As flu season approaches, it’s essential to be able to recognize the symptoms of influenza, commonly known as the flu. The flu is a contagious respiratory illness caused by influenza viruses, and early identification can help you seek appropriate medical care and prevent its spread to others. Let’s explore key flu symptoms and how to differentiate them from other common illnesses, in order to best care for yourself.
Common Flu Symptoms
The flu shares some symptoms with other respiratory illnesses like the common cold, but it often presents with distinct features. Here are the typical symptoms of the flu:
One of the hallmark signs of the flu is a sudden onset of a high fever, usually over 100.4°F (38°C). This fever can last for several days.
A persistent and often dry cough is common with the flu. It can be severe and worsen as the illness progresses.
Some people with the flu experience a sore throat, which can be painful and may persist for a few days.
Severe muscle and body aches, often referred to as myalgia, are a characteristic feature of the flu. These aches can be widespread and severe.
Profound tiredness and weakness are common flu symptoms. This fatigue can last for several weeks after other symptoms have resolved.
Many individuals with the flu complain of a throbbing or pounding headache, often located behind the eyes.
Intense chills and shivering often accompany the onset of the flu, especially during the initial fever.
Runny or Stuffy Nose
While less common than with the common cold, some people with the flu experience nasal congestion, sneezing, or a runny nose.
Nausea and Vomiting
Though not as prevalent as other symptoms, some individuals with the flu may experience nausea and vomiting, particularly in children.
Like nausea and vomiting, diarrhea can occur but is less common with the flu.
How to Differentiate the Flu from Other Illnesses
The flu can be mistaken for other respiratory illnesses, but certain clues can help you differentiate it:
The flu typically comes on suddenly, with symptoms appearing within a few hours to a day. In contrast, colds often develop gradually.
While not everyone with the flu will have a fever, a high fever is more common with the flu than with colds.
Severe muscle and body aches are more prevalent in the flu than in colds.
Flu symptoms tend to last longer than those of the common cold. Cold symptoms usually resolve within a week, while the flu can last for several days to a few weeks.
When to Seek Medical Attention
Most cases of the flu can be managed at home with rest, hydration, and over-the-counter medications. However, it’s crucial to seek medical attention if you or a loved one experience any of the following:
- Difficulty breathing or shortness of breath
- Chest or abdominal pain
- Sudden dizziness or confusion
- High fever lasting more than a few days
Additionally, vulnerable populations, such as young children, the elderly, pregnant women, and individuals with chronic health conditions, should seek prompt medical care if they suspect the flu.
Recognizing the symptoms of the flu is the first step in seeking timely medical care and preventing the spread of the virus to others. While flu symptoms can overlap with other illnesses, the sudden onset of a high fever, severe body aches, and a persistent cough are typical indicators. If you or a loved one experiences severe symptoms or falls into a high-risk group, be sure to reach out to your Avance Care provider for guidance. Many of our offices offer same-day and next-day appointments, as well as telehealth options, so you can get care quickly.
Staying informed about flu symptoms and taking appropriate precautions can help you navigate flu season with confidence and minimize its impact on your health.