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Influenza in Teens: Care Instructions


Influenza (flu) is an infection in the respiratory tract. It is caused by the influenza virus. There are different strains of the flu virus from year to year. Unlike the common cold, the flu comes on suddenly, and the symptoms, such as a cough, congestion, fever, chills, fatigue, aches, and pains, are more severe. These symptoms may last up to 10 days. Although the flu can make you feel very sick, it usually does not cause serious health problems.

Home treatment is usually all you need for flu symptoms. But your doctor may prescribe antiviral medicine to prevent other health problems, such as pneumonia, from developing. Teens who have a long-term health condition, such as asthma, are more at risk for having pneumonia or other health problems.

Follow-up care is a key part of your treatment and safety. Be sure to make and go to all appointments, and call your doctor or nurse call line if you are having problems. It's also a good idea to know your test results and keep a list of the medicines you take.

How can you care for yourself at home?

  • Get plenty of rest.
  • Drink plenty of fluids. If you have to limit fluids because of a health problem, talk with your doctor before you increase the amount of fluids you drink.
  • Take an over-the-counter pain medicine if needed, such as acetaminophen (Tylenol), ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin), or naproxen (Aleve), to relieve fever, headache, and muscle aches. Read and follow all instructions on the label.
  • No one younger than 18 should take aspirin. It has been linked to Reye syndrome, a serious illness.
  • Do not smoke. Smoking can make the flu worse. If you need help quitting, talk to your doctor about stop-smoking programs and medicines. These can increase your chances of quitting for good.
  • Breathe moist air from a hot shower or from a sink filled with hot water to help clear a stuffy nose.
  • Before you use cough and cold medicines, check the label.
  • If the skin around your nose and lips becomes sore, put some petroleum jelly (such as Vaseline) on the area.
  • To ease coughing:
    • Drink fluids to soothe a scratchy throat.
    • Suck on cough drops or plain, hard candy.
    • Try an over-the-counter cough medicine. Read and follow all instructions on the label.
    • Raise your head at night with an extra pillow. This may help you rest if coughing keeps you awake.
  • Take any prescribed medicine exactly as directed. Call your doctor or nurse call line if you think you are having a problem with your medicine.

To avoid spreading the flu

  • Wash your hands regularly, and keep your hands away from your face.
  • Stay home from school, work, and other public places until you are feeling better and your fever has been gone for at least 24 hours. The fever needs to have gone away on its own without the help of medicine.
  • Ask people living with you to talk to their doctors about preventing the flu. They may get antiviral medicine to keep from getting the flu from you.
  • To prevent the flu in the future, get the flu vaccine every fall. Encourage people living with you to get the vaccine.
  • Cover your mouth when you cough or sneeze. If you can, cough or sneeze into the bend of your elbow, not your hands.

When should you call for help?

Call 911 anytime you think you may need emergency care. For example, call if:

  • You have severe trouble breathing.

Call your doctor or nurse call line now or seek immediate medical care if:

  • You have trouble breathing.
  • You have a fever with a stiff neck or a severe headache.
  • You are sensitive to light or feel very sleepy or confused.

Watch closely for changes in your health, and be sure to contact your doctor or nurse call line if:

  • You have a new or higher fever.
  • Your symptoms get worse, or you seem to get better, then get worse again.
  • Your symptoms last longer than 10 days.

Where can you learn more?

Go to

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Care instructions adapted under license by your healthcare professional. If you have questions about a medical condition or this instruction, always ask your healthcare professional. Healthwise, Incorporated disclaims any warranty or liability for your use of this information.