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By Nicole Giambrone, MD

 

Recovering from the flu is an uncomfortable process that often feels longer than it actually is. When flu symptoms like fever, body aches, sore throat and cough set in, one of the first questions you will probably ask yourself is, “How long can this possibly last?”


On average, flu symptoms manifest within one to four days after exposure to the virus and continue for about five to seven days after. For some individuals, the symptoms may last closer to two weeks. If you have the flu, you are most contagious in the early days of your illness, but you can begin to infect others as soon as one day prior to your own symptoms even appearing.

Take comfort in the fact that while unpleasant, flu symptoms mean your immune system is working hard to ward off the virus.

Nearly 8% of the U.S. population comes down with the flu each season, according to a recent study by the CDC. As students or office mates return to school or work too soon after contracting this contagious respiratory illness, they put their fellow coworkers or colleagues at risk.


Active coughing and sneezing increase the spread of infection, so it’s generally best to avoid close contact with others if you are suffering from these conditions. A general rule of thumb is to wait until you are fever-free for 24 hours or longer before returning to school or work.

This helpful checklist can help you determine whether you are ready to return to work after being out sick.

Is there anything you can do beforehand to avoid contracting the flu? Getting an annual flu shot is the single best way to prevent it. The flu shot is not a live vaccine and does not cause the flu.


Yes, you do need to get one every year, as over time the immune protection from the vaccine decreases.

The flu shot takes about two weeks to provide immunity, and it is recommended for everyone older than 6 months of age. Other tactics for avoiding illness include washing your hands thoroughly with soap and water, especially before eating.

Getting a flu vaccine will not protect against COVID-19, however flu vaccination has many other important benefits. Flu vaccines have been shown to reduce the risk of flu illness, hospitalization and death. Getting a flu vaccine this fall will be more important than ever, not only to reduce your risk from flu but also to help conserve potentially scarce health care resources.


While the flu vaccine will cover most common strains from the previous year, it does not include every strain. This means that while the flu shot is our most helpful defense for preventing flu, it is not a complete guarantee that you will not get it. If you have already received your shot, you should still avoid others with the flu as they may have another strain of the virus than the ones you were vaccinated against. And even if you have already had the flu this season you should still get the vaccine in order to prevent getting another strain during the same year.

Patients should get their flu shot at their most convenient source, either through primary care, an Ochsner Urgent Care or their closest pharmacy.