According to the CDC, the flu can really wreak havoc on you, knocking you off our feet and straight into bed. The best way to prevent it is by getting the flu vaccine each year. But what if you do happen to catch it? How long does the flu last? What are the signs and flu symptoms you can expect? Get all your answers right here.
What is influenza, aka the flu?
Influenza, commonly known as the flu, is a contagious respiratory illness caused by viruses that infect the nose, throat, and lungs. It can range from mild to severe. When ill with the flu, people often feel some (or even all) of these flu symptoms:
- Fever or feeling feverish/chills (not everyone with the flu actually gets a fever)
- Sore throat
- Runny or stuffy nose
- Muscle or body aches
How does it spread?
Experts believe that influenza usually spreads through droplets that are created when those with the flu cough, sneeze, or talk—specifically, when these droplets land in the mouths or noses of people who are nearby. Sometimes (though, less often) a person can even catch the flu by touching a surface or object that has the flu virus on it, and then afterward touching their own mouth, eyes, or nose.
How long does the flu last?
As harsh as the flu can be, the good news is that most people feel much better within one to two weeks. Most healthy adults become contagious the day before symptoms develop (which makes it trickier to prevent from spreading). They remain infectious for up to five to seven days after symptoms appear. However, children and those with weakened immune systems may be contagious for an even longer period.
How can I get some relief?
Here are a few things you can do to feel better while convalescing:
- Get plenty of rest—your immune system needs a lot of sleep to recover.
- Treat your cough so you can rest easier—there are some great cough remedies you can try.
- Drink plenty of fluids.
- Take an over-the-counter medication. Although Vicks products cannot cure the flu, they can help you feel better. If you’re suffering from a sore throat, runny nose, minor aches and pains, headache, fever, or cough, try NyQuil and DayQuil to get some much-needed flu symptom relief both day and night. And for your worst cold and flu symptoms, there’s maximum strength NyQuil and DayQuil SEVERE.
However, you should consult your doctor if you are experiencing any of the below.
- If your temperature reaches 103° F or higher.
- If you’ve had a fever for more than three days.
- If your fever is accompanied by a severe headache, severe throat swelling, an unusual skin rash, mental confusion, persistent vomiting, or any other out-of-the ordinary symptoms.
Also, talk to your doctor before giving your child nonprescription cold medicines since some medicines contain ingredients that are not recommended for children. Always read drug labels carefully before administering medications.