Munson Health
 
Influenza

Back to Document

by Carson-DeWitt R

(Flu)

 

Treatment

Treatment may include:

Antiviral Prescription Medications

Most people with the flu do not need antiviral medication. Check with your doctor. You may need the medication if you are in a high-risk group or if you have a severe illness (for example, breathing problems).
Antiviral medications generally may help relieve symptoms and shorten the time you are sick. They must be taken within 48 hours of the first symptoms. Examples of these medications include:
Some strains of the seasonal influenza virus are resistant to these medications.

Rest

It is important to get plenty of rest when your body is fighting the flu.

Fluids

Drink a lot of liquids. This can include water, juice, and caffeine-free tea.

Over-the-Counter Pain Relievers

These medications are used to control fever and to treat aches and pains. Adults can use:
  • Acetaminophen
  • Ibuprofen

Decongestants

Decongestants are available as pills or nasal sprays. If you use a nasal spray, do not use it longer than 3-5 days. You may experience an increase in congestion when you stop using the spray. This is called rebound effect.

Cough Medicines

These include:
  • Over-the-counter (OTC) cough and cold medicines, including decongestants, expectorants, antihistamines, and cough suppressants
    • OTC cough and cold products should not be used to treat infants or children less than two years old. Rare but serious side effects have been reported. They include death, convulsions, rapid heart rates, and decreased levels of consciousness. Serious side effects have also been reported in children aged 2-11 years. Research is still going on for the safety of OTC products for this age group.
  • Prescription cough medicines
  • Cough drops

Herbal Treatment

Elderberry extract may reduce flu symptoms. Researchers found that products containing elderberry, like Sambucol and ViraBLOC, decreased symptoms in some studies. However, be aware that the government does not regulate herbal remedies. Therefore, the herbal supplements that you buy may not have the same ingredients as those studied and they may contain impurities (things that should not be in the product).
If you are diagnosed with the flu, follow your doctor's instructions .
 

Prevention

Ways to Avoid Getting the Flu

The best way to prevent getting the flu is to be vaccinated. You will need to be vaccinated each year since the virus may change every season. Two forms of the vaccine are available:
  • Flu shot (injection)—all people aged six months and older should get the vaccine. Note: Children eight years and younger may need two shots.
  • Nasal spray—the spray is approved for healthy, nonpregnant people aged 2-49 years old. It is the preferred vaccine for healthy children who are 2 to 8 years of age. Note: Certain people, like those with a weakened immune systems should get the flu shot instead of the nasal spray. Talk to your doctor about which one is right for you.
For the best protection, get vaccinated as soon as the vaccine is available in your area (vaccinations are offered throughout the flu season, which may begin in October).
It takes about two weeks for the vaccine to protect you against the flu.
People Who Should Not Be Vaccinated
There are people who should not be vaccinated, such as:
Some different types flu vaccines are okay for people with egg allergies. Talk to your doctor about which flu vaccine is right for you.
General Measures to Reduce Your Risk
There are general measures you can take to reduce your risk of getting the flu:
  • Wash your hands often, especially when you come in contact with someone who is sick. Wash your hands for 15-20 seconds with soap and water. Rubbing alcohol-based cleaners on your hands is also helpful.
  • Avoid close contact with people who have respiratory infections. The flu can spread starting one day before and ending seven days after symptoms appear. If have to be in close contact with a sick person, wear a face mask or a disposable respirator.
  • Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue when you cough or sneeze. Throw away the tissue after you use it. Coughing or sneezing into your elbow or upper sleeve is also helpful.
  • Do not spit.
  • Do not share drinks or personal items.
  • Do not bite your nails or put your hands near your eyes, mouth, or nose.
  • Keep surfaces clean by wiping them with a household disinfectant.
Antiviral Medications
Sometimes it is beneficial to take antiviral medications to prevent the flu. You may want to talk to your doctor about taking these medications to lower your risk of getting the flu if you:
  • Are exposed to the flu, and
  • Are at high risk for complications
  • Are a healthcare worker, public health worker, or first responder
If you have the flu and live with someone who is at risk for complications (such as, elderly, babies, someone with cancer), that person may need to take antiviral medications to prevent getting the flu from you.
Remember that these medications are not a substitute for being vaccinated. Vaccination is still the best way to prevent the flu.

