The flu is a contagious respiratory illness caused by the influenza virus that is most common during the fall and winter. Most people diagnosed with the flu feel unwell for seven to ten days.

If you have been diagnosed with the flu, you may wonder how long you will be contagious and if you can spread the illness to others. Keep reading to learn about the flu and how to keep others from catching it.

Flu Symptoms

Symptoms of the flu can range from mild to severe and typically come on suddenly. Common symptoms of the flu can include:

  • Fever or chills
  • Cough
  • Sore throat
  • Runny nose or nasal congestion
  • Muscle and body aches
  • Headache
  • Tiredness or fatigue
  • Nausea, vomiting, or diarrhea

How Is The Flu Diagnosed?

The flu is most commonly diagnosed with a rapid flu test once you have developed symptoms. A rapid flu test is performed at your doctor’s office or local pharmacy by collecting a nasal swab. The swab is then tested for the influenza virus, and results are usually processed within 10–15 minutes.

How Is The Flu Spread?

The flu is spread from person to person through tiny respiratory droplets. The droplets are expelled from an infected person with the sneeze, cough, or conversation and land in the mouths or noses of the people around them, spreading the virus.

How Long Is the Flu Contagious?

A person with the flu is generally contagious, beginning one to two days before symptoms develop. The flu remains contagious for approximately five to seven days after the symptoms start. People with a weakened immune system or severe illness may be contagious for longer.

How To Reduce the Spread of the Flu?

You can do many things to prevent the spread of the flu. These are some foolproof ways to keep your friends and family safe:

  • Hand Washing: Hand washing is one of the best ways to prevent the spread of all viruses, especially the flu. Hand washing should be performed frequently using soap and warm water for at least 20 seconds. If soap and water are unavailable, use hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol.
  • Cover Your Mouth and Nose: Covering your mouth and nose will prevent the respiratory droplets that are expelled with talking, sneezing, or coughing from landing on others, which spreads the illness. Wearing a mask around others will also stop the spread of the virus.
  • Stand Home from Work and School: Avoid close contact with individuals to reduce the risk of spreading the flu. Stay home until you have been fever-free for at least 24 hours without using fever-reducing medication like acetaminophen or ibuprofen.
  • Get Vaccinated: Flu vaccines are one of the most effective ways to reduce the spread of the influenza virus. Flu vaccines are available through your doctor’s office or local pharmacy. Speak to your doctor today to discuss if the flu vaccine is recommended for you.

How Is the Flu Treated?

Depending on the severity of the illness, the flu is typically treated with over-the-counter medication to help manage your symptoms. Most people recover from the flu within two weeks. Others with severe illness, especially the elderly or those with a decreased immune system, may need to be treated in the hospital.

Protect Yourself From The Flu Today

To learn more about the flu, how to reduce the spread, and get vaccinated, schedule an appointment today!