What Are the Signs of the Flu?
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, you may experience one or more of these symptoms if you come down with the flu:
A fever occurs when the body's internal temperature rises above 100 degrees Fahrenheit. Fevers are natural responses to illness or disease, and they signal that something isn't right within your body. The most common treatment for a fever is either acetaminophen or ibuprofen.
A fever may be accompanied by sweating and mild dehydration. Water and electrolyte intake can help mitigate fluid losses associated with a fever. If you're dehydrated, drink plenty of fluids from water or an electrolyte drink, such as Pedialyte®, to help rehydrate quickly and replace lost fluids and electrolytes.
A cough is the body's way of clearing an irritant, such as mucus or dust, from the throat. It's commonly associated with a virus or infection when the airways become inflamed.
Research suggests that a spoonful of honey has antimicrobial properties that may help soothe a cough and reduce symptoms associated with upper respiratory tract infections. If honey alone sounds unappealing, you can stir a teaspoon of it into a mug of hot water mixed with lemon juice and sip it. Honey should only be used for children over the age of 1 year.
3. Sore Throat
A sore, itchy or scratchy throat may make it painful to swallow and take in food and fluids. While a sore throat is one sign of the flu, some instances of sore throat are caused by bacteria, so it's important to consult with your doctor to rule out strep throat.
Warm fluids can be comforting, but if you have a sore throat, you might also try sucking on something cold, such as a popsicle or ice chips. This can help numb the throat, alleviate symptoms and keep you hydrated.
4. Runny or Stuffy Nose
A runny or stuffy nose occurs when there's inflammation in the nasal passages, which leads to swelling of the nasal membranes. There's no treatment for a runny nose, although some people turn to antihistamines and oral decongestants to help ease symptoms.
If your nose is stuffed up, spicy foods can act as a natural decongestant. While more research is needed, capsaicin — an active component of chili peppers — may have a beneficial effect on nasal symptoms. For a runny nose, warm broth can help thwart fluid loss.
5. Muscle or Body Aches
During a bout with the flu, white blood cells go into overdrive to fight the virus. Inflammation is a side effect of this increase in white blood cells, which can lead to muscle and body aches.
If you're feeling this unfortunate side effect of the flu, the best course of action is acetaminophen or ibuprofen. While no specific food has been shown to reduce body aches, electrolytes such as sodium, potassium, calcium and magnesium, are key for a variety of muscle functions, including muscle contraction and relaxation. Electrolyte deficiencies have also been associated with the onset of muscle cramps in athletes.
Electrolyte-rich foods, such as bananas, potatoes, salted nuts, pretzels and yogurt, may help your aching muscles find some relief.
It's not uncommon to feel lethargic when your body is working overtime to combat the flu. The best medicine for fatigue is rest. If you need to put a little pep back in your step, however, sip on some green tea. Green tea is hydrating, full of antioxidants and has a touch of rejuvenating caffeine.
7. Vomiting and Diarrhea
The flu virus may cause inflammation in the lining of the gastrointestinal tract, resulting in vomiting and diarrhea. This symptom is more common in children than adults and can lead to dehydration.
Drinking small sips of Pedialyte® can help reduce the risk of mild to moderate dehydration associated with vomiting and diarrhea. In addition, ginger may help to ease nausea and vomiting. Brew some ginger tea or add fresh, grated ginger to chicken or vegetable broth and sip it slowly to help comfort nausea. To ensure you're adequately hydrating while sick, consult your doctor.
Complications of the Flu
In addition to the above symptoms, some people may experience moderate to severe flu complications, such as:
- Sinus and ear infections
- Inflammation of the heart, brain or muscle tissues
- Multi-organ failure
- Asthma attacks
Children younger than 5, adults older than 65, pregnant people and people with chronic medical conditions are at a higher risk of developing these complications.
If you or a loved one are in one of those groups and experience the flu, contact your doctor right away. Regardless of your age or health history, if you have trouble breathing, chest pain, a fever over 104 degrees Fahrenheit or any other concerns, consult your doctor immediately.