With seasonal flu, studies have shown that people may be contagious from one day before they develop symptoms to up to seven days after they get sick. Children, especially younger children, might potentially be contagious for longer periods.
This page features activities that are proactive and help reduce your risk. The following steps should not only be taken by those who are already sick in order to get well, but also by those who are not infected in order to prevent the spread of germs and to protect their own health:
- Vaccination is the best protection against contracting the flu. Learn more about vaccination options in your area.
- Know the signs and symptoms of flu, which can include fever, chills, cough, sore throat, runny nose, muscle or body aches, headache, tiredness, diarrhea or vomiting.
- Stay home if you are sick, except to go to a healthcare provider’s office. Make sure you call ahead first, in case the office has instructions for you before arrival. If you do not live alone, stay in a separate room, if possible, and avoid contact with others. If someone is caring for you, wear a mask when they are in the room. If you cannot tolerate wearing a mask, then have your close contact wear one instead.
- In order to prevent spreading the virus, stay home until your fever is gone for at least 24 hours. This should be determined without the use of fever-reducing medications (any medicine that contains ibuprofen or acetaminophen).
- Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue when you cough or sneeze. Throw the tissue in the trash after you use it. If you don’t have a tissue, cough or sneeze into your elbow or shoulder, not into your hands.
- Wash your hands often with soap and water, especially after coughing or sneezing. Alcohol-based hand sanitizers are also effective if soap and water are not available.
- Avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth. Germs spread this way.
- Try to avoid close contact with people who are sick.
- Drink plenty of clear fluids (such as water, sports drinks and electrolyte beverages for infants) to keep from becoming dehydrated.
- Frequently clean your living quarters. If you do not live alone, frequently clean surfaces and items that are more likely to have frequent hand contact such as tables, doorknobs, refrigerator handles, remote controls, computer keyboards, countertops, faucet handles and bathroom areas with cleaning agents or alcohol-based wipes.
- Avoid sharing personal items such as toothpaste.
- Contact your healthcare provider if you are at higher risk for complications from flu or treatment. People at higher risk for flu complications include children under the age of 5 years, pregnant women, people of any age who have chronic medical conditions (such as asthma, diabetes or heart disease) and people age 65 years and older.
- Contact your healthcare provider if your symptoms are getting worse.
If you are having difficulty breathing and need to go to the hospital, call 911. Let the operator know that you think you may have the flu so the first responders can be better prepared to care for you.