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How Long Does the Flu Last for?

By Sunny de Fortuna Rovescio ; Updated July 27, 2017

If you're unlucky enough to get the flu, it can feel as if it's lasting forever. But for most otherwise healthy adults, it will be gone in 1 or 2 weeks. Many factors can affect how quickly you recover, including your age and other health conditions. If complications set in, you'll be out of commission even longer.

The Usual Time Frame

Symptoms typically begin 1 to 4 days after you've been infected with the flu. According to Flu.gov, you're contagious for about a week, beginning about a day before your symptoms develop. Chills and fever are often the first symptoms to appear, with a fever of 102 to 103 degrees Fahrenheit (39 degrees Celsius) being common. Aches, pains, headaches and fatigue are other early symptoms that can help distinguish influenza from a simple cold. Respiratory symptoms are also common, beginning with a sore throat and dry cough. Sometimes the cough worsens and becomes productive. Flu symptoms typically last a few days and then gradually improve: In a week or 2, most people are feeling well again. Some people, especially those with asthma, might experience a lingering cough and mild wheezing for up to 8 weeks.

When to See a Doctor

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, most otherwise healthy adults don't need to see the doctor when they have the flu. If you are an older adult, however, or you have another health condition that puts you at high risk for complications, such as asthma, diabetes or congestive heart failure, contact your doctor if you suspect you have the flu. Get medical attention right away if your symptoms persist longer than expected or get worse or if you have difficulty breathing, chest pain, dehydration, dizziness or confusion.

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