How To Tell If You Have The Flu

How do you know if you have the flu?

Although there are other viruses that can cause similar symptoms, it’s important to be able to differentiate between the two so you can seek the proper treatment as soon as possible.

The flu and other winter-related respiratory illnesses spread quickly, but with this guide on how to tell if you have the flu, you’ll be able to tell if you’re sick and what steps to take next.

What is the Flu?

The flu, medically known as influenza, is a contagious respiratory infection that impacts millions of people each year.

During flu season, you can get the flu by being around someone who has the flu. You can also get the flu by breathing in droplets spread by an ill person.

Influenza can be caused by different viruses and spreads quickly when an infected person sneezes or coughs near another person.

When you start to feel sick with flu-like symptoms, such as fever, chills, and body aches, see your doctor or health care provider right away.

Read on for more information about how to tell if you have influenza or just a common cold. 

Signs & Symptoms

When you have a fever, your muscles ache, and you feel worn out and exhausted. Other signs and common symptoms include:

  • sneezing
  • dry cough
  • congestion or runny nose
  • loss of taste
  • sore throat
  • extreme fatigue

So if you’re experiencing these symptoms at least three days in a row, it could be more than just a cold.

Check with your doctor to confirm whether or not it’s really influenza. They will do a swab test of your nose and throat mucus, or they might use rapid diagnostic tests that can detect specific influenza viruses through either blood samples or nasal swabs.

Some doctors may also perform tests for Strep Throat (which is sometimes confused for influenza). Strep Throat has similar signs/symptoms as flu, but is caused by bacteria rather than a virus—if it’s Strep then antibiotics are required for treatment instead of antivirals.

Antiviral drugs can still help to alleviate flu symptoms, even if it’s not actually influenza. It may take up to two weeks for your body to get rid of all of its viral infection; your doctor will recommend how long you should stay home from work while you are sick.

They might also suggest over-the-counter medications that could help reduce nausea, fever, headaches, cough, or body aches while you recover.

Prevention Methods

Here are a few preventive measures you can take to keep your colds, cases of flu, and illnesses at bay.

It’s easier said than done, but if you can manage to put these prevention methods into practice it will go a long way in keeping your health up to par all year long.

What Is Your Body Telling You?

Many times when we’re sick our bodies will naturally let us know there is something wrong. Some symptoms are more obvious while others are subtle, but nevertheless, your body does provide hints on what is going on within its walls even when you don’t feel ill per se.

Become familiar with some of those early warning signs that signal sickness is nigh—and that proper preventative care needs to be taken immediately. When Sickness Strikes, when that first sneeze or cough hits, do not become alarmed—your body isn’t letting you know it has an evil plan for world domination; instead, it’s giving you warning signs about things happening within its internal systems that need your attention quickly.

We all get sick from time to time, but having a little bit of knowledge beforehand as to how you should treat yourself will make a big difference overall. One thing is certain: getting yourself well as soon as possible makes living healthy much easier down the road—so use everything available to you now! 

Flu Vaccine

Vaccines are one of the most cost-effective ways to protect individuals from contracting infectious diseases. Influenza vaccines are administered annually to adults aged 50+ years and children 6 months – 18 years. Children younger than six months cannot be vaccinated until 12 weeks of age.

The seasonal flu vaccine contains three strains of influenza virus – an H1N1 strain, an H3N2 strain, and a B strain. Each year, new strains emerge and replace those included in previous seasons’ vaccines. Thus, annual vaccinations offer protection against newly emerging strains.

Washing hands

In addition to yearly vaccination, it’s very important to wash hands frequently throughout the day. Washing hands thoroughly removes germs on surfaces and minimizes the spread of the virus. Hand hygiene also helps prevent spreading other illnesses like colds or strep throat.

Other methods

Other preventive measures include covering your mouth with tissue paper whenever coughing or sneezing, avoiding close contact with others, staying home when ill, and getting plenty of sleep. Avoid touching eyes, nose, and mouth unless necessary. Coverings can help keep these areas clean.

Self-Treatment Methods

When you think you might have come down with a case of influenza, there are several things you can do to help yourself feel better and recover more quickly.

Drinking plenty of fluids is important—water helps flush your system, but soup or warm drinks will also provide much-needed calories when your appetite disappears.

And if you’re dealing with fevers or aches that don’t go away after a couple of days, ask your doctor about over-the-counter medication like Tylenol, which can help bring your body temperature down and ease aches.

Finally, don’t underestimate rest; if possible (and especially if you’re at work), take some time off to let yourself recover.

How do you treat influenza?

The best defense against the flu is the flu shot. Vaccination prevents infection and reduces complications such as pneumonia. It takes between 10-14 days for immunity to develop following immunization.

However, people who receive their second dose before they start feeling sick may still catch the illness. People under age 65 years old are recommended to get vaccinated every season because this group accounts for most hospitalizations due to flu.

There are antiviral drugs used to treat influenza infections. These medications reduce viral replication in infected cells and shorten the duration of symptoms. They must be started within 48 hours of the onset of symptoms.

Antivirals are effective only when given during the initial stages of infection. Treatment failure rates increase significantly once patients reach stage 3 of illness. Therefore, antiviral therapy should be initiated as soon as possible after symptom onset.

Antibiotics are prescribed when bacterial superinfection occurs. This condition develops when bacteria enter the respiratory tract through breaks in the mucosal lining.

The superimposed bacterial infection leads to worsening clinical manifestations. In severe cases, antibiotics are required to control secondary bacterial infections.

Treatment options

If you have been diagnosed with influenza, there are several treatments available.

Most doctors recommend taking over-the-counter pain relievers if fever persists beyond 24 hours. Fever usually lasts about 2-4 days.

Some people experience more intense headaches that last longer than usual. Other common side effects include muscle aches, fatigue, sore throat, runny nose, cough, diarrhea, vomiting, stomach cramps, loss of appetite, and body ache.

Severe allergic reactions including difficulty breathing, hives, swelling around face/tongue/throat, dizziness, fainting, chest tightness, and shortness of breath occur rarely. Seek medical attention immediately if any of these signs appear.


Like many viruses, symptoms of influenza can vary widely from person to person. They typically come on suddenly and may include chills, cough, sore throat, runny or stuffy nose, muscle aches, headaches, and fatigue.

In most cases, symptoms begin two days after exposure to a virus and last for a week.

Common sense is your best defense against infection—get plenty of rest if you’re feeling tired; drink plenty of fluids; avoid close contact with sick people; and keep your hands clean by washing them often with soap and water or an alcohol-based hand sanitizer.

Please keep in mind that the information in this article is not intended to substitute professional medical care or advice.

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