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How Long Does The Flu Last?

Updated on December 9, 2011

How Long Does The Flu Last

The flu can seem interminable if you are unfortunate enough to have been exposed to it. The duration and appearance of symptoms will vary from individual to individual and by which steps are taken to hasten the healing process (more on this later).

This article will outline the answers to the most common questions regarding the flu. How long will the flu last, what caused it and how to make sure you heal as rapidly and fully as possible. Before I begin however, for those who are reading up about the flu because they are concerned about their children, bear in mind that symptoms can linger longer and be more severe than with adults. Infants and toddlers under the age of two will not have yet developed fully functioning immune systems and therefore I would advise seeking medical attention as quickly as can be managed!

Flu And Children

Flu-like symptoms (listed to the left) can last longer in children than in adults, and kids are also usually contagious for longer periods of time. Isolation and adequate care are especially important in toddlers because they have weak immune systems.

If a fever remains unabated for longer than a few days, you should call a doctor in order to rule out other factors such as hyperthyroidism, lupus or immune deficiencies.

Your Typical Bout of Influenza

On average, you can expect the flu to last between two to four days, but the fatigue, malaise and other additional symptoms can linger for several weeks after the acute period of illness.

The most common symptoms of the influenza virus include:

  • Mild to severe headaches (can linger weeks).
  • A fever (usually fades after 2-4 days).
  • Muscle and joint aching (2 to 4 days).
  • Loss of appetite.
  • Irritability and restlessness.
  • General fatigue.
  • Sore throats (can linger).
  • A runny nose (can linger).
  • Dry and occasionally painful cough (if the throat is irritated by dehydration, inflamed or drainage from the nose). Can pick up after the fever subsides.

How Long Is Too Long?

If whole body symptoms such as the flu, or muscle pains, do not subside naturally after a few days, it may be time to visit a doctor to rule out complications. Additional signs that it's time to visit a doctor include:

  • Diarrhea or vomiting that last longer than a couple of days.
  • Evidence of blood in feces.
  • Severe gastrointestinal pain.
  • If you have changed or begun to take new medicine.
  • If you have a history of heart of lung illnesses.
  • If you are immune suppressed.
  • If urinating causes a burning sensation.
  • Neck stiffness and severe headache (emergency).
  • A fever goes higher than 103 degrees F or 39.44 degrees Centigrade.

Mild fevers should be treated with plenty of water and rest and should not be lowered synthetically because of the discomfort they cause. Remember that fevers are an integral and useful part of the healing process!

Some Healing Tips

Due to the fact that the flu is viral, antibiotic therapy will not work. The most important things you can do to ensure a swift and full recovery are to drink a lot of water to flush out toxins and to rehydrate (especially if you are vomiting or have a case of the runs), and to rest as often as possible to allow your body to heal itself.

There is not a lot of conclusive evidence to support ingesting exorbitant amounts of vitamins and minerals such as zinc, lysine, vitamin C or E, but many claim it helped them find their feet again in short order. Personally, I would only urge you to continue eating a balanced diet, even if your appetite has withered away entirely, it will help your body fight off the infection.

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    • jpcmc profile image

      JP Carlos 5 years ago from Quezon CIty, Phlippines

      The flue virus keeps on morphing. What's worse is that it get even more dangerous and resistant to medications. Preventive measures are better than curative.

    • vocalcoach profile image

      Audrey Hunt 6 years ago from Idyllwild Ca.

      The first question I ask myself when the nasty flu hits is "How Long Does The Flu Last? Hoping it will only be 24 hours - I breathe (if I can) a sigh of relief. But, alas, as you have pointed out, the first 24 hours is only the beginning. Urrrgh!

      We can put a man on the moon, but absolutely cannot cure the common cold or the flu. (Moan)

      Wonderful read and good solid information. I'm voting up!

    • Laura in Denver profile image

      Laura Deibel 6 years ago from Aurora

      Thank you. I thought this thing was hanging on, but it makes sense that the "lingering effects" were my problem. I had felt a "turning around".

      Plus, I am going to pitch the many water bottles around the house (used by both myself and boyfriend). Not willing to risk more days.

    • mathira profile image

      mathira 6 years ago from chennai

      Useful hub about the effects of flu,thooghun.

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