It seems like as soon as cold weather hits each year, people start coughing and sneezing. The weather itself isn’t to blame, but rather the tendency of people to remain indoors, aiding in the spread of germs. But no matter what the reason, many people dread winter because of the increase in sickness.

One of the most dreaded illnesses that is common during the cold months is the flu. We’ve all heard the horror stories about deadly flu outbreaks. But in the overwhelming majority of cases, the flu is just a serious nuisance.

Even so, it’s important to know the signs of the flu. This will help you keep from spreading it to others if you get it. Besides, the quicker you realize you have it and start resting up, the sooner you can be back on your feet. Here are some signs to look for:

* Fever – Unlike the cold and most infections, the flu is usually accompanied by a high fever. The standard is 100 to 104 degrees Fahrenheit, but it could go even higher. In any event, if your fever is 106 or over, it’s important to seek medical attention.

* Body aches – This is often the first indicator that you have the flu and not something else. Aches can be quite severe, and are often present in the back, arms or legs.

* Headache – A headache can be a sign of a number of illnesses, so if this is your only symptom, there’s a good chance that you don’t have the flu. But if the headache is accompanied by some of the other symptoms, you probably do. A related symptom is pain when you move your eyes.

* Fatigue – Feeling “run down” is a classic sign of the flu. Many people feel like this any time they get sick, but the flu tends to make us more exhausted than we ever thought possible.

* Gastrointestinal symptoms – Vomiting and diarrhea are often associated with the flu, but these symptoms occur more often in children than adults. Adults do, however, usually experience a loss of appetite.

* Dry cough with sore throat and runny nose – These symptoms are common to many illnesses, but with the flu, they often do not appear in the beginning. They are less noticeable during the first few days, perhaps because of all the other symptoms, and usually become more prevalent when the fever breaks.

Many of us go to great lengths to prevent the flu, and with good reason. It is an unpleasant and potentially dangerous ailment. But if we recognize the symptoms early, we can get the rest and medication we need for a quick recovery.

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