How do I know if I have the flu?

July 19th, 2019

Your nose is blocked, you’re tired and your head is pounding. You. Feel. Terrible. Is it a cold or, is it the flu? Some of the symptoms of colds and the flu are the same. The only way to know for certain is for your doctor to take a swab and send it to the lab for testing. However, there are some basic guidelines for telling the difference.

If you have a cold, you’ll probably have symptoms like runny or stuffy nose, sore throat, sneezing, cough, headache or body aches and mild tiredness. Flu symptoms are much more severe and can include a dry, hacking cough, moderate to high fever, sore throat, shaking chills, severe muscle or body aches, headache, stuffy and runny nose, severe fatigue that may last up to two weeks nausea and vomiting, as well as diarrhea (most common in children).

Flu symptoms come on quickly and will last 1 to 2 weeks. Whereas colds come on gradually over a few days and usually improve within 7 to 10 days. Colds and flu are both caused by catching a virus. Antibiotics are therefore not effective at treating either a cold or the flu. However, over-the-counter medications, such as antihistamines, decongestants, acetaminophen, and anti-inflammatories, can relieve congestion, aches, and other cold symptoms.

FLU VACCINATION is your BEST protection against the flu. To prevent colds and flu you should also follow basic hygiene practices such as washing your hands regularly for at least 20 seconds and drying them for 20 seconds – or use an alcohol based hand rub, avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth, don’t share drinks, avoiding crowded places and covering your mouth and nose with a tissue when you cough or sneeze – then put the tissue in a lined bin.

If you have caught the flu, you need to take care of yourself and also be vigilant about not spreading the virus. It is best if you stay home, away from people, until your temperature is normal and you are feeling well. You must also rest as much as possible to allow your body to fight the virus. You may not feel up to eating a lot but ensure that you drink plenty of extra fluids. Paracetamol can be useful in treating high fevers, aches and pains however, do not take more than 4 doses in a 24hr period as paracetamol may prolong infection and reduce the antibody response in mild disease. In children, use paracetamol if the child appears distressed or unwell. See your doctor if your symptoms get worse. These include: increasing breathing problems, shortness of breath, severe headaches or dehydration.

Contact your doctor right away if your symptoms do not improve or if they become severe. See your doctor if you have signs of pneumonia, including:

  • trouble breathing
  • severe sore throat
  • cough that produces green mucus
  • high, persistent fever
  • chest pain

Call a doctor right away if your child develops the following symptoms:

  • trouble breathing
  • irritability
  • extreme fatigue
  • refusing to eat or drink
  • trouble waking up or interacting

More information

Phone Healthline for advice on 0800 611 116 or go to their website here.

Plunketline for 0-5yr olds 0800 933 922

Or call us on 9201800 to make an appointment.