How Do You Know You Have the Flu?

We are approaching FLU time. That time of year when the select few patients can’t get into their Doctor’s office fast enough and everyone else avoids us like the plague. So, how do you know if you have the flu?

The Flu (short for Influenza virus) seems to be one of the most misunderstood illnesses around and I’m not exactly sure why. I think it probably has to do with the inconspicuousness (is that a word?) of the symptoms that accompany the disease.

What’s strange, though, is that when you have seen the Flu enough, you know the Flu. As a Family Physician, I would say that 8-9 out of 10 cases with the Flu I can tell will be positive within a minute of being in the patient room. And it’s not just because I’m a genius (though any compliments that way are always appreciated).

My MA and nurse can usually do the same. The Flu has tell-tale symptoms and a tell-tale look. I’m not always right but most of the time the story is the same.

How do you know you have the Flu?

Let’s keep it simple. High fever and body aches are the biggest predictors of Flu. And by fever, I mean FEVER. Not just what we all like to do – putting your hand to your child’s forehead and saying it is warm. I know, that’s so much easier and I’ve done it myself in the middle of the night.

My daughter had the Flu a few years back when I was in residency training. I know that because I put her beside me and she felt like a ball of fire. I literally thought she could spark at any moment. And I still didn’t check her temperature.

Be better than a tired resident and actually check your precious little one for a true fever. It is common to see temperatures to 102 degrees with the Influenza virus. Rectal thermometers are truly the most accurate if you are ready to push your limits.

And give that poor little one some Tylenol to bring down that fever and help the aches. Just make sure to read the dosing as Tylenol dosing is based off your child’s weight. (I will place a link to Tylenol dosing below for those of you reading in the middle of the night)

What other symptoms accompany the Flu?

A little cough, headache, and sore throat are common with the Flu but they are found in many illnesses. They will typically have flushed skin, sunken eyes, and just look miserable without a specific complaint. They “hurt all over” and you believe them with the Flu.

What’s with the Flu treatment – isn’t it a virus anyway?

If your child is running a fever (defined as greater than 100.4 degrees) and complaining of aches all over, take them in to their doctor for Influenza testing. There ARE treatments for the Flu. They do not cure the disease, as it is viral in nature, but they do shorten the length and improve the severity of symptoms. They make it shorter and less awful.

Treatments for the Flu MUST be started within 48 hours of symptoms to be worth it. As I said, they shorten the length of symptoms and need to be given early in the course. Just this last year, the FDA approved a new flu treatment (Xofluxa) that involves 1 single dose.

Simple Solution: Look for a sick, flushed child that says they “hurt all over” for the Flu. They should have a fever – a true fever. Get them into the Doctor within 48 hours for testing and treatment.

For More Information about Flu Season, check out:

Tylenol dosing for your little ones:

For more Blog Posts on Viruses, check out:


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