I Think I Have the Flu. What Next?

If you are experiencing any of the following symptoms, you may have the flu. 

  • Fever (or feverish symptoms like the chills)
  • Cough
  • Sore throat
  • Runny or stuffy nose
  • Muscle or body aches
  • Headaches
  • Fatigue (tiredness)
  • Possible vomiting and diarrhea (more common in children)

Follow the important steps below to decrease the severity of your symptoms and prevent others from catching the flu as well. 

Step 1: Pay Attention

Be aware of how you feel. Certain strains of the flu may affect you more quickly. For example, you may wake up feeling the slight beginnings of a cold. However, by mid-afternoon, those symptoms could be significantly worse.

Step 2: Stay Home!

It is extremely important that if you are experiencing a fever or other flu-like symptoms, you stay home from work, school, and other obligations. Also, keep any potentially sick children* home as well. You play an important role in community immunity and that means preventing fellow co-workers, neighbors, peers, and loved ones from coming into contact with any droplets you might inadvertently spread. 

Step 3: Seek Medical Advice and/or Get Tested If...

Depending on the severity of your symptoms, it is important to seek medical attention and get tested – especially if you are in a high-risk group, or you feel severe symptoms, or you’re worried at all about what could happen. Contact your primary care physician, the local health department, or a nearby walk-in clinic or urgent care. Depending on your severity of symptoms, your doctor might prescribe “antivirals,” which can help you feel better faster and have been shown to prevent serious complications.

If you are extremely ill (for example: you cannot walk, your fever is climbing even with the use of medication such as Tylenol®), call 911.

Stay home until you’ve been fever-free for 24 hours after you’ve discontinued use of Tylenol or other fever-reducing medication. If you decide to seek medical care or need other necessities, wear a face mask.

*The CDC recommends that you avoid giving Aspirin (acetylsalicylic acid) or any salicylate containing products (such as Pepto Bismol®) to anyone 18 years and younger who has the flu or you suspect to have flu. This can cause a rare, very serious complication called Reye’s syndrome

Step 4: Follow Your Provider’s Instructions

Your family doctor or health care provider will likely prescribe plenty of rest, fluids, and possible medicine to help your body fight the influenza virus. Remember to take it easy and do exactly as your provider has advised. 

Step 5: Stop the Spread

Handwashing. Wash your hands for approximately 20 seconds with water (any temperature) and soap. If you don’t have access to water, use a hand sanitizer made up of at least 60 percent alcohol.

Guard your coughs. Cough into a tissue when possible and throw it away immediately. If you can't access a tissue, cough into your arm/elbow rather than your hand(s), which prevents droplets from your body coming into immediate contact with anything you touch.

Avoid touching your face. Do your best to avoid touching your eyes, mouth, or nose with unwashed hands.