Symptoms alone may make it difficult for your doctor to diagnose the flu. Laboratory tests exist, but are not commonly used to diagnose the flu. However, your doctor is better capable of making a diagnosis based on the knowledge of whether or not the flu is spreading in your community. It's important that you see a doctor if you suspect that you are experiencing the flu to learn how to prevent the virus from spreading. Early diagnosis and treatment can help you start to feel better sooner, and will protect those around you from future illness.
If you suspect that you've caught the flu, you can see your family physician or pediatrician. Your doctor will want to know when you came down with your symptoms, and may take your temperature. Come prepared with a list of the your symptoms, including the time period when you first noticed them.
Rapid flu test
A rapid flu test may be ordered, which will provide results within 30 minutes to 1 day; it is also called a flu test or an influenza antigen test. This test is used to determine if you have strains A or B of the influenza virus, versus a bacterial or other viral infection. If ordered with approximately48 hours, the accuracy of the test is best, and allows for faster treatment. Also, by ordering this test, your doctor can know if you have the flu when it is not flu season. Doctors may order this test to determine if the flu is just reaching the community you live in.
If you are experiencing complications, you should contact your family physician, if possible, and determine if immediate medical assistance is needed. Complications include bronchitis, encephalitis (rare) pneumonia, worsening of chronic conditions (e.g. asthma, diabetes, and heart failure), and dehydration.
Once your doctor determines that you've caught the flu, you can begin treatment. But is it better to starve a fever or provoke sweat in order to start to feel better? What traditional remedies might work to help you manage symptoms of the flu from home? Read here for more information on flu treatments, and get the facts straight in our section on flu remedies.