As a nurse, I get questions from friends and family about symptoms all the time. A friend might call me to say, “Can you have flu without a fever? Because I feel like I might have the flu, but my temperature is normal.”
Sometimes they’re surprised when I tell them, yes, you can have the flu without having a fever.
Every human body is unique in how it responds to illness, and viruses can behave differently inside every individual body. That’s why, when we talk about the symptoms of an illness, we generally describe a broad range of potential symptoms a person could have. For example, the list of possible symptoms of influenza includes:
- Sore throat
- Runny nose
- Muscle aches
But not every person who comes down with the flu will have every single symptom on that list. If you have a mild case of flu, for instance, your body may never generate a fever to fight the virus. Or you might develop a wicked cough but never have a headache because the influenza virus became more active in your lungs than in your sinuses.
If you come down with a flu-like illness, call your doctor’s office for guidance about what to do. Influenza and COVID-19 share many common symptoms (including fever and cough), so you should not self-diagnose. Do not assume you have the flu and not COVID-19 -- or vice versa. Instead, call your doctor to find out if you should get a flu test, a COVID-19 test, or something else (because a great many viruses can cause flu-like symptoms).
And be sure to isolate yourself from family members and the public. Both influenza and COVID-19 are contagious, and you need to avoid spreading whatever illness you have to other people. Wear a mask (even at home), keep physically distant, and wash your hands frequently.
Also, rest and drink plenty of fluids to help you feel better -- fever or not.