Winter weather often brings thoughts of winter coughs and colds, but while the flu has gone easy on Arkansas so far, a different bug is going around the state with many bowled over by a stomach virus. 

The health department is watching closely to see how they all fit together this flu season.

“A lot of times people will call a stomach bug ‘stomach flu,’" said Dr. Jennifer Dillaha, Medical Director for Immunizations with the ADH. “It's not influenza. It's caused by a totally different virus.”

With kids back at school, the holidays wrapped up and wild weather swings ahead, there will be a multi-front fight against the flu this season, but there is some good news.

“Last year was the worst flu season we've had in probably 30 years,” Dr. Dillaha said. “This year it's milder, but it's on the upswing.”

That's cold comfort if you've already caught a cold, but this is the time of year when viruses that get our guts going nuts. All kinds of symptoms can get our brains confused over just what we have.

Keep this in mind: Have a fever? It’s probably flu.

A headache and soreness all over? Flu.

Are you tired, weak or even exhausted? Most likely flu.

Trouble from your throat up through your nose? Now that's probably just a cold.

If you're coughing it could be both.

But if you're a grown-up and you're throwing up, that's something else - and if that's combined with other symptoms, it could be serious.

“Vomiting with coughing, that's more a sign of pertussis, which is whooping cough.” Dr. Dillaha said. “If they have that they need to go to the doctor.”

Experts remind everyone that if you're pregnant, very young or very old or already at-risk, go to the doctor if you have the flu.

Others can treat at home, and we do mean at home. Get the fever down before you even think about going back to school or work. Even after two weeks of holiday break.

“People need to stay at home if they are sick so they are not spreading it to their co-workers or their classmates at school,” the doctor said, pointing out that many children at schools can’t take flu shots and an outbreak can be highly disruptive. “Even if a person actually gets the flu, they still need a flu shot because they don't want to turn around and get the flu again with one of the other strains.”

Dr. Dellaha says there's plenty of flu vaccine everywhere in the state, at county health centers, big drug stores and doctors’ offices.