How Long Does The Flu Last and How to Recover Faster

How Long Does The Flu Last and How to Recover Faster

No one wants to get a flu, and because it makes you feel so bad, two of the most common questions a person asks are: “how long does the flu last?” and “what treatment can I get to feel better?”. In this article I am going to answer these questions as well as describe the differences between cold and flu. You will also learn about cold and flu symptoms as this will allow you to distinguish between the two illnesses.

What is the Flu (Influenza)?

The flu (also called influenza) is a very unpleasant and highly contagious condition which is caused by the influenza viruses. Influenza can range from mild cases which can last for a few days with only minor symptoms to very severe ones, which can be life-threatening.

For most people, having the flu means spending a week or more in bed and having flu symptoms such as aching muscles, a sore throat, headaches, feeling very tired, and most likely having a fever.

Generally, the flu usually appears in winter and early spring and it can affect anyone.

What Causes the Flu?

Dr. David T. Derrer from WebMD says that the flu is caused by only 3 types of the influenza virus – A, B, or C.

Usually it is the A and B type flu viruses that cause the seasonal outbreaks and their symptoms are more serious than the influenza C virus.1

The flu is highly contagious and spreads through whatever a person sneezes or coughs up. So, you can catch the flu from touching something that an infected person has touched and then touching your nose, eyes, or mouth. Or, you can get the flu by breathing in germs that are in the air.

Flu symptoms usually appear within 1 to 4 days of the virus entering the body. Some people may have the flu virus and have no symptoms at all but still pass the virus to others.

Because the flu can become a very serious illness which can last more than a few days, it is important to know the difference between the flu and the common cold.

The Difference between a Cold and the Flu

The cold and influenza are both viral infections which affect the respiratory tract and they both have some symptoms in common. For example, some of the symptoms of both the flu and cold are:

  • A sore throat
  • Sneezing
  • Coughing
  • Congestion
  • Headaches

Colds are usually less severe than flu, and they usually last just a few days. An infection that lasts more than a few days can be the flu or a bacterial infection such as bronchitis, which can be treated with antibiotics as it’s not caused by a virus.

Some of the regular flu symptoms are muscle and joint pain, fatigue, and you are likely to have a high fever (although it’s important to note that not everyone with flu will have a fever). Flu symptoms also come on very quickly and can last for more than a few days. Many people who become sick with the flu say it is like being hit by a truck.

The reason that it is important to know the difference between a cold and the flu is explained by Dr. Derrer. He says that colds usually only have very minor complications, but that severe cases of flu can cause serious illnesses like pneumonia.2

How Long Does The Flu Last?

The American Lung Association suggests that for most people the flu lasts for a week but certain people are more susceptible to complications such as sinusitis, bronchitis, ear infection and pneumonia which can be life-threatening.

Dr. Varnada Karriem-Norwood adds that most influenza symptoms gradually improve over two to five days, but it’s not uncommon to feel run down for a week or more.

So the bottom line is that the duration of the flu is more than a few days and the recovery is gradual and can last for more than a week. But you need to look out for any flu complications as they can be life-threatening.

It’s also good to know that a person with flu is contagious for up to seven days after the beginning of the illness, and a person can transmit the flu virus even one day before symptoms begin.

How to Recover From the Flu

Most people will recover from the flu by having plenty of bed rest and by staying hydrated.

Serious cases of the flu can be relieved by medications and may even require medical supervision.

There are some natural treatments for influenza that can help to relieve the symptoms and also shorten the duration of the flu.

Natural Home Remedies for the Flu

Before you go rushing to get some decongestants and anti-cough mixtures, it’s good to remember that most of the symptoms of flu are helping you recover. For example, fever can help kill off viruses in the body. If you want to learn more about the role of fever, and when it actually works for you, then please read my article on how to break a fever naturally.

Also, coughing helps to loosen mucus and stop germs from going further into the body, and a stuffy nose helps to kill off the germs in your nose.

Vitamin C

Vitamin C is an effective natural remedy to reduce the severity of the influenza and colds, and is one of the natural substances to boost your immunity. Vitamin C is a well-documented antioxidant and it can help boost to body’s immune system.3

A study published in the Journal of Manipulative and Physiological Therapeutics found that a high dosage of vitamin C can prevent and relieve flu and cold symptoms and possibly shorten the duration of influenza. A group of 250 people was given hourly doses of 1000mg vitamin C for the first 6 hours and then 3 times a day after that. The study found that flu and cold symptoms were reduced by about 85%.4

Elderberry Extract

I’ve already answered the question of how long the flu lasts but you’ll be pleased to know that elderberries can actually help you recover faster from influenza.

Elderberries have been used for centuries to treat respiratory infections. There is evidence that elderberry extract can help treat influenza A and B viruses.

