What Are 2015 Flu Symptoms?

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What to Expect From the 2015 Flu. Brand New Images/Stone/Getty Images

Each flu season is different. Severity of the illness and the number of people that get sick from it can vary greatly. How well matched the flu vaccine is to the circulating viruses, how many people have been vaccinated and which viruses are spreading can all have an impact on how bad the season is. 

As of mid-December 2015, the strains of influenza that are making people sick this winter are included in the vaccine.

Flu activity remains low across the US but that does not mean this flu season will continue to be mild. Flu activity typically peaks between December and February. 

The 2014-2015 flu season was pretty severe. The strain of influenza A that caused most illness - at least early on - was not the same as the strain that was included in the vaccine. Flu viruses mutate frequently and these mutations can result in a less effective flu vaccine, unfortunately. 

The type of influenza A that caused most illness last flu season was a strain of H3N2. Historically, years that have been dominated by H3N2 are more severe than when the dominant type of flu is something else - such as H1N1 or influenza B

2015 Flu Symptoms 

Flu symptoms don't typically change much from year to year. However, it's important to know what they are and what to watch for. 

Common flu symptoms include:

  • Fever (not everyone will have a fever with the flu, but most do)
  • Body Aches
  • Headache
  • Cough
  • Congestion 
  • Fatigue/Exhaustion
  • Vomiting and Diarrhea (uncommon, occurs more in children than adults and primary symptoms will still be respiratory)

If you have symptoms that are very different from these, you probably don't have the flu. If you do have some or all of these symptoms, you should consider contacting your health care provider for an official diagnosis and to see if you might benefit from antiviral medications - especially if you or a family member are at high risk for flu complications.

What Should You Do?

Most people recover from the flu within a week to 10 days. It is not a mild illness and will leave you feeling pretty miserable but a majority of people that get it recover without treatment. It is more serious for young children - especially those under 2 years old, older adults over 65 and people with chronic health problems or compromised immune systems.

If you think you have the flu or you have been diagnosed with it, there are things you can do to help. Getting as much rest as possible, drinking plenty of clear liquids (not alcohol or caffeine) and taking over the counter medications as appropriate can help you get through the illness until your symptoms improve.

You should also know the signs to watch for so you will know if things have progressed into something more serious. Pneumonia is a common complication of the flu and when combined with the flu is the 8th leading cause of death in the United States.

If you have been sick for several days, start to get better and then your symptoms worsen (usually with the return of a higher fever), you should contact your health care provider or seek medical attention. This is a sign that you may have developed a secondary infection.

A child's health can rapidly decline and the signs that they are very sick may not always be obvious. Most children who are hospitalized or lose their lives to the flu develop serious respiratory problems. If you are caring for a child, it is extremely important to know what to watch for so you will be able to tell if that child is having trouble breathing. The signs can be much more subtle than you would think.

Stay Healthy This Year and Every Year

Regardless of which flu season it is, take steps to protect yourself and your family. Get the flu vaccine, wash your hands, cover your cough and try to avoid sick people as much as possible.

Sources:

"Key Facts About Influenza (Flu) & Flu Vaccine". Seasonal Influenza (Flu) 9 Sep 14. US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Department of Health and Human Services. 4 Jan 15.

"Leading Causes of Death". FastStats 14 Jul 14. US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention/National Center for Health Statistics. Department of Health and Human Services. 6 Jan 15.

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