Headache and Muscle Ache: Signs and symptoms

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Recognising headaches and muscle aches due to the flu

Headaches and muscle aches are often reported as symptoms of infection with a flu virus, and can sometimes be severe.1,2 It helps to be able to identify these symptoms of the flu, in order to recommend appropriate therapies.

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Signs and symptoms

A headache as result of a viral flu infection can be severe and tends to be located around the frontal area of the head, including behind the eyes. Ocular symptoms may also accompany a flu headache, including photophobia, red eyes, epiphora, and a burning sensation of the eyes.3

Muscle aches that present in the flu can range from mild to severe. Such pains tend to present in the back, arms, and legs.3

  • Questions to ask your patient

    Clinician and patient

    Ask your patient:4

    • When did the headaches and/or muscle aches start?
    • Where is the pain located?
    • What other symptoms accompany the headaches/muscle aches?
    • How severe is the pain?
    • What factors, if any, exacerbate the headaches/muscle aches?
  • When to refer your patient for further care

    Female clinician

    As other serious conditions may mimic flu symptoms, the patient should be referred to a physician for further evaluation if experiencing:

    • Severe headache, high fever, neck pain or stiffness, photophobia, or a purpura rash5
    • Severe headache with sudden onset
    • Headache occurring after a head trauma
    • Headache exacerbated by bending over or the Valsalva manoeuvre6

Understanding headaches and muscle aches

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Find out about the causes of headaches and muscle aches.


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Learn how headaches and muscle aches should be managed.


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Headaches and Muscle Aches

Learn how headaches and muscle aches should be managed.


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Patient care resources

Access a leaflet for your patients, which can help them understand the causes of headaches and muscle aches, and how best to treat them.


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