When the weather is colder and drier, it’s prime time for colds and the flu to spread. With that said, knowing how to spot the flu is extremely important. After all, the earlier the flu is caught, the easier it is to treat (and reduce the chances of transmitting it to others).
Now, the signs of a flu infection can change depending on how extreme the infection is and the condition of the infected person. There are, however, some tell-tale signs that someone is fighting off this kind of infection, including…
Fever is the most widely recognized symptom of the flu. Fortunately, this symptom is easy enough to catch with the use of a thermometer.
Fevers occur when the body raises its own temperature in an attempt to fight an infection. Specifically, some infections cannot survive hotter environments. So, the increased temperature can help the body destroy the foreign invaders that are causing an illness.
Sometimes, however, a fever can get too high, resulting in some potentially dangerous complications. For adults, once the fever reaches 103 degrees Fahrenheit, it can be a sign of danger. For infants and the elderly, even slight changes in temperature can be a sign of a dangerous flu.
Flu-induced fever usually doesn’t come alone; it’s often accompanied by the following symptom…
Chills happen when the flu causes the body to experience the sensation of coldness much more potently than usual. These chills are typically experienced after the flu has already set in and other symptoms are present.
Chills also come with shivers and all the other common signs of being too cold. Why the shivering, though? Because shivering is the result of your muscles constantly contracting and relaxing—one way your body tries to generate heat in response to feeling cold.
Now, chills are common signs of an advanced flu. What about early flu symptoms?…
Coughing can occur before other flu signs and can spread the illness to others. During the flu, the body produces excess mucus in an attempt to clear out the infection, which almost always results in coughing.
Another tell-tale flu symptom also leads to aggravation of the airways…
16. Sore Throat
A sore throat paired with the previously listed symptoms might indicate the flu rather than something else, like strep throat. A flu-related sore throat happens as a result of the flu’s infection reaching the throat and the lymph nodes surrounding it. This can cause frequent coughing, excess mucus, and even other infections.
So, when sore throats and coughs show up, they could be signs of the flu. Naturally, they’re often accompanied by the following symptom…
Coughing, mucus, and phlegm? Oh my. It might be the flu.
Mucus production is a sign the body is fighting an infection. Mucus serves both to capture unwanted bacteria and help the body process an infection. When people think of the flu, what they are actually thinking about isn’t mucus, but phlegm. Phlegm is produced by the lungs and can cause coughing, which is common during flu infection.
The following is another common sign of the flu, but unlike mucus, it’s a sign of a much more serious infection…
14. Muscles Aches
Unfortunately, the flu can impact just about every part of the body, including the muscles. When the flu infects the body, it sends out white blood cells (antibodies) to fight the infection, which frequently leads to swelling and muscle pain.
Muscle aches aren’t the only aches you’ll feel with the flu, though…
13. Body Aches
Like muscle aches, body aches are a distinct symptom of the flu, especially if it’s paired with other symptoms. When the flu infects the body, the body has to exert extra energy to fight off the infection. This process leads to an overall achy feeling throughout the body.
So, just how does fatigue impact the body during a bout of the flu?…
Excessive tiredness is another likely sign that points to the flu.
Fighting off the flu is incredibly taxing for the body. In order to defeat the infection, the body must divert all of its resources, meaning it’s increasing white blood cell and mucus production and increasing the body temperature.
While the body is fighting off the flu, it can feel like you are running a marathon. That’s why fatigue is such a common sign of the flu.
This next symptom is arguably one of the worst symptoms…
When it comes to the flu specifically, vomiting can be a particularly dangerous symptom because it can lead to dehydration, which can be fatal if left untreated.
The flu causes vomiting by disturbing the GI tract. The flu inflames this lining, which makes it susceptible to disturbance.
If your favorite foods have ever made you sick while infected with the flu, this inflammation is why. This sensitivity is also why people recommend neutral foods that are easy to digest, as they don’t upset this lining.
Unfortunately, vomiting isn’t the only symptom that can lead to dangerous dehydration…
Diarrhea is an extreme symptom of influenza, as inflammation of the digestive system can lead to severe dehydration. For this reason, it’s important to drink plenty of fluids while you’re sick to make sure your body is hydrated.
