The flu virus makes headlines every year, and it's not exactly because headlines read, "Nobody got the flu this season!" The best offense is a good defense, and people commonly take action when they notice a fever coming on. However, this isn't the only sign of the flu. There are a number of flu-like symptoms without fever that could be indicative of the virus — and they are equally important to be on the lookout for.
The flu season started early this year. It first reared its ugly head back in November, and by late December, it had hit every corner of the country. It's not over yet, and this could be among the nastiest flu seasons we've had in the last several years. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says it's definitely not the worst we've seen, though, compared to 2014 and 2015.
Still, the flu is always risky. In the United States each year, approximately 9 million to 35 million illnesses occur; there are 140,000 to 710,000 hospitalizations; and somewhere between 12,000 and 56,000 die from it. It's nothing to scoff at. Even if you're not noticing a fever, if you're experiencing one of the following symptoms, pay close attention and take care to address it — it could be a sign of the flu.
1. Sudden And Unexplained Fatigue
It's tricky to determine if you're tired or legitimately fatigued (because there is a difference), and tricky yet again to determine if it's due to a packed schedule or something health-related. But if you're suddenly and mysteriously tired to the point of weakness, this could be an early sign of the flu. It might make it difficult to get through your daily responsibilities, like work, driving, and school. The best defense at this early stage is most often to take a giant step back from your regular schedule and give your body the proper chance to rest. If you let your immune system do its job, it could help fight off the virus.
2. An Achy Body
We're not talking about soreness from the gym, or leg cramps from standing or sitting all day. In this case, you'll experience more severe aches in your muscles and joints. They commonly show up in the back and legs. You can take over-the-counter medication to help, or you could take a natural route and try yoga or essential oils.
3. Gastrointestinal Issues
Depending on the specific virus you caught, you might be battling diarrhea, nausea, pain in the abdomen, and even vomiting. Aside from this being an obvious problem in and of itself, should you experience diarrhea or vomiting, subsequent dehydration is yet another issue. Staying properly hydrated is crucial in helping to fend off an impending flu.
4. Coughing Or Sore Throat
Other common flu symptoms happen in the neck and head. Stubborn coughing, wheezing, and tightness in the chest are all warning signs, as are phlegm and mucus. It's not uncommon for these symptoms to lead to a sore throat and even swelling of the throat. Warm liquids are your friend, and you might consider gargling salt water.
Most commonly, a headache will be accompanied by other symptoms, if it's a side effect of the flu. Because the flu virus can't multiply in warmer temperatures, your body raises its own temperature — aka a fever. But the reason this gives you a headache is because your blood vessels dilate, and the pressure in your head increases. This helps explain why your head might feel heavy or there might be a painful pounding sensation.
6. A Stuffy Or Runny Nose
Another symptom frequently associated with headaches as a side effect of the flu is a stuffy or runny nose. Because of the dilated vessels and increased pressure in your head, you could potentially experience sinus pain, and your sinuses and nasal cavities become inflamed. The pressure in your face and eyes further increases. Mucus production increases, and you have the perfect environment for a runny nose. As your immune system kicks into high gear and continues fighting your flu symptoms, this congestion and swelling should subside, and your runny nose will go away.