Winter is here, and with it, many people are coming down with the flu. The flu can make you feel miserable enough, but if it won’t go away, the misery gets even worse. You begin to wonder if it will ever end, and you start to question if there is something else behind your symptoms. The truth is, there might be. If you have flu symptoms that hang on longer than expected, you might have a very different problem. You might actually have Lyme disease (LD). Here’s how to recognize the difference and what you can do about it.
Would you like to get to the root cause of your symptoms? If so, reach out for a consultation with Dr. Ridinger today.
Lyme Disease vs. Flu: Symptoms
Lyme disease and the flu have many symptoms in common, as well as symptoms that are different from each other. While you can’t diagnose yourself, you do need to make the call about whether to seek medical care and whom to see. Watch for the following symptoms.
Symptoms in Common
One reason people don’t recognize the symptoms of LD is that so many of the symptoms seem like flu symptoms. If you’re suffering from any of the following symptoms, two possible culprits are Lyme disease and the flu.
- Stiff neck
- Muscle aches
- Joint aches
- Sore throat
- Swollen lymph nodes
Symptoms of Flu Only
Of course, the flu and Lyme disease are not exactly alike. The flu does have some symptoms that you probably won’t see with LD. If you have a runny nose, diarrhea, or a prominent cough, you might indeed have the flu. These are not typical signs of LD. Having them doesn’t rule out LD. After all, you could have a cold at the same time you have Lyme disease. However, these symptoms do make a stronger case for the flu.
Symptoms of Lyme Disease Only
Some symptoms of LD don’t occur with the flu. The most obvious two distinct Lyme disease symptoms are related to the tick bite itself. If you remember being bitten by a tick, you should seek help from a Lyme literate doctor. In addition, if you have a rash, especially if it has the appearance of a bullseye rash, then the tick-borne illness is the most likely cause.
On the other hand, according to an NIH article, 16% of patients with Lyme disease never saw a rash. So, don’t assume that if you have no rash or weren’t aware of a tick bite that it can’t be a tick-related infection. In that case, it’s best to look for other symptoms, especially if the flu continues longer than usual.
With LD, the flu-like symptoms also may be accompanied by other symptoms, such as:
- shortness of breath
- numbness or tingling in your hands and feet
- nerve pain
- heart palpitations
- facial paralysis
Lyme Disease vs. Flu: Duration
Here’s a critical question to ask yourself when trying to recognize the difference between flu and LD: How long have the flu-like symptoms lasted? The time factor is often the most telling sign that something is happening beyond the simple flu.
How Long Does the Flu Last?
Here’s the difference. People who are otherwise healthy and get the flu usually see complete relief of those flu symptoms within five to seven days. And if you’ve had the flu shot, they may go away even sooner.
How Long Does Lyme Disease Last?
However, if you have LD instead, the symptoms can last much longer. Lyme disease can have up to three different phases, and any one of them could have symptoms that resemble the flu.
Acute First Stage
The acute phase of LD typically lasts from one to four weeks. This is the phase when you might see flu-like symptoms. Watch for fever and chills, headache, fatigue, swollen lymph nodes, and muscle and joint pain.
Early Disseminated Second Stage
Some symptoms that are similar to the flu can continue longer when you get into the early disseminated infection or second stage of this disease. This stage usually lasts from one to four months. You may still be experiencing headaches at this stage, along with memory and concentration problems, pain, weakness, or numbness in your arms and legs, facial paralysis, swelling in the large joints, and heart palpitations.
Late Persistent Stage of Lyme Disease
Unfortunately, some people experience long-term medical problems if their disease continues. This stage can bring arthritis, facial paralysis, memory and mood problems, sleep issues, heart problems, and even difficulty speaking. In addition, even in late persistent LD, the excessively tired might seem to resemble a lingering case of the flu.
Getting a Diagnosis
Getting a diagnosis may take some time, especially if you go to a medical professional who is not trained in recognizing the hallmarks of this tick-borne disease. In fact, in the NIH study mentioned earlier in this article, the scientists acknowledge the likelihood that cases of Lyme disease could have been easily misdiagnosed as the flu.
So, how can anyone tell which illness is causing your symptoms? If you aren’t sure whether you have LD or the flu, the best thing you can do is see an expert. Although tests for this infection are not yet very accurate, a test might reveal the probability you have Lyme disease. Yet, even beyond that, a specialist with experience in making these diagnoses can assess all your symptoms and your general state of health to recognize what your illness is.
Treatments for Lyme Disease
For most people, the flu is something they just have to live through for a week or less, and then the symptoms subside. LD can be a much longer-term illness, but with the right treatments, you can get relief from your symptoms.
At Premier Health and Holistic Medicine, Dr. Robin Ridinger takes a holistic approach to LD treatment. She addresses the health of your entire body and the interactions between all your bodily systems. With an individualized treatment plan customized to each patient, the doctor offers help that might include:
- Diet and supplements
- Thyroid replacement therapy
- Adrenal support
- Bioidentical hormones
- Herbal therapies
- Antibiotics or antifungals if needed
While the flu can make you feel terrible for a few days, in most cases, it will go away fairly quickly. You can get on with your life and forget about it. However, Lyme disease can bring you symptoms that continue, change, or get worse if you don’t seek treatment.
Therefore, you need to seek further medical care if your flu-like symptoms continue for substantially longer than a week. The same is true if you are aware of having been bitten by a tick or have a red bullseye rash. In either case, a holistic medicine physician with a specialty in Lyme disease can find out the cause of your symptoms, whether you have the flu, LD, or some other illness.
Would you like to learn more about what holistic medicine can do for your symptoms? Call us today at Premier Health and Holistic Medicine for a consultation.