Health

Early Signs You’re Catching the Flu

Cold and flu season is in full swing. Despite the fact that 173.3 million doses of flu vaccine have been distributed, the 2019-2020 season has been one of the worst in recent history. As of January 25, the CDC reports that up to 26 million cases of influenza have been reported, 12 million have landed at the doctor, and 310,00 people have been hospitalized due to the flu. Additionally, there have been up to 25,000 flu-related deaths. 

Being aware of all the early signs you are catching the flu is crucial in not only your recovery, but also to prevent spreading the deadly illness to others. 

So what are the symptoms you need to know about?

First, remember that the flu can cause mild to severe illness. Some people will get the flu and feel a little off, perhaps not even realizing they are sick. And obviously, for others it can be a life-or-death situation. 

The CDC points out that one major difference between the cold and flu is that the flu tends to come on rather suddenly. Often, symptoms include: 

  • fever or feeling feverish/chills
  • cough
  • sore throat
  • runny or stuffy nose
  • muscle or body aches
  • headaches
  • fatigue (tiredness)

Additionally, some people—generally children more than adults—may have vomiting and diarrhea. Thomas J. Mele, MD, FAAFP, Urgent Care Physician, Memorial Healthcare System points out that nausea and vomiting are also associated with those suffering influenza B, the strain that is dominant this flu season. 

While a fever is one of the more common flu symptoms, the CDC reminds us that not everyone with the flu will burn up. So, just because you have a normal body temperature doesn’t mean you are flu-free. 

As for the order of symptoms to expect, Peterson Pierre, MD, reveals that “sudden, excessive fatigue is one of the earliest signs of the flu, followed by chills and body aches.” 

While the majority of the people who get the flu will make a recovery within a few days or less than two weeks without any medical intervention, some people will develop complications—ranging from sinus and ear infections to life-threatening cases of pneumonia, inflammation of the heart (myocarditis), brain (encephalitis) or muscle (myositis, rhabdomyolysis) tissues, and multi-organ failure (for example, respiratory and kidney failure). Additionally, flu virus infection of the respiratory tract can trigger an extreme inflammatory response in the body and can lead to sepsis, the body’s life-threatening response to infection. Those who are already suffering from chronic medical problems like asthma or chronic heart disease can experience a worsening of their conditions. 

While a fever and body aches are nothing to call your MD over, the CDC lists a number of symptoms that warrant an immediate trip to the doctor’s office. 

In children:

  • Fast breathing or trouble breathing
  • Bluish lips or face
  • Ribs pulling in with each breath
  • Chest pain
  • Severe muscle pain (child refuses to walk)
  • Dehydration (no urine for 8 hours, dry mouth, no tears when crying)
  • Not alert or interacting when awake
  • Seizures
  • Fever above 104°F
  • In children less than 12 weeks, any fever
  • Fever or cough that improves but then returns or worsens
  • Worsening of chronic medical conditions

In adults:

  • Difficulty breathing or shortness of breath
  • Persistent pain or pressure in the chest or abdomen
  • Persistent dizziness, confusion, inability to arouse
  • Seizures
  • Not urinating
  • Severe muscle pain
  • Severe weakness or unsteadiness
  • Fever or cough that improve but then return or worsen
  • Worsening of chronic medical conditions

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