Do I Have the Flu? Signs and Symptoms of the Dreaded Bug
Since influenza is such a highly contagious disease that is spread by coughing, sneezing, and direct physical contact with objects that carry the virus (such as doorknobs), it’s important to know what symptoms to look for if you start to feel sick. This way, you can stay home and avoid spreading the dreaded virus to neighbors, friends, and coworkers. Identifying flu symptoms early can also be beneficial to your recovery, since if you get to your doctor within the first two days of getting sick, he or she may be able to give you an antiviral prescription, which will shorten the duration and intensity of the illness. Here are the most common signs of the flu and those symptoms to watch out for that could indicate a secondary infection and necessitate a doctor’s visit.
Classic Symptoms of the Flu Bug
There are several telltale or classic symptoms that the flu bug has entered your home:
- Fever and chills: A higher grade fever (100 degrees or more) is considered one of the hallmarks of the flu virus, but it’s important to note that not everyone who has the flu will have a fever. Sometimes there will just be a feverish and achy feeling. Chills are also quite common.
- Cough, sore throat, and/or runny or stuffy nose: While some flu symptoms can mimic those of a cold, the flu is different, both in that it often induces a fever and it also comes on suddenly.
- Fatigue: The flu will generally make you feel much more tired than a cold or another virus. In fact, sudden, excessive fatigue and unexplained weakness is often one of the first signs of the flu and comes before any other symptoms appear.
- Body aches: The body aches that typically accompany the flu virus are unmistakable and an early sign that what you have is much more than a common cold. Body aches can occur anywhere in the body but are most common in the head and legs.
- Gastrointestinal issues: While not every type of flu bug will affect your stomach, some forms of the virus can cause diarrhea, nausea, stomach pain, and even vomiting. It’s important to note that according to the CDC, these types of symptoms are much more prevalent in children versus adults.
Signs of Flu Complications
Since the flu is a progressive illness, symptoms will typically get worse before they begin to get better and eventually resolve. If your flu bug does not run this course and instead continues to worsen, then this is a sign that you have developed a complication or secondary infection and need to see your doctor right away. Warning symptoms to look for include breathing difficulties, severe dehydration, dizziness, recurring fever, and worsening cough. Commonly seen complication of the flu bug include bacterial pneumonia, ear infections, sinus infections, and dehydration. Keep in mind that the flu can also impact chronic medical conditions such as asthma or diabetes, in which case medical attention should also be sought.
Studies have found that immunization is between 70 and 90 percent effective in preventing influenza in healthy people under the age of 65. Since there are new variants of the flu each year, a new vaccine is made annually, and thus you should get a new flu shot every fall before the beginning of the flu season. In the meantime, if you suspect you have the flu, talk to your doctor.