How Long Does It Take to Get Over the Flu?

Ask a Doctor

I think I have influenza, but I only have a couple sick days from work, and I have important projects due. How long does it take to get over the flu? How do you cure the flu quickly?

Doctor’s Response

Treatments for flu (influenza) include home remedies such as resting in bed, avoiding physical exertion, and avoiding alcohol and tobacco use. Hydration is important, and minor aches and pains can be relived with over-the-counter (OTC) medication such as acetaminophen (Tylenol), ibuprofen (Advil), and naproxen (Aleve). Avoid spreading germs and the flu virus by washing hands often or using alcohol-based hand sanitizers. Stay away from others until you are fever free for 24 hours. Cover sneezes or coughs with the inside of your elbow, or use a tissue and throw it away promptly.

Medical treatment for the flu include medications (antiviral drugs) prescribed to decrease the severity and duration of the infection. These drugs include the class known as neuraminidase inhibitors such as oseltamivir (Tamiflu).

To avoid resistance to antibiotics when they are truly needed, antibiotics are only prescribed when there is evidence of a bacterial infection, such as pneumonia. Antibiotics do not treat viral infections such as the flu, and they do not prevent bacterial infections that may occur because of the flu.

Flu symptoms start to go away after two to five days. Fever may last for up to five days, while other symptoms, including weakness and fatigue, may persist for several weeks. The very young, the very old, and those in the high-risk groups are at risk for complications requiring hospitalization. Some people may die from the flu.

A person with flu is contagious for up to seven days after the onset of the illness, although the virus can be detected in the secretions up to 24 hours before the onset of symptoms. Thus, an individual can transmit the virus one day before symptoms begin.

In young children, the virus can still be spread in body secretions into the second week of illness.

To avoid spreading the illness, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends that people stay home until 24 hours after the fever is gone without using fever reducers, except to obtain necessities or to seek medical care.

Health Solutions From Our Sponsors

Jefferson, T., et al. "Neuraminidase inhibitors for preventing and treating influenza in healthy adults and children." Cochrane Database Syst Rev 4 Apr. 10, 2014:CD008965. doi: 10.1002/14651858.CD008965.pub4.

Mandell, Douglas, John E. Bennett, and Raphael Dolin. Mandell, Douglas, and Bennett's Principles and Practice of Infectious Diseases. Seventh Edition. "Influenza Viruses, Including Avian Influenza and Swine Influenza." Philadelphia: Churchill Livingstone Elsevier, 2010.

Switzerland. World Health Organization. "Influenza." <>.

United States. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. "Seasonal Influenza (Flu)." <>.

United States. Department of Health & Human Services. "Seasonal Flu."