Which flu symptoms should I check for?

There are several signs and symptoms of influenza (flu). While most healthy adults will recover from flu without seeing a doctor, you should seek medical help if you are part of an at-risk group, are worried, your symptoms don’t improve, or if you experience certain warning signs. Read on to find out more.

Flu symptoms

Flu symptoms usually start suddenly and appear one to three days after you have caught the viral infection. They commonly include:

  • Fever;
  • Sore throat;
  • Cough;
  • Headache;
  • Muscle or body aches;
  • Fatigue; or
  • Nausea and vomiting, but this is less common in adults compared with children. Children will also often experience accompanying diarrhoea and abdominal pain.

Who is at risk of severe flu?

Certain groups are at greater risk of serious illness and hospitalisation from the flu and should see a doctor if they experience flu symptoms. These include babies, pregnant mums, older Australians, and Aboriginal and Torres Strait islander people. Other people at increased risk include smokers and those who have not been vaccinated against the flu.

In addition, people with the following long-term medical conditions should see a doctor if they have flu symptoms:

  • Heart disease;
  • Lung disease;
  • Down syndrome;
  • Obesity;
  • Conditions of the nervous system such as multiple sclerosis;
  • Liver disease;
  • Kidney disease;
  • Diabetes;
  • Blood diseases; and
  • Metabolic disorders.

Warning signs of severe flu

Even if you are young and healthy and not in any of the risk groups listed above, you should see a doctor promptly if you have flu symptoms and you are worried or if you:

  • Experience symptoms for longer than 7 days;
  • Are vomiting frequently and/or are unable to drink fluids;
  • Have an intense headache;
  • Are pale and feel sleepy;
  • Have chest pain;
  • Have trouble breathing;
  • Develop a rash with fever;
  • Experience neck stiffness; or
  • Find light hurts your eyes.

Flu can sometimes lead to complications

The symptoms of influenza are not just limited to the infection itself. Sometimes a case of the flu can lead to complications, including:

  • Bronchitis;
  • Croup;
  • Pneumonia;
  • Ear infections;
  • Heart and other organ damage; and
  • Brain inflammation and brain damage.

Ask for advice

Talk to your GP or pharmacist about flu vaccines and how you can protect yourself against the flu.

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