How Long Is the Flu Contagious?

How Long Is the Flu Contagious?

Cold and flu are two contagious respiratory infections that happen due to virus. How long you take to pass on the infection to another person tends to vary. Here, we will help you determine how long is the flu contagious and how can you quickly heal without spreading it.

Most people who have a common cold or flu don’t visit a doctor. It isn’t deadly or fatal but can be chronic if not cured. It is, however, difficult to track how people have the illness as it varies from one to another. If you know you have caught a cold or flu, you can find ways to prevent the respiratory illness for someone else. But it is first important to cure yourself.

How long is a common cold contagious?

Cold spreads when symptoms like sneezing still happen. Most people spread a common cold due to sneezing, touching, coughing, or contaminated surfaces. This means that people are more contagious once the symptoms become obvious. However, many can be contagious before realizing they have a cold.

When your immune system is weak and lets viruses take over, you can have a common cold. You soon find the symptoms improve and the risk of spreading the illness reduces. But you can still be infectious and not know how long is the flu contagious. An average cold lasts for around 10 days, so you can be contagious during that period.

A seasonal cold is a common respiratory problem that many of us have during a climate change. As per the CDC, millions of people in America catch a cold every year. There are different viral strains that cause such symptoms of cold, like rhinoviruses, coronaviruses, and adenoviruses.

The viruses keep evolving all the time to adapt to the environment and live in the human immune system. This is also the reason why there is no definitive cure available for a common cold.

How long is the flu contagious?

The symptoms of flu also last for around 10 days depending on an individual. A person can spread the flu from a day before the symptoms start to show up. It can last for seven days from the time you fall ill.

Influenza virus is pretty contagious and can infect people of every age group. The severity of the infection differs from person to person. For some people, the condition can be life-threatening. For example, babies or elderly people with low immunity can face this problem.

Viruses tend to spread due to a process called viral shedding. When a virus finished the replication cycle within one cell, it releases new ones. The new viruses can infect more cells and your body can transmit that to other people.

The viruses can exit from the body in many ways. One common example is by mixing with mucus and saliva. Such substances find a way to get back into the environment through sneezing, coughing, and more.

According to the Pediatric Infectious Disease Journal, kids have a longer timespan of viral shedding before the onset of symptoms while adults have less. Kids aged between 0 and 5 usually have the longest period of viral shedding even after their flu is cured.

The symptoms between cold and flu are what brings in a major difference. Flu is more serious than cold. It tends to affect the entire body, while cold only causes symptoms in the upper airway.

Like other types of viruses, flu is constantly changing and evolving. Their body rarely deals with the same kind of flu viruses twice. But this can also lead to some people contracting the flu once every year.

How to prevent spreading?

Rather than finding out only about how long is the flu contagious, know how you can prevent it in the first place. To start with, you need to maintain hand hygiene to limit the spread of both the flu and cold. The most important factor is how it reduces the spread of viral infection and create healthy habits during the illness.

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For example, you must eat a lot of healthy food, have water, get enough rest, and more. These practices will reduce symptoms and the illness seem bearable. When symptoms are showing, you can help protect other people from having the illness. Some of the simple ways to do so are:

1. Covering a cough

You should use a handkerchief to sneeze or cough. Cover your nose and mouth with a tissue if you don’t carry a hanky or use the elbow of your sleeves. The spray of the mucus from your saliva includes viruses that can spread the infection.

2. Throw the tissues

Once the tissue is dirty, you must discard it immediately. Use a new tissue every time you need to cough or sneeze. Make sure you wash your hands to keep them clean all the time.

3. Wash frequently

Keeping yourself neat and clean can help you fight infectious viruses that can spread. Washing your hands, taking a bath, using hand sanitizers, can keep you clean all the time. You should try to avoid direct contact with people or not touch public items when you have flu.

If the symptoms become tough to manage, you should stay at home for a while. Take rest until you feel better and find your symptoms go down. It helps you heal quickly and keeps people away from the contagious flu.

Symptoms of common cold

Once the viruses infect your body, it spreads rapidly. You tend to develop a cold when your immune system cannot fight the common cold viruses. The effect of a common cold is mild and can heal without treatment or with basic home remedies. However, you may feel it irritate your body and disrupt it. Symptoms of a common cold include:

  • Sore throat
  • Congestion in nose and sinus
  • Runny nose
  • Hoarseness of voice
  • Cough
  • Sneezing

For a few people, a common cold can increase the risk of different illnesses entering your body. These can be an ear infection, a respiratory illness like pneumonia, and more.