Ways to Avoid Spreading the Flu

If you have the flu, take these steps to avoid spreading it to others:
  • Avoid close contact with people. Before you can return to school or work, your fever should be gone for at least 24 hours without the help of fever-reducing medication. This could take up to seven days after symptoms first appear. It is important to stay home if you have the flu, leaving your house only to see your doctor.
  • If you cannot avoid close contact, cover your mouth and nose with a face mask.
  • Wash your hands for 15-20 seconds with soap and water. Even if someone in your house has the flu, you may be able to avoid getting sick by washing your hands. Using a hand sanitizer is also helpful.
  • Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue when you cough or sneeze. Throw away the tissue after you use it. Coughing or sneezing into your elbow or upper sleeve will also keep you from spreading the flu with your hands. Do not spit.
  • Do not share drinks or personal items.
  • Wash eating utensils with hot water and soap.
  • Do not bite your nails or put your hands near your eyes, mouth, or nose.
  • Keep surfaces clean by wiping them with a household disinfectant.
  • Use the hot setting on your washing machine when washing infected laundry.
 

RESOURCES

American Lung Association
http://www.lung.org

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
http://www.cdc.gov/flu

Flu.gov
http://www.flu.gov

 

CANADIAN RESOURCES

Health Canada
http://www.hc-sc.gc.ca

Public Health Agency of Canada
http://www.phac-aspc.gc.ca

 

References


2011-12 influenza vaccine and vaccination information. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website. Available at: http://www.cdc.gov/flu/protect/vaccine/index.htm . Updated August 15, 2011. Accessed August 24, 2011.


Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Asthma information for patients and parents of patients. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website. Available at: http://www.cdc.gov/H1N1flu/asthma.htm. Updated September 15, 2009. Accessed September 15, 2009.


Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Home care guidance: physician directions to patient/parent. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website. Available at: http://www.cdc.gov/h1n1flu/guidance%5Fhomecare%5Fdirections.htm. Updated August 5, 2009. Accessed September 14, 2009.


Diseases—I: Influenza fact sheet. American Lung Association website. Available at: http://www.lungusa.org. Published September 2007. Accessed July 7, 2009.


Flu (influenza). National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Disease website. Available at: http://www.ebscohost.com/dynamed. Accessed July 7, 2009.


Influenza antiviral treatment and prophylaxis. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: http://www.ebscohost.com/dynamed. Updated March 29, 2010. Accessed April 1, 2010.


Influenza in adults. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: http://www.ebscohost.com/dynamed. Updated June 16, 2014. Accessed August 12, 2014.


Influenza in children. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: http://www.ebscohost.com/dynamed. Updated June 23, 2014. Accessed August 12, 2014.


Influenza vaccines. WHO position paper. Wkly Epidemiol Rec. 2002;28(77):229-240.


Key facts about seasonal influenza (flu). United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website. Available at: http://www.cdc.gov/flu/keyfacts.htm. Updated March 12, 2009. Accessed August 28, 2009.


Mandell GL, Gordon Douglas R, Bennett JE, Dolin R. Principles and Practice of Infectious Diseases. 5th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Churchill Livingstone, Inc; 2000.


MMWR Weekly: Recommended immunization schedules for 0-18 years-United States, 2008. Center for Disease Control website. http://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/preview/mmwrhtml/mm5701a8.htm. Updated January 11, 2008. Accessed July 7, 2009.


Pabbaraju K, Wong S, Kits DK, Fox JD. Adamantane resistance in seasonal human influenza A viruses from Calgary, Alberta (January 2007 to August 2008). Can J Infect Dis Med Microbiol. 2010;21(2):e87-91.


Pandemic (H1N1) 2009. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: http://www.flu.gov/individualfamily/prevention/index.html. Accessed April 16, 2010.


Prevention and control of influenza with vaccines: recommendations of the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP), 2011. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website. Available at: http://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/preview/mmwrhtml/mm60e0818a1.htm?s%5Fcid=mm60e0818a1%5Fe. Updated August 18, 2011. Accessed August 24, 2011.


Prevention and treatment. Flu.gov website. Available at: http://www.flu.gov/individualfamily/prevention/index.html. Accessed April 16, 2010.


Recommended immunization schedule for persons aged 0 through 6 years: United States 2012. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website. Available at: http://www.cdc.gov/vaccines/schedules/hcp/child-adolescent.html. Updated 2012. Accessed September 18, 2012.


Smith NM, Bresee JS, Shay DK, et al. Prevention and control of influenza. Recommendations of the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices. CDC MMWR 2006;55(RR10):1-42.


Vaccine information statement: influenza vaccine: inactivated. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website. Available at: http://www.cdc.gov/vaccines/pubs/vis/downloads/vis-flu.pdf. Updated July 2, 2012. Accessed September 18, 2012.


