Treating flu 

Usually, you can manage flu symptoms yourself at home and there's no need to see a GP. Most people feel better within a week.

If you're at a higher risk of becoming more seriously ill, you should consider seeing your GP.

Managing your symptoms at home

If you're otherwise healthy, you can look after yourself at home by:

  • resting
  • keeping warm
  • drinking plenty of water to avoid dehydration

If you feel unwell and have a fever, you can take paracetamol or anti-inflammatory medicines such as ibuprofen to lower your temperature and relieve aches. Children under 16 shouldn't be given aspirin.

Stay off work or school until you're feeling better. For most people, this will take about a week. See your GP if your symptoms get worse or last longer than a week.

Read the page on preventing flu for more information about stopping the infection spreading to others.

Antiviral medication

Antivirals work by stopping the flu virus from multiplying in your body. They won't cure flu, but they may help to slightly reduce the length of time you're ill and relieve some of your symptoms.

The two main types of antiviral medication sometimes used to treat people with flu are oseltamivir (Tamiflu) and zanamivir (Relenza).

However, most experts would agree that the modest benefits of Tamiflu and Relenza, as reported by a 2014 Cochrane review, do not justify the increased adverse risks. While it appears that these drugs have a modest benefit, there is no solid evidence that either drug can protect people from the more serious complications of influenza.

Paracetamol or ibuprofen would seem to be a far more cost-effective method of relieving the symptoms of influenza.

For more information, read our report "Effectiveness of Tamiflu and Relenza questioned".

Antibiotics

Antibiotics are not prescribed for flu as they have no effect on viruses, although they may be prescribed if you develop a complication of flu, such as a bacterial chest infection.

Page last reviewed: 01/04/2015

Next review due: 01/04/2017