If you think you have COVID-19 or the flu, don't worry quite yet. Most people who get COVID-19 or the flu can treat themselves at home and often don't need to see a provider.
However, this year if you have COVID-19 or flu-like symptoms, especially if you are at risk of complications, you are encouraged to get tested. That's because COVID-19 and the flu have similar symptoms. You also can have COVID-19 and the flu at the same time, or another respiratory illness, which is why Mayo Clinic Health System will soon combine the testing process for COVID-19, influenza, respiratory syncytial virus and group A streptococcus (strep throat).
Whether you have the flu or COVID-19, there are ways that you can self-manage:
Be sure to drink plenty of liquids, such as water, juice and warm soups, to prevent dehydration. Avoid sugary drinks.
Catch up on your sleep to help your immune system fight off the infection.
Generally, you'll need nothing more than bed rest and fluids. You also may consider an over-the-counter pain reliever to reduce some of the aches associated with the flu. If you have the flu, your health care provider may prescribe an antiviral medication. If taken soon after you notice symptoms, the medication may shorten your illness by a day or so and help prevent serious complications. There is no outpatient oral antiviral treatment for COVID 19.
It's important to take certain measures to ensure the viruses don't spread to others around you:
- Wash your hands.
Thorough and frequent hand-washing or cleaning hands using an alcohol-based sanitizer are effective ways to prevent the spread of germs.
- Contain your coughs and sneezes.
Cover your mouth or nose when you sneeze or cough, and wash your hands after. To avoid contaminating your hands, cough or sneeze into a tissue or into the inner crook of your elbow.
- Avoid groups of people.
By avoiding groups of people, you may reduce your chances of infection and spreading to others. If you're sick with the flu, stay home for at least 24 hours after your fever subsides to lessen your chance of infecting others.
- Wear a mask and practice social distancing.
If you must leave your home, such as to get medication, wear a mask and maintain at least a 6-foot span between you and others.
Once you are no longer infectious, it's important to schedule a flu vaccination if you haven't had one this fall because you can catch the flu more than once in a season.