Colds and flu

08 June 2017

7 steps for surviving the flu

Don’t let the flu get the better of you. Here are seven steps that will get you back on your feet and back to your usual routine in no time.

In 1918 the Spanish flu infected between 20 and 40% of the world's population – about 50 million people died. 

Today, you're still likely to catch the seasonal flu and while your chance of dying from complications are less, it's still a risk.

Health24's CyberDoc Heidi van Deventer shares seven tips for surviving the flu, making sure you're on your feet as soon as possible while avoiding any possible complications. 

Step one: go home

Flu symptoms usually last between three and 10 days. The onset is often sudden – one minute you’re feeling fine and the next you feel as though you’ve been run over by a bus. If you’re at work, school or any public place, go home immediately. You’re contagious and the best place to be is in bed where you can rest. 

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Step two: see your doctor

You will need to see your doctor – you won’t be able to go back to work or school for a few days so you’ll need a sick note. Chat to your doctor about your symptoms and what medication or treatment you need. 

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Step three: call in sick

Now that you’re contagious and feeling pretty rotten, you won’t want to go back to work or school. You must phone in and explain why you won’t be at work for a few days. The doctor’s note will tell your employer when you can return – even if you feel better, stay at home until your doctor says you can return to work. If your child has the flu, check the school’s policy to see when they can return – some schools prefer that children stay home for at least 24 hours after a fever has subsided.

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Step four: rest

One of the best remedies for flu is rest and plenty of fluids. Follow your doctor’s advice and take the medication as prescribed. 

flu, sick, winter, survive, health


Step five: medicate

Avoid rushing off to the chemist to grab over-the-counter medication; instead follow your doctor’s advice on what medication to take. Use a humidifier to keep your airways moist, which will make it easier to breathe. If your symptoms don’t clear up after a few days and you feel worse, you may need to go to the doctor again. Dr Van Deventer suggests taking 500mg of vitamin C three times a day.

flu, sick, winter, survive, health


Step six: ask for help

Resting your body when you have the flu is important. As a parent, ask for help getting the kids ready for school, getting them to school, fetching them after school and then preparing dinner. If you don’t have children, make sure you delegate your work to colleagues. Do not work from home – you need to rest! 

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Step seven: look out for complications

Some people are at a higher risk of developing complications from the flu. These include bronchitis or pneumonia and will warrant another trip to the doctor. Don’t ignore the symptoms – a two-week-long nagging cough (bronchitis), painful cough (pneumonia), ear infection or sinus infection will need to be evaluated by your doctor. 

flu, sick, winter, survive, health

Read more:

Could 'man flu' actually be real?

Managing flu in children

Is it true that you should feed a cold and starve a fever?


Ask the Expert

Flu expert

Dr Heidi van Deventer completed her MBChB (Bachelor of Medicine and Bachelor of Surgery) degree in 2004 at the University of Stellenbosch.
She has additional training in ACLS (Advanced Cardiac Life Support) and PALS (Paediatric Advanced Life Support) as well as biostatistics and epidemiology.

Dr Van Deventer is currently working as a researcher at the Desmond Tutu Tuberculosis Centre at the University of Stellenbosch.

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