A young boy blows his nose with a tissue.

Flu (influenza)

Find the best treatment for the flu online

Many of us have a favorite season. You might love winter nights by the fire, autumn leaves or the first warm day of spring. But no one’s favorite season is flu season. When the familiar chills, aches and fatigue come on strong, we’re here to help.

When you have the flu, perhaps the last thing you want to do is leave your house. And if your symptoms seem more severe, or you’re at high-risk or live with someone who is high-risk for flu complications, you want care fast. That’s why HealthPartners and Park Nicollet are making it easier than ever to get treatment for the flu from the comfort of your home with online or video visits.

How do I know if I have the flu?

Influenza is a respiratory illness that’s caused by flu viruses. It can affect your nose, throat and lungs, but might cause symptoms in other parts of your body such as body aches, fever or digestive tract symptoms.

Symptoms to look for

Flu symptoms come on quickly and can last for up to two weeks. While it’s possible to catch the flu any time during the year, the flu virus is more active during the winter months. This is often called “flu season” and can last from October until May.

Some of the most common flu symptoms are:

  • Fever
  • Cough
  • Sore throat
  • Runny or stuffy nose
  • Body aches
  • Chills
  • Headaches
  • Fatigue
  • Diarrhea
  • Vomiting

Flu symptoms can be similar to COVID-19 symptoms and other respiratory conditions. But there are some key differences that can help you figure out if you have the flu or a different condition.

It’s probably the flu if:

  • You have a fever above 100 degrees Fahrenheit
  • You’re fatigued
  • You have muscle pains and body aches
  • You have a mild, dry cough
  • Your symptoms came on suddenly

It’s probably not the flu if:

  • You have a sore throat and runny nose
  • You’re sneezing or congested
  • You have a wet cough or a severe, dry cough
  • Your symptoms came on slowly
  • You experience a new loss of taste or smell
  • Your symptoms last longer than a week

When should you seek treatment for the flu?

If you think you have the flu, getting care within the first 24 hours is key to helping you reduce your recovery time and symptom severity. If your symptoms are mild or moderate, you can usually skip a doctor’s visit and treat your symptoms at home. But if you have flu or flu-like symptoms, and are at a higher risk of complications, you should seek care.

Risk factors for complications from the flu include:

  • Being pregnant or within two weeks after delivery
  • Having diabetes, asthma or heart disease
  • Having a weakened immune system due to illness, medication, chemotherapy or HIV/AIDS
  • Having any chronic respiratory disease
  • Being 65 years or older
  • For children, being 5 years old or younger
  • You’re someone with a high risk of developing flu complications, and someone in your household was diagnosed with the flu

When to seek immediate, in-person care for flu treatment

It’s important to see a doctor if you’re experiencing flu-like symptoms and any of the following:

  • Ear pain, especially in children
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Flu-like symptoms that improve, but then return with a fever and a worse cough
  • Pain or pressure in your chest
  • Constant vomiting
  • Sudden dizziness or confusion
  • Your child has gray or blue skin
  • Your child isn’t drinking enough, is very irritable, or isn’t waking up or interacting with you

Contact one of our urgent care clinics or hospitals if you need immediate care.

How do you treat the flu?

Home remedies for the flu like drinking lots of fluids and getting plenty of rest are still the main treatments for the flu. But if your symptoms are more severe, or you’re at higher risk of complications from the flu, there are medicines that can help. If prescription flu medicine is needed, we might recommend an FDA-approved antiviral. Antivirals are medicines that work by keeping flu viruses from reproducing in your body. Examples include:

  • Tamiflu®
  • Relenza®
  • Rapivab®
  • Xofluza®

Antivirals are most effective when taken within 48 hours of developing flu symptoms. They can reduce symptom severity and shorten the length of the flu by about one day. If you have a mild or moderate case of the flu, you’re otherwise healthy and you don’t have any risk factors, you generally don’t need antivirals.

Flu prevention

Though the flu is highly contagious, it is preventable. You can take some simple steps to keep yourself healthy during flu season, including:

Get your flu shot

The most effective way to prevent against the flu is to get your annual flu shot by the end of October. A flu shot helps your body make antibodies that can fight off the flu virus. It reduces your risk of the flu by up to 60%. Studies show that even if you do get the flu, a flu shot can make your symptoms less severe. Getting your flu shot can also reduce the risk of spreading the flu to people in your community who are more vulnerable to the illness, like babies, young children, older adults and people with certain chronic health conditions. Keep in mind that a flu shot is only effective for one flu season, so you’ll need to get one every year.

We’re offering flu shots at our locations in Minnesota and western Wisconsin.

Wash your hands

The flu virus can live on surfaces that people touch. Think of everything you touch in a day: doorknobs, your phone, keyboards, pens and other things you might not notice. Wash your hands for twenty seconds frequently throughout the day, especially before you eat and after you use the restroom. An alcohol-based hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol can be used to sanitize your hands if soap and water isn’t readily available.

Stay home when you’re sick

The flu is highly contagious. Staying home when you’re sick can help prevent spreading the flu to others. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends staying home for at least 24 hours after you’re free of fever without the use of fever-reducing medicine.

Cover your nose and mouth

When we sneeze and cough, we send the virus traveling from our bodies through the air. Covering our nose and mouth when we cough or sneeze can help trap the virus before other people can breathe it in. When possible, cover your nose and mouth with a tissue and wash your hands afterward. When a tissue isn’t available, use your elbow to cover your nose and mouth.

Avoid touching your face

The flu virus can enter your body through your eyes, nose or mouth. Avoid touching your face as much as possible to reduce spreading the flu.

Frequently asked questions (FAQs)