You’re sneezy, stuffed up, and feel bad all over. Is it a cold, or do you have the flu?
The symptoms can be a lot alike. But if you know the warning signs of the flu, you can get treatment quickly and work on feeling better, sooner.
What You Need to Know
Unlike a cold, flu symptoms usually come on suddenly. Another key difference is a fever, which might not happen with a cold. You might also have:
- Severe aches in muscles and joints
- Pain and tiredness around your eyes
- Weakness or extreme fatigue
- Warm, flushed skin and red, watery eyes
- A headache
- A dry cough
- A sore throat and runny nose
- Trouble breathing or shortness of breath
- Pain or pressure in your chest or belly
- Sudden dizziness
- Severe vomiting
You Think You Have the Flu. Now What?
In most cases, the best way to treat it is to:
- Rest at home.
- Drink plenty of fluids.
- Avoid contact with other people.
If you're very sick or you have other medical conditions, you might need treatment with prescription medications called antiviral drugs.
These medicines -- oseltamivir (Tamiflu), peramivir (Rapivab), or zanamivir (Relenza) -- work best when you take them within 48 hours after your symptoms start. They can shorten the length of your illness by a day if you take them within this early window. They might help even after 2 days, if you have a bad case.
Your doctor may want you to take antiviral drugs if you have a high risk of complications from the flu.
When Is Flu Season?
Seasonal flu follows a fairly predictable pattern, starting in the fall and ending in the spring. A sign that it’s started is the sudden rise in the number of school-aged children sick at home with a flu-like illness. This first outbreak is soon followed by an uptick in other age groups, especially adults.