Flu or Not?

Updated on January 25, 2013
S.H. asks from Kailua, HI
12 answers

Just wanted to pass this along.
All week this week my son has been sick, with Flu like symptoms. ie: Headache, runny nose, sore throat, stomach ache, fever, coughing, sneezing and much lethargy.
And so he has been home from school.
The Doctor's office was booked solid, and finally today, they had an opening for him.
So I took him in.

Prior, my kids, both got the Flu Mist. Me and my Husband got the Flu shot.

So, prior to taking my son to the Doctor, my friends and people at school were telling me my son MUST have the Flu... look at his symptoms. I even was wondering that.
Flu or not?
At my kids' school, SO MANY kids are getting sick, with the Flu and with the stomach Flu illness too. 2 types.
On one day, about 40 kids were out sick.

But, I took my son to the Doctor, to make sure.
He got a Flu Test. It came back negative.
He does NOT have the Flu.
But, to a Layperson, it SEEMS like the Flu.

So, if you or your kids are sick with seemingly Flu-like symptoms... go to the Doctor. Don't assume, it is the Flu.
And most importantly, get the Flu Test. To make sure.
If it is the Flu, well Tamiflu is in short supply... here in my State.

The Flu shot does not give you, the Flu.
If you do get it, the symptoms may be to a lesser degree.
This is also per our Pediatrician, today.

Thankfully, my son does not have the Flu.
However, in my State, a young child died this week, from the Flu.

So, Flu or not or if you are wondering if you or your kids have it? If you are sick or your kids, you need a proper medical, diagnosis and Flu Test.

What can I do next?

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So What Happened?

*ETA: @ Elizabeth W., yes, that's why I was not so sure what my son had. So I took him to the Doctor. Thank you for your comment. It is not always so clear cut. As you said and described. Our Pediatrician did the Flu Test, to make SURE.

This is the Flu Facts symptom checker link:

My son is achy.
But again, since he had had the Flu shot, Doc said if he had it, the severity of it is generally less.
So I took him to the Doc anyway and got him tested.
To make sure.
And because, SO many kids at my kids' school, are sick. Even Teachers.

Featured Answers



answers from Sacramento on

You've given some great advice!

I had the flu about 20 years ago and STILL remember how horrible it was. This is well beyond a cold. I was struggling to breathe. I could barely move. I was living on my own then and had to move back with my parents so they could care for me. Just making myself some soup at the stove was beyond exhausting. I remember not having the energy to walk to the kitchen less than 10 feet away. Horrible stuff. Now, I immediately know when it's just a cold because there's no comparison.

When in doubt, it's worth seeing a doctor, though. Flu is serious and shouldn't be taken lightly. It's good anyway to at least confirm it's just a cold.

I've had the flu shot every year since then and my kids get the flu mist.

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answers from Los Angeles on

I have actually had THE FLU and I would not have thought my kid had the flu with the symptoms you listed, I would have thought he had a cold.

The #1 symptom I link with the FLU is BODY ACHES...terrible, terrible body aches!

It is always better to be safe rather than sorry, IMO when it comes to our kids when they get sick.

One thing I will say about THE FLU, is there will be NO question in your mind of whether or not you or a loved one has it....you just KNOW it b/c you will have NEVER been that sick before in your life. There really is no way of explaining it that does it justice, you will just KNOW it. Promise. You literally can NOT do anything else besides be ill and miserable and be in so much pain!

The symptoms can be mild or severe so the good news is, that if you or your child have a question about whether or not you have the flu chances are good that you only have a mild case, which would be good!

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answers from New York on

If I thought I had the flu, the last place I would be is at a doctors office infecting everyone else. The flu starts with body aches that escalate, headache, fever then respiratory symptoms occur. Nothing can be done. Tamiflu has so many side effects and it will only shorten it by a day or two.
If you are tested and it is positive, it does not change treatment plan. Fluids, Advil, rest.

