Flu treatments

What should you do if you catch the flu? Here's how to take care of yourself.

Rest at home

Stay home to rest and recover. You should stay home until your fever has been gone for at least 24 hours.

Make yourself comfortable

  • If the air is dry, use a humidifier.
  • Ease a sore throat by gargling with warm salt water.
  • Take symptom control medications as recommended by your doctor or pharmacist.

Drink plenty of fluids

To avoid dehydration (a possible complication of the flu), drink plenty of fluids such as water, soups, and juice. You'll know you are drinking enough fluid when your urine is clear or pale yellow.

Eat healthy foods

To keep your strength up, eat healthy foods to satisfy your appetite. See Canada's Food Guide to learn more about healthy eating.

Practise good hygiene

True, you've already got the flu. But practising good hygiene can help protect others:

  • Avoid contact with other people as much as possible (except to seek medical care). If possible, set up a sickroom in your house and always use the same bathroom so that other family members can limit their contact with you. Health Canada recommends that you stay at least 1 metre (about 3 feet) away from others (except your caregiver). You are contagious starting 1 day before and up to 7 days after your symptoms start.
  • If you do need to go out, cover your mouth and nose when you cough or sneeze (with your sleeve or a tissue), and wear a facemask if one is available. Dispose of used tissues right away.
  • Wash your hands frequently (see "Hand-washing 101," below).

Hand-washing 101:

When should I wash my hands?

  • when they are visibly dirty
  • before: eating, preparing food, feeding others, breast-feeding, touching your face, dressing wounds, inserting contact lenses, taking medication, or caring for a baby, child, or someone who is ill
  • after: using the bathroom, changing diapers, handling food, dressing wounds, handling pets or other animals, caring for someone who is ill, blowing your nose, sneezing into your hands, or picking up a dirty tissue

How do I wash my hands?

  1. Remove any jewellery.
  2. Get your hands wet and apply soap (use enough to cover all surfaces of your hands).
  3. Lather your hands well, making sure to clean under your nails, the backs of your hands, and your thumbs. Then rinse off all of the soap. You should spend about 20 seconds (the time it takes to sing the song "Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star" slowly) washing your hands.
  4. Dry your hands using a clean towel or a paper towel.
  5. Use a paper towel or a cloth to turn off the tap.
  6. If soap and water are not available and your hands are not visibly dirty, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol. Rub it into all surfaces of your hands, and keep rubbing until it is completely dry.

Know when to see your doctor

If you are at risk of flu complications and get the flu, see your doctor as soon as possible to find out if you need treatment. Find the flu clinic nearest to you and use the doctor discussion guide to help you prepare for your visit.

You should also get medical care immediately if you have these warning signs:

For adults:

  • difficulty breathing, fast breathing, or shortness of breath
  • bluish or greyish skin colour
  • sudden dizziness or confusion
  • severe vomiting or vomiting that won't go away
  • flu symptoms (e.g., fever, cough) that come back after you had started to get better
  • chest or abdominal pain or pressure
  • bloody or coloured spit
  • high fever (over 39.5°C) lasting more than 3 days
  • stiff neck
  • low blood pressure

For children: Same as the adult warning signs, PLUS:

  • not waking up, not interacting with others, or being so irritable that they don't want to play or be held
  • not drinking enough fluids
  • sudden paleness
  • fever with a rash
  • seizures