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Flu Symptoms

The flu is different from the common cold. With flu, one or more of the following symptoms will come on suddenly — about 48 to 72 hours after contact with the virus:

  • Fever (usually high)
  • Headache
  • Extreme tiredness
  • Dry cough
  • Sore throat
  • Runny or stuffy nose
  • Muscle aches
  • Occasionally, especially in children, stomach symptoms such as nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea (See “Stomach Flu” below)

Urgent Warning Signs

If you experience any of the following more serious symptoms, seek medical attention immediately.


  • Difficulty breathing or shortness of breath
  • Pain or pressure in the chest or abdomen
  • Sudden dizziness
  • Confusion
  • Severe or persistent vomiting.


  • Fast breathing or trouble breathing
  • Bluish skin color
  • Not drinking enough fluids
  • Not waking up or not interacting
  • Being so irritable that the child does not want to be held
  • Flu-like symptoms improve but then return with fever and worse cough
  • Fever with a rash.

Stomach Flu

The flu is primarily a respiratory disease, not a stomach or intestinal disease. Many people use the term “stomach flu” to describe illnesses with nausea, vomiting or diarrhea. These symptoms can be caused by many different viruses, bacteria or even parasites. Vomiting, diarrhea, and being “sick to your stomach” can sometimes be related to the flu — more commonly in children than adults — these problems are rarely the main symptoms of influenza.

See helpful tips on easing symptoms of flu.

If you have additional questions about the flu or flu vaccine, please call 1-800-27SHOTS (1-800-277-4687) or visit the CDC’s Seasonal Influenza website or

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