The most common respiratory illness circulating right now isn’t COVID; it’s influenza. But most people who come down with the flu don’t need medical help. In fact, no test is needed most of the time, and the best treatments are surprisingly low tech. You can easily do them yourself at home. Here’s what you should do if you come down with flu symptoms, like fever, coughing, and congestion.
Test for COVID using an at-home antigen test or a PCR test. PCR tests are available at SVHC’s COVID Resource Center without an appointment 8 a.m. – noon Monday – Saturday. Many schools are also providing students with at-home antigen tests. If your test is positive, you may qualify for COVID medications, which will prevent symptoms from getting worse. If it’s negative, you may have the flu. No further testing is needed most of the time. Instead:
- Stay home until you are fever free 24 hours and other symptoms are improving.
- Get plenty of rest and drink lots of liquids. Nothing beats chicken soup.
- Treat aches and fever with ibuprofen or acetaminophen.
- To ease symptoms, take a steam bath or use a humidifier and try lozenges and saline nose drops.
- Just as if you had COVID, stay separated from others in your household, use masks when you’re together, and disinfect common surfaces often.
Call your doctor for potential testing and/or prescription flu treatment if you think you would be a candidate. This typically includes those with underlying conditions, the young (under 2 years old), and the elderly.
You should also call your doctor if you have an earache or drainage from your ear; pain in your face or forehead along with thick yellow or green mucus for more than a week; high temperatures or a temperature that doesn’t come down while taking fever-reducing medications; hoarseness, sore throat, or cough that won’t go away; wheezing or shortness of breath; vomiting; or any other concerns.
Meghan Gunn, MD, is a pediatrician and the chair of pediatrics at Southwestern Vermont Medical Center, part of Southwestern Vermont Health Care, in Bennington, VT.