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How To Tell If It's the Flu, and Not Just a Bad Viral Cold Infection

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Knowing the tell-tale signs of influenza is becoming more important since the World Health Organization elevated the swine flu infection to pandemic status on Thursday.

Most cases of the H1NI swine flu have been mild so far, although a small percentage of people have died from the infection. The symptoms of swine flu run similar to those of regular human influenza virus infections, according to information posted on the government website www.PandemicFlu.gov managed by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

Common signs of flu include a rapid, high fever (102-104 degrees F) that may last for 3-4 days, chills, headache with body aches (often severe), moderate to extreme fatigue (that may last for 2-3 weeks or more), and often a bad cough. People can also sometimes have a stuffy nose or sore throat. With the flu, people usually feel like they have to go to bed.

If you just have a sore throat, congestion, or stuffy nose and perhaps mild aches or fatigue without a fever, chills and headache, you probably have an infection of one of many viruses associated with the common cold.

People with the flu should stay home and avoid contact with other people, except to seek medical care if needed, says the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Emergency medical attention is not necessary unless flu is accompanied by difficulty in breathing, pain in the chest or abdomen, sudden dizziness or confusion, severe or persistent vomiting or the flu symptoms subsided but then returned with fever and a worse cough.

In children with the flu, additional warning signs that warrant urgent medical care include bluish or gray skin color, not waking up or interacting, extreme irritability to the point where the child refuses to be held, or resistance to drinking fluids.

The general treatment for mild to moderate cases of influenza involves plenty of rest, frequent fluids and over the counter medications to treat fever, headache and body aches. Antiviral medications can also be prescribed to some patients at high risk for developing serious infections such as those who are pregnant or have complicating medical conditions.

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