To Test or Not to Test for Flu-Like Symptoms

During the COVID-19 pandemic, we became accustomed to getting tested when we had flu-like symptoms so that we could take appropriate action and avoid spreading the virus. But today, when you have flu-like symptoms, is it important to get tested?

During winter months and flu season, access to flu, COVID-19 and RSV testing can be limited, so if you are otherwise healthy, we recommend caring for yourself at home.

Some reasons you may need to seek additional testing and care include:

  • Risk factors such as chronic illness
  • Over the age of 65
  • A child under the age of 4
  • Pregnant
  • Close contact with someone who is at high risk of complications

If you need to be tested, make an appointment with a primary care provider, or reserve your spot at urgent care.

When to Seek Care

Most people with mild flu or other respiratory illnesses can recover without medical care, but you should seek emergency care right away if you experience severe symptoms, such as: 

  • Difficulty breathing
  • Pain or pressure in the chest or abdomen
  • Sudden dizziness
  • Confusion
  • Severe or persistent vomiting 

At-Home Care

If your symptoms are mild, your best options are to stay home and rest.

To help combat a respiratory virus at home, Atrium Health experts suggest:

  • Staying hydrated.
    Drink plenty of fluids and avoid caffeine and alcohol, which can dehydrate you. Warm fluids can also help ease congestion.
  • Getting rest
    Unless you need medical care, we recommend staying home, getting plenty of sleep and avoiding strenuous activity. Giving yourself time to rest and staying in can help reduce the risk of infecting others, but if you do need to go out, we recommend wearing a mask.
  • Taking over-the-counter cold and cough medications as needed.
    For adults and children older than 5, over-the-counter decongestants antihistamines, pain relievers and fever reducers might offer some symptom relief. For younger children, fever reducers may help but decongestants and antihistamines should be avoided. For younger children, also seek the advice of your child’s primary care doctor.

Still not sure?

If you are sick and unsure what your next steps should be, contact your primary care provider or review our care options. We know when you are sick, you want to feel better quickly, but please be patient because appointments can fill-up fast and wait times can be long.