Vaccine information statement: influenza vaccine: live, intranasal. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website. Available at: http://www.cdc.gov/vaccines/pubs/vis/downloads/vis-flulive.pdf. Updated July 2, 2012. Accessed September 18, 2012.


Webster D, Li Y, Bastien N, Garceau R, Hatchette TF. Oseltamivir-resistant pandemic H1N1 influenza. CMAJ. 2011;183(7):E420-422.


What you should know about flu antiviral drugs. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website. Available at: http://www.cdc.gov/flu/antivirals/whatyoushould.htm. Updated February 9, 2011. Accessed August 24, 2011.


3/1/2007 DynaMed Systematic Literature Surveillance http://www.ebscohost.com/dynamed: Belshe RB, Edwards KM, Vesikari T, et al. Live attenuated versus inactivated influenza vaccine in infants and young children. N Engl J Med. 2007;356:685-696.


10/15/2007 DynaMed Systematic Literature Surveillance http://www.ebscohost.com/dynamed: Nichol KL, Nordin JD, Nelson DB, Mullooly JP, Hak E. Effectiveness of influenza vaccine in the community-dwelling elderly. N Engl J Med. 2007;357:1373-1381.


1/30/2008 DynaMed Systematic Literature Surveillance http://www.ebscohost.com/dynamed: Public health advisory: Nonprescription cough and cold medicine use in children—FDA recommends that over-the-counter (OTC) cough and cold products not be used for infants and children under 2 years of age. US Food and Drug Administration website. Available at: http://www.fda.gov/cder/drug/advisory/cough%5Fcold%5F2008.htm . Accessed January 30, 3008.


3/12/2008 DynaMed Systematic Literature Surveillance http://www.ebscohost.com/dynamed: 2008 safety alerts for drugs, biologics, medical devices, and dietary supplements: tamiflu (oseltamivir phosphate). US Food and Drug Administration website. Available at: http://www.fda.gov/Safety/MedWatch/SafetyInformation/SafetyAlertsforHumanMedicalProducts/ucm095044.htm. Accessed March 12, 2008.


10/29/2008 DynaMed Systematic Literature Surveillance http://www.ebscohost.com/dynamed: Kong F. Pilot clinical study on a proprietary elderberry extract: efficacy in addressing influenza symptoms. Online J Pharmacol Pharmacokin. 2009;5:32.
Zakay-Rones Z, Thom E, Wollan T, Wadstein J. Randomized study of the efficacy and safety of oral elderberry extract in the treatment of influenza A and B virus infections. J Int Med Res. 2004;32(2):132-40.
Zakay-Rones Z, Varsano N, Zlotnik M, et al. Inhibition of several strains of influenza virus in vitro and reduction of symptoms by an elderberry extract (Sambucus nigra L.) during an outbreak of influenza B Panama. J Altern Complement Med. 1995;1:361-369.


11/9/2009 DynaMed's Systematic Literature Surveillance http://www.ebscohost.com/dynamed: Cowling BJ, Chan KH, Fang VJ, et al. Facemasks and hand hygiene to prevent influenza transmission in households: a cluster randomized trial. Ann Intern Med. 2009;151(7):437-446.


4/16/2010 DynaMed's Systematic Literature Surveillance http://www.ebscohost.com/dynamed: Aiello AE, Murray GF, Perez V, et al. Mask use, hand hygiene, and seasonal influenza-like illness among young adults: a randomized intervention trial. J Infect Dis. 2010;201(4):491-498.


8/10/2010 DynaMed's Systematic Literature Surveillance http://www.ebscohost.com/dynamed: Fiore A, Uyeki T, Broder K, et al. Prevention and control of influenza with vaccines recommendations of the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP), 2010. MMWR. 2010;59:1-62.


9/18/2012 DynaMed's Systematic Literature Surveillance http://www.ebscohost.com/dynamed: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Prevention and control of influenza with vaccines: recommendations of the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP)—United States, 2012-13 influenza season. MMWR Morb Mortal Wkly Rep. 2012;61:613-618.


4/1/2014 DynaMed's Systematic Literature Surveillance http://www.ebscohost.com/dynamed: Bridges CB, Coyne-Beasley T, et al. Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices recommended immunization schedule for adults aged 19 years or older—United States, 2014. MMWR Morb Mortal Wkly Rep. 2014. 63(7):110-112.


8/28/2014 DynaMed's Systematic Literature Surveillance http://www.ebscohost.com/dynamed: Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices. Prevention and control of influenza with vaccines: recommendations of the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP)—United States, 2014-2015 influenza season. MMWR Morb Mortal Wkly Rep. 2014;63(32):691-697.

 

Revision Information