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What are the Common Symptoms of Influenza?

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  • Written By: Madeleine A.
  • Edited By: W. Everett
  • Last Modified Date: 06 November 2016
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Common symptoms of influenza include fever, muscle aches, cough, and weakness. Typically, these signs come on abruptly with shaking chills and absence of cold symptoms, such as runny nose and sneezing. In addition, headache, eye pain, and light sensitivity are often experienced. The signs of influenza can leave the individual so weak that he can barely get out of bed.

Sometimes it can be difficult to differentiate symptoms of the flu and symptoms of a cold, which is generally a much less serious illness. The common cold generally produces nasal congestion, sore throat, sneezing, and runny nose. Body aches might be present, but they are usually not so severe as to disrupt a person's daily routine, as they are with influenza. Although mild cold symptoms can accompany influenza, they are not generally present.

A hacking cough that can worsen to cause significant chest discomfort and high fever frequently prompt the patient to seek medical attention. Although there are different strains of the flu, symptoms are similar. Preferred treatments include taking over-the-counter pain relievers and fever reducers, drinking adequate amounts of fluids and getting lots of rest. Since symptoms of influenza frequently include fever, staying well hydrated is important to discourage dehydration.

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Since influenza is usually caused by a virus, antibiotics are not the first choice of treatment. Unless an infection is caused by bacteria, antibiotics are useless. Misuse of these drugs can also contributes to development of antibiotic-resistant strains of bacteria, which is dangerous.

Infrequently, symptoms of influenza include heart palpitations, or a pounding heart. This is usually caused by fever and dehydration. Stomach upset, diarrhea, and nausea can also occur with the flu, however, they are generally the result of fever, rather that the influenza itself. In addition, symptoms of influenza should not be confused with "stomach flu." This condition is typically related to a bacterial infection, and usually the result of eating food that has been tainted with an illness-causing bacteria. Like influenza, stomach flu should be treated with fluid replacement and adequate rest.

Sometimes when symptoms of influenza do not resolve, the physician might recommend other interventions such as anti-viral medications. In severe cases, the patient may require hospitalization for intravenous fluid replacement therapy. Usually, however, symptoms of influenza resolve after about one week and no additional treatment is typically needed. During the winter months, when influenza cases rise, people need to make sure they frequently wash their hands and avoid infected people, whenever possible. In addition, it is advised that when influenza strikes, parents keep their children home from school, and people refrain from going to work.

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