Dealing with Flu

Dealing with Flu

What should I do if I get sick?

Most people with flu are able to recover at home within a week without needing medical care. People who have very severe symptoms, or are in one of the high risk groups should contact their GP/family doctor by telephone if they get the flu.

How do I care for someone with flu at home?

Flu mostly causes a mild to moderate illness. It is uncomfortable but most people do not need treatment and are able to recover at home within a few days.

  • Stay at home for up to 7 days or until you fully recover - do not go to work or school while ill
  • Rest in bed as much as possible
  • Take medicines such as paracetamol or ibuprofen to reduce the symptoms
  • Drink plenty of fluids
  • Discourage any visitors
  • Contact your GP surgery by telephone if you don't improve, or if you start to improve and then get worse

Anti Viral Medicines

Anti Viral medicines like Tamiflu and Relenza are used to treat the symptoms of flu and to try to reduce their severity. They are only required for people whose symptoms are very severe, or for people in the risk groups who develop the flu. The GP will decide on whether a person needs anti-viral medicine or not.

If you are an adult

If you have taken the basic care steps outlined above and you start to feel worse, or if after a few days you are not feeling better, you may need more advice from your doctor. Contact your GP surgery by phone if you notice:

  • Shortness of breath at rest or while doing very little.
  • Painful or difficult breathing.
  • Coughing up bloody sputum.
  • Drowsiness, disorientation or confusion.
  • Fever for 4-5 days and not starting to get better (or getting worse).
  • Starting to feel better then developing high fever and feeling unwell again.
  • Chest pain.
  • Turning blue.

If you are caring for a child, you should contact your doctor by phone if you have taken the steps above and are still concerned that the child shows any of the following symptoms:

  • Fast breathing or trouble breathing
  • Bluish skin colour.
  • Not drinking enough fluids.
  • Not waking up or not interacting.
  • Being so irritable that the child does not want to be held.
  • Flu-like symptoms improve but then return with fever and worse cough.
  • Fever with a rash.

Caring for someone at home

Most people with flu will recover after several days by following the basic steps outlined earlier. If you are at home with flu, or taking care of someone at home, follow these important tips to stop flu spreading:

  • The person who has flu should stay in one room with the door closed and if possible with the window open.
  • Other family members should try not to spend too much time with the person with flu, and should avoid sharing dishes, books, toys, etc.
  • Avoid being face to face with the sick person.
  • Discourage visits from persons not living in the household. This is important to stop flu from spreading to other people.
  • People with flu should cover their nose and mouth with disposable tissues when sneezing or coughing. If you have no tissues immediately available, coughing or sneezing into your arm or sleeve (not into your hand) is recommended.
  • Used tissues should be put by the ill person directly into a bin. Bin bags should be sealed in the room and taken directly outside by the carer for collection with regular rubbish.
  • Wash hands often with soap and water, and especially after coughing and sneezing. Alcohol-based hand cleaners are also effective.
  • All persons in the household should clean their hands with soap and water or an alcohol-based hand rub (minimum 60% alcohol) frequently, including after every contact with the sick person or the person's room or bathroom.
  • Avoid touching the eyes, nose and mouth with hands as this also spreads flu virus.
  • Surfaces and items inside the house should be cleaned regularly with bleach based household cleaners.

Who is in the at risk groups?

Vaccination is strongly recommended for:

  • Persons aged 65 and older
  • Those aged 6 months and older with a long-term health condition such as
    • Chronic heart disease (this includes anyone who has a history of having had a "heart attack" or unstable angina).
    • Chronic liver disease
    • Chronic neurological disease including multiple sclerosis, hereditary and degenerative disorders of the central nervous system
    • Chronic renal failure
    • Chronic respiratory disease, including chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, cystic fibrosis, moderate or severe asthma or bronchopulmonary dysplasia
    • Diabetes mellitus
    • Down syndrome
    • Haemoglobinopathies
    • Immunosuppression due to disease or treatment including all cancer patients
    • Morbid obesity i.e. body mass index (BMI) over 40
  • Children aged 6 months and older
    • with any condition that affects their lung function especially those attending special schools/day centres with cerebral palsy or intellectual disability
    • on long-term aspirin therapy (because of the risk of Reyes syndrome)
  • Pregnant women (vaccine can be given at any stage of pregnancy)
  • Healthcare workers
  • Residents of nursing homes and other long stay institutions
  • Carers (the main carers of those in the at risk groups)
  • People with regular contact with pigs, poultry or water fowl

If you are in one of these groups and get flu symptoms, you should phone your GP surgery; your GP will decide if you need treatment. The GP may arrange for you to be seen at their surgery or may arrange a home visit.

This page was updated on 11 September 2017