Most people with the flu have mild illnesses and do not need medical care or antiviral drugs. If you get sick with flu symptoms, in most cases, you should stay home and avoid contact with other people except to get medical care. If, however, you have symptoms of flu and are in a high-risk group, or are very sick or worried about your illness, contact your health care provider (doctor, physician assistant, nurse practitioner, etc.).
Individuals who are at high risk of serious flu-related complications include young children, people 65 years of age and older, pregnant women, and people with certain medical conditions. This is true both for seasonal flu and novel flu virus infections. (For a full list of people at high risk of flu-related complications, see People at High Risk of Developing Flu-Related Complications).
If you are in a high-risk group and develop flu symptoms, it’s best for you to contact your doctor early in your illness. Remind them about your high-risk status for flu.
Antiviral drugs are available to help treat the flu. CDC recommends that
Antiviral drugs are available to help treat the flu. CDC recommends that people at high risk for complications should get antiviral treatment as early as possible because the benefit is greatest if treatment is started within 2 days after illness onset. Some things to know about these drugs are:
- Antiviral drugs are different from antibiotics. They are prescription medicines (pills, liquid, or an inhaled powder) and are not available over-the-counter.
- Antiviral drugs can make flu illness milder and shorten the time you are sick. They may also prevent serious flu complications. For people with high-risk factors, treatment with an antiviral drug can mean the difference between having a milder illness versus a very serious illness that could result in a hospital stay.
- Studies show that flu antiviral drugs work best for treatment when they are started within 2 days of getting sick, but starting them later can still be helpful, especially if the sick person has a high-risk factor or is very sick from flu.
- If you are at higher risk from flu and get flu symptoms, call your health care provider early so you can be treated with flu antivirals if needed. Follow your doctor’s instructions for taking this drug.