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Early Signs of the Cold and Flu

Learn how to recognize the signs of the cold and flu when the symptoms appear.

When you have an incessant cough, a high fever, a sore throat or other cold and flu symptoms, these are clear signs that you’re sick. But you may begin to feel cold or flu symptoms before they become more severe. While flu symptoms have a more abrupt onset than cold symptoms, which tend to come on more gradually, there are early indicators to watch out for so you can start dealing with treatment immediately and lessen the impact on your busy schedule.1

Extreme fatigue

When you’re busy, it’s not uncommon to get tired, but that alone is not a sign that a bout of cold or flu is on the way. But an unusual feeling of complete exhaustion could mean that your immune system is using white bloods cells to fight a flu virus, instead of repairing muscle fibers and joints like they normally do when you’re not sick. This results in draining your energy and leaving your muscles feeling weak throughout your body.

Fatigue isn’t only a physical symptom because it can affect your mental energy as well.3 Having fatigue can impact how you function in your day-to-day life because it can affect your diet, amount of sleep, and socialization skills. Some more specific signs of fatigue are:3

  • Headaches
  • Slower reflexes
  • Irritability
  • Loss of appetite
  • Blurry vision
  • Weak hand-to-eye coordination
  • Lack of motivation
  • Weakened short-term memory
  • Having a hard time concentrating
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Fatigue isn’t only a physical symptom because it can affect your mental energy as well.3 Having fatigue can impact how you function in your day-to-day life because it can affect your diet, amount of sleep, and socialization skills.

Scratchy throat

Having a “scratchy throat” (mild soreness and irritation) can sometimes be a confusing feeling. While it is a main symptom of both a cold and the flu, a scratchy throat may also come about from other reasons, most typically a change in seasonal weather. A feeling of a scratchy throat due to weather or other environmental factors usually dissipates throughout the day. However, a scratchy throat as a result of an onset of cold or flu may gradually get more sore and last for several days. To determine if you have a scratchy throat versus just a dry throat from things like dehydration, you should examine the following symptoms:5

  • Swollen or red tonsils
  • White pus on your tonsils
  • Swollen jaw
  • Swollen neck
  • Trouble swallowing liquids and foods
  • A painful time talking
  • Itchiness in your throat
  • A hoarse voice

Some of those symptoms along with a fever, sneezing, a runny or stuffy nose, and coughing might be signs of a cold or flu as well.5 Although a cold and the flu have similar symptoms, symptoms of the flu come on suddenly whereas symptoms from a cold present themselves over time.6 If you suddenly have the aforementioned symptoms along with the following symptoms, it is likely that you have the flu instead of a cold:

  • Fever6
  • Persistent coughing
  • Body aches
  • Headaches
  • Vomiting6
  • Diarrhea6 (usually occurs in children more than in adults)

The time from when a person is exposed to a flu virus to when symptoms begin is about 1 to 4 days, with an average of about 2 days.2 Any of the early indications listed above could turn out to be a false alarm, but could also lead to more severe symptoms, so be ready. Whatever cold or flu symptoms you may have, Theraflu products will bring you the fast, strong relief you’re looking for. And to keep tabs on cold and flu activity happening near you, check out our cold and flu tracker so you can be prepared for when incidences are especially high in your neighborhood.

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