Think You Have the Flu? Try Virtual Care

Virtual Visits Make It Easy to Talk to a Doctor During Flu Season

By Bryan Roth
Updated August 29, 2023
A woman sits on a cough and wipes her nose with a tissue.

It’s winter and you’re tired, coughing, and have a low fever. What do you do next? As the country settles into another flu season, it’s important to familiarize yourself with flu symptoms and how to care for yourself if you get sick. While getting a flu vaccine is the best way to stay healthy, Duke providers are available for in-person and virtual visits to answer questions and offer guidance when you think you may have the flu.

When to Talk to a Doctor

Mony Mehrotra, MD, a Duke Health urgent care doctor and medical director for Duke Virtual Primary and Urgent Care, advises people to talk to a medical provider if they’re dealing with flu-like symptoms. Symptoms include muscle aches, fatigue, runny nose, coughing, nausea, and fever. 

“Having this conversation when flu-like symptoms start is really important because we can prescribe medicine that can help,” Dr. Mehrotra said. Starting antiviral medication as early as possible may help you feel better faster. 

“Virtual visits offer an option that’s fast and convenient,” she said. “People can stay in the comfort of their homes and prevent others from potentially getting exposed, and we can order tests just like we do when a patient comes to see us in the office. When we meet with someone for a video visit, we also make sure they don’t show any symptoms that could indicate a more serious concern like pneumonia or dehydration.”

Duke Urgent Care Video Visit Options

If you or your child is a current Duke patient, 6 months or older, and has a My Duke Health (previously Duke MyChart), you can schedule a virtual appointment with a Duke provider. During the video visit, you and the provider will discuss your symptoms and any next steps, such as a nasal swab flu test at a nearby Duke Urgent Care clinic to confirm you have the flu. If you’re sent for a test, your wait time will be shorter than if you were to show up on your own. Results are typically provided the same day in My Duke Health.

If you need care after hours or if you’re not a Duke patient, you can have a video visit with a board-certified provider through Duke Health Anywhere.

Have the Flu? How to Care for Yourself

After your visit, you’ll still need to care for yourself at home. "Hydration is most important," Dr. Mehrotra said. "I encourage anyone dealing with the flu to keep a water bottle nearby and take frequent sips." She recommends trying to drink at least 64 ounces over the course of a day.

Rest is also important, she said, as is trying to isolate yourself from others to avoid spread. Wear a mask and wash your hands regularly if you need to leave your home. When you’re up to it, very light activity, such as walking around your home or neighborhood is good for your lungs and better than lying down. Tylenol or ibuprofen can help with aches.

If you feel your symptoms worsen, use Duke virtual care options to check in with a provider. If sinus issues like congestion or runny nose linger, for example, Dr. Mehrotra said a video visit is a great way to talk through your treatment options. If you start to have difficulty breathing, an in-person visit to Duke Urgent Care or a nearby emergency department is best.