Flu Symptoms

Each year, five to 20 percent of Americans are expected to get the flu. There’s definitely a flu season, but according to the CDC, its peak (when the highest number of people test positive for the influenza virus) has occurred anywhere from late November through March. So it’s really tough to tell if you’re out of the woods until April showers bring May flowers.

Here are some common flu symptoms that may indicate whether you’ve caught this extremely contagious respiratory disease:

  • Fever, feeling feverish or having chills
  • Cough
  • Sore throat
  • Runny or stuffy nose
  • Muscle or body aches
  • Headaches
  • Fatigue (tiredness)
  • Vomiting and diarrhea (more common in children than adults)

Most people who come down with the flu will recover within one to two weeks, but some people will develop more serious illnesses, such as pneumonia or bronchitis. Infants and children under five, pregnant women, adults over 65 and people with chronic medical conditions or weakened immune systems are more susceptible to possible life-threatening complications.

When to go to the ER with the flu.

Children who exhibit these emergency warning signs of flu sickness should receive immediate medical attention:

  • Fast breathing or difficulty breathing
  • Skin turning a bluish color
  • Not drinking enough fluids
  • Not waking up or lethargic (lack of interest or energy)
  • Extreme irritability (even holding the child isn’t comforting)
  • Flu-like symptoms that improve but then return with fever and worse cough
  • Fever with a rash

Whether in addition to the above or on their own, any infant with these warning signs needs immediate medical help:

  • Inability to eat
  • Breathing problems
  • No tears when crying
  • Significantly fewer wet diapers than normal

Emergency warning signs of flu sickness in adults include:

  • Difficulty breathing or shortness of breath
  • Pain or pressure in the chest or abdomen
  • Sudden dizziness
  • Confusion
  • Severe or persistent vomiting
  • Flu-like symptoms that improve but then return with fever and worse cough

In additions to these guidelines, if your gut is telling you that a call to your physician or a visit to an urgent care center or ER is necessary, listen to your intuition. It’s better to be safe than sorry.

Learn more about preventing and treating the flu and viruses:

What to Know About RSV

Tips to Prepare Kids for the Flu Shot

What to Know About Norovirus and Stomach Flu

When to Be Concerned About 5 Common Symptoms

What's Your Flu IQ

Unusual Treatments for Cold and Flu Symptoms

If you are having a medical emergency, call 911.