What should I do if I think I’ve got flu?

If you’re otherwise fit and healthy, you can manage symptoms of flu, including swine flu (H1N1), at home. Most people get better without treatment and will recover from flu within a week. However, if you’re concerned about your symptoms, or they’re getting worse, contact your GP. They will decide the most appropriate action to take.

Flu symptoms include a sudden fever (high temperature), cough (usually dry), headache, muscle and joint pain, severe malaise (generally feeling unwell), sore throat and runny nose.

Some groups of people have a higher risk of serious illness or complications if they catch flu. This includes pregnant women, people over 65, those with a weakened immune system (the body’s natural defence against infection and illness) and people who have a long-term medical condition – such as diabetes, heart disease, lung disease, kidney disease or a neurological condition.

See your GP if you’re in a high-risk group and have flu-like symptoms.  

Caring for yourself at home

People who have flu-like symptoms, but are otherwise fit and healthy, should stay at home. Get plenty of rest and use standard paracetamol-based cold remedies to reduce your temperature and help relieve your symptoms.

Drink plenty of fluids while you recover. You may need to stay in bed for two or three days after your symptoms peak. You should begin to feel much better within five to eight days.

If you’re in a high-risk group, you should also follow your GP’s advice.

Antiviral medicines

Antiviral medicines such as Relenza or Tamiflu are sometimes used to treat people with flu and swine flu. Your GP will decide whether you need treatment with antiviral medicines.


Antibiotics are not prescribed to treat flu, as they have no effect on viruses. However, you may be treated with antibiotics if you develop complications of flu.

Antibiotics help to fight bacterial infections such as pneumonia. If you develop complications, your GP will decide if you need treatment with antibiotics.

Read more information about treating flu.

Try to stop your germs spreading

Help to stop the flu virus spreading to other people by:

  • using tissues to cover your mouth and nose when you cough or sneeze
  • putting used tissues in a bin as soon as possible
  • washing your hands regularly with soap and water
  • cleaning surfaces regularly to get rid of germs

You should stay off work until you are no longer infectious and feeling better.

Read the answers to more questions about swine flu (H1N1).

Further information:

Cold or flu?

Do you know the difference between a cold and flu? An expert explains the conditions, treatments and remedies available.

Media last reviewed: 26/05/2015

Next review due: 26/05/2017

Page last reviewed: 28/08/2014

Next review due: 27/08/2016