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.

How to visit a doctor online for flu care

We know the last thing you want to do when you have the flu is leave your house. That’s why HealthPartners and Park Nicollet are making it easier than ever to get you the care you need with online or video visits from the comfort of your own home.

Most of the time, we can treat the flu at Virtuwell, our 24/7 online clinic, where our certified nurse practitioners are available to treat your symptoms and help you feel better, fast. We also offer urgent care video visits for more severe flu symptoms. During a video visit, you’ll be able to talk to a doctor face-to-face, just like an office visit.

Flu facts

The flu, also known as “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.

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.

Flu symptoms

Flu symptoms usually come on suddenly. If you have the flu, you’ll likely have one or all of these common symptoms:

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

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.

This year, we’re even offering drive-up flu shots at select locations so your whole family can get vaccinated without leaving your car.

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.

How do I know if I have the flu, a cold or COVID-19?

Flu symptoms can be similar to symptoms of COVID-19 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
  • You have 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

If you’re concerned about your symptoms, especially if you suspect COVID-19, the only way to get an accurate diagnosis is to talk to a doctor. We’ll talk with you about your symptoms, determine the cause of your illness and start you on a personalized treatment plan.

When should you seek flu treatment?

Getting care for the flu within the first 24 hours is key to helping reduce your symptoms and your recovery time. When you notice flu symptoms, visit Virtuwell, our 24/7 online clinic, to get the care you need. Our virtual doctors for the flu will help you to feel better as soon as possible.

Certain conditions can put some people at a higher risk of a severe flu. It’s important to see a doctor if you have the flu or flu-like symptoms, plus any of these symptoms or conditions:

  • 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
  • Pregnant or within two weeks after delivery
  • Sudden dizziness or confusion
  • Diabetes, asthma or heart disease
  • A weakened immune system due to illness, medication, chemotherapy or HIV/AIDS
  • Any chronic respiratory disease
  • Are 65 years or older
  • Are caring for a child 5 years old or younger
  • 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
  • You’re someone with a high risk of developing flu complications, and someone in your household was diagnosed with the flu

Contact one of our urgent care clinics or make an urgent care video visit 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 in some cases, you might need some extra help to feel better faster. If medicine is needed, we might recommend antivirals, like Tamiflu®.

Antivirals are medicines that work by keeping flu viruses from reproducing in your body. Antivirals can help you feel better faster and reduce your symptoms, and work best when prescribed within 48 hours of developing flu symptoms. They can also help prevent other health risks caused by the flu. We’ll talk to you about antivirals and let you know if it’s the best treatment option for you.

Frequently asked questions (FAQs)

If you get the flu, your first question might be, “When will I feel better?” In most cases, you’ll feel better in a few days. The majority of flu symptoms last between three and seven days. Cough and fatigue can last up to two weeks.

The flu comes on fast. You might feel fine in the morning but find yourself knocked off your feet by lunch. While everyone experiences the flu a little differently, common first signs of the flu are:

  • Sudden high fever
  • Aches and pains
  • Excessive fatigue

Yes, the flu is a viral infection that can be passed to other people. It’s very contagious. Someone can get the flu by breathing in the virus. We might spread the flu to others by coughing, sneezing or even talking near someone. In some cases, we can get the flu by touching a surface with the flu virus on it and then touching our face.

Typically, people are the most contagious for three to four days after they get sick. But, people can spread the flu one day before their symptoms start and up to a week after they’re sick.

The best way to keep from spreading the flu to others is to stay home while you’re sick. It’s also important to wash your hands regularly and cover your mouth and nose when you cough and sneeze.

No. The flu is caused by a virus. Antibiotics help treat illnesses caused by bacteria.

Most people will recover from the flu on their own, without using prescription medicines. If medicine is needed, we can prescribe antiviral medicines, like Tamiflu®.

Many conditions can be safely and effectively treated online, including the flu. You can get the same quality care virtually as you do in an office visit. And an online visit helps keep the flu from spreading to others.

A Virtuwell visit is just like going to the doctor’s office, except your visit is online! Once you start your visit, you’ll get the treatment you need in four easy steps.

Step 1: Answer a few questions about your symptoms, medications and allergies. We’ll guide you through straightforward questions in our secure environment where your personal information is protected.

Step 2: Our certified nurse practitioners will review your answers right away. They’ll make a diagnosis and recommend care. If you need a prescription, it’s sent to your preferred pharmacy for easy pick-up.

Step 3: Enter your payment and insurance information and we’ll submit the insurance claim for you. We wait to hear back from your insurance provider before you pay anything.

Step 4: Start feeling better! Your treatment plan is ready in about an hour. We’ll send you a text and email as soon as it’s ready. And if you have any questions, give our nurse practitioners a call. Follow-up is free.

You don’t need to make an appointment. Our certified nurse practitioners are available 24 hours a day, every day.

Most visits are covered by insurance.

If you have insurance, enter your insurance information and we’ll submit the claim for you. We wait to hear back from your insurance provider before you pay anything. Then, we’ll email a receipt with the final charge to your card.

We work with many insurance companies, including Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Minnesota, CIGNA, HealthPartners, Medica, Medicare, PreferredOne and many others.

Not sure what your insurance covers? Call the number on the back of your card for help looking at your options.

Don’t have your card in front of you? Here are member services numbers to help you get started: