The ‘F.A.C.T.S’ of Influenza (Flu)

07 January 2020

The ‘F.A.C.T.S’ of Influenza (Flu)


Oh, no! You are tired, coughing and have a runny nose. Is it influenza (flu) or merely a cold?

Although both influenza and cold can make a patient miserable, each is caused by different bugs that settle in different places.

Here are some of the key differences between influenza and a cold:

Influenza Questions Cold
Different strains of 4 influenza viruses. What causes it? Over 200 types of rhinovirus.
Your nose, throat and lungs. What does it target? Your nose and throat.
From either inhalation or contact with contaminated surfaces. How could you get it? From either inhalation or contact with contaminated surfaces.

Fever, aches, chills, tiredness and sudden onset.

Often includes headache, sore throat, dry cough, and vomiting/diarrhoea in kids.

What are the symptoms?

Runny nose, sneezing and nasal congestion.

Often includes sore throat, mild cough, mild aches/fatigue, and fever in the young.

2 to 4 days in bed.

Can lead to bronchitis, sinus/ear infections, pneumonia, hospitalization and death.

What is the consequence? 1 to 3 weeks of discomfort.

Prescription antiviral medicine can shorten illness if given early.

Bed rest, liquids, over-the-counter influenza medicines.

How is it treated? Over-the-counter cold medicines/analgesics.

Yearly influenza vaccine for everyone above 6 months old, especially those at the greatest risk: the elderly, pregnant women and the chronically ill (especially those with lung problems).

Wear a respirator mask and wash hands frequently.

How can you prevent it?

Wash hands frequently.

Zinc lozenges & vitamin C may shorten the illness.


I am still confused…

Just remember this: Sudden onset is the key. Symptoms that turn on like a light switch are telling. A respiratory illness that comes on suddenly, as if you are being hit by a ton of bricks, may very well be influenza.

On the other hand, a stuffy nose, sore throat and hoarseness without the other symptoms indicate a cold.


But I can’t remember all of these!

Just think of  ‘F.A.C.T.S.’ (Fever, Aches, Chills, Tiredness and Sudden onset) as all of these symptoms point to influenza.



If your symptoms linger, you may have pneumonia. It is most dangerous when you are pregnant, chronically ill, very young or very old.

Call the doctor if you cough up yellow or green mucus, are short of breath/breathe rapidly, feel pain when inhaling or have a persistent fever.


Seek Help ASAP

If you feel like you are getting influenza symptoms, contact your healthcare professional as soon as you can. You might be a candidate for prescription antiviral medication that specifically works against influenza.

Antiviral medication can lessen the effects and shorten the duration of influenza. However, it works best when given within the first 48 hours.

If you are at high risk because you have a chronic medical condition or are pregnant, antiviral medicine might mean the difference between milder influenza and very serious influenza that results in a hospital stay.

People experience the following warning signs need to obtain medical care right away:

Emergency Warning Signs of Influenza in Children Emergency Warning Signs of Influenza in Adults
Fever/cough that improves but then returns/worsen
Fast breathing/trouble breathing Difficulty breathing/shortness of breath
Severe muscle pain (child refuses to walk) Severe muscle pain
Dehydration (no urine for 8 hours, dry mouth, no tears when crying) Not urinating
Worsening of chronic medical conditions
Chest pain Persistent pain or pressure in the chest or abdomen
Not alert when awake Persistent dizziness, confusion, inability to arouse
Bluish lips or face -
Ribs pulling with each breath -
Fever above 38°C, or any fever in children less than 12 weeks -
- Severe weakness or unsteadiness


Remember This: Prevention is Better Than Cure

Influenza vaccine remains your best protection against influenza and influenza complications like pneumonia. Get yours as early as possible in influenza season for the vaccines take ten days to work.



Tags: influenza,flu