Influenza, or flu, is a contagious infection caused by a virus that primarily attacks the respiratory system. When the virus affects other parts of the body, you may have symptoms such as joint pain.
A joint is made up of bones, cartilage, and a fluid-filled sac known as a bursa that cushions the bones. When the flu virus attacks the bursa, it causes inflammation and pain that can be severe.
Joint pain caused by flu affects several joints, as opposed to a degenerative disease like osteoarthritis, which involves isolated joints.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommend over-the-counter (OTC) pain relievers such as acetaminophen, ibuprofen or naproxen for joint pain related to the flu. Your doctor may also prescribe an antiviral medication to reduce the severity and duration of the symptoms.
Because many OTC cough and cold remedies contain acetaminophen or ibuprofen, it’s important to read medication labels so you don’t take a double dose of these pain relievers.
People with joint pain caused by certain kinds of arthritis, such as rheumatoid arthritis and lupus, are more susceptible to flu-related complications. This is because their underlying disease, as well as the steroids used to treat it, weakens their immune systems.
Using aspirin for children or adolescents with the flu may cause a serious disease known as Reye’s syndrome.