How Long Is the Flu Contagious: Symptoms and Precautions

how long is the flu contagious

Influenza which is commonly referred to as the ‘Flu’ is an extremely life-threatening respiratory infection. Along with that, what is the scariest part about the flu is that it is also extremely contagious. Therefore, it becomes important to identify the symptoms of the flu and start with the treatment at the earliest possible. This section deals with the flu, its meaning, symptoms, treatments, precautions, and information on how long is the flu contagious.

What is a flu?

The flu which is commonly referred to as Influenza as coined by the doctors is an extremely life-threatening respiratory infection or illness. The main parts of the body that the virus infects are the lower and upper respiratory tract, throat, lungs, and nose. It is highly contagious and can spread through simple acts of talking or touching from a person to another person.

The flu or influenza mostly appears during the winter and early spring months. It mostly affects newborn babies, children, and people above 65 years of age. The types of flu are many and depend on the protein the virus carries.

What people are mostly unaware of are the symptoms of the flu and how long is the flu contagious. Hence, the section below puts some light on the various symptoms of the flu.

What are the symptoms of a flu?

It remains of utmost importance to identify the symptoms of the flu to start treating the person affected immediately without any delay. Therefore before knowing about how long is the flu contagious and other necessary details, let’s take a look at the symptoms of the flu.

The symptom of the flu is not similar to all and varies from a person to another. The symptoms depend on whether the person affected is an adult, child or newborn. These symptoms also depend on the type of flu a person is affected with. However, before moving on to the various symptoms of the flu, it is important to understand that a person who has been affected by the flu might not have all the following symptoms but some of them.

Some of the common symptoms of the flu are:

  • Fever or feel of chills
  • Headache
  • Dry cough
  • Sore throat
  • Body and muscle ache
  • Running nose
  • Fatigue
  • Low appetite
  • Difficulties in breathing
  • Dehydration and lack of urination
  • Seizures
  • Pain in abdomen and chest
  • Feeling unwell and other deteriorating health conditions.
  • Loss of alertness
  • Vomiting (more common in children)
  • Nausea
  • Diarrhea (more common in children)
  • Bluish lips and/ or face
  • Tiredness
  • Sneezing
  • Malaise

What are the different kinds of Flu?

There are four kinds of flu or influenza – A, B, C and D. Humans are mainly affected by the seasonal influenza Type A and Type B flu.

Type A influenza

Type A influenza is the most widespread type of kind of influenza and is known to cause pandemics. This kind of flu mostly affects adults above 65 years of age and other people whose immune system is weak. This flu mostly spreads from animals to humans. Although these kinds of flu have the ability to resolve on their own, there may be cases in which the flu refuses to settle even after a week. In those cases, the patient must immediately be taken to the doctor since in extreme cases the flu can also be life-threatening. This kind of flu is very contagious. It is mostly spread from the affected person to the other. It could spread by touching the area the infected person has touched or by just talking to them.

Type B influenza

Type B influenza is found in humans and spreads from one human to another. This kind of flu does not cause pandemics. The symptom that type B influenza causes is strong and generally affects the children. Like all other influenza or flu, this kind of flu is also extremely contagious. This seasonal flu can be transferred throughout the year from one person to another.

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Type C influenza

Type C influenza is less found than the other types of flu, that is, type A and type B. Along with this, it is also less mild than the other two types. The symptoms of these kinds are not damaging or life-threatening in comparison with other flu. People are not affected much with this as they are affected by others.

How long is the flu contagious?

A common question that arises in the mind of the people is how long is the flu contagious. This becomes important to know since the flu is highly contagious and can spread rapidly from a person to another, even if the other person is at a distance of 6 feet. Therefore, the person affected by the flu needs to shut themselves up so that they don’t spread the virus to others.

Therefore, the answer to how long is the flu contagious is:

  • A person is contagious from a day before the symptoms of the flu start to appear in them.
  • The person affected stays contagious for at least 7 days after they have been affected by the flu.
  • Children can be contagious for an even longer period of time. They are free from spreading the virus once the symptoms completely disappear. This also applies to people who have weak immune systems.

The virus of the flu is capable of spreading from all the areas the infected person has touched. The virus on all the areas they have touched can stay for at least one day. Substances like plastics and stainless steel can retain these viruses for even a longer period of time.

How long does the flu last?

Another question that is often enquired by people is how long does the flu last. This is more for the fact, that flu unlike the cold is stubborn and stays for a longer period of time. Along with this, the symptoms are more deadly. It leaves a person weak and irritated even after they have recovered from the flu for a long time. Children can be affected more than adults.

