Charles Patrick Davis, MD, PhD
Dr. Charles "Pat" Davis, MD, PhD, is a board certified Emergency Medicine doctor who currently practices as a consultant and staff member for hospitals. He has a PhD in Microbiology (UT at Austin), and the MD (Univ. Texas Medical Branch, Galveston). He is a Clinical Professor (retired) in the Division of Emergency Medicine, UT Health Science Center at San Antonio, and has been the Chief of Emergency Medicine at UT Medical Branch and at UTHSCSA with over 250 publications.
Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD
Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD, is a U.S. board-certified Anatomic Pathologist with subspecialty training in the fields of Experimental and Molecular Pathology. Dr. Stöppler's educational background includes a BA with Highest Distinction from the University of Virginia and an MD from the University of North Carolina. She completed residency training in Anatomic Pathology at Georgetown University followed by subspecialty fellowship training in molecular diagnostics and experimental pathology.
In this Article
- Flu (influenza, conventional, H1N1, H3N2, and bird flu [H5N1]) facts
- What is flu (influenza)?
- Flu vs. cold
- Flu vs. food poisoning
- What are the causes of the flu (influenza)?
- When does flu season begin and end?
- What are flu (influenza) symptoms in adults and in children?
- Does a child's first flu infection help to determine the patient's lifelong risk to other viruses?
- What is the incubation period for the flu?
- How long is the flu contagious, and how long does the flu last?
- How do health-care professionals diagnose the flu (influenza)?
- How does flu spread?
- What is the key to flu (influenza) prevention?
- Are there any flu shot or nasal spray vaccine side effects in adults or in children?
- How effective is the flu vaccine?
- Why should the flu (influenza) vaccine be taken every year?
- What are some flu treatments an individual can do at home (home remedies)?
- What types of doctors treat the flu?
- What medications treat the flu?
- What can people eat when they have the flu?
- When should a person go to the emergency department for the flu?
- Who should receive the flu vaccine, and who has the highest risk factors? When should someone get the flu shot?
- What is the prognosis for patients who get the flu? What are possible complications of the flu?
- Can the flu be deadly?
- What is the bird (avian) flu?
- Do antiviral agents protect people from the flu?
- Is it safe to get a flu shot that contains thimerosal?
- Where can people find additional information about the flu?
- Slideshow: Finding Relief for Your Cough
- Pictures of Natural Cold & Flu Remedies - Slideshow
- Pictures of 10 Foods to Eat When You Have the Flu - Slideshow
What are some flu treatments an individual can do at home (home remedies)?
First, individuals should be sure they are not members of a high-risk group that is more susceptible to getting severe flu symptoms. Check with a physician if you are unsure if you are a higher-risk person. Home care is recommended by the CDC if a person is healthy with no underlying diseases or conditions (for example, asthma, lung disease, pregnant, or immunosuppressed).
Increasing liquid intake, warm showers, and warm compresses, especially in the nasal area, can reduce the body aches and reduce nasal congestion or head congestion. Nasal strips and humidifiers may help reduce congestion, especially while trying to sleep. Some physicians recommend nasal irrigation with saline to further reduce congestion; some recommend nonprescription decongestants like pseudoephedrine (Sudafed). Fever can be treated with over-the-counter acetaminophen (Tylenol) or ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin and others); read labels for safe dosage. Cough can be suppressed by cough drops, over-the-counter cough syrup, or cough medicine that may contain dextromethorphan (Delsym) and/or guaifenesin (Mucinex). Notify a doctor if an individual's symptoms at home get worse.
What types of doctors treat the flu?
Individuals with mild flu symptoms may not require the care of a physician unless they are a member of a high-risk group as described above. For many individuals, treatment is provided by their primary-care physician or provider (including internists or family medicine specialists and physician assistants and other primary caregivers) or pediatrician. Complicated or severe flu infections may require consultation with an emergency-medicine physician, critical-care specialist, infectious-disease specialist, and/or a lung specialist (pulmonologist).
What medications treat the flu?
The CDC published the following guidance concerning antiviral medications:
Antiviral medications with activity against influenza viruses are an important adjunct to influenza vaccine in the control of influenza.
- Influenza antiviral prescription drugs can be used to treat influenza or to prevent influenza.
- Oseltamivir, zanamivir, and peramivir are chemically related antiviral medications known as neuraminidase inhibitors that have activity against both influenza A and B viruses.
The following are the CDC recommended antiviral medications for the treatment of influenza (flu) for the 2016-2017 season are as follows: oral oseltamivir (Tamiflu), inhaled zanamivir (Relenza), and intravenous peramivir (Rapivab). See Table 1 below for details about utilizing these drugs in adults and children.
Learn more about: Rapivab
Over-the-counter medications that may help reduce symptoms of congestion (decongestants), coughing (cough medicine), and dehydration include diphenhydramine (Benadryl), acetaminophen (Tylenol), NSAIDs (Advil, Motrin, Aleve), guaifenesin (Mucinex), dextromethorphan (Delsym), pseudoephedrine (Sudafed), and oral fluids. Aspirin may be used in adults but not in children.
Individuals with the flu may also benefit from some additional bed rest, throat lozenges, and possibly nasal irrigation; drinking fluids may help prevent symptoms of dehydration (for example, dry mucus membranes and decreased urination).
What can people eat when they have the flu?
While a person has the flu, good nutrition can help the recovery process. Anyone with the flu needs to avoid dehydration, soothe sore throat and/or upset stomach, and have a good protein intake. Dehydration can be avoided by adequate fluid intake such as juices (orange, cranberry, grapefruit, tomato, grape, and others). Sore throat and upset stomach may be relieved by broths or warm soups (chicken, vegetable, or beef) and plain crackers, toast, and ginger tea or noncarbonated ginger ale. Scrambled eggs, yogurt, and/or protein drinks are good protein sources. In addition, bananas, rice, and applesauce are food that are often recommended for those with an upset stomach. This list is not exhaustive but should provide a balanced approach to help speed recovery from the flu.
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