How do you know if you've got the flu?

If you get the flu, you're probably wasting your time to go see your doctor.

Walk into any clinic in Minnesota right now and there's a good chance it'll be filled with coughing, sneezing, aching, flu-ridden people. 

"In my memory, it's the worst since the 2009-10 year, which was that awful year that we called it the 'Swine flu,'" Hennepin County Medical Center's internal medicine physician, Dr. David Hilden, told GoMN. "Easily the worst one in six, seven, eight years."

Flu is widespread across the state and this year's main culprit, the H3N2 strain, is gaining a reputation as a nasty pain in the you know what. 

"That's the predominant one this year," Hilden says. "It's particularly nasty this year. The flu vaccine is less effective this year than we would hope."


This year's most common flu strain is particularly nasty

What to look out for

If you're vomiting or can't stop running to the bathroom, you probably don't have the flu. In those cases, you've likely got a different stomach bug, Hilden says.

The main symptoms of this year's flu: 

  • Cough
  • Muscle aches
  • Fever

"The fever makes you feel awful and you almost never can go about your daily business with the flu," Hilden says, while pointing that it's a respiratory illness and it's "far less common to have upset stomachs." 

And it usually comes on very fast, sometimes within hours where you'll go from feeling fine to suddenly feeling like you've been hit by a truck. 

Most people will experience symptoms for 3-4 days, sometimes up to a week. 

When should you go see your doctor?

You probably don't need to go see your doctor, Hilden says.

"Our main advice is to not see your doctor. If you think you have the flu and you're an otherwise relatively healthy person, you should just stay home."

"There's not much we can do for you in the clinic," he adds.

Hilden's advice: Tylenol, lots of fluids and chicken soup. 

However, if you're the parent of a small child, call your pediatrician "because the flu is very serious for small childen," he added. 

Flu season just won't go away

Hilden says the flu season isn't on the decline like it normally is at the end of January, and there's still a widespread number of cases. 

"We're optimistic that in the next couple of weeks things might get better, but that's a hard prediction to make."

Not too late for a flu shot

You can still get the flu shot to help protect yourself, although there's no guarantee that it'll work. 

Other tips for avoiding the flu:

  • Wash your hands a lot
  • Don't sneeze or cough on your hand
  • Cough/sneeze into your elbow

"You get it (the flu) from other people. You are contagious for about a day before you even have symptoms," says Hilden. "You continue to be contagious for about week after your symptoms are gone."

Hilden says you probably have to be within an arm's distance of someone infected to get it from them via a cough, sneeze, or even talking. 

Next Up

Image from iOS (96)

Early Saturday fire damages Burger King in Richfield

The fire was reported around 1:15 a.m. Saturday.

Jamal Mashburn Jr. / Gopher Basketball

Maryland hands Gophers first home loss of season

The 17th-ranked Gophers fell to the Terrapins 63-49 on Saturday afternoon.

Alibi Drinkery in Lakeville.

Minnesota Department of Health files lawsuit against Alibi Drinkery

The Lakeville bar has been in the news for defying orders.

Iron Tap snowmobile delivery

This MN restaurant will deliver to your ice house... on a snowmobile

Just in case you work up an appetite fishing on Lake Waconia.

Klobuchar and Trump

Klobuchar reacts to report Trump plotted against his attorney general

The NYT story alleges further tactics to overturn the election.

snow, plow

Snowy Saturday: Here's how much snow is forecast in Minnesota

Snow will reach the metro area by the early afternoon.

Cam Talbot

Wild improve to 4-1 with victory over Dubnyk, Sharks

The 4-1 win gives the Wild four victories in five games to start the season.

Screen Shot 2021-01-22 at 9.08.16 PM

Daughter of MN Supreme Court Justice, Allina Health CEO found dead in Iowa

The 21-year-old was found dead in the parking lot of a sorority, according to police.

Screen Shot 2020-09-04 at 8.42.40 PM

Federal charges: MN marijuana lobbyist threatened U.S. representative

"I want you to be as scared as possible," the voicemail allegedly says.



Flu-related illnesses prompt cancelation of west metro basketball game

The flu and flu-related illnesses are rampant in Minnesota right now.

flu shot, vaccine

Drive-up flu shots start Tuesday at Minnesota HealthPartners locations

Experts say it's "doubly important" to get a flu shot this year.

The year's most common flu strain is particularly nasty

This year's vaccine has proved to be rather ineffective against the nasty H3N2 strain.

flu shot, vaccine

Mayo specialist: 'Doubly important' to get a flu shot this year

Anyone over the age of 6 months should receive a flu vaccine.

3 more children die of flu in Minnesota

More than 60 kids have died in the United States from the flu.

Amid coronavirus pandemic, flu still 'widespread' in Minnesota

MN's flu season is going strong, with 110 deaths reported so far.