7 Clear Signs You Have the Flu

Flu symptoms can vary from person to person but most people with influenza will experience some, if not all, of the symptoms listed here. If you are concerned and think you might have the flu, contact your health care provider to determine the best course of action and treatment for you.

Fever and Chills

Father checking daughter's forehead for fever
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Fever is almost always present with the flu, and it usually comes on suddenly. When you have a high fever, you're also likely to experience chills. The higher your body temperature, the colder the air will feel. This is why you feel cold when you have a fever and why you want to cover up with blankets to get warm. Unfortunately, if you bundle up when you have a fever, you can actually increase your body temperature, which won't help you feel any better.

It's hard to get comfortable when you have a fever. You can use appropriate fever-reducing medications.

Children are more likely to have the flu without running a fever, although most kids have this symptom as well. 


Senior man in bed.
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One of the most significant symptoms that people describe when they get the flu is pure exhaustion. This is generally an overall feeling of being completely worn out. You probably will be unable to perform daily activities. It's so severe that it is hard to get out of bed. This exhaustion is much more pronounced than the tiredness you may feel from a cold.

Aches and Pains

Tried woman sitting on the couch with a mug, covered with a blanket
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One of the most common descriptions people give when they have the flu is "achy." Your muscles are usually very sore and moving around too much causes discomfort. Body aches and pains are more common with the flu than with many other illnesses.


Woman coughing outside.
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Coughing may be productive (producing mucous) or non-productive. With the flu people most often suffer from a dry cough.

If you develop a productive cough and fever, you should contact your doctor. This is especially true if you have had a dry cough, start to feel better, then have a wet or productive cough with a fever. This is often how a secondary infection, like pneumonia, develops.


Woman sitting on the couch with a blanket.
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Severe congestion is more common when you have a cold but many people will experience some congestion with the flu as well. It is typically mild.


Man with hands over his eyes.
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Headaches are common with the flu and can be quite severe. Like the rest of your body, the head will ache when you have the flu.

Throbbing head pain can make you miserable when you already feel bad with the flu. Taking an OTC pain reliever like acetaminophen or ibuprofen may help.

Vomiting and Diarrhea

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Vomiting and diarrhea are not common flu symptoms for most people. However, some people do experience these symptoms with the actual flu.

Children are more likely to have vomiting and diarrhea with influenza, but they may occur occasionally in adults as well. About 10% of children have these symptoms with the flu. 

If your vomiting and diarrhea are your primary and most significant symptoms, you probably have a stomach bug (sometimes referred to as the stomach flu), not influenza.

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Article Sources

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  • Flu, NIAID Fact Sheet. National Institutes of Allergy and Infectious Diseases 17 Nov 2006.

  • Flu Symptoms & Severity. Seasonal Influenza (Flu) 12 Sep 13. US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Department of Health and Human Services.