Influenza (Flu) can cause mild to severe illness. Some people are at higher risk of getting very sick from the flu, including adults 65 and older, pregnant people, children under 5, and people with certain medical conditions such as asthma, diabetes and heart disease. 

Learn more about flu symptoms, what to do if you get sick, treatment options, and similarities and differences between flu and COVID-19. 

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Flu Symptoms

Adults with the flu can spread the virus starting one day before having symptoms to seven days after getting sick. Children can be contagious for even longer than seven days. 

People who have the flu often feel some or all of these symptoms:

  • Fever or feeling feverish/chills (not everyone will have this symptom)
  • Cough
  • Sore throat
  • Runny or stuffy nose
  • Muscle or body aches
  • Headaches
  • Fatigue (tiredness)
  • Some people may have vomiting and diarrhea. This is more common in children than adults.

What To Do If You Get Sick

For most people, respiratory viruses usually go away in a week or two without treatment. Mild symptoms can be treated at home with supportive care—like getting plenty of rest and drinking lots of liquids. If you have more serious symptoms or are at higher risk of getting very sick from the flu, call your health care provider right away. 

Download the Respiratory Virus Factsheet

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No Aspirin for Children or Teenagers

Never give aspirin to children or teenagers who have flu-like symptoms, especially fever, without first checking with your health care provider.

Talk To Your Doctor About Treatment Options

If you have flu symptoms and are at risk of getting very sick, your doctor may prescribe an antiviral medicine. Antiviral medicine can help reduce your symptoms, length of illness, and risk of needing medical attention. 

Adults 65 and older, people with certain medical conditions, and children under 5 are at higher risk of getting very sick from flu. More on flu treatment (CDC) 

Download handout on Flu Antiviral Medicines (CDC)

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Antibiotics Do Not Treat Viruses

Antibiotics do not treat viruses like those that cause colds, flu, RSV or COVID-19. For most people, respiratory viruses usually go away in a week or two without treatment.

Is It Flu or COVID-19?

Some symptoms are similar for both illnesses, testing can tell which virus you have. It is possible to have COVID-19 and flu at the same time and can result in more severe illness. There are important differences between the flu and COVID-19 like a person who has COVID-19 can take longer to show symptoms and can be contagious for longer than if they had the flu. 

COVID-19 and flu are not typically treated with medications unless you are in a high risk group or have severe illness. Please contact your health care provider to discuss what makes sense for you. 

It’s important to remember you can protect yourself and your community from both illnesses by washing your hands, covering coughs and sneezes, getting COVID-19 and flu vaccines and following health and safety guidelines if you need to leave your home.

More on how flu and COVID-19 compare (CDC)

Is it a cold or flu chart of symptoms


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