Onset of the flu: what are the first symptoms?

Onset of the flu what are the first symptoms

The flu is already back in France at the beginning of December. Headache, chills… These may be the first signs of the virus, which is never asymptomatic!

[Mise à jour le 5 décembre 2022 à 11h41] The flu is already back in France as shown by the latest epidemiological bulletins from Public Health France. The infection is very contagious andnever asymptomatic informs Dr. Pierre Parneix, Medical Officer of Health.Once you have been infected, the virus develops in the cells of our body and causes theappearance of several symptoms. Which ? What to do from the start to help the body deal with the virus? How long last symptoms ?

Are there warning signs of the flu?

There are no warning or warning signs of the flu. We will go directly from the state of incubation (i.e. the time during which the person was in contact with the flu virus and infected, but does not yet show any particular symptoms during the initial phase of multiplication of the virus in the body) at disease state where the classic flu symptoms appear”, poses from the outset Dr Pierre Parneix, medical officer of health and hospital practitioner in Public Health at the Bordeaux University Hospital and head of the Support Center for the Prevention of Healthcare-Associated Infections (CPIAS) in New Aquitaine. In other words, as soon as the first symptoms appear, the person is already infected with the virus.

The flu is never asymptomatic.

However, some symptoms like cough, muscle aches or fatigue may be more or less mild and it is possible not to immediately associate them with the flu. “In contrast, the flu is never asymptomatic. Thus, once you have been infected with the flu virus, it develops in the cells of your body and causes the appearance of several symptoms. (fatigue, cough, chills…) announcing the onset of the disease“, he explains. As soon as they appear, help the body defend itself against the virus by getting enough rest, hydration, eating foods rich in vitamins and clearing your nose. Treatments help to fight fever and muscle pain. Ask your doctor or pharmacist for advice. Certain warning signs (persistent fever, difficulty breathing, shortness of breath at rest, ear pain, convulsions, etc.) should lead to to consult quickly.

What are the first symptoms of the flu?

  • Great fatigue (asthenia) which sets in gradually and increasingly
  • Chills, even when you’re not cold
  • A dry, painful cough

What are the most common flu symptoms?

  • An irritated and sore throat
  • A high fever above 39°C
  • A stuffy, runny nose
  • Of the muscle and joint pain that feels like body aches
  • Of the watery, bloodshot, or sore eyes when we touch them
  • Of the headache

Regarding the duration, the symptoms last about 5 days. Fatigue may persist for several weeks.

Are you contagious before symptoms appear?

The incubation phase flu, i.e. the period between infection with the flu virus and the appearance of the first symptoms usually lasts between 24 and 48 hoursbut it can extend to 72 hours in some people. The patient is therefore contagious 1 to 2 days before the onset of symptoms and up to 5 to 7 days after. “It is during the first two days following the onset of symptoms that one is the most contagious because it is at this time that there is a large increase in viral load and that the clinical symptoms are the most marked“, indicates the expert. To limit the contagion of the virus, sick people must stay at home as much as possible or wear a surgical mask in case of contact with other people in a closed place. They should also cover their nose or mouth with a clean tissue or the bend of their elbow when they sneeze or cough and wash their hands regularly.

What treatments to take at the beginning of the flu?

People who have had prolonged contact with a person infected with the flu and thus likely to have contracted the virus can take antivirals (on prescription) before symptoms appear. This can help alleviate flu symptoms, limit the risk of complications and shorten the duration of illness. “This is a prophylactic treatment which is based on taking the Tamiflu® (oseltamivir), an antiviral treatment that can be given up to 48 hours after the onset of symptoms. Beyond that, it is no longer effectivespecifies our interlocutor. This treatment is particularly recommended for fragile people : pregnant women, people over 65, patients with chronic diseases (respiratory failure, renal failure, heart failure, diabetes, morbid obesity, etc.) who are most at risk of having serious complications from influenza“.

As soon as influenza viruses circulate, it is advisable to avoid the transmission of:

  • wash your hands regularly, with soap and water or with a hydroalcoholic gel
  • cough or sneeze into your elbow
  • use a single-use tissue
  • wear a surgical, FFP2 or fabric mask
  • limit contact with fragile or sick people.

Thank you to Dr Pierre Parneix, medical officer of health and hospital practitioner in public health (Bordeaux University Hospital).