How do I know if I have Flu?

How do I know if I have Flu?

Flu, short for influenza, is an infectious respiratory illness caused by influenza viruses. One way to determine if you have the flu is by getting a flu test near you. These tests, often available at clinics and healthcare facilities, can quickly diagnose whether your symptoms are due to the flu virus. Early detection through a flu test is essential for prompt treatment and to prevent further spread of the virus to others, making it a crucial step in managing flu outbreaks effectively.

Flu Symptoms

Influenza (Flu) can cause mild to severe illness and sometimes death. Flu symptoms usually come on suddenly. In case you catch the flu, you might encounter one or more of the following symptoms:

  • Fever 
  • Cough
  • Sore throat
  • Runny or stuffy nose
  • Muscle or body aches
  • Headaches
  • Fatigue (tiredness)
  • Some people may include vomiting and diarrhea, though this is more common in children than adults.

To get a flu test near you, you can visit a local healthcare facility, such as a clinic, hospital, or a designated testing center. These tests are designed to detect the presence of influenza viruses in your body. The process usually involves a swab being taken from your nasal passage or throat. It’s a quick and straightforward procedure providing valuable health information. 

How do I know if I have Flu?

You may have the flu if you have a fever, cough, sore throat, runny or stuffy nose, body aches, headache, chills, and fatigue. Children are more likely to experience vomiting and diarrhea as well. Although it is less common, some individuals with the flu may only exhibit respiratory symptoms without a fever. It is important to note that flu viruses cause the most illnesses during colder months.

It’s worth noting that Flu can occur outside of the typical flu season, and other viruses can also cause respiratory illness similar to Flu. Therefore, it’s impossible to determine if you have Flu based solely on symptoms. If your doctor needs to confirm whether you are sick with Flu, they can perform laboratory tests.

People at Higher Risk of Flu

Flu can affect anyone, regardless of their health, and cause serious complications at any age. Still, some people are at higher risk of developing serious flu-related complications if they get sick. This includes individuals 65 years and older, those with chronic medical conditions (such as asthma, diabetes, or heart disease), pregnant women, and children under five, particularly those under two years old.

If you suspect you have the flu, getting a flu test near you is crucial for timely diagnosis and treatment. Influenza, commonly known as the flu, is a contagious respiratory illness caused by influenza viruses. 

What kinds of flu tests are there?

Many tests are available to catch flu viruses in respiratory specimens. The most common are “rapid influenza diagnostic tests (RIDTs).” RIDTs see the parts of the virus (antigens) that stimulate an immune response. These tests can provide results within 10-15 minutes but may not be as accurate as other flu tests. Thus, you could still have Flu even though your quick test result is negative. Other flu tests called “rapid molecular assays” detect the genetic material of the flu virus. Rapid molecular assays have 15-20 minute results and are more exact than RIDTs.

In addition to RIDTs and rapid molecular assays, several more accurate flu tests must be performed in specialized laboratories, such as hospital and public health laboratories. Three tests are used to check for COVID-19: reverse transcription polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR), viral culture, and immunofluorescence assays. 

To administer these tests, a healthcare provider must swipe the inside of your nose or the back of your throat with a swab. The swab is then sent for testing, and results may take one to several hours to return.

How well can rapid tests detect the Flu?

A positive rapid flu test will likely indicate flu virus infection during a flu outbreak. However, rapid tests vary in their ability to detect flu viruses, depending on the type of quick test used and the kind of flu virus circulating. Also, rapid tests appear to catch the Flu in children better than adults. 

This variation in the ability to detect viruses can result in some people infected with the Flu having a negative rapid test result. This condition is called a false negative test result. Despite a negative fast test result, your healthcare provider may diagnose you with Flu based on your symptoms and their clinical judgment.

Difference Between Flu and COVID-19

Influenza (Flu) and COVID-19 are contagious respiratory illnesses, but different viruses cause them. COVID-19 is caused by SARS-CoV-2, while influenza viruses cause Flu. Because some are the same, you cannot tell the difference between Flu and COVID-19 by symptoms alone. It is possible for specific PCR tests to detect and distinguish between both Flu and COVID-19 simultaneously.

If one of these tests is unavailable, many testing locations provide flu and COVID-19 tests separately. Consult a healthcare provider about getting tested for flu and COVID-19 if you have symptoms.

Is there a test that can notice both Flu and COVID-19?

Yes. A test will check for seasonal flu type A and B viruses and SARS-CoV-2, which causes COVID-19. U.S. public health laboratories are using this test for surveillance purposes. Testing for these viruses simultaneously will give public health officials important information about how Flu and COVID-19 spread and what prevention steps should be taken. 

The test will also help public health laboratories save time and testing materials and return test results faster.

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) granted CDC Emergency Use Authorization for a new test. Initial test kits were sent to public health laboratories in early August 2020, and CDC will continue to produce and distribute these kits.

Emergency Warning Signs of Flu for Adults

  • Difficulty breathing or shortness of breath
  • Persistent pain or pressure in the chest or abdomen
  • Persistent dizziness, confusion, inability to arouse
  • Seizures
  • Not urinating
  • Severe muscle pain
  • Severe weakness or unsteadiness
  • Fever or cough that improves but then returns or worsens
  • Worsening of chronic medical conditions

If you suspect you have the flu, obtaining a prompt diagnosis is crucial for timely treatment. To confirm if you have the flu, it’s advisable to seek a flu test near you. Remember, swift action can significantly improve your recovery from the flu.


Undergoing a flu test is a crucial step in accurately diagnosing influenza and implementing timely treatment measures. It allows healthcare professionals to differentiate between the flu and other respiratory illnesses, enabling them to provide appropriate care and advice to patients. 

Overall, flu testing is vital in safeguarding public health and well-being.

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