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Diseases » Flu » Misdiagnosis

Misdiagnosis of Flu

Misdiagnosis of Flu

A diagnosis of the flu is generally made from information obtained by taking a thorough health history, including symptoms, and performing a physical exam. This information is correlated with local flu conditions, such as if there is an outbreak in the area and the types of symptoms that are being seen locally. Although testing is available to help detect the flu, it is not always accurate and cannot distinguish between various types of flu.

Misdiagnosing the flu is possible because the symptoms of the flu can mimic other diseases, such as strep throat, pneumonia, and upper respiratory infection. To ensure the symptoms are due to the flu and not other diseases, some tests may be done, such as a throat culture and sensitivity test to test for strep throat. Other tests may include a chest X-ray to check for pneumonia and blood culture and sensitivity testing to check for bacteremia....more about Flu »

Flu misdiagnosis: Distinguishing between flu and common cold is not always easy but desirable because of newer antiviral flu medications. Generally, a cold is milder and a flu more severe, but there are exceptions. Flu will typically cause high fever, whereas a cold rarely does, and is usually mild if so. Flu also typically causes headache, body aches, fatigue, weakness, exhaustion, chest discomfort, and other symptoms that are uncommon or mild in a cold. Symptoms such as sore throat, runny nose, stuffy nose, and sneezing are more prominent in cold than flu, but can occur with either.

The early flu-like symptoms (e.g. headache, fever, chills, etc.) are also characteristic of the body's general reaction to any infection. Hence, many other conditions start out with flu-like symptoms; see the list of conditions with flu-like symptoms. There are various serious conditions such as meningitis and HIV that may start out flu-like.

Cold and flu are not the only respiratory viruses with other possibilities such as respiratory syncytial virus. Note also that a digestive upset is not the flu, and rarely related to flu, even though some are called "stomach flu"....more about Flu »

Alternative diagnoses list for Flu:

For a diagnosis of Flu, the following list of conditions have been mentioned in sources as possible alternative diagnoses to consider during the diagnostic process for Flu:

Diseases for which Flu may be an alternative diagnosis

The other diseases for which Flu is listed as a possible alternative diagnosis in their lists include:

Rare Types of Flu:

Flu: Medical Mistakes

Related medical mistakes may include:

Flu: Undiagnosed Conditions

Commonly undiagnosed conditions in related areas may include:

Discussion of diagnosis/misdiagnosis of Flu:

The Flu, NIAID Fact Sheet: NIAID (Excerpt)

The flu differs in several ways from the common cold, a respiratory infection also caused by viruses. For example, people with colds rarely get fevers or headaches or suffer from the extreme exhaustion that flu viruses cause. (Source: excerpt from The Flu, NIAID Fact Sheet: NIAID)

The Flu, NIAID Fact Sheet: NIAID (Excerpt)

The flu almost never causes symptoms in the stomach and intestines. The illness that some people often call "stomach flu" is not influenza. (Source: excerpt from The Flu, NIAID Fact Sheet: NIAID)

What to Do About the Flu -- Age Page -- Health Information: NIA (Excerpt)

Although nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea can sometimes accompany the flu, especially in children, gastrointestinal symptoms rarely occur. The illness that people call "stomach flu" is not influenza.

It's easy to confuse a common cold with the flu. Overall, cold symptoms are milder and don't last as long as the flu. (Source: excerpt from What to Do About the Flu -- Age Page -- Health Information: NIA)

Common Misdiagnoses and Flu

Sinusitis is overdiagnosed: There is a tendency to give a diagnosis of sinusitis, when the condition is really a harmless complication of another infection, such as a common cold.

Whooping cough often undiagnosed: Although most children in the Western world have been immunized against whooping cough (also called "pertussis"), this protection wears off after about 15 years. Thus, any teen or adult with a persistent cough may actually have whooping cough. This is particularly dangerous for babies too young to be vaccinated, and any un-vaccinated children. Whooping cough can be fatal to an infant. The cough symptoms of whooping cough is usually productive initially, but then becomes a persistent dry cough, lasting up to 100 days. Elderly grandparents may also be a reservoir of undiagnosed whooping cough.

Chronic lung diseases hard to diagnose: Some of the chronic lung diseases are difficult to diagnose. Even the well-knowns conditions such as asthma or lung cancer often fail to be diagnosed early. Some of the chronic lung diseases with diagnostic difficulties include asthma (perhaps surprisingly), COPD, emphysema, chronic bronchitis, cystic fibrosis, mesothelioma, smoker's cough, AIDS-related respiratory conditions (see AIDS), chronic pneumonia, and other respiratory diseases. Rare possibilities include diseases like psittacosis (bird-related lung infection). See other types of chronic lung diseases.

Flu: Rare Types

Rare types of medical disorders and diseases in related medical areas:

Medical news summaries about misdiagnosis of Flu:

The following medical news items are relevant to misdiagnosis of Flu:

Misdiagnosis and Flu deaths

Flu is a condition that can possibly be deadly if misdiagnosed...more »

General Misdiagnosis Articles

Read these general articles with an overview of misdiagnosis issues.

About misdiagnosis:

When checking for a misdiagnosis of Flu or confirming a diagnosis of Flu, it is useful to consider what other medical conditions might be possible misdiagnoses or other alternative conditions relevant to diagnosis. These alternate diagnoses of Flu may already have been considered by your doctor or may need to be considered as possible alternative diagnoses or candidates for misdiagnosis of Flu. For a general overview of misdiagnosis issues for all diseases, see Overview of Misdiagnosis.


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