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Is it just FLU or STD?

The flu is a common medical condition
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The flu is a common medical condition that invariably affects all of us at some point in our lives. Although one can develop rare complications from flu viruses, most recover uneventfully. Despite the spontaneous recovery over time, most of us experience downtime of feeling under the weather during the acute phase of the illness. Commonly, one experiences symptoms such as fever, lethargy, body aches, headache, sore throat, cough, or even swollen lymph nodes.

flu
We have all been affected by the flu at some point in our lives.

It is imperative to note that although STDs can present with flu-like illnesses and symptoms, they are usually not related to the common flu.  

In this article, we widen our differentials of such common symptoms. Are flu-like symptoms just the simple flu, or is it a warning sign of something more sinister brewing in the body system – such as a sexually transmitted disease (STD)? Read on to understand the similarities of flu symptoms in relation to STDs and ways to differentiate the two.

What flu-like symptoms may a person experience if they have STDs?

The flu-like symptoms that are associated with underlying STDs tend to be non-specific, such as fever, poor energy level, sore throat, nausea, vomiting, diarrhoea, headache, and the presence of lymph nodes. As these symptoms are commonly associated with various conditions, including flu or other viral illnesses, it can be tricky for both the patient and physician to unmask the underlying STDs.

What are the common STDs that can present with flu-like symptoms?

STDs that can present with flu-like symptoms include HIV, syphilis, herpes simplex virus, hepatitis A, B, and C infections

What should I do if I am worried about possible STD infections when I am experiencing flu symptoms?

You should inform your healthcare provider of your concern about exposure to STD infection. Your doctor may explore your sexual history to assess the risk and follow up with a medical checkup in the form of a physical examination, blood tests, urine and swab tests.

Caption: Make an appointment to speak to your doctor if you are concerned about an STD infection.

Alt text: patient-doctor confidentiality

When should I see a doctor if I am concerned about STD infections?

If you think you may have been exposed to STDs, regardless of whether there is the presence of flu symptoms, you are encouraged to reach out to your doctor. Your physician can assess your risk of exposure and discuss with you appropriate STD screening tests if required.

Role of STD screening in a person with flu symptoms

As flu symptoms can be nonspecific and most viral illnesses are diagnosed clinically unless there are overt STD symptoms, such as abnormal genital symptoms in the form of abnormal urinary symptoms, vaginal discharge (in females), and rashes over the genitals, there is no way to safely and accurately rule out STD.

Furthermore, STDs can infect a person insidiously – meaning one can be asymptomatic. The longer a person has an undiagnosed and untreated STD, the higher the risk a person may develop health complications from STD, and the person may also infect their surrounding loved ones as well.

STD screening allows a person to undergo laboratory testing to confirm or safely rule out STDs. Most STD tests are made up of rapid prick tests, blood tests, swab tests, and urine tests that are generally non-invasive, and there is minimal discomfort or pain during screening tests. There are effective medications to manage most STDs; hence, if you are concerned about being infected with STDs, do reach out to your doctor without further hesitation.

STD test singapore
STD testing can be conducted to rule out the presence of any sexually transmitted diseases.

If my flu symptoms recover, does that mean my underlying STD has resolved?

Unfortunately, STDs do not resolve or cure on their own. STDs require the right medication and the right dose of medication to treat the condition. Hence, even if the flu symptoms resolve over time if a person has an underlying undiagnosed STDs, the STDs remain in the body system and health complications from STDs may develop over time. Only by screening and early detection is one able to receive the appropriate STD treatment without further delay.

Which STD shows flu symptoms immediately?

Flu-like symptoms can occur as early as 1-2 days after intercourse in certain STDs, such as herpes viral infection. One may also experience subtle, seemingly benign flu symptoms during the HIV infective (seroconversion phase) within 1-2 weeks after exposure to STD. Please do not disregard your flu symptoms if you have concerns about STD exposure, and reach out to your healthcare provider for evaluation of the risk of exposure.

Shady symptoms of flu may be a warning sign of STD…

  • STDs can be subtle, mimicry to flu or even insidious generally.
  • Don’t take your chance with your flu symptoms.
  • If you have a potential exposure risk to STD, don’t delay further; reach out to your healthcare provider and get screened and treated early.

References

  1. Dosekun O, Kober C, Richardson D, Parkhouse A, Fisher M. It's not all swine flu...are we missing opportunities to diagnose primary HIV infection in patients with flu symptoms? Int J STD AIDS. 2010 Feb;21(2):145-6.
  2. Hierholzer JC, Stewart JA, Himmelwright JP, Everett RM. Herpes type 2 infection with unusual generalised manifestations and delayed diagnosis in an adult male. J Infect. 1983 Mar;6(2):187-92.
  3. Mohseni M, Sung S, Takov V. Chlamydia. [Updated 2023 Aug 8]. In: StatPearls [Internet]. Treasure Island (FL): StatPearls Publishing; 2024 Jan-. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK537286/
  4. Springer C, Salen P. Gonorrhea. [Updated 2023 Apr 17]. In: StatPearls [Internet]. Treasure Island (FL): StatPearls Publishing; 2024 Jan-. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK558903/
  5. Tumwesigye E. Telling signs and symptoms. Afr Women Health. 1994 Jul-Sep;2(3):31-7. PMID: 12318960.
  6. Freeman AM, Matto P. Adenopathy. [Updated 2023 Feb 20]. In: StatPearls [Internet]. Treasure Island (FL): StatPearls Publishing; 2024 Jan-. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK513250/
  7. Mehta P, Reddivari AKR. Hepatitis. [Updated 2022 Oct 24]. In: StatPearls [Internet]. Treasure Island (FL): StatPearls Publishing; 2024 Jan-. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK554549/

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