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How Long Is the Flu Contagious?

June 30, 2022

How Long Is the Flu Contagious?


If you have ever had the flu virus, you know it can be a pretty harrowing experience. Sometimes the flu knocks you out for days at a time, leaving you to do nothing besides lay in bed and try to get some rest. 

Once you start feeling better, you’ll want to go back to work and see your friends and family. However, you have to be careful seeing people if you were recently sick. You want to make sure that you aren’t contagious anymore, so you don’t spread the flu in your office or friend group. 

But how long do you have to shut yourself away? Although it’s difficult to tell exactly when you aren’t contagious anymore, we have some information to help you figure it out. 

What Is the Flu?

Influenza, commonly referred to as “the flu,” is a highly contagious respiratory virus caused by influenza A, B, or C. These viruses infect the nose, throat, and lungs.

The first signs of the flu may look similar to having a cold you may have had in the past. It is common to experience a runny nose, sneezing, and a sore throat. 

However, although a cold can gradually increase over a few days, the flu and the accompanying symptoms usually come on abruptly. Similarly, flu symptoms can make you feel much more ill than those with a common cold. 

Also, even though influenza is commonly called the flu, it's not the same as the stomach flu, a virus that causes diarrhea and vomiting.

So, How Do Flu Viruses Spread?

Influenza is an airborne virus that travels from infected person to person through droplets in the air. These droplets are present when someone who is infected with the flu coughs, sneezes, or talks to you in a close radius. 

You can become infected by inhaling the droplets directly or touching an object with germs, like a doorknob, and transferring them to your eyes, nose, or mouth.

A unique quality of the flu is its ever-changing nature. New flu strains appear regularly, like the seasonal flu, making it harder for your body to build resistance. 

If you have had influenza in the past, there is a good chance that an entirely new strain is present, and your body does not have the correct antibodies to fight it. This is why it is common to receive a flu shot or flu vaccine every winter for flu season. 

Symptoms of the Flu

Since influenza is a respiratory infection, most symptoms can be complications in the nose, throat, or lungs. 

For most patients, they may suddenly experience these symptoms rather than gradually. You may wake up in the middle of the night or the morning feeling extremely sick, even if you felt fine the day before. 

Symptoms can range in severity from person to person, but some of the most common flu symptoms may include:

  • Cough
  • Stuffy or runny nose
  • Fever
  • Body aches
  • Sore throat 
  • Fatigue
  • Ear infections
  • Sinus infections

How Long Is The Flu Incubation Period?

As a viral infection, we know that we contract the flu by infected droplets entering our body via our eyes, ears, or mouth. However, you won’t become sick the instant the virus enters your body. 

The typical incubation period is the time between when you were exposed to the virus and the start of your symptoms. This can be anywhere between one to four days

Unfortunately, unlike other viruses, you can spread the flu up to 24 hours before your symptoms start. Although it can be difficult to prevent the spread when you don’t know you are infected, you must isolate yourself to prevent the spread. 

When Am I Most Contagious? 

Many experts believe that your viral load is the highest within the initial three to four days of experiencing symptoms. 

How Long Can I Spread The Flu?

Once your symptoms start, that is a definite sign that you may be contagious, and it will most likely last at least a few days. 

Many adults have a contagious period of up to ten days after the onset of symptoms. If you are trying to determine if you are no longer contagious, you need to pay attention to your coughing, sneezing, and fever. 

If you are still coughing and sneezing frequently, there is a good chance you can still spread the virus to your loved ones. The virus travels in the droplets that are expelled when you cough or sneeze, so you don’t want to be around people until these symptoms have completely subsided.

How Can I Quickly Get Over the Flu?

Although the flu can be pretty unbearable, there are a few things you can do to help relieve some of the flu symptoms or shorten the duration of your illness.

Home Remedies

Like recovering from many other illnesses, consuming liquids and getting enough rest should be prioritized. Try to sleep in a dark, quiet room at night and drink at least 64 ounces of fluids throughout the day. 

Over-the-counter pain and fever relievers, such as ibuprofen and acetaminophen, can help relieve your symptoms. Some people also find relief from a cold or warm compress or a humidifier to help relieve any pressure in their sinuses. 

However, if you are trying to assess if you are still sick or not, try to go without fever suppressors for at least 24 hours and see where your body is naturally. 

Holistic Remedies

If you have the flu, you may want to focus on hydration and give your body the right vitamins and nutrients. First, it is important to drink plenty of fluids, rest as much as possible, and slowly introduce easy-to-digest foods, such as bananas, rice, applesauce, and toast. 

Prescription Treatments 

There are four FDA-approved antiviral drugs recommended by CDC to treat flu (season depending). Oseltamivir phosphate (available as a generic version or under the trade name Tamiflu®), Xanamivir (trade name Relenza®), Peramivir (trade name Rapivab®), and Baloxavir marboxil (trade name Xofluza®). Our partner physicians can consider early antiviral treatment and write these prescription medications if medically indicated. 

I.V. Therapy

One of the most efficient ways to give your body what it needs is to receive an IV therapy treatment.

IV therapy can help relieve cold and flu symptoms for individuals for whom over-the-counter medications and prescribed antibiotics have not worked. It is also an ideal solution for people with an underlying medical condition that makes it difficult to swallow tablets. 


At The I.V. doc, we offer Flu Relief IV Therapy Treatment. This treatment will help fight nausea and give you a megadose of vitamin C.

Our Flu Relief IV Hydration treatment also includes:

  • Up to 1000ml Lactated Ringers or Normal Saline Solution
  • Anti-inflammatory
  • Anti-nausea
  • Megadose of Vitamin C
  • Multi-vitamin and electrolytes to help get you back on your feet and feeling better!

Schedule your IV Therapy Treatment with The I.V. doc today!



People at Higher Risk of Flu Complications | CDC, Center for Disease Control and Prevention

How long does the flu last? - Harvard Healthcare

« Back to Blog | The I.V. Doc Information on Dehydration, Jet Lag, Hangovers, Food Poisoning and Vitamin Drips

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