Skip Navigation

If You Think You Have the Flu

Child lying in bed with thermometerMost people with the flu do not need medical care, and should stay home to prevent spreading the virus to others. 

If you get sick with flu symptoms you should:

  • Stay home and rest
  • Wash your hands frequently with soap and water or alcohol-based hand sanitizer
  • Avoid close contact with people in your home
  • Drink plenty of water and other liquids to prevent dehydration
  • Call your primary care doctor or one of our urgent care clinics if you are very sick or if you have underlying illnesses (such as respiratory or heart problems), are pregnant, are older than 65, or younger than 5.

The best way to prevent spreading the flu is to stay home if you are sick.

How to tell if it’s the flu or a cold

Flu symptoms usually start suddenly and can include some or all of these signs:

  • Fever (not everyone with flu will have a fever)
  • Fatigue
  • Sore throat
  • Muscle or body aches
  • Headaches
  • Cough
  • Some people may have vomiting and diarrhea, though this is more common in young children than in adults.

Cold symptoms come on slowly and include:

  • Runny or stuffy nose
  • Sneezing
  • Sore throat

When to seek emergency care

If you become ill and have any of the following warning signs, seek emergency medical care.

Warning signs in children

  • Fast breathing
  • Bluish or gray skin color
  • Not drinking enough fluids or urinating enough
  • Not waking up or not interacting
  • Irritability so bad the child does not want to be held or won’t stop crying
  • Symptoms improving, then returning with fever and worse cough

Warning signs in adults

  • Difficulty breathing or shortness of breath
  • Pain or pressure in the chest or abdomen
  • Sudden dizziness
  • Confusion
  • Severe or persistent vomiting
  • Symptoms improving, then returning with fever and worse cough
Last Updated: 02-09-2018
Wake Forest Baptist Ranked among Nation’s ‘Best Hospitals’  26 Years in a Row by U.S. News & World ReportComprehensive Cancer Centers National Designation is Renewed2017-2018 Best DoctorsNursing Magnet StatusJoint Commission Report

Disclaimer: The information on this website is for general informational purposes only and SHOULD NOT be relied upon as a substitute for sound professional medical advice, evaluation or care from your physician or other qualified health care provider.

© Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center, Medical Center Boulevard, Winston-Salem, NC 27157. All Rights Reserved.