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Sunday, 1 November 2009

What to Do When You Have the Flu:

How to care for yourself at home
Most people in Ontario who develop the flu will be sick for a few days with fever and cough and then get better. If you develop flu symptoms – sudden fever or chills, cough or shortness of breath, sore throat, fatigue (lack of energy), muscle or joint aches – there are several things you can do to help you feel better and keep the flu from spreading.
Do You Have a Fever?
The best way to measure your temperature is with a digital thermometer – available at drug stores. If your temperature is 38°C (100.4°F) or higher, you have a fever.

Touching your forehead or neck is not a reliable way to check for fever.

1. Treat your fever
If you have a fever :

Dress in lightweight clothing and keep the room temperature around 20°C (68°F).
Drink lots of fluids, such as water, fruit juice (not fruit drinks), milk, and herbal teas. If your urine (pee) is darker than usual, you need to drink more.
Avoid drinks with caffeine (e.g., coffee) as caffeine makes you lose fluids from your body.
Take basic pain or fever relievers such as acetaminophen (Tylenol®), ibuprofen (Advil®, Motrin®), or acetylsalicylic acid (ASA or Aspirin®) unless your physician has instructed you not to. Note: Do NOT give acetylsalicylic acid (ASA or Aspirin®), or any cold medicine that has ASA, to children or teenagers under the age of 18.
2. Treat your other flu symptoms
Some suggestions to treat your other flu symptoms may include :

Get plenty of rest.
Take cough medicine – especially if you have a dry cough.
Take a warm bath with epsom salts.
Gargle with a glass of warm water or suck on sugarless hard candy or lozenges.
Use saline drops, spray, or decongestants.
Use a hot water bottle or heating pad for short periods of time to reduce muscle pain.
Ask your pharmacist for advice if you buy over-the-counter medicine.
3. Protect others from flu
If you have flu symptoms, you may be contagious for up to a week, and possibly up to 10 days for children and people who are very ill.

To protect others and reduce the spread of the flu :

Stay home from school or work and limit contact with others
Wash your hands often with soap and water or alcohol-based hand sanitizer– especially after sneezing or coughing.
Cough or sneeze into a tissue or your upper sleeve, not your hand. Dispose of tissues immediately and wash you hands.
Keep commonly touched services clean and disinfected.
Avoid sharing anything that may carry germs such as towels, lipsticks, cigarettes, and drinks.
If you live alone, contact a friend or family member to help if you are too sick to buy groceries or go to the pharmacy.
When can you go back to work?
Non-healthcare workers can return to work when they no longer have a fever for 24 hours and are feeling well enough to return to their normal activities.

It is common to have a mild cough for days to weeks after a respiratory infection. If you have a cough but no other symptoms, it is safe to go to work.

Health care providers should wait until 24 hours after all symptoms (other than a mild cough) have resolved, typically a period of 5 to 8 days. However, health care providers who have been treated with oseltamivir (Tamiflu®) for 72 hours will not be as infectious and may return to work if they feel generally well except for a mild cough. Staff should consult with Occupational Health (if available) for a return to work assessment.

When should you seek medical advice?
Use Ontario’s influenza assessment tool to see whether you need medical care.

Call Telehealth Ontario (1-866-797-0000 or TTY 1-866-797-0007) or your health care provider if you have flu symptoms and have any of the following diseases or conditions that may increase your risk for complications :

A chronic disease that increases your risk of complications from the flu, such as heart disease, a liver condition, a lung condition, diabetes or asthma.
Diseases or treatments that affect the immune system such as HIV/AIDS, transplant or cancer.
Pregnant women or women up to 6 weeks after having delivered.
Children under 5 years (the risk is greater for children under 2 years old)
Children under 18 years of age on long-term acetylsalicylic acid therapy.
Very overweight.
Live in a rural/ isolated area far from a hospital.
Over the age of 65.
Live in a nursing home or a retirement home.
If you don’t have any of the risk factors listed above, you may be able to take care of yourself at home if you have the flu. However, if you do not start to feel better in a few days, you have more severe symptoms, or your symptoms get worse, call Telehealth Ontario or contact your healthcare provider.

Go to the nearest hospital emergency department or call 911 RIGHT AWAY if you have any of the following symptoms :

Difficulty breathing / shortness of breath when doing very little or resting.
Continuous vomiting or severe diarrhea with signs of dehydration such as dry tongue, dry mouth, decreased peeing (no urine for the past 6 to 8 hours), or very yellow/orange urine.
Stiff neck and eyes sensitive to light.
Seizures or convulsions.
Confusion or disorientation.
October 23, 2009

Fact sheet download : What to Do When You Have the Flu: A Guide for Adults [PDF]

For More Information
For information about seasonal flu, H1N1 and pandemic preparedness call ServiceOntario, Infoline at 1-800-476-9708 (Toll-free in Ontario only)
TTY 1-800-387-5559. In Toronto, TTY 416-327-4282
Hours of operation : 8:30am - 5:00pm

Telehealth Ontario at 1-866-797-0000
TTY: 1-866-797-0007
Hours of operation : 24 hours, 7 days a week

To find health care options in your community, visit or call 1-866-330-6206

If you don’t have a health care provider, you can register for the Health Care Connect program at or call: 1-800-445-1822

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