Feverish woman with Lyme disease

Is It Lyme Disease or the Flu?

During the winter season, many people get sick with colds or the flu. However, if your flu symptoms aren’t going away, then it could possibly be Lyme disease. Although you can’t self-diagnose, you can recognize the symptoms. Here’s how to recognize it and what you can do. 

Common Lyme Disease and Flu Symptoms

Many symptoms overlap and may make it harder to identify if you have the flu or Lyme disease. Some common symptoms that both share are:     

  • Chills
    Fever
  • Achiness
  • Sweats
  • Fatigue
  • Headache
  • Sore throat

Flu Only Symptoms

Other common flu symptoms include a runny nose, diarrhea and coughing. Although these are not common symptoms of Lyme disease, it can’t be ruled out.

Lyme Disease Only Symptoms

The easiest way to know if you have Lyme disease  is if you know that you’ve been bitten by a tick. The area will typically look like a bullseye rash. However, an NIH article noted that 16% of LD patients never saw a rash. 

With Lyme disease, the flu-like symptoms could also be accompanied by: 

  • Dizziness
  • Shortness of breath
  • Numbness or tingling in your hands and feet
  • Nerve pain
  • Heart palpitations
  • Facial paralysis

Duration of Flu and Lyme Disease

The duration of the symptoms is a way to tell the difference. Flu symptoms usually last five to seven days. However, Lyme disease symptoms can last much longer since the disease can have up to three stages. 

  • Acute First Stage: The symptoms usually last one to four weeks, with flu-like symptoms such as fever and chills, headaches, fatigue and muscle and joint pains.
  • Early Disseminated Second Stage: This stage can last anywhere from one to four months, with symptoms like headaches, pain, weakness, heart palpitations and numbness in your arms and legs.
  • Late Persistent Stage of Lyme Disease: This stage includes long term medical problems, such as arthritis, facial paralysis, memory and mood problems, sleep issues and even difficulty speaking. 

Diagnosis and Treatment

Although the flu can make you feel horrible, it goes away relatively quickly. However, if it is Lyme disease the symptoms may persist if you don’t seek treatment. 

Going to a Lyme disease specialist is the best way to diagnose the illness. Once they can confirm if it is Lyme disease, they may take different approaches to treatment, such as antibiotics, detoxification, thyroid replacement therapy, or herbal therapies. 

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