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How to Treat Body Aches Caused by Flu or Sickness

Understanding The Causes Of Body Aches

Camille Freking, MS Pharmacology Profile Photo

Written by Camille Freking, MS Pharmacology on November 8, 2021

When you’re sick, one of the most uncomfortable symptoms associated with the flu and other illnesses is body aches. Body aches are commonly associated with the flu but can occur as a result of many different types of illnesses and infections as part of your body’s immune response.

Here’s how to treat body aches caused by flu or sickness.

Why do body aches occur during flu or sickness?

While many people associate the flu with symptoms like fever, vomiting, and nasal congestion, another common symptom of the flu is body aches, some of which can be severe.

While other types of sicknesses can also cause body aches, the symptom is most commonly associated with the flu. Body aches occur as a result of chemicals released by the immune system to help the body fight off an infection once a foreign invader (in this case, the flu virus) is detected. These chemicals produce an immune response in the form of muscle aches and pains.

Although body aches can be extremely uncomfortable, they’re actually a good sign, because it means that your immune system is doing what it’s supposed to in order to fight off infection and help you get well soon.

In addition to occurring as a result of the body’s immune response, body aches can also occur as a result of dehydration. When you’re sick, you may lose fluid through sweat (if sweating out a fever), diarrhea, or vomiting. It’s especially important to drink extra fluids when you’re sick in order to minimize the muscle cramping and soreness that can occur.

Who is most likely to experience body aches when sick?

While body aches can happen to anyone when they’re sick, some people are more likely to experience body aches than others. Adults over the age of 65, people with certain chronic illnesses, such as diabetes and immune disease, and people who live in colder climates are more likely to experience body aches than other groups.

Older adults and people with chronic medical conditions must work harder to fight off illnesses, so their immune response is more likely to cause body aches and pains while sick with the flu or another illness.

While it may seem strange to think that the temperature could also affect your likelihood of experiencing body aches, cold weather makes the body more prone to soreness. When you’re sick, you also have a reduced ability to tolerate the cold, so aches and pains are considered more likely.

How can you treat body aches caused by flu or sickness?

If you are experiencing body aches as a result of the flu or other illness, there are several steps you can take to minimize the pain. While these strategies won’t help you recover from the flu more quickly, they can help you to feel better in the meantime.

Try an over the counter pain medication.

You may find that your feelings of aches and pains improves significantly with the use of over the counter pain relievers.

Homeopathic flu remedies may be able to effectively treat body aches and pains using natural ingredients, while traditional medications like acetaminophen, ibuprofen, and naproxen can also help to make you feel more comfortable.

Make sure you talk with your doctor prior to using non-steroidal anti-inflammatory (NSAID) medications, because although they can be very effective at treating body aches and pains, people with certain medical issues may not be able to take them safely. Individuals with kidney problems, bleeding issues, stomach issues, and certain other types of medical problems should consider using alternative medications for body aches.

Drink more fluids.

As noted previously, one of the contributing factors to the onset of body aches during the flu or sickness is dehydration. While it can be hard to drink enough fluids even when you’re feeling your best, you are likely to lose more fluids while sick as a result of excessive sweating, vomiting, and diarrhea.

While sick, make sure you load up on plenty of clear liquids, including water, tea, sports drinks, broth, tea, and electrolyte drinks to help fight off body aches and heal more quickly.

Rest up.

Your body uses lots of energy to fight off illness and infection. Without enough sleep and rest, your body is unable to properly execute many of the immune functions it needs to help you feel better. Rather than trying to “power through” an illness, take time to rest early on so that your body can fight off the infection before it gets worse.

Use heat.

If you’ve ever used a heating pad on sore muscles, you know exactly how soothing heat can be on an aching body. Taking a warm bath or shower can provide relief from body aches by giving your muscles a chance to relax and loosen up.

However, it’s important to use heat sparingly and use only lukewarm water and temperatures if you have a fever in order to avoid raising your body temperature further.

Do not use heat or take a shower if you are feeling dizzy or weak, as this can make your symptoms worse. Also, monitor your children when they are sick. Heating pads can be helpful to relieve some of your pain, but it’s recommended that you try to use heat for only 20 minutes at a time in order to prevent burns.

Get a massage.

If you have a friend or family member who is willing to help or you have access to massage tools, such as a percussive therapy gun, you may find relief from body aches through the healing touch of massage.

Massage can help sore muscles feel better more quickly, but it may also help you to recover from your illness more quickly. Massage can help to improve your immune response by reducing the levels of cortisol, a stress hormone that can impair the action of white blood cells.

Although most massage therapists will not be willing to treat you while you’re ill, a friend or family member may be able to help by massaging your sore body. Make sure that everyone involved takes precautions in order to prevent the illness from spreading further.

Increase the humidity level indoors.

Dry air causes a number of problems when it comes to exacerbating symptoms of the flu. You are more likely to catch viruses in dry air, which is part of the reason why flu season typically occurs during the colder months.

Under normal circumstances, viruses and other pathogens get caught in the mucus in your nasal passages and respiratory tract, helping to fend off infection. When the air is dry, you have less mucus to catch the pathogens, which means that your body will have a harder time fighting off infection.

Try using a humidifier or vaporizer in order to increase the level of humidity indoors and improve your mucus production. As your body fights off the virus, you’ll experience fewer aches and pains.

When should you see a doctor for body aches?

While it’s normal to experience body aches and pains as part of the flu and other illnesses, there are some situations in which you need to see a doctor. If your body aches are severe or last more than several days, make sure you talk to your doctor.

You should also seek medical attention for body aches if any of the following circumstances apply:

  • You are seeing signs of infection, including swelling or redness, anywhere on the body
  • You have recently been bitten by a tick
  • You are experiencing poor circulation in a painful area, such as your lower legs

The pain caused by your body aches does not improve within three days.

Call 911 or go to your local emergency room if:

  • You are experiencing a fever, stiff neck, and vomiting
  • You are having difficulty breathing or shortness of breath
  • You have muscle weakness or cannot move part of your body

In addition to causing body aches and pains, the flu can also cause severe leg cramps in some groups of people, including children. When experiencing leg cramps, children and adults may have difficulty walking or walk with a limp. If your child is experiencing leg pain in their calves or refuses to walk, contact your child’s doctor to determine if an evaluation and treatment are necessary.

What are other common symptoms of the flu?

In addition to the body aches and pains caused by the flu, the virus can also cause other symptoms. If you’re sick with the flu, your symptoms can range from mild to severe, and the flu can be deadly. You may find that your symptoms come on very quickly.

Common symptoms of the flu in addition to body aches include:

  • Fever or feeling feverish/chills
  • Sore throat
  • Fatigue
  • Vomiting and diarrhea
  • Cough
  • Runny or stuffy nose
  • Headaches


Summary

If you are experiencing body aches associated with the flu or another type of illness, there are a number of different treatment options that you can try in order to relieve your pain. Taking an over the counter pain medication, getting more rest, staying hydrated, getting a massage, increasing the amount of humidity indoors, and using a warm bath, shower, or heating pad can help to improve your symptoms and minimize feelings of pain.



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