While people can be infected by the influenza virus year-round, fall and winter are usually considered flu season in the United States. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), it is estimated that during last year’s flu season, there were between 26-50 million flu illnesses and between 290,000-670,000 flu hospitalizations. With a variety of respiratory illnesses present during flu season, it can be hard to distinguish between the flu, a cold or even COVID-19.

What are some common symptoms of the flu?

  • Fever (100 degrees or greater): A fever occurs when your body temperature increases in response to illness or injury.
  • Body and muscle aches
  • Body chills even when in a warm environment
  • Fatigue or tiredness
  • Cough
  • Sore throat

Flu symptoms often appear abruptly, whereas cold symptoms may start more gradually. It is important to note that not all symptoms must be present for you to have the flu as many people with the flu never experience a fever. It may be more difficult to distinguish between the flu and COVID-19, since many of the symptoms are the same. 

If you think you have the flu, you can check your symptoms using MemorialCare’s symptom checker. The symptom checker is a chat-based tool intended to help you understand your symptoms and navigate where to go for treatment.

How long does the flu last?

In most cases, flu symptoms caused by the influenza virus should clear up within a week. However, cough and feelings of tiredness or fatigue tend to last longer.

What can you do if you think you have the flu?

If you think you have the flu, we recommend talking to your doctor about treatment, within 24-48 hours if possible. Treating the flu virus at its source may help limit its ability to spread in your body.

MemorialCare offers multiple ways to connect with a provider to get the care you need on your schedule. Schedule your e-visit or see a provider face-to-face in minutes through a 24/7 on-demand video visit.

How can I protect myself and others from the flu?

  • If you get sick, stay home from work and/or school and seek medical care from your primary care physician.
  • Wash your hands often with soap and water, especially after you cough or sneeze. Alcohol-based hand cleaners are also effective.
  • Cover your nose and mouth with a tissue when you cough or sneeze. Throw the tissue in the trash after you use it.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth. Germs spread that way.
  • Try to avoid close contact with sick people.
  • If you’re not feeling well, please do not visit patients in the hospital.

One of the most important things you can do to protect yourself and other from the flu is getting your yearly flu shot, especially if you have an underlying health condition, such as asthma or heart disease, as you may be at higher risk for severe outcomes caused by the flu.

Why do I still get sick even if I got my flu shot?

It’s important to understand that the influenza vaccine does not prevent illness like some vaccines, such as the one for measles. Instead, the flu vaccine greatly reduces the chance of hospitalization and death. Additionally, the vaccine only protects against certain strains of the virus. Since flu viruses are always changing, flu vaccines need to be updated each year. Timing can also make a difference, as you may have contracted the virus before your vaccination and/or during the two weeks from when you receive the vaccination to when the vaccine starts to take effect.

Do flu shots make you sick?

The flu shot itself does not cause illness. The vaccine causes your body to create antibodies that help fight flu viruses that you may be exposed to. Seasonal flu vaccines are made to protects against certain strains that research indicates will be common for the upcoming season.

Where do I get my vaccine?

It’s never too late to get your vaccination. You can always contact your physician’s office to get your flu shot. Below is a brief list of local resources where you and your family can get the flu vaccination. 

For more information, visit the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website or contact your nearest Urgent Care facility.