How long did it take for you to recover from the flu?

March 5, 2024
Avatar for Jyoti KinghornJyoti Kinghorn
People sharing their story

Flu affects everyone differently. Here we explore stories of people who recovered from the flu and offer guidance on what to expect when you get the flu.

Timeline of symptoms


Flu can knock people out with the intensity of the symptoms which include a runny or stuffy nose, weakness, fever, feverish chills, headaches, body aches, muscle weakness, and a sore throat.

It can also feel like the symptoms last for a long time. As one social media user said, “I’m not trying to scare you, but I got flu B on Thanksgiving and it wiped me out for 10 days.”
Another person added, “Took me six weeks total to recover. Hang in there!”

But social media use welcome2z4 had what is the most typical experience “4 days of barely being able to leave my bed, followed by 3 days of slowly gaining strength and getting my appetite back, followed by 2 more weeks of a cough.”

Most people who get sick with the flu typically observe the following course of recovery:

Day 0. When you are infected by the flu, this day is the day before you start showing symptoms. You are already contagious on day 0 even though you don’t know you are sick yet.

Days 1-4. On these days symptoms develop rapidly (within a few hours on day 1) and peak out between days 2-4. You are contagious this whole time.

Days 5-7. Most people start seeing some improvement in their symptoms during this time. If you do not feel a bit better, contact your healthcare provider. You may have a secondary infection or a flu-related complication such as bronchitis or pneumonia.
According to the CDC, most people stay infectious up to 5-7 days after their flu symptoms develop. If you feel better, you may not be contagious after this time.

1-8 weeks. Most symptoms start getting better at this time, but you may still feel muscle pain, headache, weakness, and fatigue. As your body’s immune system fights off the flu virus, different parts of the body can have inflammation which causes a lot of the soreness associated with the flu.

You may also have a lingering cough, as the infection and the body’s immune response to it can leave the respiratory system inflamed and irritated.
As the body heals, these pains and the cough should slowly go away.

At-home care measures

Since flu is a viral infection, in most cases recovery entails being comfortable at home and letting your immune system do its work. At-home care measures such as getting lots of sleep, salt water gargles, honey lemon tea, etc. can help ease some symptoms.

However, your body will take the time it needs to clear the infection. If you are resting well, there is not too much more you can do to speed up recovery. Getting antiviral medications can shorten the infection, but they work best when taken within the first 2 days of showing symptoms.

As one social media user said, “My mum use to say that the Flu is 7 days if you don’t treat it, a week if you treat it”.

Man recovering from the flu

When can I go back to work or school?

Don’t rush it. If you don’t feel well, stay at home. Your body needs the time to recover. Also, when you are already sick, you are at risk of catching additional infections from work or school which can make your condition worse.

As shared by a social media user, “I forced myself to go back to work before I’d fully gotten over the flu (this was after a full week off already) because I didn’t want to be seen as taking the mick, got pneumonia, got sepsis, went into septic shock, almost died, spent a week in intensive care and was off for two months recovering. Based on that I’d say taking as long as you need is in both you and your employer’s best interests.”

It is also important to avoid driving when you have the flu. According to a study, having a bad cold or flu impairs a person’s driving ability by 50%- the same as driving drunk after consuming four double whiskeys.

Flu vaccine makes a difference

The extent of impact flu would have on you can depend on whether you are up-to-date with your flu shot.

According to Jackie, mom of 2 young children, someone in their family gets the flu twice a year and the effects are normally mild due to the flu shot. “My 4-year-old was feeling nauseous and couldn’t keep food down all day. I made a doctor’s appointment for the next morning and took him in even though he was already much better by the time we went in. They tested this happy kid bouncing all over the examination table and said that you wouldn’t know it by looking at him, but he has Flu B. No one in the family felt anything off including his baby sister. We all religiously get the flu vaccine.”

Another mom, Kateryna, informs that they missed their flu vaccine. “We moved the family with young children from Ukraine. We did not get vaccine. Both my sons got flu. My older son had fever for 9 days.”

One social media user said, “Nobody will believe this, but I almost died from the flu about 4 years ago. It was so severe that I lost essential fluids, couldn’t consume them quick enough, was in a deep fever of 104plus for several days, and was in urgent care until I had several rounds of shots that finally broke the fever, allowing me to feed. I never skip a flu shot now. Before my near-death experience from the flu, I never did the flu shot. Wild.”

According to the CDC, the annual flu vaccine prevents millions of flu infections and thousands of flu-related deaths. For example, in the 2019-2020 flu season (just before COVID-19 struck the majority of the U.S.), the flu shot prevented an estimated 7 million flu illnesses, 100,000 hospitalizations, and 7,000 flu-related deaths.

The names of the interviewees and social media users have been changed to preserve their privacy.

The information provided in our blog posts is for informational purposes only and is not intended as a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this blog.

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