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Most cases of the flu are caused by viruses rather than bacteria. Viral infections cannot be treated with antibiotics; therefore, self-care measures for the symptoms are important. There are antivirals available for the flu and these can be prescribed by your healthcare provider.

First you need to decide if self-care is the best way to manage the flu. If you have difficulty breathing, moderate or severe pain or pressure in your chest or stomach/abdomen, persistent vomiting and/or diarrhea, and/or change in mental status you need to seek immediate help.

Hydration and rest are important. You should drink caffeine-free liquids. Do not use alcohol or tobacco. Here are non-medication ways to take care of yourself and the symptoms that accompany the flu.

  • Stuffy/Runny nose – Nasal strips, saline rinse or use a neti pot
  • Sore throat – warm salt water gargles can be used once per hour (1teaspon salt to 8 fl oz of warm water); vaporizer or humidifier; warm tea or other warm fluids that are caffeine and alcohol-free
  • Cough – 2 teaspoons of honey (only for adults)
  • Fever (normal temperature is 98.6 F or 37 C) – Cool cloth to the face and neck; do not cover in many blankets and don't try to “sweat out” the fever
  • Headache – an ice pack and/or gentle massage to the area that hurts; a tepid/warm bath or shower

Common over-the-counter medications that do not require a prescription may help relieve symptoms. Please see your healthcare provider or pharmacist for information on these medications and if they are right for you.



Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). (2014). The flu: What to do if you get sick. Retrieved from

Mayo Clinic. (2015). Common cold. Retrieved from

Web MD. (2015). Cold, flu, & cough health center. Retrieved from

Web MD. (2015). Migraines & headaches health center. Retrieved from


The purpose of this health information is to educate, inform, and direct students to the proper resources if they need further information or assistance. The informational links provided are maintained independently by those organizations.

Last updated on October 7, 2015
in accordance with the National Network of Libraries of Medicine (2014) evaluation for health website information.


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