Find Out How Long The Flu Lasts

The Flu- How Long Does It Last?

Muscle aches, runny nose, chills, fever, and cough; ahhh do I have the flu?

The flu is a respiratory infection that is caused by the influenza virus which affects your nose, throat, and lungs and causes similar symptoms to the common cold.

Getting the flu can be quite irritating, especially for performing your daily activities like sleeping, cooking, and working.

The potential symptoms of the flu increase over time with vomiting, fatigue, diarrhea, headaches, or sore throat.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the flu season lasts from fall to winter and typically peaks in February and December. 

The flu season for this year is already starting to manifest and its proportion is starting to increase where according to the CDC report, among 1,801 deaths from pneumonia, influenza, and COVID-19, 792 cases of death were due to the underlying condition of COVID-19, and 99 listed as influenza.

Also according to the CDC report, there have been at least 8.7 million illnesses, 78,000 hospitalizations, and 4,500 flu-related deaths so far this season.

There is no time to be ill with the way the world is moving now and so it is important to know the signs and symptoms of the flu so you can seek medical attention as soon as possible to avoid spreading the illness to others or for it getting worse.

If you contract the virus, one of your biggest concerns would be to know how long the flu lasts and what you can do to prevent yourself from getting ill in the first place.

How do you know if you have the flu?

How do you know if you have the flu?

Symptoms of the flu often appear quickly, and 1 to 7 days after coming into contact with the virus, you will start to feel sick.

The majority of the time, symptoms start to show up two to three days later.

Fever between 102°F (39°C) and 106°F (41°C) is the primary symptom. In comparison to a child, an adult frequently has a lower fever.

If you are unsure about whether you have the flu or not, here are some of the initial symptoms of the flu for you to understand your symptoms:

  • Sudden high fever
  • Muscle aches
  • Headaches
  • Sore throat
  • Chills
  • Fatigue
  • Nasal congestion
  • Runny nose
  • Flushed face
  • Nausea
  • Dry cough

On days 2 through 4, the soreness and pains start to subside, as does the fever. 

When the flu becomes severe, then the new symptoms include

  • Shortness of breath
  • Cardiac problems
  • Pneumonia
  • Inflammation of the brain

The majority of symptoms subside after 4 to 7 days where the cough and fatigue linger on for several weeks and the fever returns sometimes.

You will need to undergo tests for an official diagnosis if you truly want to know if you are sick with the flu.

There are many different tests similar to the techniques used for SARS-CoV2 such as antigen detection or rapid PCR that can be carried out in a clinical setting such as in the doctor’s office, or ER.

Many doctors, however, diagnose influenza based only on a patient’s symptoms after doing a SARS-CoV2 test, especially during the flu season.

How does the flu spread?

How does the flu spread?

The first 2 to 4 days after the onset of symptoms are the most contagious for colds but they can spread for a few weeks further. 

You won’t know that you are sick when you first get the virus as your symptoms will show up 2 to 3 days after infection.

Sometimes you could pass the disease to others but not show any symptoms.

The virus can be spread through the air droplets where they land in your nose or mouth or be inhaled into the lungs.

You can spread the flu by

  • Sneezing
  • Coughing
  • Touching
  • Talking

How long do the flu symptoms last?

How long do the flu symptoms last?

The flu usually lasts 3 to 7 days for adults and teenagers whereas, in children, symptoms of the flu, like cough and fatigue linger up to 2 weeks.

While your cough and fatigue could last for around two weeks if you are generally healthy, the flu will just last a few days for you.

Here is the day-by-day timeline of what to expect when you have the flu.

Stages of the Flu:

Day 0: This is the time you are contagious with the flu but won’t know about it as you will be able to perform your day-to-day activities which you contracted within the last 48 hours.  

Days 1-3: You will start feeling sick from day 1 and will continue to feel sick for the next 3 days where the symptoms of the flu will all hit you at the same time instead of coming in gradually like the common cold. 

Some of the symptoms to look out for include:

  • Weakness
  • Headache
  • Dry cough
  • Sore throat
  • Muscle pain

In this stage, you will feel exhausted quickly while doing your daily activities and will begin to run a high fever.

Day 4: You will notice your body temperature lowering and that your muscles are less painful but, you will still have a cough and sore throat.

You will still feel exhausted and have chest discomfort which will make you want to stay in bed all day.

Day 5: This is the time you will start to notice the end of the flu.

If you feel like your fever is getting worse then call your doctor for further guidance.

The doctor can rule out whether there are any infections that come up like pneumonia or bronchitis which require antibiotics. 

Day 6 and more: At this stage, you could still feel tired and have a cough for the next 2 weeks but your symptoms should start disappearing.

It is normal to have lingering symptoms but you will begin to sense that this illness is passing by.

The flu is experienced differently by everyone.

For example, a stuffy nose, chills, sweating, nausea, and other symptoms will be present in others while some will have cough and chest discomfort.

It is important that you stay hydrated and rest to reduce your symptoms.

How long are you contagious when you have the flu?

How long are you contagious when you have the flu?

You will be contagious even before you show symptoms of the flu.

Around 3-4 days into the illness, you are the most contagious that can continue for about a week after symptoms appear.

Even more than a week after exhibiting symptoms, infants and elderly individuals who have weakened immune systems are still infectious. 

The virus spreads quickly during these times when you’re contagious but not appearing ill.

