Disclaimer: At UPMC HealthBeat, we strive to provide the most up-to-date facts in our stories when we publish them. We also make updates to our content as information changes. However, education about COVID-19 can shift quickly based on new data, emerging variants, or other factors. The information in this story was accurate as of its publish date. We also encourage you to visit other reliable websites for updated information, including the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Food and Drug Administration (FDA), and your state and local governments.
Most people with the flu will recover on their own at home with rest, over-the-counter medicine, and plenty of fluids. But some people will develop serious complications and need to seek medical care.
Even during the pandemic, you can safely seek care for the flu at UPMC.
“The doctors’ offices, the hospitals, your health care providers, we’re all taking COVID-19 very seriously,” says Marian Michaels, MD, of the Division of Pediatric Infectious Diseases at UPMC Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh.
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When to Seek Medical Care for the Flu
Most people who have the flu experience mild illness and can recover at home. Common flu symptoms include:
- Muscle or body aches
If you believe you are experiencing symptoms of the flu, contact your UPMC primary care doctor. You may be scheduled for an in-person or video visit.
You can book several types of telemedicine care online:
- Schedule a video visit with your primary care provider
- Schedule a video visit for your child with a pediatrician or pediatric specialist
- Download the UPMC AnywhereCare to see a doctor for an urgent problem 24 hours a day, 7 days a week in a virtual visit
- Create your MyUPMC account to schedule appointments through your patient portal
“When anybody has any signs of illness, really, you want to keep them home,” Dr. Michaels says. “You want to make sure they’re having good hydration, keeping those fluids going … even using acetomorphine or ibuprofen for achiness or for the low-grade fevers. And then talk to your health care provider as well.”
People who are experiencing emergency flu symptoms, including difficulty breathing, chest and/or abdominal pain, and severe vomiting, should not hesitate to go to the emergency department of a hospital or an urgent care center.
How UPMC Protects You During In-Person Care
The health care providers and staff at UPMC understand the concerns people may have when seeking care during the COVID-19 pandemic. That’s why we follow strict protocols and cleaning procedures at all UPMC facilities, including:
- Screening patients for exposure to COVID-19 and its symptoms
- Requiring all UPMC staff to wear personal protective equipment to protect you and themselves
- Requiring all patients, staff, and essential guests to wear facemasks in all public areas
- Restricting visitors, support persons, and volunteers to only those who must be present
- Cleaning all rooms and surfaces of the hospital regularly with safe, effective disinfectants
“If you need to come in, you shouldn’t be afraid to come in,” Dr. Michaels says. “We have greeters when everyone comes in to ask questions about exposures and symptoms, we have everyone getting their temperature taken, and certainly remembering to wear a mask when you’re in public.”
How to Reduce Your Risk of Getting the Flu
The best way to prevent the flu is to get the annual flu vaccination.
The flu shot cannot guarantee you won’t catch the flu, but it substantially reduces your risk. Even if you do catch flu after getting a flu shot, you will likely have milder symptoms.
Talk to your doctor about receiving the flu vaccine. It may take about 2 weeks for your body to build immunity to the flu after getting the vaccine. Remember: It’s never too late to get the flu vaccine.
This year it will be more important than ever to get your flu shot because of the COVID-19 pandemic. The flu shot cannot prevent COVID-19, but it might prevent you from having the flu and COVID-19 at the same time. The flu vaccine reduces the risk of complications from flu, so it’s less likely you’ll go to the hospital during a pandemic.
Other ways to reduce your risk of getting the flu include following standard hygiene and infection prevention guidelines:
- Regularly wash your hands, especially before and after touching your face
- Use a hand sanitizer containing at least 60% alcohol if you cannot wash your hands
- Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth as much as possible
- Wear a face covering in public places and around other people, especially when indoors
- Avoid close contact with people who are sick
- Get plenty of sleep, eat a healthy diet, exercise regularly, and drink plenty of fluids each day
Caring for Someone Sick, Influenza (Flu), National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases (NCIRD), Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Link
Flu: What To Do If You Get Sick, National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases (NCIRD), Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Link
Frequently Asked Influenza (Flu) Questions: 2020-2021 Season, National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases (NCIRD), Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Link
Handwashing: Clean Hands Save Lives, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Link
Healthy Habits to Help Prevent Flu, National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases (NCIRD), Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Link
Key Facts About Seasonal Flu Vaccine, National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases (NCIRD), Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Link
Seasonal Flu Shot, Influenza (Flu),National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases (NCIRD), Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Link
Vaccine Effectiveness: How Well Do the Flu Vaccines Work?, National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases (NCIRD), Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Link
Headquartered in Pittsburgh, UPMC is a world-renowned health care provider and insurer. We operate 40 hospitals and 800 doctors’ offices and outpatient centers, with locations throughout Pennsylvania, Maryland, New York, West Virginia, and internationally. We employ 4,900 physicians, and we are leaders in clinical care, groundbreaking research, and treatment breakthroughs. U.S. News & World Report consistently ranks UPMC Presbyterian Shadyside as one of the nation’s best hospitals in many specialties and ranks UPMC Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh on its Honor Roll of America’s Best Children’s Hospitals. We are dedicated to providing Life Changing Medicine to our communities.