For the people who are seriously affected, the symptoms can last up to 7 days. However, certain complications like dry cough, body ache, and weakness can last longer, staying up to two weeks or more. For children, certain symptoms of the flu such as respiratory diseases can last for even longer. This happens also if the person affected is an infant or an older adult.

What is the treatment of the Flu?

Now that the people are aware of how long is the flu contagious, the next important thing is to take measures to get the flu treated. The treatment of the flu depends solely on the type of complications or symptoms a person is showing. However, if the symptoms are not extremely complicated, then one can also not be prescribed any medications by the doctor. But, in case the complications of the flu are high, then the doctor can prescribe antiviral drugs to cure the illness. However, the antiviral drugs prescribed are not very useful for curing the flu the fact that it is caused by viruses. The drugs are to tame down the other complications that the flu brings along with it.

Hence, the treatment of the flu is:

  • Antiviral drugs if and as prescribed by the doctors.
  • Being extremely careful and staying under strict precaution.
  • Bed rest until the patient recovers.
  • Following home remedies to improve the condition of the patient.

What are the home remedies for Flu?

Catching the flu can bring with itself weeks of misery. Since, now that people are aware of how long is the flu contagious, it is not unexpected if the people affected by the flu are searching for results for getting cured at the earliest possible. As mentioned before, the antiviral drugs that are suggested by the doctors can work very little on the flu. It requires constant and home remedies to do so.

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Hence, the section below deals with certain home remedies that can help to cure the flu:

1. Stay hydrated

It is important to ensure that the person affected stays hydrated especially because one of the symptoms of the flu is dehydration. It is more important for people who have vomiting and diarrhea. The fluids taken by the person to stay need not just be water. There could be a couple of fluids too, which if taken can help keep a person stay hydrated. Some of these fluids are fresh juice, soup, raw vegetables and fruits, coconut water, etc. Drinking a bowl of hot soup can also provide some relief on the throat and nose.

One can ensure that their body is hydrated if:

  1. The urination is regular.
  2. The color of the urination is clear or pale yellow.

2. Take a lot of rest and stay warm

The body does the work of immunity and helps fight against the virus when it is at rest. Hence, to ensure that the person recovers soon, it is a must to provide complete rest to the body. Along with this, a person must also note to keep the body warm and cozy.


The best way to treat sore throats is to gargle using warm water mixed with a bit of salt. This provides temporary relief to the sore throat by moistening it. Gargling also helps in getting rid of the mucus. Lying down for a long period of time can lead to thick mucus getting collected at the back of the throat. Gargling during the time when one is affected helps in getting rid of these thick mucus.

Consume a good amount of zinc

Consuming foods that are rich in zinc can help cure the flu faster. Some of these foods that are rich in zinc are dairy, beans, nuts, red meat, shellfish, lentils, eggs, chickpeas, and seeds. This is because consuming zinc can help boost the immune system of a person. This, therefore, helps in fighting with the virus of the flu and stops it from multiplying.

Take steam

Inhaling steam or going for steam therapy can have a lot of good effects on the body of the person affected by the flu. Some of these good effects that steam has are:

  1. Taking the steam helps to lose the mucus formation.
  2. It helps to bring some relief to the lungs, throat, sinus, and nose.
  3. It also helps to bring some relief to the dry coughs, chest tightness, and irritated nose.

Adding a few drops of certain essential oils to the water also helps in adding more antioxidant and antiviral benefits to the steam.

Follow a good diet

Special care in terms of the diet must be taken for the people who are suffering from the flu. Foods that are healthy yet at the same time light and easy on the stomach must be given more preference. This is more because an upset stomach can wave the pat for diarrhea, nausea, etc. making the flu all the worse. Some of the foods to choose that are good for the stomach are broth, soups, boiled veggies and potatoes, rice, fruits, foods containing vitamin C, carrots, etc. Some of the foods that a person suffering from flu should avoid are spicy and fried foods, milk, alcohol, meat, etc.

Apply essential oils

It is proven that applying essential oils can help prevent a person against various bacteria and viruses because they work as natural antiviral and antibiotics.  Therefore applying the essential oils can help a person against the flu viruses by curbing down the rate in which it multiples. Certain essential oils are tea tree oil, peppermint oil, lemon oil, oregano oil, geranium oil, cinnamon oil and thyme oil amongst others.

The flu or influenza is extremely contagious and can have extremely harmful effects on the person affected if not treated immediately and carefully. Hence, the above-mentioned symptoms and treatments can help and guide a person on how to function in case someone catches influenza.

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