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Flu In Adults


Most people with the flu take care of themselves at home and do not seek medical care.

Consult a doctor if the following situations occur:
  • A cold lasts for more than 10 days.
  • Body temperature rises above 102°F (38.8°C) in spite of treatment with medicines.
  • Shortness of breath develops.
  • Symptoms last longer than 5-7 days without any relief.

Certain high-risk groups of people are in danger of developing complications from the flu and should contact their doctors if symptoms develop:

Complications may develop with the flu. Seek care in a hospital's emergency department for the following developments. These symptoms may signify a more severe and complicated attack of flu—for example,sinus and ear infections, bronchitis, and the development of pneumonia. Pneumonia is an infection of the lungs, and it may be caused by the flu virus itself or by a bacterial infection that may occur when the person is weakened during a flu attack.

  • Dehydration  and unable to drink fluids
  • Blood in the sputum (saliva mixed with mucus and coughed up)
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Turning blue
  • Worsening fever
  • Return of fever, cough, and other symptoms in the second week after the onset of the flu or worsening after symptoms have begun to improve


Self-Care at Home
  • Rest in bed. Avoid physical exertion. Avoid using alcohol and tobacco.
  • Drink plenty of fluids such as water, fruit juices, and clear soups (chicken). Water should never be the sole or main liquid consumed because it does not contain adequate electrolytes (sodium and potassium, for example) that the body requires. Commercially available products such as Gatorade and other similar sports drinks can be useful in this regard. For children, ORS (Oral rehydration Solution) packets are another good way to replenish the body. A similar rehydrating solution can be made at home using salt, sugar, and plain or rice water. Adding some orange juice and mashed bananas enhances the taste and also provides a good source of potassium. Such a solution can be used by anyone, regardless of age.
  • Treat fever and aches with over-the-counter medication such as acetaminophen, ibuprofen, and naproxen. aspirin should not be used because of its association with Reye syndrome.

Caution: For children younger than 16 years with symptoms of flu or cold, aspirin is not recommended because it is associated with liver and brain damage (a condition known as Reye syndrome).

Use cough suppressants and expectorants to treat the cough.

Steam inhalations may be useful in opening up a blocked nose and thus make breathing easier.

To create steam, boil water on the stove, remove the pot from the stove, then sit with a towel over your head and inhale the steam. The water should be hot, not boiling under your face. Use caution if you have asthma. You may enhance the decongestant effect of the steam by adding a half teaspoon of Vicks VapoRub, 1-2 drops of eucalyptus oil, or a few slices of ginger to the boiling water.

Another simple method is steaming up the bathroom by letting the shower run with hot water only. Inhaling the moisture in a steamy room can serve a similar purpose. Be careful, however, not to sit directly under the shower in order to avoid getting burned.

Avoid touching hard surfaces where flu viruses may remain alive: handrails, telephones, doors, faucets, and counters. Wash your hands often, especially after being in public places or at work.

Cough and sneeze into a soft tissue or handkerchief. Carefully dispose of soft tissues after using them.

Stay away from people who have the flu, if possible.



Generally, no follow-up is needed for most flu cases unless fever or cough returns along with other new symptoms, which could signal a complication.

Prevention Personal hygiene
  • Wash your hands frequently with soap and water.
  • Avoid touching your eyes or nose before washing your hands.
  • Do not share clothes or other personal items with another person during a flu outbreak.

The best means of preventing the flu is getting an influenza vaccination. Two types of vaccines are available. One is the injectable vaccine made from inactivated virus, known as the flu shot. The other is a live attenuated, or weakened, virus that is squirted into the nose. The flu shot contains only killed influenza viruses A and B. The shot is given in the upper arm once every year during the fall, prior to flu season. Immunity to the flu virus develops after about 2 weeks. Thus, the best time to get a flu shot is from October to mid November.

Because of substantial vaccine distribution delays during previous influenza seasons and the possibility of similar delays in the future, it is recommended that anyone at high risk for complications from the flu get a flu shot in September. This same group of people can even get the vaccine in December and throughout the flu season.

The vaccine is effective in about 70-90% of those who get the shot, especially in older people. Not only does it decrease the risk of getting flu infection, but it can also decrease the number of visits to a doctor's office, hospitalizations, and risk of death from the flu virus.

Who should get the flu shot?
  • Anyone older than 50 years
  • A person of any age with chronic disease of the heart, lungs, or kidneys
  • People with diabetes
  • Those who are HIV positive or have AIDS
  • Women who are more than 14 weeks pregnant during the flu season (Women who are pregnant at any stage of their pregnancy and have risk of complications from the flu should get the vaccine irrespective of how far they are into the pregnancy. Breastfeeding women can also get the flu shot without worry about harm to the baby.)
  • Residents of nursing homes and other facilities of long-term care
  • Children older than 6 months of age who have chronic heart or lung conditions, including asthma
  • Children older than 6 months of age who need regular medical care or had to be in a hospital because of metabolic diseases (such as diabetes), chronic kidney disease, or weakened immune systems (including immune system problems caused by medicine or by infection with human immunodeficiency virus [HIV/AIDS])
  • Children and teenagers (aged 6 months to 18 years) who are on long-term aspirin therapy and therefore could develop Reye Syndrome after a flu illness
  • Health care workers and volunteers who work with high-risk patients, including employees of nursing homes and chronic-care facilities
  • Household members (including children) of people in high-risk groups
  • Students or others living in institutional settings (for example, those who reside in dormitories or camps where close contact is likely)
  • Anyone interested in reducing the risk of getting the flu
  • The intranasal or live vaccine, known as FluMist, is an alternative to the flu shot in people who are healthy, aged 5-49 years old, and not pregnant. Exceptions are health care workers who care for severely immunosuppressed patients or persons caring for children younger than 6 months old.
  • People who are allergic to eggs or who have had Guillain-Barré syndrome (paralysis) within 6 weeks of a prior vaccination should check with their doctor before getting an influenza vaccine.
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