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Flu Facts

Learn how to prevent flu and recognize it, should you become ill.
The two most important things you can do during flu season to help from getting sick are to get a flu shot and to wash your hands, regularly. But should an unexpected illness occur, you want access to care quickly. Through our expanded Cleveland Clinic network, we’re sure to be where you need us.

The common cold
The cold is one of the most common illnesses, leading to more doctor visits and absences from school and work than any other illness annually. It is estimated that every year people in the U.S. will suffer a billion colds.

Colds usually start two to three days after the virus enters the body, and symptoms last from several days to several weeks. Most colds cause the following symptoms:

  • Achy muscles and bones or fatigue
  • Chills
  • Headache
  • Low-grade fever
  • Mild, hacking cough
  • Scratchy, tickly or sore throat
  • Sneezing and/or a stuffy, runny nose

Flu – a more serious foe
Like the cold, influenza is also spread by a virus; however, it’s often accompanied by more severe symptoms and can cause serious complications, such as pneumonia and even death. What may seem like a cold could, in fact, be the flu. Watch out for these flu symptoms:

  • High fever
  • Headache (more common with flu than cold)
  • Clear nasal discharge
  • Sometimes sneezing
  • Cough, often becoming severe
  • Often severe aches and pains
  • Several weeks of fatigue
  • Sometimes a sore throat
  • Extreme exhaustion

When to see your doctor
While a cold or flu often can be treated at home, more serious cases require a doctor's care, especially for young children or the elderly who are more likely to develop complications. If you have symptoms of the flu and are in a high risk group, or are very sick or worried about your illness, contact your health care provider.

For flu patients, antiviral medications, when started within the first two days of symptoms, may reduce how long you'll have the flu and the severity of symptoms. If you suspect you have the flu, it’s important to be seen by a doctor as soon as possible in order to possibly benefit from antiviral medications.

Emergency rooms are for people who are very sick; the CDC recommends that you do not go to an ER if you are only mildly ill. If you or a family member are experiencing any of the below emergency warning signs, it may be time to visit an emergency room.

  • Shortness of breath or difficulty breathing
  • Pressure or pain in the chest
  • Confusion, disorientation or fainting
  • Severe or persistent vomiting
  • Flu-like symptoms that improve but then return with fever and worse cough

Your primary care physician (PCP) is the best person to visit if you are sick, since they know your health history. If you are unable to see your PCP, visit for a complete list of Cleveland Clinic and Akron General locations that can provide prompt treatment. Through Cleveland Clinic Akron General’s expanded network, we’re sure to be where you need us.

Additional tips for
flu prevention
and care



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