Prevention and Treatment
It is best to handle influenza through prevention, by getting a seasonal influenza vaccine and taking actions to minimize spread of the flu. Hand washing, cleaning potentially contaminated surfaces, coughing and sneezing into tissues, and, when ill, staying home and limiting contact with other people are all important actions that help prevent influenza from spreading.
Many people who do get influenza are only moderately ill and do not require medical treatment. They can receive supportive care that includes drinking plenty of fluids, getting enough bed rest, and taking over-the-counter pain- and fever-reducing medications to relieve symptoms until the infection resolves.
Antiviral medications are available, however, to treat those who have influenza. They should be started as soon as possible after the emergence of symptoms; they can decrease the duration of symptoms and shedding of the virus when administered within the first 48 hours of the start of symptoms. These medications can lessen the severity and duration of the infection.
The CDC recommends treatment for those with confirmed or suspected influenza who have severe, complicated, or progressive illness or who are hospitalized, and for those at risk of severe complications. Those at high risk may be treated before they become ill (antiviral chemoprophylaxis) if they have been in close contact with someone who has influenza.
Those who develop secondary complications, such as bacterial pneumonia, will also require antibiotics.