How Long Do Cold and Flu Symptoms Last?

How Long Do Cold and Flu Symptoms Last?  

As temperatures drop and the holiday season sets in, many are starting to celebrate the festive cheer of winter! Cold weather activities and binging Christmas movies are right around the corner. However, the arrival of the winter season also means that cold and flu symptoms are at their highest peak.

Learn the common symptoms of catching a cold and how long the flu lasts so you are as prepared as possible during the holidays.

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How Long Does a Cold or Flu Last?

We all know that feeling of the early stages of the cold or flu. Feeling tired and achy with a runny nose and a slight fever are typical signs of these winter sicknesses that many people experience as the temperatures drop. While these common symptoms seem to linger for a few days, the good news is that they don’t often last more than a few days or up to two weeks. 

The best way to know how long your symptoms may last is to determine whether you have a common cold or the influenza virus.

Cold vs. Flu Symptoms

While these sicknesses may feel similar regarding their common contagious properties and symptoms, a few differences can determine when you should expect to return to your usual self again. The cold and the flu are separate illnesses with different signs, recovery times and times you may catch it in a year.

Take a look at a few of these distinctions to know how long it takes to get over a cold or the flu.

Common symptoms of a cold can include:

  • Sneezing
  • Stuffy and runny nose
  • Sore throat
  • Coughing 
  • Chest discomfort
  • Slight body aches

These symptoms can occur up to three times a year in adults, lasting anywhere from a week to 10 days before health begins to improve. You will typically not need medical attention for a common cold since it is generally not as intense as flu symptoms. All you need to do is rest, hydrate and eat nutritious foods to feel like yourself again in no time.

If you can relate to a few of those symptoms but others are more prevalent, you might have the influenza virus. Common flu symptoms you might experience include:

  • Chills
  • Fatigue
  • Weakness
  • Prolonged fever
  • Headaches
  • Runny or stuffy nose
  • Shortness of breath
  • Dry coughs

You might only have the flu once every few years, depending on how often you receive a vaccine. While the flu may not be as common as a cold, the symptoms can sometimes feel more intense because of the effects of fevers, fatigue and body aches. Flu symptoms can last anywhere from four days to a week, with a few minor coughs and body aches toward the end. The strength of your immune system can determine how long it takes to recover from flu symptoms. 

How Long Should You Stay Home With a Cold or Flu?

While symptoms can last anywhere from a few days to two weeks, the flu and cold become less contagious in a very short amount of time. So, even if you still feel a bit under the weather, you can return to school, work or your daily routine after seeing a slight improvement in your symptoms. 

Signs of the flu or cold appear a day before you might notice some common symptoms. The first day you become sick and three to four days after is how long colds are contagious. During this time, you should stay home, drink plenty of fluids, monitor any fevers and get as much rest as possible while the sickness runs its course. It would be best if you tried to find a comfortable place to recover away from family members or roommates to avoid them getting sick too. 

Another way to monitor how long you should say home with a cold or flu is by your body’s temperature. Fevers are one of the first indicators of having the flu and usually last three to four days. You can take fever-reducing medication such as Tylenol to combat these high temperatures or wait until it stops on its own. You can return to your regular schedule if the fever is gone for 24 hours without medication.

What to Do if Your Cold and Flu Symptoms Won’t Go Away

For most people who catch a cold or the flu during the winter season, the expected one- to two-week span is enough time to recover from significant symptoms. After the initial first week, most individuals start noticing fewer symptoms or feel entirely back to their normal selves again! In this case, your immune system has done its job well, and you can return to work or school when you feel good as new.

In some rare instances, cold and flu symptoms can last longer than one to two weeks. If you notice increased or new symptoms after two weeks of having either sickness, you should make an appointment with your doctor as soon as possible. Other viruses and bacteria can enter the body when you have flu, which can result in developing pneumonia, heart and tissue inflammation and other serious medical conditions.

Colds that last longer 10 days are usually no cause for concern. You may experience symptoms for up to two weeks, typically meaning that you have a compromised immune system that cannot fight off infections as well as a healthy one. You can visit your doctor if the signs of a cold persist for two weeks or longer. They will typically prescribe medication that can help strengthen your immune system or minimize the sickness enough so you can feel like yourself again!

Treat Flu and Cold Symptoms With Mobile IV Medics

Get over the winter sickness blues with the help of Mobile IV Medics! Our IV treatments can help make your symptoms put less strain on your body so you can feel like yourself again in no time. You can boost your immune system to fight off sicknesses with our Cold & Flu IV Drip, which includes Vitamin B12, Vitamin B complex, zinc, pain and fever relief medicine and glutathione.

When you feel the fatigue start to set in from the cold or flu, we can come right to you! Our mobile services can travel to your home or office nationwide. Our registered nurses will walk you through the process and answer any questions you may have about our IV therapy packages.

Book your next IV treatment session today!

About the author

Brad
Brad Wenderoth, Pharm.D.

Brad Wenderoth, Pharm.D. is a licensed pharmacist and co-owner of Mobile IV Medics. With over 16 years of healthcare experience, Brad is bringing his expertise and passion for patient care to the Mobile IV Medics patient population. Prior to Mobile IV Medics, Brad worked in varying areas including both direct patient care and hospital leadership at Keck Medicine of the University of Southern California (USC) in Los Angeles, nationwide health system pharmacy consulting for Comprehensive Pharmacy Services (CPS), and professor of pharmacy at the USC School of Pharmacy. He holds a doctorate in pharmacy from the University of Arizona, a pharmacy practice residency from USC, and a lean six sigma green belt from Johns Hopkins.