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 - Northwestern Memorial Hospital - Chicago

What to do if you get sick

If you have symptoms of the flu, even if they are mild, you should stay home from work or school, as well as shopping, social activities, family gatherings, etc. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services recommends that you stay home for seven days or until your fever has been gone for 24 hours (whichever is longer), unless you are so severely ill that you need to go out to get medical care. Your fever should be gone without the aid of fever-reducing medications, such as Tylenol™. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends staying home until you are fever-free for 24 hours.

While you're home with symptoms of the flu, you should

  • Check with your healthcare provider about any special care you might need if you are pregnant or have a health condition, such as diabetes, heart disease, asthma, or emphysema
  • Check with your healthcare provider about whether you should take antiviral medications
  • Keep away from others as much as possible - this is to keep from making others sick; Do not go to work or school, shopping, social activities, or family gatherings while ill
  • Stay home until you have been fever-free for 24 hours, except to seek medical care (fever should be gone without the use of a fever-reducing medicine); if you have flu-like symptoms without a fever, ask your doctor when it's ok to return to your normal activities
  • Get plenty of rest
  • Drink clear fluids (such as water, broth, sports drinks, electrolyte beverages for infants) to keep from being dehydrated
  • Cover coughs and sneezes and wash hands often with soap and water or an alcohol-based hand rub
  • Wear a facemask whenever possible while sharing common spaces with other household members to help prevent spreading the virus to others; this is especially important if other household members are at high risk for complications from influenza 
  • Watch for signs that you should seek medical attention
Last UpdateFebruary 8, 2011