Recovery & Support for Influenza

Most people who contract influenza, or the flu, recover on their own in fewer than two weeks, but they may have a lingering cough or tire easily. NYU Langone doctors recommend drinking plenty of water and other clear liquids to prevent dehydration. While you are recovering, cover coughs and sneezes and wash your hands frequently to avoid spreading the virus.

People with the flu may be contagious starting one day before symptoms appear until about five to seven days after becoming ill. This period can last longer in some people, especially children and those with weakened immune systems.

Managing Complications

If they occur, complications of the flu usually arise after a person starts feeling better. Complications may include bacterial pneumonia, a lung infection, ear or sinus infections, and severe dehydration.

Pneumonia is the most serious flu-related complication, and it can be life threatening for older adults and people with chronic illnesses. If you have flu symptoms and are at risk of developing complications, call your healthcare provider right away.

Go to the nearest emergency room if you are recovering from the flu and experience symptoms such as: difficulty breathing or shortness of breath, pain or pressure in the chest or abdomen, sudden dizziness, confusion, or severe or persistent vomiting. People with flu-like symptoms that improve, then return with a fever and worse cough, should also seek immediate care to avoid complications.

Doctors at Hassenfeld Children’s Hospital at NYU Langone advise that children with the following symptoms should also be brought to the emergency room:

  • fast breathing or trouble breathing
  • bluish skin color
  • dehydration
  • not waking up or not interacting with others
  • severe irritability
  • flu-like symptoms that improve, then return with a fever and worse cough
  • fever with a rash

If an infant has any of the following signs in addition to the symptoms listed above, get immediate medical help:

  • unable to eat
  • trouble breathing
  • no tears when crying
  • fewer wet diapers than usual

More Influenza Resources

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