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answers from Columbus on

Some people get VERY sick from the flu. Others handle it better. My sisters son had a fever of 101-102 and runny nose and cough. When she gave him ibuprofen his fever went down and felt better and wanted to run around and play, She took him to the doctor after 3 days for an excuse for school and to rule out any other infections going on and was surprised when he was positively identified with the flu! He had not gotten a flu shot, but apparently he still had a milder case. No one else in her family had the shot either, but thankfully none of them got sick. Their pediatrician told them that a LOT of people probably get the flu but do not get diagnosed because they think they are just under the weather, have a bad cold, or a simple virus and because everyone talks about how horrible the flu is, they assume they can't possibly have it. Only the worse cases tend to get diagnosed since they are the ones who who feel bad enough to need a doctor.

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answers from Los Angeles on

You feel like you're going to die when you have the real flu. You literally cannot get comfortable in bed no matter how hard you try; the aches are horrendous (at least in my experience). Not to mention the fever that comes with it.

Sounds like your child has a bad cold. Both my nieces and BIL have a horrible cold right now. Sounds like what you describe.

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answers from Washington DC on

During flu seasons when everyone is sick, our pediatrician asks not to see the kids unless they are dehydrated or have other secondary symptoms. They tell us to keep them hydrated and comfortable and that they reserve the Tamiflu for those kids that have other medical problems. I guess we could go to urgent care. When we got the flu in Sept (we had temps up to 105 and we were not really aware of what was going on), I think I was just to out of it to even think of going to urgent care.

I guess if you have a good peds office that can see your child, that is great. I think people should know for sure what they have too. I do think Tamiflu has to be given within the first 2 days of symptoms though.

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answers from Phoenix on

Call me crazy, but it seems relatively easy to tell the difference. You can still somewhat function with a cold. The flu takes you out completely.

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answers from Miami on

You're right - kids DO need to go to the doctor to rule out flu. The schools need to know how much flu is going around, that's for sure.

Hope your son feels better from his virus soon!


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answers from Los Angeles on

OK ladies, here's the deal. There are many, many infectious viruses, bacteria, and fungi that will cause flu-like symptoms in humans. Many of the viruses we tend to come in contact with on a "regular" basis, and which cause flu-like symptoms, are coronaviruses, parainfluenza virus, respiratory syncitial viruses, influenza viruses (A, B and C, and belong to the family Orthomyxoviridae), rhinovirus, norovirus, different types of herpesvirideae (like Epstein-Barr and cytomegalovirus), parvovirus (known better as slap cheek or 5th disease), all forms of hepatitis viruses and even HIV. This list is NOT inclusive -- there are many more types of infectious viruses, and many variant forms of each.

The primary cause of the symptoms is NOT the virus itself, but more often the body's own immune response to the virus (BTW, it is this same immune response that many people experience after receiving any kind of vaccination. This does NOT mean that the immunization has given you that disease). Thus, depending on the primary invasion point and individual susceptability, symptoms can be respiratory (cough, congestion, wheezing), gastrointestinal (nausea, cramping, diarrhea), dermal (rash, hives), neurological (pain, headache, malaise, numbness, and even minor or significant paralysis), and general (fever), or any combination. This is true for influenza as well as most of the other viruses.

So, SH is correct. You really can't diagnose true influenza by symptoms alone without an influenza test. One of the most common tests in use is the rapid test, which type of which can be done in doctor's office using a nasal swab. Most of these tests are looking for antibodies that are made against proteins the make up part of the viral packaging and can detect the presence of influenza A or B, but not C (which is much rarer, anyway). Some can only tell you if A or B are present, and some can tell you exactly which type of flu you're infected with. Unfortunately, this test can give a high rate of false negative results (that is, you are infected, but the test says that you're not), and will also give some false positive results (says you're infected, but you're actually not). There are also blood tests and culture tests that are more accurate, but can require more time to get a result.

