9 Telltale Signs Flu Season Is in Full Swing

Updated: Dec. 08, 2019

If you're reading this with a tissue in hand while you nurse a cup of warm tea, know that you're not alone.

When to start doubling down on flu prevention

Sure, you’re good about washing your hands and avoiding the coughing-on-the-bus man, but there are times of the year when you should double-down on your flu-prevention efforts. Here are the warning signs that the virus is out in force. 

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The drugstore is totally sold out of tissues

What’s with all that mucus, anyway? “When your body is trying to fight infection, the cells in the nose generate more mucus in order to clear the system of harmful bacteria and viruses,” explains Christopher Hollingsworth, MD, the regional director of general and endovascular surgery, NYC Surgical Associates. “As mucus levels increase, the mucous lining swells and the nasal cavity fills with excess fluid.” It sounds pretty disgusting, and causes a major stir in the tissue aisle of local stores all over flu-trodden regions. Find out what your mucus says about your health.


There’s a run on chicken soup

There’s a good chance the supply of chicken soup at your local deli or a favorite grocery store will be dried up by the time flu season is in full swing—and with good reason. “Chicken soup is beneficial for hydration and for its soothing effects that come from the warm liquid, and adding certain ingredients, such as garlic, can make a real difference,” shares Dr. Hollingsworth. “Garlic boosts your immune system to fight infection aggressively and reduces inflammation. Studies have shown garlic works by fairly advanced mechanisms, influencing the production of immunoglobulins to enhance your body’s ability to resist and fight infection.” Eat these foods and you may lower your risk of catching the flu in the first place.

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Everyone is starting to look like a zombie

Fatigue is a very real and very normal flu symptom, reports the CDC, and when it’s coupled with dehydration, fever, and swollen glands, it can make anyone look exhausted. “The fatigue that you experience with the flu comes as the immune system expends energy to fight the infection,” says Dr. Hollingsworth. “This can also be exacerbated by the sleepless nights that can accompany the flu.” Here’s how to look better when you’re feeling sick.

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Everyone sounds like they’re smoking a full pack a day

Those scratchy, irritated sounding voices we hear all season long have little to do with the weather, and everything to do with flu germs. “Most flu symptoms can be linked to the lack of hydration, and, accordingly, much of the irritation is due to the drying of the mucous membranes,” Dr. Hollingsworth says. “The coughing that frequently accompanies the flu will also leave you with an irritated throat, as well as postnasal drip from a runny nose.” Here are the best strategies for treating laryngitis.

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Suddenly honey-coated everything is popular in stores

You don’t even need to text your closest friends to ask “When is flu season?” because you’ll know as soon as store shelves are loaded with honey lozenges, honey-infused teas, honey throat syrups, and raw honey products touting their immune benefits. “There is evidence that taking a spoonful of honey before bedtime improves nighttime coughing compared with available over-the-counter medication or nothing at all,” Dr. Hollingsworth says. Make sure you know the household items that may raise your risk for the cold and/or flu.

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Everyone uses their “pounding headaches” to dip out of work meetings

If you find yourself sifting through endless “Sorry, can’t make it, suffering from a pounding headache!” type emails, you know it’s flu season. That’s because headaches are an extremely common flu symptom that make normal functioning nearly impossible. “As the body temperature rises and brings on fever, blood vessels begin to dilate,” Dr. Hollingsworth says. “The increasing pressure inside your head causes feelings of heaviness, pounding, and pain.”


You’re freezing even though the heat is cranked all the way up

When does flu season end? When you stop seeing the fever-ridden people of the world totally bundled up even though the heat is on. “A fever works as part of the immune system’s response against infection by raising the body’s temperature to diminish the ability of microbes to reproduce,” explains Dr. Hollingsworth. “As your internal thermostat is reset to a higher number, the body has to work to reach the new setpoint which can bring on the chills, causing us to feel cold in contrast.” These are the 15 surprising ways you can prevent catching the flu.


Or you’re ripping off all your clothes even though it’s freezing out

Seemingly overwhelming hot flashes are another sign it’s flu season. “Hot flashes and periods of sweating can also commonly occur with the flu as the body temperature fluctuates to fight infection,” says Hollingsworth. “Sweating occurs as the body tries to cool back down.” Check out these ways that doctors avoid catching colds and flu.