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Is it a Cold or the Flu?
Public Information from the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases
and U.S. Centers for Disease Control
Characteristic, high (102-104F); lasts 3-4 days
General Aches, Pains
Usual; often severe
Can last up to 2-3 weeks
Early and prominent
Chest Discomfort, Cough
Mild to moderate; hacking cough
Common; can become severe
Sinus congestion or earache
Bronchitis, pneumonia; can be life-threatening
Annual vaccination; amantadine or rimantadine (antiviral drugs)
Only temporary relief of symptoms
Amantadine or rimantadine within 24-48 hours after onset of symptoms
What are the symptoms of the flu?
Influenza is a respiratory illness. Symptoms of flu include fever, headache, extreme
tiredness, dry cough, sore throat, runny or stuffy nose, and muscle aches. Children
can have additional gastro-intestinal symptoms, such as nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea,
but these symptoms are uncommon in adults. Although the term "stomach flu" is sometimes
used to describe vomiting, nausea, or diarrhea, these illnesses are caused by certain
other viruses, bacteria, or possibly parasites, and are rarely related to influenza.
Avoiding the Flu:
Washing your hands with soap and warm water is ideal. However, using hand sanitizer
or hand wipes when soap and water is not available is an acceptable substitute.
Avoid touching your face, it the mouth, nose, and eyes, are all entry points for viruses.
Coughing and sneezing are the easiest methods for the virus to be spread. Thus, avoiding
close contact with infected persons is important. Also, covering your mouth when coughing
or sneezing, preferably into your elbow or a tissue, is a method of stopping the spread
of the disease. Exercising regularly and getting plenty of sleep helps to
keep the body alert, active, and able to fight diseases more effectively.
How do I find out if I have the flu?
It is very difficult to distinguish the flu from other viral or bacterial causes of
respiratory illnesses on the basis of symptoms alone. A test can confirm that an illness
is influenza if the patient is tested within the first two to three days after symptoms
begin. In addition, a doctor’s examination may be needed to determine whether a person
has another infection that is a complication of influenza.
How soon will I get sick if I am exposed to the flu?
The time from when a person is exposed to flu virus to when symptoms begin is about
one to four days, with an average of about two days.
Treating the Flu:
Drink plenty of fluids. Fluids rich in vitamin C, in particular, will help bolster
your immune system.
Getting plenty of sleep is essential. NyQuil will help induce a restful sleep and
relieve some of the cold-like symptoms.
Common medications such as Advil and Tylenol can help reduce pain and fever.
Cough drops or gargling salted water helps relieve the pain of a sore throat.
Taking a hot shower can help clear up congested nasal passages.
Visit Health Services with additional questions or concerns you might have about your
Health Services also offers "cold bags", which provide basic medication for flu/cold
How many people get sick or die from the flu every year?
Each flu season is unique, but it is estimated that approximately 10% to 20% of U.S.
residents get the flu, and an average of 114,000 persons are hospitalized for flu-related
complications. About 36,000 Americans die on average per year from the complications
Do other respiratory viruses circulate during the flu season?
In addition to the flu virus, several other respiratory viruses also can circulate
during the flu season and can cause symptoms and illness similar to those seen with
flu infection. These non-flu viruses include rhinovirus (one cause of the “common
cold”) and respiratory syncytial virus (RSV), which is the most common cause of severe
respiratory illness in young children as well as a leading cause of death from respiratory
illness in those aged 65 years and older.
If you think you may have the flu visit the IWU Health Service or contact your health