Most people don't give a second thought to the flu, until they have it. Since it's always helpful to have answers to health-related questions before you really need to know them, here is some important information about this common illness.
How long does the flu last?
Although every person's bout with the flu is different, symptoms typically last for 5 - 7 days. In some cases, especially if you had a flu shot, you'll be sick for a shorter period of time. And sometimes symptoms will last longer than a week or you'll continue to feel tired even after other symptoms go away.
What can you do to protect yourself from getting the flu?
The best way to prevent the flu is to get a flu shot every year. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that people ages 6 months and up get an annual flu shot, unless your doctor recommends otherwise. Each year the flu shot contains protection against the flu strains expected to be the most common. Additionally, the same things that protect you from COVID-19 protect you from the flu — stay away from people who are sick, wash your hands often and don't touch your face.
What are the most common flu symptoms?
Flu symptoms may include fever, sore throat, cough, fatigue, body aches, headache, runny or stuffy nose. You may also have vomiting or diarrhea, although this is more common in children than adults. Many of these symptoms are similar to COVID-19 symptoms. The only way to know for sure which virus you have is to get tested.
How can you treat the flu if you get it?
When you have the flu, the best thing to do is to stay home, get plenty of rest, drink lots of fluids and let the virus run its course. Over-the-counter pain relievers may help with fever and aches. Some people may benefit from antiviral drugs, which can lessen symptoms, shorten the amount of time you are sick and reduce the risk of flu complications, such as pneumonia. These drugs need to be given at the start of the illness and are especially helpful for people at a high risk of developing serious illness from the flu. Speak to your health care provider about treatment options and always seek immediate medical attention if symptoms become severe.
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Date Last Reviewed: November 2, 2021
Editorial Review: Andrea Cohen, Editorial Director, Baldwin Publishing, Inc. Contact Editor