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Flu Signs and Symptoms



If you having trouble breathing, experiencing sudden dizziness or confusion, have severe or persistent vomiting, and fever and cough, you may have the flu.

Influenza, or flu as it’s more commonly called, is an extremely contagious respiratory illness caused by influenza A or B viruses.  It most commonly occurs in winter and early spring, and is spread person to person through respiratory secretions by sharing drinks or utensils, or handling the same items as a contaminated person. It is spread quickly often through large groups of people with close contact, such as offices, classrooms, daycare, dormitories and nursing homes. Flu symptoms develop from one to four days after contact.

To avoid the flu:

  • Get a flu shot or nasal vaccine
  • Wash hands frequently
  • Avoid sharing drinks and utensils

If you are diagnosed with the flu, your doctor may prescribe what is called anti-virals, which may help prevent serious complications. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) recommends you stay home at least 24 hours after your fever is gone, except to get medical care or other necessities.

While you have the flu, stay away from others as much as possible to keep from infecting them. If you must leave home, for example to get medical care, wear a facemask if you have one, or cover coughs and sneezes with a tissue. Wash your hands often to keep from spreading flu to others.

The CDC also recommends that children and teenagers (anyone aged 18 years and younger) who have flu or are suspected to have flu should not be given Aspirin (acetylsalicylic acid) or any salicylate containing products (e.g. Pepto Bismol); this can cause a rare, very serious complication called Reye’s syndrome.

When to Seek Emergency Care

If you have the emergency warning signs of flu sickness, you should go to the emergency department. If you get sick with flu symptoms and are at high risk of flu complications or you are concerned about your illness, call your healthcare provider for advice. If you go to the emergency room and you are not sick with the flu, you may catch it from people who do have it.

Certain people are at high risk of serious flu-related complications, including young children, people 65 and older, pregnant women and people with certain medical conditions. If you are in a high-risk group and develop flu symptoms, it’s best for you to contact your doctor early in your illness.

Cold versus Flu Symptoms

Although cold and flu symptoms are often similar, flu can be much worse. Both cold and flu may bring coughing, headache and chest discomfort. Cold symptoms typically come on slowly, while flu symptoms typically come on abruptly and are accompanied by a high fever for several days, with body aches and fatigue. The flu can lead to life-threatening illnesses such as pneumonia, so ensure you contact your doctor if you believe you have the flu.

Visit the CDC website for more information.