Why Everything Hurts When You Have the Flu (2023)

Body aches are one of the most common symptoms of the flu (influenza). Your muscles may feel so sore and achy that it hurts to move. Body aches from the flu can leave you feeling weak, fatigued, and even exhausted.

While body aches are a literal pain, there are some things you can do to manage them. This article will go over why the flu causes body aches as well as provide some tips for treating body aches at home when you have the flu.

What Are the First Signs of the Flu?

Why Does the Flu Cause Body Aches?

Body aches are common flu symptoms and actually serve a very important purpose.

The flu is a respiratory infection caused by a virus. When you catch the flu, natural chemicals are released into your body to help it fight the infection.

Muscle aches and pain happen because of this immune response.The pain isn't fun to deal with but it actually means that your body is doing what it's supposed to do to fight off the flu virus.

It's not specific to the flu, but dehydration can also contribute to body aches. If you're feeling sick with flu symptoms, you may not be drinking as much fluid as you need.

Proper hydration is important when you're sick, but it's also necessary when you're feeling well—your body needs water to prevent muscle cramping and soreness.

Are Body Aches a Common Cold Symptom?

What Makes You More Likely to Get Body Aches From the Flu?

Some people get body aches and pains every time they get the flu but other people seldom, if ever, do.

Older adults and people with chronic health conditions such as diabetes and autoimmune diseases tend to have more aches when they have the flu because their bodies have a harder time fighting the infection.

People who live in colder climates may get more body aches with the flu than people who live in warm regions, partly because colder temperatures can make the muscles tighten up.

Is It the Flu?

If you have body aches along with other symptoms like a cough, sore throat, runny or stuffy nose, headaches, and fatigue, you may have the flu. You may also have a fever with the flu.

Less commonly, people have flu symptoms like vomiting or diarrhea.

How Long Will the Flu Last?

How Can You Treat Body Aches From the Flu?

The flu—and the aches it causes—usually goes away in a few days and rarely lasts more than two weeks. In the meantime, there are things you can do to feel better while your body heals.

Take a Pain Reliever

Over-the-counter (OTC) pain relievers may help with body aches from the flu. Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medications (NSAIDs) are more likely to help with aches than other pain relievers, like Tylenol (acetaminophen). Examples of NSAIDs you can get OTC are Motrin or Advil (ibuprofen), aspirin, and Aleve (naproxen).

If you can't take NSAID pain relievers because you have certain health conditions, ask your provider which pain reliever option would be best for you.

Body Aches in Kids With the Flu

Aspirin should not be given to children under age 18, especially if they have the flu. Aspirin is linked to Reye's syndrome, which can attack a child's liver and lungs.

Choosing the Best OTC Medicine for Your Pain

Stay Hydrated

When you're sick with the flu or fever, your body tends to lose more fluids through excess sweating, and, in some cases, vomiting or diarrhea. Drinking lots of clear liquids will put back those lost fluids and help your body fight the infection.

Can Electrolyte Imbalances Make Your Muscles Hurt?

Get Plenty of Rest

Try water, broth, tea, electrolyte drinks, and sports drinks. Soup is a good choice if you're having trouble digesting solid food.

Getting enough sleep is also important, as sleep plays a big role in regulating the immune functions needed for healing and reducing inflammation in the body.

Body aches from the flu may make it harder to get comfortable in bed, but try your best to relax and rest. Sleeping will give your body time to fight the infection.

Why Your Body Needs Sleep

Apply Heat or Take a Warm Bath

A warm bath or shower can loosen tight, painful muscles and relieve body aches. If you have a fever, keep the water lukewarm to avoid raising your temperature more. Fevers can also cause dizziness and general weakness, so a bath is a safer option than a shower.

Children with a fever or cold symptoms should be monitored when taking a shower or bath to avoid injury.

Heating pads and heated blankets may relieve some body aches from the flu. Just be careful not to use excessive heat to avoid burns. Consider setting a timer if there's a chance you might fall asleep with a heating pad.

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Massage therapy can help with body aches from the flu and may indirectly help you recover faster because it can reduce the levels of cortisol in your body. The stress hormone weakens your immunity by impairing certain infection-fighting white blood cells.

That said, professional massage therapists are not likely to treat you while you are sick. Instead, ask a partner, family member, or friend to massage your muscles (and offer them a face mask to protect them from your germs).

Massaging your aching body with topical relief creams may improve blood flow and relieve the pain.

How Massage Therapy Works

Use a Vaporizer or Humidifier

Making your home environment a healing space can help you get better from the flu. While the air in your home might not specifically cause body aches, it can affect your body's healing and make you uncomfortable.

Dry air can make flu symptoms worse. When a flu virus enters your respiratory tract, it gets caught in mucus, which helps prevent the infection from spreading. However, if the air is cold and dry, mucus dries up in your airways and makes it harder for your body to fight the virus.

Maintaining a relative humidity in your home between 40% and 60% can reduce the spread of the virus and relieve respiratory symptoms, such as cough and nasal congestion.

You may want to invest in a cool-mist humidifier or vaporizer. Having a comfortable level of humidity in your house can also help fast-track your healing by reducing pain and inflammation in your throat as well as helping you sleep better.

How to Choose a Humidifier

When to See a Healthcare Provider

Severe body aches from the flu can be a sign that it's time to talk to your healthcare provider. Call your provider if:

  • The aches do not start getting better within three days
  • There is poor circulation in the area that hurts (for example, in your legs)
  • You notice signs of infection, such as redness or swelling, around a muscle

Some people who get the flu get very sick and may even have complications. You should go to the ER or call 911 if:

  • You are vomiting and also have a stiff neck and fever
  • You have trouble breathing
  • You have muscle weakness or cannot move part of your body

Children may get leg cramps with the flu. The cramps can be so painful that walking is difficult and they may even limp. If your child is having calf pain or refuses to walk, call your pediatrician.

Is It the Flu or Pneumonia?

The flu can be confused with other respiratory infections and conditions, such as pneumonia. Chest pain and shortness of breath are not usually part of having the flu. If you have these symptoms, call your provider.

Other warning signs of pneumonia to watch for include:

  • A deep or raspy cough
  • Chest pain
  • Chills
  • Fatigue
  • Fever
  • Loss of appetite
  • Shortness of breath

Can You Die From Pneumonia?


Body aches are one of the most common symptoms of the flu, but they are actually a sign that your body is doing its job by fighting off the virus.

Do your best to stay hydrated and get plenty of rest while your body heals. Taking OTC pain relievers, relaxing in a warm bath, or having someone massage your muscles can help manage body aches.

Body aches from the flu usually will get better in a few days; however, if you're not feeling better, you notice signs of infection (like redness) in your muscles, or you're in so much pain you can't move, call your provider right away.

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Frequently Asked Questions

  • How long does it take to get over flu symptoms?

    It can take from three to seven days to recover from most symptoms of the flu, but the fatigue can last for several weeks.

    Older adults, infants, pregnant people, and people with chronic medical conditions may recover more slowly. They are also at risk for complications and additional health problems from the flue.

  • What is the best medicine for body aches?

    Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medications (NSAIDs) may help reduce body aches. A few of these include Advil (ibuprofen), aspirin, and Aleve (naproxen).

    Follow the instructions on the product packaging. If you aren't able to take any of these pain relievers, Tylenol (acetaminophen) is another option.

  • Does COVID-19 cause body aches?

    COVID-19 can cause body aches. Usually, body aches from COVID come on after the cough and fever.

What Are the Symptoms of COVID?

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