While diarrhea and vomiting are dangerous symptoms, they are not the only ones worth noting. In fact, these two issues can create or worsen the following symptom…
If your head is pounding, the flu could be the culprit, particularly if it’s paired with one more more of the symptoms on this list. Dehydration is one of the most common causes. As the body loses fluid, headaches can become more likely, especially as inflammation increases.
Some symptoms of the flu, though, do require emergency medical attention…
8. Emergency Symptoms
Emergency symptoms for the flu are signs of extreme infection that need to be treated by a doctor right away. Age is an important factor to consider here, as extreme symptoms for children are different than those for adults.
For children, emergency symptoms should be evaluated by a doctor right away. These symptoms include bluish face or lips, changes in breathing, seizures, chest pain, or dehydration. For adults, severe symptoms can look the same. In both adults and children, not urinating can be a sign that the infection has become an emergency, as it can quickly lead to extreme dehydration.
When these signs emerge, seek medical attention right away. Not treating the flu promptly can lead to some devastating complications…
7. Flu Complication Symptoms
The flu is a potentially dangerous infection that can lead to some severe complications. When this happens, it’s extra important to seek medical attention right away.
There should be some warning signs. These signs can include:
- advanced infections like sinus infections or pneumonia
- inflammation around the heart or lining of the brain
- interactions with pre-existing medical conditions, which can worsen these conditions’ symptoms
So, what should someone do if they think they have the flu?…
6. See a Doctor
When you go to the doctor’s office, they can check for the flu with a simple test. Known as rapid influenza diagnostic tests (RIDTs), these tests involve a simple oral swab that can then let you know whether or not you have the flu within 10-15 minutes.
If your flu symptoms are severe, you might receive antiviral medication to combat the illness, but self-care is important too. Most often, your doctor will recommend bed rest, fluids, and throat lozenges (cough drops).
Bed rest means you’ll be spending lots of time secluded as you build back your strength. So, just how exactly should you manage your self-care time to recover quickly?…
5. Sleep Is Your Best Friend
One of the best ways to fight any illness is to take it easy. So, when it comes to fighting the flu, isolate yourself from others to eliminate the risk of transmission and get some rest.
While sleeping is one of the most effective ways to speed up your recovery, there’s another simple way you can also fight the flu…
4. Drink Lots of Fluids
It’s easy to become dehydrated with the flu. Besides keeping you hydrated, liquids can also help moisten and soothe a sore throat. Liquids like broth may also help ease a queasy stomach.
A sore throat can make drinking difficult. Fortunately, there’s an over-the-counter remedy for this problem that can help you power through your flu…
3. Grab Some Throat Lozenges (Cough Drops)
Throat lozenge is a fancy term for a cough drop. When you’ve got a sore throat and cough, these drops can be lifesavers. You want cough drops to soothe your throat. So, opt for those that have menthol and/or honey, as these ingredients are incredibly soothing.
As far as alternatives, you can try an herbal tea with honey. Of course, don’t just make sure that you’re drinking enough; make sure you’re eating enough, too. After all, food is energy for the body, and the body needs lots of energy to fight a flu.
Wondering what foods to eat and what foods to avoid during a bout of the flu?…
2. Eating During the Flu
When eating for the flu, you want something that won’t upset the stomach or throat easily. It’s best to avoid excess sugar, fats, and stimulants. Don’t drink alcohol or caffeine if possible, and try to stay away from anything greasy.
As far as good food options, try toast, soup, broth, crackers, brown rice, and plain Greek yogurt.
These methods are all great for treating the flu. What’s the best flu treatment, though?…
1. Prevent the Flu from Occurring in the First Place
Prevention is the best medicine. No ifs, ands, or buts about it.
So, just how exactly can you reduce the risk of catching the flu in the first place? Some great practices include:
- washing your hands
- not touching your mouth
- wearing a medical mask
- getting a flu shot
- disinfecting surfaces like doorknobs
- avoiding large crowds of people
Some of the best practices once you notice flu symptoms include seeing a doctor right away and staying home.
This last part is critical in reducing the transmission of the flu to others. After all, your flu can be contagious a full day before you show symptoms and remain that way for the first week that follows. If you want to make flu season easier for everyone, you have to do your part to reduce transmission risk.