Written on December 21, 2022 by Sendra Yang, PharmD, MBA. To give you technically accurate, evidence-based information, content published on the Everlywell blog is reviewed by credentialed professionals with expertise in medical and bioscience fields.
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People who catch the flu or influenza virus will experience a range of symptoms and severity from mild to deadly. Common symptoms of the flu are coughing, fever, body aches, sore throat, fatigue, runny, and stuffy noise [1-3]. More severe complications, such as bacterial infections, viral pneumonia, and cardiac issues, can develop from the flu.
Most people will recover from the flu with plenty of rest and self-care. Staying inside to rest will help the body fight the virus and avoid spreading the virus. The best way not to get the flu is to avoid catching the flu in the first place. This is easier said than practically done. People who get the flu want to recover from the flu as quickly as possible and avoid the symptoms associated with the flu [1-3]. Here are two things you can consider doing for the fastest treatment for the flu.
The flu vaccine does not technically “treat” the illness, but it does a great job at prevention. The flu vaccine prevents millions of people from visiting their doctors annually for illnesses associated with the flu.
Flu outbreaks are common each year, and the CDC recommends getting a flu vaccine annually to lessen the symptoms and severity if you catch the virus . The flu vaccine's effectiveness can vary yearly because the virus mutates and changes over time. Flu vaccine effectiveness varies for many reasons . An important factor determining how effective a flu vaccine will work is how closely the vaccine and the circulating virus match. If the vaccine and virus are a good match, flu severity and symptoms can be substantially reduced and recovery time improved. Your age and health status can also determine the vaccine's effectiveness. Certain health statuses may pose a higher risk, including adults 65 years or older, having chronic health conditions like asthma or diabetes, or being pregnant .
According to the CDC, the flu vaccine can reduce doctor visits by more than 40 percent during seasons when the flu and vaccine are well matched . Scientific studies conducted in hospitals demonstrated that people vaccinated but who still got sick from the flu significantly reduced illnesses associated with the flu . Not only was the severity of the sickness reduced, but it lowered the risk of death significantly if a person was hospitalized. The same study also found that children infected with the flu virus and who were vaccinated had lower odds of having a fever .
Getting vaccinated yourself can protect you and the people around you from getting seriously ill from the flu. The benefits of being vaccinated can help reduce the severity of the flu and improve your recovery from the illness. You should visit your healthcare provider to learn more about the effectiveness of the flu vaccine.
Flu antiviral drugs are another option to consider when you want something to treat or help fight the virus. Antiviral drugs are a class of medication that inhibits the flu from replicating and can be an option for the fastest treatment for the flu. Your healthcare provider can prescribe antiviral flu medication to treat flu-related illness. According to the CDC, if you are treated with flu antiviral medication within two days of becoming sick, the flu antiviral medication can reduce symptoms and shorten the number of days you are sick . Starting the medication later can still be beneficial, especially if you are an individual with higher health risks.
Currently, there are four FDA-approved flu antiviral medications, Tamiflu, Relenza, Rapivab, and Xofluza, that your healthcare provider can prescribe to treat flu-related illness . However, these drugs are not entirely free of side effects . Some common side effects of antiviral medications may include nausea, cough, vomiting, or runny nose. When antiviral drugs are taken as prescribed, they can substantially reduce your risk of developing severe flu illness and the length of time that you are sick from the flu.
It is essential that you talk to your healthcare provider about the flu vaccine and antiviral medications. Ideally, you should plan ahead for the seasonal flu by talking to your healthcare provider about getting a flu vaccine. When you do get flu symptoms, ask your doctor if antiviral medications are appropriate for you to treat your flu quickly. Your health risk, vaccination status, and medicine will determine how fast of a recovery you could make if you suffer from the flu illness. But getting a flu vaccine and taking antiviral drugs could help you recover more quickly.
If you think you have symptoms that you believe are flu-related and would like to speak with a healthcare provider, Everlywell may be able to help. At Everlywell, you can access certified healthcare providers via our telemedicine, or telehealth, program for online flu treatment. Telehealth is a great way to help keep your health on target. You can easily schedule your virtual appointment when it is most convenient for your schedule.