Misconceptions About Flu Symptoms

With the flu season upon us, it’s helpful to look at some of the misconceptions surrounding the influenza virus. Confusion over the flu and its symptoms is more widespread than you would think. For example, it is commonly thought that symptoms of influenza include nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea. Surprisingly, this is false. Influenza is actually a respiratory virus and typically does not cause stomach problems. In fact, it is often initially mistaken as a cold since symptoms can include sudden high fevers, coughing, sore throat, runny nose, and body aches.

To catch influenza, you must be exposed to the droplets spread by an infected person when they cough or sneeze. Someone suffering from the flu may be contagious from the day before symptoms become noticeable up to four days after the illness starts. If you’ve been around someone with the flu, you’ll start feeling ill within two to three days if you’ve caught it yourself.

On the other hand, if you have nausea, vomiting, or diarrhea it’s more likely that you have an illness referred to as viral gastroenteritis. You would probably know it as the stomach flu, a misnomer, as it is not related in any way to influenza. With gastroenteritis, you may or may not have a fever and typically symptoms only last around 48 hours. Hydration and diet modification are key treatments for this disease.

If you are seeking a diagnosis for your illness, you should know that gastroenteritis cannot be confirmed with a lab and is only diagnosed based on symptoms. Influenza, however, can be tested for by a physician and results are usually available within the hour. If you receive a positive influenza diagnosis, antiviral medication can be prescribed that may help lessen the symptoms and slightly decrease the time you feel ill. If you find you have gastroenteritis, though, treatment usually includes at-home care such as diet modification, hydration, and over-the-counter anti-nausea medicines.

In both cases of the disease, prevention is key. Good handwashing skills and a clean environment can help stop the spread of both influenza and viral gastroenteritis. The best way to avoid contracting influenza altogether, though, is by receiving a yearly flu shot. These can be given at most pharmacies and doctors’ offices and are recommended for everyone.

If you have any questions or believe you or a family member may be suffering from either influenza or gastroenteritis, don’t hesitate to contact us or stop by one of our clinics.