You already know that a scratchy throat, annoying cough, and lots of sneezing are part of the game. You can also probably count on a stuffy nose and some aches and pains. But when is it time to put down the chicken soup and get some advice from a pro?
Take stock of your symptoms and see if they fit into one of these patterns:
If you're one of those people who brag, come flu season, that you "never, ever get sick," be aware: The odds may catch up to you. Every year, about 5% to 20% of U.S. residents get influenza, according to estimates from the CDC.
Taking certain antiviral drugs within 48 hours of the onset of symptoms can shorten the duration of the flu, but that involves recognizing you have the flu, getting in touch with your doctor, and going to the pharmacist before the 48 hours is up.
Just in case your number...
If it doesn't go away, it's likely due to postnasal drip -- mucus that moves from your nose into your throat. It can be treated with antihistamines. But it could also be related to asthma or GERD (gastroesophageal reflux disease). Your doctor can tell you what to do for it.
A lasting, severe cough is also the main symptom of whooping cough, a disease that's become more common in many parts of the U.S. So, if you've been hacking away for more than 2-3 weeks, your doctor may give you a test to see if you've got it.