How can I protect myself from the flu?
The single best way to prevent the flu is to get vaccinated each year. Flu shots are available at all UW Neighborhood Clinics locations. Call 206.520.5000 or 1.877.520.5000 today to schedule your flu vaccine. Other ways to help prevent the flu include:
- Avoid close contact with sick people.
- Stay home when you feel sick.
- Wash your hands often with soap and water. If soap and water are not available, use an alcohol-based hand rub.
- Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth.
- Disinfect surfaces and object that may be contaminated with germs (remote controls, door handles, etc.).
What is the difference between a cold and the flu?
The common cold and the flu are different illnesses caused by different viruses but have similar symptoms. In general, the flu is worse than a cold and symptoms are more common and intense. Symptoms of the flu can include:
- Fever* or feeling feverish/chills
- Sore throat
- Runny or stuffy nose
- Muscle or body aches
- Fatigue (tiredness)
- Some people may have vomiting and diarrhea, though this is more common in children than adults.
* Not everyone with the flu will have a fever.
Do I need medical care?
Most people with the flu have mild illness and do not need medical care or antiviral drugs. If you get sick with flu symptoms, in most cases, you should stay home and avoid contact with other people.
However, if you have symptoms of flu and are very sick and worried about your illness, or you are at high risk of serious complications, contact your UW Neighborhood Clinics healthcare team or the UW Medicine Virtual Clinic. The UW Medicine Virtual Clinic is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week at 1.855.520.5250 or
uwmedicine.org/virtual-clinic. High-risk groups include:
- People with chronic health conditions such as diabetes, asthma, and heart disease
- Adults 65 years of age and older
- Pregnant women
- People who have HIV or AIDS
- People with cancer
- Children younger than 5, but especially children younger than 2 years old
- Residents of long-term care facilities
Should I go to the emergency room?
Going to the emergency room is an option if you have warning signs of serious complications (see below). If you are sick with flu symptoms and are not sure if going to the emergency room is right for you, call your UW Neighborhood Clinics healthcare team for advice. If you go to the emergency room and are not sick with the flu, you put yourself at risk of catching it from people who do have it.
Warning signs of serious complications
- Fast breathing or trouble breathing
- Bluish skin color
- Not drinking enough fluids
- Not waking up or not interacting
- Being so irritable that the child does not want to be held
- Flu-like symptoms improve but then return with fever and worse cough
- Fever with a rash
In addition to the signs above, get medical help right away for any infant who has any of these signs:
- Being unable to eat
- Has trouble breathing
- Have no tears when crying
- Significantly fewer wet diapers than normal
- Difficulty breathing or shortness of breath
- Pain or pressure in the chest or abdomen
- Sudden dizziness
- Severe or persistent vomiting
- Flu-like symptoms that improve but then return with fever and worse cough
How long should I stay home if I’m sick?
Stay home for at least 24 hours after your fever is gone without the use of a fever-reducing medicine, except to get medical care or other necessities.
What should I do while I’m sick?
- Take flu antiviral drugs if your healthcare provider prescribes them for you.
- Stay away from others as much as possible to keep from infecting them. If you must leave home, for example, to get medical care, wear a facemask if you have one, or cover coughs and sneezes with a tissue.
- Wash your hands often to keep from spreading the flu to others.
- Stay hydrated by drinking plenty of fluids.
- Use fever/pain relievers such as acetaminophen (Tylenol) or Ibuprofen (Motrin or Advil) to keep you comfortable. Do not use aspirin to relieve fevers in children.