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Flu Symptoms

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Updated April 08, 2014

Written or reviewed by a board-certified physician. See About.com's Medical Review Board.

Flu symptoms can vary from person to person but most people with influenza will experience some, if not all, of the symptoms listed here. If you are concerned and think you might have the flu, contact your health care provider to determine the best course of action for you.

You may also want to take our quick Cold vs. Flu quiz to see which one is more likely, but keep in mind it should not be used to diagnose yourself or replace the advice of your health care provider.

1. Fever and Chills

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Fever is almost always present with the flu, and it usually comes on suddenly. When you have a high fever, you're also likely to experience chills. The higher your body temperature, the colder the air will feel. This is why you feel cold when you have a fever and why you want to cover up with blankets to get warm. Unfortunately, if you bundle up when you have a fever, you can actually increase your body temperature, which won't help you feel any better.

It's hard to get comfortable when you have a fever. Here are some tips and ideas that might help:

 

2. Exhaustion

This is generally an overall feeling of being completely exhausted. You probably will be unable to perform daily activities. This exhaustion is much more pronounced than the tiredness you may feel from a cold.

3. Aches and Pains

One of the most common descriptions people give when they have the flu is "achy". Your muscles are usually very sore and moving around too much causes discomfort. Body aches and pains are more common with the flu than with many other illnesses.

4. Coughing

May be productive (producing mucous) or non-productive, but is usually a dry cough. If you develop a productive cough and fever, you should contact your doctor.

Sources:

Flu, NIAID Fact Sheet. National Institutes of Allergy and Infectious Diseases 17 Nov 2006. 26 May 2007.

5. Congestion

Severe congestion is more common when you have a cold but many people will experience some congestion with the flu as well.

6. Headache

Headaches are common with the flu, and can be quite severe. Like the rest of your body, the head will ache when you have the flu.

7. Vomiting and Diarrhea

Vomiting and diarrhea are not common flu symptoms for most people. However, some people do experience these symptoms with the actual flu. They are most common in children with the flu, but they may occur occasionally in adults as well.

If your vomiting and diarrhea are your primary and most significant symptoms, you probably have a stomach bug (sometimes referred to as the stomach flu), not influenza.

Sources:

Flu Symptoms & Severity. Seasonal Influenza (Flu) 12 Sep 13. US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Department of Health and Human Services. 4 Jan 14.

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