Everybody, it seems, will get the flu, or influenza, sooner or later. Even though most cases of the flu are mere convenience, influenza can develop into a life-threatening illness. The Great Influenza or Spanish epidemic of 1918 may have killed between 20 and 40 million people around the world. That is why it is important to distinguish between colds and flu; the worst complications of the flu, such as pneumonia and brain damage, can usually be prevented by proper medical treatment. Many people also want to know how long does flu last. Here's the answer.

Make Sure What You Are Having Is Flu/Influenza

The flu is a viral infection that affects the respiratory system. Colds are usually less severe than flu, and they usually do not last more than a few days. An infection that lasts more than a few days can be the flu or a bacterial infection such as bronchitis, which, unlike a virus, can be treated with antibiotics.

Despite what some people think, there is no one influenza virus; instead, there are many different strains of influenza around. The virus is constantly mutating, so new strains appear every year.

The usual way the flu spreads is from person to person. It generally takes between one and four days to develop symptoms after exposure to the virus.

The normal influenza symptoms are fever, shivering, muscle aches, dizziness, a headache, a dry cough, a sore throat and a dry cough. Many also become fatigued, and some persons develop nausea or an upset stomach. Serious complications, including bacterial infections, can develop into pneumonia.

How Long Does Flu Last?

The average case of the flu lasts for around a week but symptoms can linger for up to two weeks. The worst symptoms usually end in three or four days but some effects, like pain and fatigue, can last for a few more days. Below is a description of a typical case.

Day One: The first influenza symptom most people notice is a high temperature. That is usually followed by shivering, a headache, muscle aches, nausea and sometimes dizziness and weakness.

Day Two to Three: The high temperature should disappear, but the other symptoms will remain. You will probably feel very tired, and nausea will develop.

Day Three to Five: Your nose will start to feel stuffy and blocked up even though it becomes runny. You can tell you have the flu if the discharge from the nose is thick and yellowish. You may develop another headache and pain in the face.

Day Five Through 14: The symptoms will gradually get better, but you will feel sore and more tired than usual for up to another week. You may also feel a lack of energy and little desire to participate in normal activities, such as work.

When to Worry

You should seek medical care for influenza symptoms if you have a serious health problem, such as a chronic illness, or if you are recovering from surgery or an injury. Definitely seek medical treatment if the symptoms get worse or persist for more than a week. Some people, including pregnant women, children under one year old, and very elderly people (over age 80), should also seek immediate medical attention when they have the flu.

There are some treatments for the flu available, including antiviral drugs; these have to be prescribed by a doctor. Doctors can also test you to see if you have a bacterial infection that can be treated with antibiotics.

How to Recover from the Flu

Knowing the answer to "how long does flu last" is not enough, we want to speed up the healing. The good news is that most cases of the flu will clear up on their own with plenty of bed rest and consumption of fluids. More serious cases can be relieved by antiviral medications, such as Tamiflu and Relenza, which are available with a doctor’s prescription. Here are some home remedies that can help you survive the flu:
  • Drink plenty of fluids, including water, fruit juice, hot tea, and soups. Fluids can ease a sore throat and thin out nasal mucus.

  • Get as much rest as possible. Bed rest is best, so get plenty of sleep. Try to avoid work and engage in relaxing activities like reading or watching television.

  • Take hot showers or baths to ease the aches and pains and to clear your nose.

  • Use a hot water humidifier to create warm, moist air to ease your nose.

  • Put an extra pillow under your head at night to prevent coughing from keeping you awake.

  • Sponge your body with lukewarm water, or take a lukewarm bath or shower if your fever gets high.

  • Stop smoking, and avoid secondhand smoke when you have the flu. Try not to operate a fireplace or wood stove while you have the flu to keep smoke out of the air.

  • Over the counter medications can relieve some of the symptoms. Always read the label, and follow all instructions when you use such products.

  • Seek medical care if influenza symptoms do not clear up after seven days or get worse over time.

  • Definitely seek medical care if you develop other symptoms, such as bloody mucus or an earache, because these can be symptoms of a bacterial infection.

  • Call 911 or go to an emergency room if a person with the flu collapses or becomes unconscious.

How to Recover from the Flu Explained by an Expert:


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