How Long Does the Flu Last?

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The flu is extremely common, especially during the fall and winter months. You may know about flu symptoms, like cough and fever, but may wonder how long the flu lasts.

In healthy children and adults, the flu usually lasts three to seven days. However, if you develop complications, you will feel sick longer. Coughs caused by the flu can also last up to two weeks.

People with the flu are usually contagious a day before they have symptoms, and they can pass the flu on to others for up to a week after symptoms appear. Children can spread the flu virus for even longer.

This article discusses everything you should know about the flu, including answers to common questions like “How long does the flu last in adults?” and “How long does infant flu last?” It also includes treatment, prevention, and when to call a healthcare provider.

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What is flu?

The flu, known as the flu, is a highly contagious and common upper respiratory infection caused by a virus. Influenza can occur at any time, but the virus is most widely circulated during the colder months. That means your risk of catching the flu in the United States is highest between December and March.


Symptoms of the flu usually come on quickly. The most common symptoms are:

  • Fever (although you can still get the flu if you don’t have a fever)
  • Chills
  • A cough
  • Sore throat
  • Stuffy or runny nose
  • Muscle and body aches, headaches
  • Tired and tired

Although some people associate the flu with digestive symptoms, these are not the main symptoms of the flu. Adults with the flu will occasionally experience vomiting and diarrhea, but those symptoms are most common in children and infants with the flu.

When to call your doctor

Flu symptoms can range from mild to severe. You should see your healthcare provider or seek medical attention right away if:

  • Your symptoms last for more than a week.
  • You feel better but then have a very or severe cough.
  • You have any difficulty breathing.
  • You have a fever of 105 degrees or higher that does not go down with medication.
  • You have chest pain.
  • You feel dizzy or confused.
  • You don’t pee.


Usually, you can diagnose yourself with the flu. Colds come quickly, body aches and fatigue. Those symptoms let you know that you have the flu, not a common cold.

Health care providers can confirm a diagnosis of influenza with laboratory tests. They will ask for a swab to pick your nose or throat and take a sample for the test results in just 15 minutes.

Unfortunately, rapid flu tests often give false negatives, meaning you have the flu but the test is negative. These tests are most accurate in infants and decrease in accuracy with age.

More specialized tests can identify the strain of flu you have, but these tests are used for research purposes only.

How long is the flu contagious?

You can pass the flu on to others starting about a day before your symptoms start. Asymptomatic people — people who have no symptoms and don’t know they’re infected — can also spread the flu.

Adults with the flu can transmit the virus for 5 to 7 days after they start having symptoms, although they are most contagious during the first 3 to 4 days after symptoms appear. Children and people with compromised immune systems can get through the flu even longer than a week.

If you are wondering if you are still contagious or if your child can return to school or day care, talk to your health care provider, school and care provider. your young.

How long does the flu last?

The flu usually lasts three to seven days without treatment. Using antiviral treatment during the first day of infection can shorten the duration. Unfortunately, cough and malaise (general feeling of being unwell) can last two weeks or longer, even in generally healthy people.


The biggest risk from the flu is developing complications. Complications are particularly common in:

  • Kids
  • Adults over 65 years old
  • Pregnant woman
  • People with underlying medical conditions including asthma, diabetes, and heart disease

Common complications from the flu are:

  • Respiratory conditions, including pharyngitis (a sore throat in children that leads to a dry cough), pneumonia (inflammation of the small air sacs in the lungs), and bronchiolitis (inflammation of the smallest airways in the lungs)
  • Dehydration (loss of water in the body that is not adequately replaced)

Rare and more serious complications may include:

  • Heart conditions, including myocarditis (inflammation of the heart muscle) and pericarditis (inflammation of the sac around the heart)
  • Nervous condition
  • Complications of underlying health conditions, including diabetes and lung disease
  • Organ failure and death

If you are in a high-risk group for complications, you should contact your healthcare provider if you believe you have the flu.

The treatment

Antiviral medications taken within the first one to two days of symptoms can help treat the flu. These medicines are recommended for people at high risk of complications, to make the flu less severe. The four antiviral drugs used to treat the flu are:

All of these medicines need to be started as soon as symptoms start, so contact your doctor if you suspect you have the flu.


The most effective way to prevent infection with the flu or a severe case of the flu is to get the flu shot. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends that nearly everyone 6 months of age and older get a flu shot every year.

Common hygiene and safety measures — like frequently washing hands and covering coughs and sneezes — also prevent the spread of flu. In 2020, the spread of flu is historically low, possibly because COVID-19 precautions also prevent flu outbreaks from spreading. It remains unclear how the pandemic will affect flu rates in future flu seasons.


For most healthy people, the flu goes away on its own within three to seven days. However, if you are over 65 or have underlying health conditions, contact your healthcare provider as soon as symptoms begin. Your health care provider may recommend prescription antiviral medications that can ease a cold or make it less severe.

A very good word

For most people, the flu will go away on its own. Unfortunately, you may have a cough or often not feel well for up to two weeks after getting the flu. If you believe you or your child has the flu, contact your health care provider, who can offer treatment options.

frequently asked Questions

  • What are the stages of the flu virus?

    Phases of the flu begin the day before you have symptoms, when you are contagious. On day one to day three you will have a fever, aches and pains and fatigue. Usually, by day 4 symptoms begin to improve.

    By day seven, you’ll likely be back to your normal activities, although you may not feel completely like yourself for two weeks.

  • What medicine can I take for the flu?

    There are four prescription antiviral drugs approved to treat the flu. Ask your doctor which type is right for you.

    Adults can manage flu symptoms with over-the-counter medicines such as pain relievers and cough suppressants. If your child has the flu, ask your healthcare provider about managing symptoms.

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