Since, fortunately, this year the flu variants we're seeing are not as virulent as some we've seen in previous years, the flu is definitely uncomfortable and inconvenient, but not any more life-threatening than usual, although each year, influenza causes around 1/2 million deaths, worldwide. Thus, doctors recommend rest, fluids, and anti-inflammatory/anti-pyretic medications, such as ibuprofen, to help reduce aches and fever until the infection runs its course. The time to be concerned with influenza, is when an infected person begins to show signs of pneumonia or severe neurological symptoms, such as numbness and upwardly creeping paralysis (Guillan-Barre syndrome). Signs of viral pneumonia include extremely high fever (over 103 in children and over 101 in adults), wheezing and difficulty breathing (lungs will sound wet and raspy), and coughing up blood. Bacterial pneumonia is also a concern, as a secondary infection. Add to the above symptoms teeth-chattering chills, chest pain, rapid breathing, and rapid heart beat. If you or someone in your family has flu-like symptoms and then develops these other symptoms, this is a medical emergency, and you should seek help immediately.

This seems to be a particularly "bad" year in terms of flu infectiousness, although a fairly normal year in terms of seriousness. However, the more people who are infected by the virus, the greater the opportunity the virus has to "passage", and resurface in following years in a more severe form. (This is what happened in 1918, and part of what the CDC and the WHO were very concerned about with the 2009 H1N1 outbreak). The fewer people who are infected, the less opportunity the virus has to mutate into, potentially, a far nastier version, hence part of the drive to encourage people to get vaccinated. If you have not yet been vaccinated or have not had your children vaccinated, it is not too late to do so. Flu is more likely to be transmitted when the air is dry and humidity is low, such as in the early fall, late winter (if it's not raining a lot), and early spring.

Also, be aware that there is a particularly vicious strain of norovirus currently in circulation, which causes severe gastrointestinal symptoms (nausea, vomiting, diarrhea), and can lead to very rapid dehydration. The best way to protect yourself from this virus is to know who is handling your food (and make sure they're not sick), be cautious of what surfaces your food comes in contact with, and, as always, wash your hands well after using the restroom, coming in contact with common surfaces (light switches, door knobs) and preparing or eating food. Unlike influenza, which is airborne and transmitted in aerisolized particles generated by sneezing and coughing, norovirus is transmitted by the fecal-oral route.

BTW, for anyone who's interested in medical history or would like to get a better understanding of just how really dangerous influenza can be, I highly recommend John M. Barry's book "The Great Influenza." It is for the lay public and is extremely interesting.

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answers from Los Angeles on

You bring up an excellent point, unless we've been to medical school and are licensed we need to see the doctor to be sure, whatever the problem.

I made an incorrect "diagnosis" with my guy in late November/early December myself. I assumed his congestion was a cold brought on by allergies and treated him for that. He didn't improve in a week, and then woke up coughing and wheezing. We got in to see his ped that morning, he had asthma. Some of the things I'd been giving him were all wrong, some he should never take, because of the asthma :-/ He'll be 4 in April, had never had asthma before, now he does. Lessen learned.

I hope your son feels better soon, there's some bad stuff going around :(

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Washington DC on

By definition, Influenza or Flu is respiratory. It is caused by a virus just like a cold. The difference between a cold and the flu aside from severity is that when you have the flu, you have a fever and headache.

People talk about the stomach "flu", but really they are talking about a stomach or GI virus which really is not influenza.



answers from Minneapolis on

Except that there's nothing a doctor can do about influenza unless the symptoms get bad enough for hospitalization for dehydration or high fever. Before that, no matter if it is influenza or another virus - rest, fluids, Advil, is all you can do.

The last time I had the flu, I knew what it was because of the previous time, when I did go to the doctor. I did not go to the doctor because I didn't need to spend $200 to have the doctor tell me "Yes, you have the flu. Now go home and rest..."

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