It's not really flu flu. I've been achier and I've run higher fevers.

It's just that it's not going away.

Eight days now and I've forgotten what it's like to breathe through my nose.

Not sick enough to stay home.

Too sick to go to work.

You talk about flu. Now I remember once, when the kids were still home, my husband and I had the flu at the same time. (He always complains that when he gets sick, I get sick, implying some sort of dereliction, I guess.) Anyway, we were sick. Our combined temperatures were around 207 degrees. The kids left pitchers of orange juice outside the door. And a bottle of aspirin.

"They," he croaked, "won't be candidates for this year's Florence Nightingale Award."

Maybe not, but they didn't get the flu, either.

To begin with, of course, whatever it is you have is probably not really flu. After all, there are some 150 viruses floating around on endless clouds of coughs and sneezes and wheezes, not to mention kisses. The symptoms are virtually indistinguishable from one another.

Just like every sore throat isn't necessarily strep.

So it's not really flu. It's just flu-ish.

Never mind, the doctors still don't have much to offer in the way of a cure. (They do, of course, for genuine strep, but that's a whole 'nother story.)

Pick a doctor. Any doctor. They'll probably tell you:

Stop Smoking.

Go to ged and stay there for a while.

Drink a lot of liquids (but not alcohol).

Take two aspirin every four hours.

Catch up on the soaps and wait. It'll be better the next day. Or the next. Or the next.

If it isn't, you may have a complication. Doctors can treat complications.

So call them back.

"Snow days and sick days are the bottom line of women's liberation," sighed the mother-stepmother-wife-journalist.

Here's how it happened: "Three of the five kids were sick. The first day, I stayed home.

"The second day I said to him, 'It's your turn.You stay home.'

"Do you know what he said? This man who holds himself out as the first liberated man?

"He said, 'What do you mean it's my turn? I have decisions to make, deadlines to meet . . .'"

"Well, as a matter of fact," said Mrs. J. Carter Brown, wife of the National Gallery director, "I was just to the doctor this morning, with this throat . . . I just haven't been able to get rid of . . .

"But Carter's very strong. We just use a little Vitamin C, a little Tylenol and hope for the best . . ."

Over at city hall, Kwame Holman, mayoral press officer, said Mayor Barry is healthy "but Arthur Hoyte, the mayor's special assistant for health affairs, can barely speak, his coughing has been so bad . . ."

Over at the House Annex No. 1, a Hill staffer was saying, "Everybody's had something, but everybody has a different kind. There's the stomach kind, the sinus kind, the bronchial tube kind, the throat kind and the general malaise."

But then the general malaise is a chronic problem on the Hill.

It took two days for Pentagon spokesmen to establish that, well, they really couldn't tell how the flu was affecting absenteeism.

"I've run into a brick or stone or whatever kind of wall," sighed Major Erik Opsahl, "and, well, you see, there are different pay periods for Army civilians and Air Force and . . ."

"Why don't you try Walter Reed?" he suggested.

"No," said the people at Walter Reed, 'We can't give you any numbers. But we know it's there and it's Type B-Hong Kong. Have you had it yet?"

Never mind. Just don't tell the Rusians.

The soul, so the story goes, is left momentarily vulnerable to demonic possession when you sneeze. Did you know that? That's why we protect it with "Bless you," or "Gesundheit," or something.

Did you see "The Exorcist" the other night?

Janet's only been here a few weeks. She's naturally eager to do her best on her new job.

"You don't want to be sick right away," she sighs. "I guess it's a matter of what's sick. My boss said, "throwing up every five minutes is sick. Go home.'

"So there I was all along.

"What a phone bill I'm going to have. I had to call home to Toledo. after all, you can't get well without somebody saying, 'there, there.'"

GOOD FOR THE CRANKIES: A box of Godiva chocolates. Reasonable FACSIMILE (and not as fattening): The Talbot's spring catalogue.

"If just one molecule is changed" the flu shots don't work, complained one Bethesda pediatrician.

And "by the time the the vaccine is prepared, approved, manufactured and distributed," the virus usually has changed.

But, he said, "I think what we're seeing is a cut worse than the run-of-the-mill seasonal ailments . . . This may be a major-league virus . . . I know we're out here in the boonies where there isn't much research but . . ."

The Carter family, said Dr. William Lukash, the presidential physician, has had flu shots, "which gives them the 80-percent or so protection."

"I don't know what else you can do for protection," he said.

"For care, of course . . . fluids . . . aspirin . . ."

Which do you like better, Puffs or Kleenix? Patient volume at Children's Hospital has been "50 percent over our usual patient volume the past few days," said Dr. George Cohen, acting director of the outpatient clinic. Worse than usual? "Some years you have more, some less," he said. "But it's always miserable for the kids who have it."

Howard University's hospital emergency room is also seeing more sick children than usual. "Quite a few," said a spokesman.

Said Dr. Cohen: "If you could say something that would turn if off, that would be nice . . ."

Who moves to the guest room when one of a couple gets sick? A woman complained that "I coughed and my husband told me to move."

One opinion has it that the well person should move and leave the sick one the comforts of familiar surroundings.

On the other hand, it is a strong likelihood that today's well one will catch it anyway, so why bother.

The gastro-intestinal thing that's going around may not be flu, but it's taking its toll.

Snarled one victim: "Most people have to go to Mexico to get this." CAPTION: Illustration, "The following called in sick . . .", Drawing by Richter; Copyright (c) 1979 The New Yorker Magazine, Inc.