Treatments for the flu

Did you know that hundreds of thousands of Australians can catch influenza (flu) in a severe season? Read on for practical tips to help you to ride out the virus and reduce your symptoms as much as possible.

Common flu symptoms

People with the flu will usually experience some of the symptoms below:

  • High fever (38°C or more) and chills;
  • Dry cough;
  • Headache or body aches;
  • Feeling weak and tired and not wanting to get out of bed;
  • Appetite loss;
  • Sore throat; and
  • Runny or stuffy nose.

What to do if you have the flu

Are you unlucky enough to have caught the flu? Don’t worry, most healthy adults recover in a couple of weeks by getting bed rest, keeping hydrated and taking over-the-counter medication to control aches and fever.

However, not everyone recovers on their own. Flu can lead to serious complications such as bronchitis and pneumonia, so ensure you speak to a healthcare professional if:

  • Your baby or young child has flu symptoms;
  • You are 65 or older;
  • You are pregnant;
  • You are an Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander person;
  • You have diabetes or a heart, lung, kidney or neurological disease;
  • You have a weakened immune system; or
  • Your symptoms don’t improve after seven days.

Seek immediate medical attention if you experience any of the following symptoms:

  • Difficulty breathing;
  • Chest pain;
  • Sudden dizziness;
  • Confusion;
  • Severe vomiting; or
  • Fever with a rash.

Will antibiotics help with the flu?

Unfortunately, antibiotics don’t work against the flu or other viruses, and they won’t help relieve your symptoms. Your doctor may prescribe antibiotics if you develop complications such as a bacterial infection.

What medicines can I take for the flu?

Antiviral medications may shorten the length of your illness if started in the first two days after your symptoms start. As a prescription-only medicine, you should take these only following a conversation and recommendation from your doctor.

Over-the-counter medications such as decongestants and pain relievers may help improve your symptoms and reduce fever while your body's immune system fights off the infection. Your GP or pharmacist can suggest an appropriate medicine for you. Always follow the instructions for the medicine you are using or those of your GP or pharmacist.

Five simple steps to help you feel better

Your immune system does most of the heavy lifting when it comes to recovering from the flu. Here’s what you can do to ease the process:

  • Get lots of bed rest so that you save your energy for fighting the infection;
  • Drink plenty of sips of water to keep you hydrated;
  • Gargle with warm water and suck lozenges or lollies to soothe your throat;
  • Take soothing warm baths;
  • Use saline nose drops or spray to help soothe or clear a stuffy nose.

How can I avoid the flu in the first place?

There is no cure for the flu, so your best option is to try not to get infected.

One prevention option is vaccination, which helps protect you and your family by reducing the chances of catching the flu and reducing the severity of symptoms if you do catch it. The Australian Government Department of Health recommends annual influenza vaccination for people aged 6 months and older.

Other ways to prevent the flu include:

  • Washing your hands regularly;
  • Avoiding touching your eyes, nose and mouth before washing your hands;
  • Staying away from people who have flu symptoms.

Talk to your GP or pharmacist about flu vaccines and how you can protect yourself against the flu.

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