Do I have flu?

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), worldwide annual seasonal epidemics of influenza (flu) are estimated to result in 3 to 5 million cases of severe illness, and up to 650 000 respiratory deaths, mostly occurring among people aged 65 or older, and 99% of deaths in children under 5 years of age found in developing countries.

As shocking as these facts may be, understanding the signs and symptoms of flu will help you manage your illness. Flu viruses travel through the air in droplets when an infected person coughs, sneezes or talks. You can either inhale the droplets directly, or from touching an object such as a computer keyboard, and transfer them to your eyes, nose or mouth. Influenza viruses are constantly changing, with new strains appearing regularly. If you’ve had flu in the past, your body has already made antibodies to fight that particular strain of virus, but won’t protect you from new strains.

Infected people are likely to be contagious from the day or so before symptoms appear until about five days after symptoms begin, with that of children and those with weakened immune systems lasting slightly longer.

Initially, flu may seem like a common cold with a runny nose, sneezing and sore throat. Colds usually develop slowly, whereas flu tends to come on suddenly, making you feel much worse than a cold. Common signs and symptoms include:

  • Fever over 38°C
  • Aching muscles
  • Chills and sweats
  • Headache
  • Dry, persistent cough
  • Fatigue and weakness
  • Nasal congestion
  • Sore throat

If you have flu symptoms and are at risk of complications, it’s best to see your doctor. You may be prescribed antiviral medicine which may reduce the length of your illness and help prevent more serious problems. Otherwise, you should drink plenty of fluids to prevent dehydration, get more sleep to help your immune system fight the infection, and consider over-the-counter medications to help relieve the symptoms.

Just as important as taking care of yourself, you should also take measures to reduce the spread of infection by washing your hands frequently or using an alcohol-based hand sanitiser. Cover your mouth and nose by using the inner crook of your elbow or a tissue when you sneeze or cough, and avoid crowds if possible. Stay at home for at least 24 hours after your fever has subsided to lessen the chances of infecting others.

For more information, speak to your healthcare practitioner about Adcock Ingram’s range of flu medications. 



  1. World Health Organization. Influenza (Seasonal). Available from: Accessed date: 08 December 2021.
  2. Mayo Clinic. Influenza (flu). Symptoms and causes. Available from: causes/syc-20351719. Accessed date: 08 December 2021.
  3. Mayo Clinic. Influenza (flu). Diagnosis and treatment. Available from: Accessed date: 08 December 2021.

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