The flu is a contagious respiratory illness caused by influenza viruses that may cause mild to severe illness. For vulnerable populations including older adults, pregnant women and young children, the flu can be life-threatening.

Flu symptoms include:

  • Fever of 100 degrees or higher, or feeling feverish/chills (though not everyone with the flu has a fever).
  • Cough.
  • Sore throat.
  • Runny or stuffy nose.
  • Muscle or body aches.
  • Headaches.
  • Fatigue.
  • Nausea, vomiting or diarrhea – more common in children than adults.

If the flu comes to call this season, send nasty symptoms packing quicker with tips recommended by medical professionals.

Get a flu vaccine

To avoid catching the flu, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends a yearly flu vaccine for everyone 6 months and older. Ideally, you should get your flu shot by the end of fall; however, it’s not too late to be vaccinated. It takes about two weeks after vaccination for protection to set in. If you do catch the flu after getting a flu vaccine, symptoms are typically milder and shorter in duration.

How to schedule your flu shot

Current Novant Health patients: schedule your shot with your primary care provider here.

Don't have a primary care provider? Visit one of our walk-in clinics.

Practice good hand hygiene

To avoid giving the flu to others, practice good hand hygiene, stay home when you are sick, cough or sneeze into tissues and discard them properly, and wash your hands frequently with soap and water or use an approved hand sanitizer if soap and water are not available.

Stock your medicine cabinet

What helps:

  • Analgesics such as ibuprofen and acetaminophen can help reduce fever and alleviate aches and pain. These products are sold over-the-counter under brand names such as Tylenol, Motrin and Advil. People who have high blood pressure, asthma or other chronic conditions should check with their doctor before taking these drugs.
  • Over-the-counter antihistamines can help with congestion, runny noses and cough. If you have high blood pressure, you should consult a doctor before taking an antihistamine. Antihistamines do help with sleep.
  • In September 2023, the FDA announced that there is not enough evidence to support that phenylephrine is effective as a nasal decongestant through oral delivery. As a result, some pharmacies removed products with this as the only active ingredient. Other options for nasal decongestants are neti pots, nasal saline rinses and Mucinex.
  • Cough drops and hard candy are good for soothing sore throats, but shouldn’t be given to toddlers and young children because of possible choking hazards. Gargling with warm salt water can help a sore throat.
  • Dehydration is a very real risk for people who have fever and are ill, so make sure you drink plenty of fluids, including water, clear broth, nonacidic fruit juice such as apple juice or grape juice or an herbal tea with honey. Try to drink at least 8 ounces every two hours. If your child won’t drink fluids, try giving them an ice pop.
  • Along with your daily multivitamin, you may wish to take additional zinc, vitamin C and vitamin D to boost immunity and B vitamins to help fight fatigue and weakness.
  • Because the flu is viral, it is not treated with antibiotics.
  • For patients with severe flu or at higher risk for developing complications from the flu, antiviral drugs such as Tamiflu can shorten the duration and severity of the flu when taken within the first two days that symptoms appear. This is a medication that your provider would prescribe for you if indicated.
  • Cold remedies for kids: The Food and Drug Administration says not give any over-the-counter cold, flu or cough medication to children younger than 2 years old.

Stay home and rest

With rest and proper support of your immune system, you can ease flu symptoms and help your body recover more quickly. The CDC recommends that you stay home for at least 24 hours after your fever is gone – except to get medical care or other necessities.