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How to spot flu symptoms

During this fierce and deadly flu season, it's important to recognize the symptoms that will tell you whether you hav...

Posted: Jan 31, 2018 9:47 AM
Updated: Jan 31, 2018 9:47 AM

During this fierce and deadly flu season, it's important to recognize the symptoms that will tell you whether you have the nasty infection -- or just a common cold.

People with the flu often experience fever, chills, cough, sore throat, runny or stuffy nose, muscle or body aches, headaches and/or fatigue, according to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Some -- more commonly children -- may also have vomiting and/or diarrhea.

There are ways to tell the difference between flu symptoms and those typical of a cold

Prevention is key, especially for groups that may be particularly susceptible

Especially in the winter months, it's easy to mix up cold and flu symptoms.

Flu or cold?

According to Dr. Rachael Lee, assistant professor in the University of Alabama-Birmingham's Division of Infectious Diseases, there are certain ways to tell the difference. "Colds are typically around your nose and face, and you have a sore throat," she said.

"Your symptoms are more gradual in onset, and you may have a low-grade fever but not high fevers. It can also cause cough but does not have shortness of breath."

As for the flu, "it is pretty much all of a sudden: You will have fevers, body aches, sore throat, coughs, and then you can have other symptoms as well, such as shortness of breath. You can feel dehydrated, meaning you may be dizzy, and you may be a little bit confused."

Extra precautions

Those who are at higher risk for developing flu-related complications should take extra precautions when they feel symptoms coming on.

The CDC says these include children under 5 years old, particularly those under 2. Also at high risk are adults 65 and older, pregnant women, residents of long-term care facilities and people with medical conditions including weakened immune systems, asthma, heart disease and diabetes.

Individuals with minor flu or flu-like symptoms should refrain from going to the emergency room and instead call their primary health care providers, to avoid overstressing community resources.

Be prepared to wait

"For all patients, first and foremost, you should call your health care provider, because you may be able to get (the antiviral medication) Tamiflu, and the earlier you get Tamiflu, the more likely your symptoms will go away faster," Lee said. "Do not wait with your symptoms. It is OK to bug us, as health care providers, because we are here to help."

Those who do need to visit an emergency department, however, should be prepared for a long wait time.

"You should seek care in the emergency department when you are feeling dehydrated, you are not keeping any fluids down, as well as if you are feeling really short of breath and cannot catch your air," Lee said.

Dr. Bernard Camins, also an associate professor in the Division of Infectious Diseases, said flu prevention should be the focus for the public.

Prevention key to protection

The most important thing is prevention: avoiding anyone who is sick, if possible, Camins said.

"This includes avoiding public areas where they could get infected, staying away from family or friends who may be sick and not allowing sick individuals into their homes. They also need to practice proactive and frequent hand hygiene. Prevention is the key."

To protect yourself and your loved ones from getting the flu in the first place, the University of Alabama-Birmingham suggests that you get the flu vaccine if you are 6 months or older, cover your coughs and sneezes, and wash your hands frequently.

You should also clean your living and work areas, avoid crowds where possible, stay home from work or school if you are sick and avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth.

According to Lee, the vast majority of people who "get rest and drink fluids and take Tamiflu ... will get over your symptoms pretty quickly."

California Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Confirmed Cases: 94020

Reported Deaths: 3754
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Los Angeles450172106
San Diego6559249
Riverside6464290
Orange5336131
San Bernardino4365176
Alameda284793
Santa Clara2617139
San Francisco236740
San Mateo183376
Kern182429
Tulare164175
Santa Barbara155112
Fresno144822
Contra Costa132136
Sacramento129356
Imperial114523
Ventura91230
San Joaquin75233
Stanislaus62928
Kings5172
Sonoma4824
Solano45520
Monterey3958
Marin38814
San Luis Obispo2581
Merced2516
Santa Cruz1922
Yolo19022
Placer1849
Napa1013
Humboldt932
Madera842
El Dorado740
San Benito702
Nevada411
Sutter402
Shasta364
Butte340
Mono341
Yuba281
Del Norte230
Mendocino210
Inyo191
Mariposa151
Calaveras130
Lake120
Glenn120
Amador100
Siskiyou61
Colusa50
Plumas40
Tuolumne30
Tehama31
Alpine20
Lassen20
Trinity10
Sierra10
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Chico
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Today will be a fantastic day to get outside but this weekend we warm up rapidly with several triple digits days in a row next week.
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