Is it the flu?

It would be a rare family who managed to avoid getting any viruses or respiratory tract infections throughout the year. But how do you know if it’s the flu that’s sweeping through your family members?

Flu symptoms can be mild or severe, and can come on suddenly with symptoms generally appearing one to four days after exposure to the virus. The flu virus attacks the respiratory tract – ear, nose, throat and lungs.

The common symptoms of the flu include:

  • Fever (37.5°C or higher)
  • Headache
  • Muscle aches
  • Chills
  • Extreme tiredness
  • Cough
  • Runny nose (more common in children than adults)
  • General unwellness

Flu usually lasts up to a week during which time sufferers are often bed – or couch – ridden. After the virus passes, there may be a lingering cough and the patient may feel weak for a few days, or even a few weeks, longer.

Flu vs a cold

Both colds and flu are caused by viruses, but they are different virus. And generally the flu is much more debilitating and the symptoms more extreme than those of a cold.

The best way to know if it’s a cold or the flu, say many medical professionals, is to take your temperature. While colds can bring on a mild short-lasting fever, flu is more likely to bring on a higher temperature which can last a few days, particularly in children.

A flu is also much more likely to cause muscle and joint aches and headaches, whereas a cold rarely does, and the sufferer will not bounce back as quickly, often complaining of exhaustion once the flu has passed.

Also the flu doesn’t always bring on a runny nose, whereas that remains a key symptom of a cold.

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