The flu often arrives seemingly out of nowhere. Each year, nearly 8% of the U.S. population comes down with this contagious respiratory illness according to a recent study by the CDC, and the symptoms are no fun. In order to determine whether you are suffering from the flu or something else, it’s important familiarize yourself with the symptoms most commonly associated with it.
Symptoms of the Flu
The flu is characterized by coughing, sore throat, body aches, headaches and fatigue. Some patients, but not all, will also suffer from fever or chills. Additionally, people with the flu may have vomiting or diarrhea, although these symptoms occur more in children than adults.
One way to tell whether you have the flu, or a stubborn cold is to look at the onset of the symptoms. Flu symptoms appear rapidly, while a cold may take several days to settle in. Body aches, headaches and chills are also more commonly associated with the flu than a cold. While there are tests that can determine if a patient has the flu, most of the time doctors will make a diagnosis based on the symptoms alone.
On average, flu symptoms manifest within one to four days after exposure to the virus and continue for about five to seven days after. For some individuals, the symptoms may last closer to two weeks. If you have the flu, you are most contagious in the early days of your illness, but you can begin to infect others as early as one day prior to your own symptoms even appearing.
What do you do if you think you have the flu? The most important thing to do is rest and let your body fight the illness. The symptoms may be unpleasant, but they mean your immune system is working hard to get rid of the virus. Drink lots of water and take over-the-counter pain relievers like Tylenol or Advil to lower your fever if you have one.
The flu typically lasts about 5-7 days, but for certain patients it can be longer. Once you start to feel better, this helpful checklist can help you determine whether you are ready to return to work after being out sick.
The single best way to prevent getting the flu is to get vaccinated each year. Other habits that can help prevent the flu include washing your hands frequently, avoiding close contact with someone with the flu, and covering you mouth when coughing or sneezing. These are all good health habits to avoid the flu and other wintertime illnesses!
Flu Season Is Here. Visit any Ochsner Urgent Care or schedule a virtual visit if you have the flu. Learn more.