Symptoms of a flu

Flu symptoms are similar to cold but they are more intense compared to cold. These types of symptoms include:

  • Fever
  • Runny nose
  • Chills
  • Sore throat
  • Cough
  • Headache
  • Body ache and pain
  • Fatigue

How to treat cold and flu?

There are plenty of over the counter medicines that can treat cold and flu. The symptoms of both can disrupt everyday life.

Many people take resort to quick home remedies to relieve themselves from illnesses. There are many drugs that treat symptoms of these conditions. These are available at a pharmacist and can be purchased over-the-counter without a prescription. You can buy these medicines online as well.

Vaccines for flu

The medications can be useful to make your day normal, but they might not answer how long is the flu contagious. Moreover, if you have influenza, you will need a doctor to prescribe you antiviral medications.

Some people can take preventive measures to fight against flu with the help of vaccines. But creating a vaccine for a virus that keeps evolving is a problem.

As per a CDC report, vaccination reduces the risk of the contracting flu by 40 to 60 percent. It is suitable for a type of virus that keeps circulating.

There are many more factors that can stop the effectiveness of a vaccine. But CDC recommends us to take a vaccine as it is the best way to prevent flu.

Myths about having a flu

There are some people who think that taking a flu vaccine can cause flu. But that is a complete myth. After taking an injection, some people experience pain in the arm on the following day. It is a type of immune reaction from the shot and resolves within a couple of days.

Flu shots take around 15 days to become fully effective. There are some people who are already infected when they take the vaccine. In such a case, you shouldn’t mistake the vaccine with the effect.

Manufacturers who produce a flu vaccine use inactive viruses or other viral components as opposed to ‘live’ virus. This is the reason why you cannot have the flu from a flu shot.  In many cases, treating the symptoms of flu in the right way can help you heal quickly. You need to work on that too.

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Although not serious, you will not like how your body feels when you have flu. You can have a fever, cough, sore throat, ache, chills, and nasal congestion. However, you can try home remedies for quick heal. Antiviral drugs might ease the symptom of the flu once you take it after falling sick. It all depends on availability, preference, and need.

Home remedies for flu

The answer to how long is the flu contagious can be cut down by days if you quickly heal yourself with home remedies. Check them out below:

1. Drink up

Flu tends to make us dehydrated especially if you have diarrhea or vomiting. You need to make sure you get enough fluids. You need to have enough water, electrolyte beverages, and fruit juices.

Keep away from caffeinated drinks as it dehydrates you all the more. Herbal tea and honey can soothe your sore throat. If you have nausea, take small sips of the liquid. Don’t take gulps as it can make you throw up again. You will know that you have enough fluid in your body when your urine is colorless and not yellow.

Make sure you don’t have alcohol when you are infected with flu. It makes you sleepy and enhances the condition.

2. Have soup

For years, parents have served chicken soup to their kids during cold and flu. This has been a good approach and certified by a study published in the journal ‘Chest’. Chicken soup can relieve you from respiratory tract infections like flu.

There is a debate about how good the soup is, but it definitely does give you nourishment when you don’t feel like eating anything. The vapor of the hot soup makes you feel better and the warmth of the fluid is soothing.

3. Take enough rest

When you fall sick, you need to listen to your body and give it the kind of care it needs. If you don’t feel like exercising or straining your body, keep away from it. If you want to be in bed all day, do that.

If possible, take a leave at work and sleep as long as you feel like. Severe cold and flu symptom can aggravate if you don’t take enough care. It is a way to support your body’s ability to fight infection.

Make sure you don’t skip your nighttime sleeping cycle as that keeps your immune system healthy. You need enough sleep to make sure your body is working well.

4. Humidify

When you breathing moist air, it helps loosen your nasal congestion problem and reduce throat pain due to a sore. You must take a steamy shower or sit and relax under the shower for some time. Use lukewarm water to clean your body and inhale the steam. You can also use a steam humidifier for this. Make sure you clean it often to free it from mold and mildew.

5. Make a tent

Looking for a quick and easy way to clear clogged airways? Boil a pot of water and remove from heat. Drape a towel over the head and close the eyes. Lean over water and under the tent to breathe deeply and through your nose for 30 seconds.

You can also add two drops of eucalyptus or peppermint oil in the water for an additional phlegm-bust. Repeat this to ease congestion quickly and soothe yourself.

6. Warm compress

You need to use a warm compress on your nose and forehead. It is a great way to relieve sinus pain and relieve headache.

Final thoughts

The answer to how long is the flu contagious depends on how soon you work towards healing yourself. If you realize that your medical condition can create havoc in people near you, try to act on it as soon as you see the symptoms. It will help you keep everyone protected and also heal yourself quickly.

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