Imagine you’re sitting at home on a Sunday night, face mask applied, Netflix on repeat, when you feel the slightest tickle in your throat. Thinking nothing of it, you gargle a bit of salt water before bed and sleep through the night, only to wake up with totally swollen glands and — *gasp* — a stuffy, dripping nose. Small inconveniences like a sore throat and stuffy nose can indicate the first signs of the flu, but many people commonly mistake these red flags for an oncoming head cold. Treating these symptoms by simply popping a cough drop on your way to class can lead to more severe symptoms like muscle aches, high fever, and fatigue. Trust me, if there’s anything worse than catching the flu, it’s catching it and mistaking it for something less serious.
And, unfortunately, this flu season is nothing to mess around with. Of course, this isn't to say mistakes don’t happen. One of the biggest issues when it comes to definitively diagnosing the flu is that the symptoms can be traced back to countless illnesses, so while you or your doctor may not want to jump to conclusions, you also don’t want to nurse a problem that doesn’t exist. It's counterproductive and could, potentially, make you even more sick than you initially were.
On the plus side, because these types of symptoms are so common, there are more known tried-and-true remedies out there to ward off germs before they have the chance to fester and spread. Of course, the first thing you should do at the first sign of these symptoms is make an appointment with your doctor.
Normally I’m the type of person to suggest holding off to see if a stuffy nose really is just a stuffy nose, but considering this year’s H3N2 causes more fatalities than any other, I definitely would not take any chances. I'm not trying to freak you out guys; I'm just looking out for your best interest. Here are the first signs of the flu to look out for this season.