The Flu and You: What if You Get Sick?

By Christina Elston

If you or someone in your family gets sick, priority No. 1 is to stay home.

Flu or cold“If you do get mild symptoms, the last thing you want to do is run out and spread it to everybody,” says Sears. “If you are feeling ill, even if it’s just a
cold, do your co-workers and your classmates a favor by just staying home for a little while.”

That means until any fever has been gone – without the aid of Tylenol or any other medication – for at least 24 hours.

Influenza tends to bring on higher fever than a cold, earlier in the illness. This should prompt a call to your doctor for advice. “Don’t go in, but give a
call,” Lichtveld says. You could save yourself an office visit (and exposure to other sick people).

Laboratory tests for H1N1, and doses of the antiretroviral drug TamiFlu, will be reserved for the most severe cases. “Parents come in and say, ‘My child
might have been exposed, and I can’t really afford for them to get sick right now. Can’t I just give them TamiFlu for 10 days?’” says Dennis Woo, M.D.,
former chair of the department of pediatrics at UCLA Medical Center. TamiFlu is effective in treating H1N1, but doctors are worried about creating resistant
strains by overusing it.

Instead, most who get sick will be told to rest and drink lots of liquids. As long as the patient is breathing comfortably, hydrated, and acting normal, things are fine, says Pannaraj. If any of that changes, or if someone who seemed to be recovering from the flu suddenly gets sick again, talk to the doctor.

It could be a sign of secondary infection.

Finally, Maureen Lichtveld, M.D., a former researcher with the CDC who now heads up the Flu Emergency Task Force at Tulane University, advises, stay informed. Follow developments and expert advice from credible sources like the CDC. It will help keep fear at bay and better equip you to keep your family well.

More about The Flu and You:

  • 4 things you need to know about H1N1 and the seasonal flu

  • What is the flu?

  • How do you keep from getting sick?

  • What about flu shots?

  • What if YOU get sick?


    More Resources

    National Centers for Disease Control Follow the Web site for this health monitoring and research organization for information on the spread of flu, prevention, and vaccine guidelines. This U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Web site bills itself as a one-stop source of information on H1N1, avian and pandemic flu. Here you’ll find prevention tips, including for pregnant women, flu monitoring information state by state and more.

    Flu Busters Find flu vaccination clinics in your area.