Flu symptoms: Key signs to look out for in babies and adults

Everything you need to know

Dave Maclean
Thursday 02 November 2017 18:18
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There’s a big difference between cold and flu – one is a winter annoyance, the other can floor you for days.

While a cold slowly builds over a few days, symptoms of the flu typically come on suddenly and you'll start to feel ill within a few days of becoming infected.

You will usually be most infectious from the day your symptoms start until around three to seven days later.

Some of the typical symptoms include severe aches in muscles and joints, pain around the eyes, weakness and extreme fatigue, and warm or flushed skin.

These symptoms can also be accompanied by cold-like symptoms such as a headache, sore throat, runny nose and cough.

Children may suffer from diarrhoea and vomiting with flu, but adults generally will not have this symptom.

Under most circumstances, you won’t need any medical attention with flu.

Getting plenty of rest, drinking lots of fluids, and avoiding contact with other people is generally the best course of action.

However, the NHS says you should consider visiting your doctor if you meet any of the following categories:

  • you're 65 years of age or over
  • you're pregnant
  • you have a long-term medical condition – such as diabetes, heart disease, lung disease, kidney disease or a neurological disease
  • you have a weakened immune system – for example, because you're having chemotherapy or have HIV
  • you develop chest pain, shortness of breath or difficulty breathing, or start coughing up blood
  • your symptoms are getting worse over time or haven't improved after a week

However, if you have any trouble breathing, severe vomiting, pain in your chest or sudden dizziness then it’s advisable to seek urgent medical help.

In some cases, the doctor may give you prescription medications known as antiviral drugs.

They'll work best if taken within 48 hours of symptoms starting. Sometimes such drugs are given if the patient has a risk of flu causing complications with other ailments or conditions.

There is such a thing as ‘flu season’ – the period between autumn and spring is when you’re most likely to catch it.

But it’s important to know that you can be struck down by it at any time of year.

And while you’ll feel horrible for a few days, take comfort from the knowledge that in most cases it’ll soon pass.

If you'd like to try your best to avoid it, then washing hands and surfaces is key, as the virus can survive on surfaces for up to 24 hours.

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