Staying at home and avoiding contact with people when you are ill is the most effective way to stop the spread of the flu. 

Even at the beginning, when you’re only mildly ill but worry you could be developing a sickness, stay at home during that period and get as much rest as you can.

Who is at risk for getting the flu?

Serious flu complications can affect anybody at any age. 

Those who are most at risk are

  • Pregnant women for more than 3 months
  • People over the age of 65
  • Living in a healthcare facility for long-term
  • Children younger than 2 years old
  • Anyone with other health conditions like chronic heart disease, kidney disease, diabetes, lung disease or a weakened immune system

What is the difference between the Flu and COVID-19?

What is the difference between the flu and covid-19?

With the COVID-19 pandemic still around the corner, it is important to be able to tell the difference between the flu and COVID-19.

1. Flu can be mild or severe1. More contagious and spreads more quickly
2. Symptoms show up 1-4 days after exposure2. Symptoms appear 2-14 days after exposure
3. Can be treated with antiviral drugs3. Does not have treatment but rather vaccinations for protection against the disease

What you should not do if you have the flu?

What you should not do if you have the flu?

It is important to be cautious if you have the flu.

Here are some pointers about what you should not do if you have the flu.

  • Do not delay getting your flu shot especially if you are pregnant to protect your baby from the flu after birth
  • Do not overwork your body when you have the flu, rather rest and allow yourself to heal
  • Do not take antibiotics as it can lead to bacterial resistance and not only does it not work against the flu but it can have bad side effects that cause you to have diarrhea, upset stomach and yeast infections
  • Do not dose yourself with vitamin C to make the flu go away faster as the excess of the water-soluble vitamin goes out in the urine
  • Do not medicate yourself with a hot toddy as it not only causes dehydration but also poor even though alcohol is a cough suppressant

When should you see a doctor?

When should you see the doctor

The flu with moderate symptoms was recovered at home in prior years without much intervention.

But, with the COVID-19 pandemic, it is important to distinguish between the flu and COVID-19 from a public health perspective since the treatment options vary.

If you are experiencing flu-like symptoms then you should consult your doctor to discuss whether you need to undergo any diagnostic testing for the flu or COVID-19.

Your doctor can also help guide you about how long you need to rest before going back to school or work.

If your symptoms do not improve after 7 days or have new symptoms like ear pain then it is important for you to see a doctor.

You should seek emergency medical treatment if you have the following:

  • Muscle pain that is unbearable
  • Breathing problems or wheezing noise when breathing
  • Seizures, loss of consciousness and confusion
  • Child develops fever above 104°F
  • Symptoms of existing medical conditions getting worse
  • Dizziness or headache that does not go away after a few hours
  • Rare urination 

How to recover from the flu quickly?

How to recover from the flu quickly

Your immune system needs to be supported to heal from any kind of illness.

To support your immune system, you will need to eat natural plant-based food.

Some natural remedies to recover from the flu include

  • Hydration: Drinking plenty of water helps thin mucus and prevents dehydration symptoms.
  • Rest: Sleeping and relaxing is important to recover from the flu.
  • Wash your hands: Washing your hands helps prevent the spread of infection.
  • Try a humidifier: A humidifier will help loosen your mucus and breathe easier.

When you have the flu, there are several over-the-counter medications that help ease your symptoms, such as fever-reducing drugs. 

Medications for the flu include

  • Acetaminophen (Tylenol) and ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin) both of which help lower your fever
  • Cough drops or throat sprays will help ease your sore throat
  • An antiviral drug will help shorten the duration of the flu and avoid complications 

You can discuss the risks and benefits with a doctor before taking any anti-flu drug. 

Because some people encounter adverse effects when using anti-flu medications, it is crucial to let the doctor know about any past health issues or drug responses.

How can you protect yourself from the flu?

How can you protect yourself from the flu

Getting the flu shot is the most effective method of preventing the flu.

To protect yourself from the flu, you will need to

  • Wear a mask when leaving your room
  • Avoid sharing utensils, food, cups, or bottles
  • over your mouth with a tissue or elbow if you cough or sneeze
  • Use hand sanitizer when outside and avoid touching your face, eyes, nose, and mouth
  • Stay in your room or home at least 24 hours after your fever has reduced

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), everyone aged 6 months or older should get the influenza shot.

During a single flu season, children aged 6 months to 8 years require 2 flu shots and 1 shot for everyone else.

The CDC advises using both the inactivated influenza vaccine (IIV) and the recombinant influenza vaccine throughout the 2019–2020 flu season (RIV). 

Healthy, non-pregnant individuals 2 to 49 years old can get the LAIV (live attenuated influenza vaccination) nasal spray flu vaccine.

Take away

Symptoms of the flu last between 3 and 7 days for most people but cough and fatigue can linger on after the infection is gone.

If the symptoms develop and complications occur then you will be ill for longer.

With rest, hydration, and medical care, you will recover from serious flu complications.

By receiving a flu shot each year and following recommended preventative steps, you can lower your chance of contracting the illness.

Make sure to consult with your doctor when symptoms become severe and if you have existing medical condiytions for further medical guidance.


Atqia Bilkis

Atqia Bilkis is a content writer, educator and editor whose work comes from passion. As a fighter in life, she believes knowledge is the key to enlightenment and success in life. She enjoys writing about health sciences and technology and has written articles and guides on sports, animals and more.

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