- The most common influence symptoms are body aches, chills, cough, fatigue, fever and headache.
- UCommon symptoms of the flu include sore throat, vomiting and diarrhea.
- The only way to know for sure if you have the flu is to get tested in the doctor’s office.
- Visit the Insider Health Reference Library for more tips.
The human flu virus – aka influenza – is highly contagious and spreads through the respiratory system, nose and throat. This can lead to classic flu symptoms such as coughing, runny nose and sore throat.
But some flu-like symptoms can overlap with other conditions such as a
, allergies, and COVID-19. Here are some helpful tips for determining if you have the flu, or something else.
Symptoms of the flu
The most common symptoms of the flu include:
Less common flu symptoms include:
It is important to note that symptoms may vary slightly from person to person.
“One person can tell you that they’ve had the worst chills in their lives, and another can tell that they’ve been coughing for four weeks,” he says. Emily Landon, an epidemiologist at u University of Chicago Medicine.
But if it’s the flu, everyone experiences those distinctive “whether you’re 2 or 200” symptoms.
How do I know if I have the flu?
Your symptoms are a good start to understanding if you have the flu or anything else. Here is a chart comparing the flu with other common diseases, including the new coronavirus:
However, the only way to know for sure if it is the flu is a nasal or throat swab test in the doctor’s office.
If you have recently been vaccinated against the flu and experience flu-like symptoms, it is still possible to get it. Why you can always catch the flu after a flu shot, even if your chances are lower.
Other times, Landon says people think they have the flu, but are sick with something else entirely – a fungal infection, bacterial pneumonia, or even a heart attack.
And if you have a case of vomiting or diarrhea 24-hours: “It’s not the flu,” he says. “It’s probably norovirus or some other winter virus.” If so, check out our article what you can eat to help alleviate these symptoms.
People at high risk for the flu
The flu it can infect anyone but there are certain populations at higher risk of developing complications from infection. These demographics include:
- Seniors over 65 years
- People with diabetes
- And people with heart disease or hypertension
- Anyone with a chronic illness that leaves them immunocompromised
- The children
- Pregnant women
Pregnant women are considered a high-risk influenza group, which is why they should take a flu shot. Influenza in the third trimester increases the risk of early labor and makes women more likely to spread the virus to the baby.
“Pregnant misery is one thing. In early pregnancy, you may be tired, nauseous, not feeling well,” says Landon. “You should not have chills, sweating or fever.” If you have the flu or fever when you are pregnant, see your doctor as soon as possible. Doctors may prescribe antiviral medications, which reduce symptoms, help prevent complications, and take the edge off.
What to do if you feel the influence coming
If you think you have the flu, stay home and avoid contact with others that the flu is highly contagious.
Most people, who are otherwise healthy, do not need to seek medical attention for their symptoms. Instead, take it easy, rest, reschedule the plans, and call the sick from work or school. You need to start feeling better about it one to two weeks.
If you are around high-risk individuals such as infants or grandparents, it may be beneficial to be tested. Since the flu is highly contagious, knowing whether you have it or not can help prevent its spread.
Finally, testing is particularly important for individuals who may be unable to communicate their symptoms effectively such as children or those with dementia.
Take away the Insider
There are several symptoms of the flu that can overlap with other diseases such as COVID-19, allergies and the common cold. Sometimes it can be difficult to determine what makes you feel sick.
However, if you are otherwise healthy, it is important that you stay home to avoid potentially infecting anyone else. The flu typically lasts a week or two, so if you experience worse symptoms after two weeks, you should consult a doctor.