How Long Does the Flu Last?

Family with sick children
How long will the flu last?. Tim Hawley/DigitalVision/Getty Images

When the flu hits you, one of the first things you want to know is how long it's going to last. You want to get back to regular life, not feel miserable and lay in bed for an undetermined amount of time. Unfortunately, the exhaustion, coughing, fever and fatigue will probably knock you down at least for a few days.

Typical Flu Duration

For most people, the flu lasts anywhere from about three days to two weeks.

If it lasts much longer than two weeks, you may have developed a secondary infection or one of these common flu complications. If your symptoms are not improving after a week to 10 days or if you start to feel better then get much worse (often with a higher fever), contact your health care provider or seek medical attention. 

If you have had symptoms for less than 48 hours, you may want to contact your health care provider to see if antiviral medications would be right for you and your symptoms. For some people, they can help shorten the severity and duration of the symptoms. They are most effective if started within 48 hours of the onset of symptoms, so don't wait to call your doctor if you think you have the flu. However, it's important to know that your health care provider may not prescribe antiviral medications if you are not in a high risk group. Most otherwise healthy adults recover from the flu without treatment.

What If You Got a Flu Shot?

Additionally, if you had your flu shot this flu season and you still get the flu, your symptoms should be less severe than they would have been had you not had the flu vaccine. Even if the flu vaccine didn't work to prevent the flu completely, studies have shown that most people who were vaccinated and still got the flu had milder cases and were less likely to develop complications or secondary infections.


The flu makes you feel miserable and you will want it to end as soon as possible. The good news is you should feel better in about a week. The bad news is you will feel pretty bad for that week. Take care of yourself and rest as much as possible so you can recover quickly. 

As always, if you are concerned about the health of yourself or someone in your family, contact your health care provider. 


"Flu Symptoms & Severity." Seasonal Influenza (Flu) 8 Feb 11. US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. National Institutes of Health. US Department of Health and Human Services. 18 Apr 11.

"Key Facts About Seasonal Flu Vaccine". Seasonal Influenza (Flu) 2 Oct 15. US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. National Institutes of Health. US Department of Health and Human Services. 28 Dec 15.

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