Doctor On Demand Blog

You’ve all been there. That tell-tale tickle in your throat, the drippy nose that starts a cascade of sneezes, that sinking feeling when you realize, “Oh, no. I’m sick!” This early stage of cold and flu symptoms is no time to wait and see how bad it will get. If you treat your symptoms early enough, you may be able to prevent the virus from spreading to others or becoming worse. The first 24 hours are critical.

Here’s what I recommend to my patients at the first sign of symptoms such as fever, headache, cough, congestion, sore throat, body aches and chills, and/or exhaustion.

Tips for Early Treatment:

  1. Don’t Over-Exert Yourself. When you’re starting to feel sick, this is not the time to run a few miles or pull an all-nighter for a big project. It’s your chance to rest, recuperate, and let your body recover. Pushing your limits at this point will take away important energy your body needs to get better — and potentially increase the time it takes to get well.
  2. Over the Counter Medicines Can Help. Early symptoms such as fever, headache, body aches, and sinus pain can be treated with pain-relievers like ibuprofen or acetaminophen. Be sure to read the label carefully and follow dosage recommendations exactly. Taking too little medication may not be effective — taking too much can be dangerous. Remember, doses for children vary based on their age and weight, and children under the age of 18 should not be given aspirin. It can cause a serious condition called Reye’s Syndrome.
  3. Avoid Cold and Damp Environments. Although it’s a myth that you’ll get sick just from not bundling up when it’s cold outside, it’s true that bacteria and viruses thrive at cooler temperatures. So if you’re fighting a bug, it’s best to stay warm and dry.
  4. Get Enough Sleep. In the first 24 hours of an illness, you should sleep as much as possible to give your body a chance to recover. Resist the urge to binge watch your favorite shows or stay up late catching up on emails. Go to bed!
  5. Drink Plenty of Fluids. Staying hydrated is one of the best things you can do for your body while your immune system is gearing up for a fight. Water, decaffeinated tea, sport drinks, and sugar-free drinks are best. They can help fight dehydration associated with fever. Also, hot tea with lemon and honey can soothe congestion, sore throat, and cough.

When it Lasts Longer Than 24 Hours:

If you don’t improve after 24 hours, you may want to consult a doctor. Multiple conditions (eg, flu, strep throat, bronchitis) share similar symptoms. But while your fever, cough, and sore throat may feel the same, each condition calls for a different treatment, and telling them apart can be confusing.

When it comes to the flu, starting antiviral medicine within the first 48 hours can lead to a shorter and milder illness — so it’s important to act fast. Doctor On Demand lets you avoid the wait and see a doctor immediately by video, right from your smartphone, tablet, or computer. Early treatment can get you feeling better faster and avoid spreading the virus to others.

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