How do I know if I have the flu?
The flu affects people every fall and winter, the time of year known as "flu season." Flu symptoms usually start about 1 to 3 days after exposure to the virus. Often, the onset of symptoms seems sudden. Symptoms can include:
While it is easy to mistake the flu for a cold, it is important to know the difference. In general, the flu is worse than the common cold. Symptoms such as fever, body aches, extreme tiredness and dry cough are more common and more intense. A doctor can give you a flu test within the first few days of illness to see whether you have the flu.
What should I do if I get sick?
If you get sick:
If you are sick, don’t spread it to others:
When someone in your household is sick, take these steps to prevent the flu from spreading to others:
When to seek medical care
Most people with the flu can get better at home and do not need medical care or antiviral drugs.
However, some people are more likely to get flu complications, such as:
These people should talk to a health care provider about whether they need to be examined. Also, it's possible for healthy people to develop severe illness from the flu, so anyone concerned about their illness should talk to a healthcare provider.
Anyone who has any of these emergency warning signs should get medical care right away
Emergency warning signs in children:
In addition to the signs above, get medical help right away for an infant who has any of these signs:
Emergency warning signs in adults:
What medicines can treat the flu?
There are medicines called antiviral drugs that can help make you better faster and may also prevent serious complications. It’s very important that antiviral drugs be used early (within the first 2 days of symptoms). They are not available over-the-counter, so a doctor must prescribe them.
Antiviral drugs should be used to treat flu in people who are very sick (for example people who are in the hospital) and people who are sick with flu and have a greater chance of getting serious flu complications. Most healthy people with flu, however, do not need to be treated with antiviral drugs.
Remember, the flu is caused by a virus. Because antibiotics (drugs like penicillin) only kill bacteria (not viruses), they do not work to treat the flu.
Find Out More