Mary D. Nettleman, MD, MS, MACP is the Chair of the Department of Medicine at Michigan State University. She is a graduate of Vanderbilt Medical School, and completed her residency in Internal Medicine and a fellowship in Infectious Diseases at Indiana University.
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.
Rest in bed. Avoid physical exertion. Avoid using alcohol and tobacco.
Drink plenty of fluids such as water, fruit juices, and clear soups (like chicken
soup). Water should never be the sole or main liquid consumed because it does not contain adequate electrolytes (sodium and potassium, for example) that the body requires. Commercially available products such as Gatorade and other similar sports drinks can be useful in this regard. For children, ORS (oral
rehydration solution) packets are another good way to replenish the body. A similar rehydrating solution can be made at home using salt, sugar, and plain or rice water. Adding some orange juice and mashed bananas enhances the taste and also provides a good source of potassium. Such a solution can be used by anyone, regardless of age.
Treat fever and aches with over-the-counter medications such as acetaminophen (Tylenol), ibuprofen (Advil or Motrin), and naproxen (Aleve or Naprosyn). Aspirin should not be used because of its association with Reye syndrome.
Caution: For children younger than 16 years of age with symptoms of flu or cold, aspirin is not recommended because it is associated with liver and brain damage (a condition known as Reye syndrome).
Use cough suppressants and expectorants to treat the cough.
Steam inhalations may be useful in opening up a blocked nose and thus make breathing easier.
To create steam, boil water on the stove, remove the pot from the stove, then sit with a towel over your head and inhale the steam. The water should be hot, not boiling under your face. Use caution if you have asthma. You may enhance the decongestant effect of the steam by adding a half teaspoon of Vicks VapoRub,
one to two drops of eucalyptus oil, or a few slices of ginger to the boiling water.
Another simple method is steaming up the bathroom by letting the shower run with hot water only. Inhaling the moisture in a steamy room can serve a similar purpose. Be careful, however, not to sit directly under the shower in order to avoid getting burned.
Avoid touching hard surfaces where flu viruses may remain alive: handrails, telephones, doors, faucets, and counters. Wash your hands often, especially after being in public places or at work.
Cough and sneeze into a soft tissue or handkerchief. Carefully dispose of soft tissues after using them.
Stay away from people who have the flu, if possible.
Influenza virus infection, one of the most common infectious diseases, is a highly contagious airborne disease that causes an acute febrile illness and results in variable degrees of systemic symptoms, ranging from mild fatigue to respiratory failure and death.