Elderberry syrup was given to a group of people suffering from flu symptoms. They received 15ml syrup 4 times a day for 5 days. It was seen that their symptoms cleared up 4 days earlier than those who didn’t take it.5

If you want to make your own elderberry syrup to fight the flu virus, then you can check out this recipe: Flu Fighting Homemade Elderberry Syrup.

Keep Hydrated

It is very important to drink plenty of fluids if you have the flu. This is because you can quickly become dehydrated because of fever, vomiting, or diarrhea. Dr. David T. Derrer from WebMD says that drinking plenty of water can actually help treat congestion and keep your sinuses moist.6

Echinacea Tea

Echinacea is another natural ingredient for influenza because it can help to boost the immune system.7 What’s more, it can also have a beneficial effect on upper respiratory tract infections.8 Although most of the studies into Echinacea have been on the root, you can make a great immune-boosting tea from the leaves, stems and flowers.

To make Echinacea tea you should do the following:

  • 1 part fresh Echinacea leaves, flowers and/or root
  • 1 part grated ginger root
  • Some honey or lemon according to taste

To make the tea, boil a small pan of water and then let the Echinacea and ginger infuse for 15 minutes in a teapot. It is also recommended to keep the lid on so that the medicinal properties don’t escape. After 15 minutes, pour some tea into a cup and add honey or lemon to taste.

If you want to know more about Echinacea, then please read my article about Echinacea tea benefits and how to use it for great health. Echinacea is a very versatile herb which is also used against many other infections, and is one of the herbs featured in my e-book the Herbal Remedies Guide.


Honey is one of nature’s best antimicrobial ingredients and has many uses and benefits. One of the best types of honey you can buy is Manuka honey. Research into Manuka honey and the influenza virus has shown that it has very potent antiviral properties. For example, a study published in the Archives of Medical Research showed that although Manuka honey is effective against the influenza virus, all honey, in general, has potential medicinal value.9

To use honey for flu you should always buy either raw honey or Manuka honey. You can add some to warm herbal tea (don’t add honey to hot water or tea because you will lose the medicinal properties from it) or you can take a teaspoon of honey and slowly swallow it.


You may not know this but horseradish is an effective natural remedy to help get rid of a stuffy nose. It contains high levels of vitamin C and also mustard oil, which is antibacterial. A study by some German scientists found that horseradish root was just as effective as antibiotics in treating acute sinusitis and acute bronchitis – both side effects of the flu virus.

The best way to take horseradish is by consuming it fresh. You can find my recipe on how to take horseradish to clear sinuses in my article on how to use horseradish for sinus infections, UTI, cold, flu and bronchitis.

How to Clear Congestion

There are many natural ingredients that you can use to help you clear congestion. Some of these remedies for flu symptoms are:

  • Steam vaporizer to help keep the air in your room warm and humid. You can also use certain essential oils in your diffuser.
  • Steam inhalations. To hot water, you can add a few drops of essential oils like peppermint oil, tea tree oil, eucalyptus oil, or rosemary oil.
  • Add spices to your meals. The best spices and ingredients to help clear congestion are garlic, ginger, chili peppers, and turmeric.
  • Find more information in my article about the best home remedies for chest congestion.

How to Prevent Spreading / Catching the Flu

The Mayo Clinic says that one of the best ways to avoid getting the flu is to wash your hands regularly.10 Because the influenza virus enters the body via your eyes, nose, or mouth, you should avoid touching those areas with unwashed hands. Many people believe that hand sanitizers are the best option, but I’ve already written about the 6 hidden dangers of hand sanitizers.

If you have to sneeze or cough, you should always cover your mouth. But don’t sneeze into your hands. Use a clean tissue or sneeze into the inner crook of your elbow.

It’s also important to keep your immune system healthy. This is especially true if you have other chronic illnesses because you can be more prone to catching the flu. In this regard, you can read my article about 10 quick life hacks to improve your immunity almost immediately.

Dr. Jennifer Robinson from WebMD recommends that one way to boost your immune system is to get enough rest. She suggests exercising and using relaxation techniques as well as getting enough sleep.11 In fact, a study published in the journal Psychosomatic Medicine says that stress increases the vulnerability to infectious diseases.12 (You can read more about it in my article on how stress affects your body).

For more tips please read the article on natural ways to stay free from cold and flu.

When to See a Doctor

It is important to remember that the flu can become a very serious illness with life-threatening complications. Dr. Varnada Karriem-Norwood from WebMD says that if you have trouble breathing, constant vomiting, a cough that won’t go away, or a fever that doesn’t get better, then you should visit your doctor.13

The flu can seriously affect children and the elderly. So they should be monitored closely if they have flu-like symptoms.

Read my other related articles:
1. How to Clear a Stuffy or Runny Nose In 1 Minute
2. The Best Home Remedies For Sinus Infection
3. How To Fight Cold and Flu With Baking Soda
4. This Fruit is 500% More Effective Than Cough Syrup
5. Best Essential Oils for Cold and Sore Throat


Healthy and Natural World