Standard Flu Treatment
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Standard Flu Treatment

Because the flu is a viral infection, it cannot be treated with antibiotics.

A Warning About Antibiotics

Antibiotics only kill bacteria and thus are useless against the flu. Taking antibiotics when you don't need them contributes to an important public health problem -- antibiotic resistance. Some diseases that were once easily cured by antibiotics have become resistant to treatment. For example, earlier this century, antibiotics nearly eliminated dreaded bacterial diseases like tuberculosis and gonorrhea. However, years of widespread misuse have allowed "antibiotic-resistant" forms of these illnesses to become more common. Most people think that taking an antibiotic cannot hurt them. But taking an antibiotic when it will not help, such as for a cold or the flu, can actually increase your risk of getting a bacterial infection that may not be curable.

However, if your health care professional finds that you've developed a bacterial infection such as pneumonia, bronchitis or sinusitis, antibiotics may be prescribed. Be sure to take the full amount of medication as prescribed until the prescription runs out, even if you start feeling better; otherwise, the infection can come back. Never stockpile antibiotics or share them with other people who may have the flu.

Treating Symptoms

Rest is important to help you get better. Plus, if you stay home, there's less risk that you'll give the flu to other people. Flu continues to be contagious for three to four days after symptoms appear.

The following may help you minimize flu symptoms:

  • Take one of the new antiviral drugs, Tamiflu or Relenza. Either medication is taken twice a day for five days. They must be taken within 48 hours from the time symptoms appear to be effective. Tamiflu is approved for individuals older than age 18 and Relenza is approved for anyone older than age 12. Side effects associated with Tamiflu and Relenza were shown to be mild in clinical testing. Some people taking Tamiflu may experience nausea and, less commonly, vomiting. Relenza may cause nasal irritation in some people.
  • Drink plenty of fluids. Hot liquids may relieve the feeling of congestion and loosen phlegm.
  • Take a pain reliever, like acetaminophen, for aches and fever.
  • Take a cough suppressant for relief from a dry, hacking cough when trying to sleep. A cough that produces mucus or phlegm is not usually a symptom of flu, but it is a symptom of a cold or other illness. If you have a productive cough along with your flu symptoms, you may have developed a secondary infection that needs to be treated by a health care professional. Coughs that produce mucus and phlegm should not be suppressed because it is important to expel these substances.
  • Use a humidifier or steamer to help ease congestion.