Know Your Flu Symptoms

Symptoms for seasonal flu can come on quickly. They can include:

  • Fever
  • Sore throat
  • Chills
  • Body aches
  • Cough
  • Runny or stuffy nose
  • Diarrhea
  • Vomiting
  • Headache
  • Fatigue

What is the difference between the cold and the flu?

If you have a cold:

  • Your illness will usually begin slowly, two to three days after infection by the virus. It will normally last only two to seven days.
  • You will most likely first notice a scratchy, sore throat, followed by sneezing and a runny nose.
  • You may get a mild cough a few days later.
  • Adults and older children usually don’t have a fever, but if they do, it will be very mild.
  • Infants and young children, however, sometimes have fevers up to 102 degrees F.

If you have the flu:

  • You might develop a sudden headache and dry cough.
  • You might have a runny nose and a sore throat.
  • Your muscles will ache.
  • You will be extremely tired.
  • You can have a fever of up to 104 degrees F.
  • You most likely will feel better in a couple of days, but the fatigue and cough can last for two weeks or longer.

When to Seek Care

For most people, the best thing you can do is to stay home, rest and drink plenty of fluids. You will most likely recover from the flu in a few days and won’t require a visit to your health care provider. At this time of year, hospitals and urgent care centers are overcrowded with sick people, so you are advised to contact your doctor’s office first unless you are severely ill.

If you are at higher risk for flu complications, the flu can be more severe. You are considered at high risk if  you are 65 years and older, have chronic medical conditions (such as asthma, diabetes or heart disease), or you are pregnant. Young children are also considered high risk.

While the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention notes that it is difficult to predict the number of flu-related deaths, it does report that "from the 1976-1977 season to the 2006-2007 flu season, annual flu-associated deaths ranged from a low of about 3,000 to a high of about 49,000 people."

Please immediately contact your health care provider or go to the nearest Emergency Department if you have any of the following potentially life-threatening symptoms:

  • Difficulty breathing or shortness of breath
  • Pain or pressure in the chest or abdomen
  • Sudden dizziness, confusion
  • Severe or persistent vomiting
  • Flu symptoms that initially improve, but then return with cough and fever.
  • Infants should be taken to an Emergency department if they have bluish or gray skin color, lack of responsiveness or extreme irritability.
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