? Generally, colds are milder and you have a runny or stuffy nose. Colds don't often lead to complications. Flu symptoms are usually more severe and can include fever, body aches, extreme fatigue, and dry cough. The flu can lead to complications such as infections and pneumonia and even hospitalization.

See La Jolla doctors if you are at high risk. To avoid flu complications, especially if you are at high risk, ask your doctor about antiviral drugs, the sooner the better. Antiviral drugs can shorten the length and severity of the flu. Those at high risk include young children, pregnant women, those with chronic health conditions like asthma, diabetes or heart and lung disease and those 65 and older. Stay home. To keep from spreading the virus, stay at home and away from others as much as possible.

With the flu, you can be contagious for up to five to seven days after becoming ill. Children can be contagious even longer, up to two weeks. The Center for Disease Control recommends staying home for at least 24 hours after your fever goes away.

Take care of yourself. Rest and drink a lot of water and other clear liquids such as broth and sports drinks. Avoid alcohol and caffeinated drinks. If you are feeling weak, drink from a straw or suck on ice chips or frozen popsicles.

If necessary, treat your fever and cough with over-the-counter medicines or cough drops. A humidifier can also help dry cough by adding moisture to the air. A cool, damp washcloth on the forehead can also relieve a fever. See a doctor if your symptoms worsen, for example, you can't breathe or keep fluids down.

Disinfect surfaces. If you frequently touch shared surfaces and objects in your home, such as bathroom and kitchen countertops, computers, phones, desks, pens and doorknobs, have someone disinfect these for you. Consider using just one bathroom separately from other family members while you are ill, if you have more than one.

Avoid sharing food and eating utensils. Don't share food, eating utensils or drinking glasses with other family members. Consider using paper cups. Use paper towels.

Cough into your elbow or a tissue. Don't cough or sneeze directly into the air if you are sharing space with other family members. By not coughing into the air or your hands, you can help prevent the spread of bacteria and viruses through touch.

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