Most people with influenza, or the flu, have mild illness and don't require medical care. But people who are at high risk for complications and those who become very sick should talk to their provider about treatment. Dr. Mansfield, what can you tell us about treating the flu?
Well, Dr. Flemings, for those with mild illness, over-the-counter acetaminophen and nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, or NSAIDs, can help relieve body aches and reduce fever. People with the flu should not use aspirin. Over-the-counter cold medicines, cough drops, and throat sprays can help relieve other symptoms.
It's crucial that people with the flu get plenty of rest and stay hydrated to give their body the energy it needs to fight the infection. Most importantly, people with mild influenza should remain at home to avoid spreading the virus to others.
For those who are very sick and those who are at high risk for influenza complications, providers may prescribe antiviral medications. Antiviral medications are different from antibiotics, which fight bacterial infections, and they are not available over-the-counter. Antivirals are most effective when they are started within two days of getting sick.