Stages of the Flu Infection: How Long Does the Flu Last?

stages of the flu

The common flu is a viral disease that attacks a considerable number of people throughout the year. Despite this being quite a common occurrence, the discomforts and sickness associated with the flu are not very easy to handle and cause several complications. It is important to note here that the stages of the flu do not work similarly for everybody.

Since the immunity system is different for everyone, the flu works in different ways for different people. However, there is a specific cycle that the flu generally follows in the course of its progression. This cycle might not be the same in every person, but specific characteristics help understand this cycle well.

Stages of the flu

Read on for a detailed understanding of the flu stages and how it gradually increases and decreases its effect while it lasts.

Day 0 of the flu:

It is essential to start from day zero because you are already contagious the day before the influenza flu. However, you are not likely to know that you feel fine and go on about your routine. It is very reasonable that you had come in contact with someone contagious with the flu virus within the previous 48 hours.

The flu spreads via tiny water droplets that come out when infected people sneeze, cough, or talk. People nearby that person can get these droplets landed on their noses or mouths and get the flu. One can also get the flu by touching a surface containing the virus and then putting the hand to their nose or mouth.

Day 1 of the flu:

On day one of the flu, you can be hit by the symptoms pretty rapidly. You will probably wake up feeling fine, but as the day progresses, your condition will worsen. Some of the flu’s most common earliest symptoms are fever, headache, chills, body ache, and tiredness.

Once you realize these symptoms, you should consult your doctor. People who have asthma or other diseases that put them in a higher risk zone of flu-related complications should not delay consulting a medical professional.

Day two of the flu:

In the stages of the flu, the second day is pretty terrible. You will feel too sick and will probably not be able to get out of bed. Coughing, congestion, and fever will make your whole body ache. You remain contagious on your day two of the flu.

It is recommended that you stay away from other people when you are sick. It would help if you did not go out except to get necessary things and keep your distance from other people for at least 24 hours even after your fever has gone.

stages of the flu

Day three of the flu:

On the third day of the flu, it will feel like it’s the worst; because it is. Many of the flu symptoms reach their most intense stage on the third day. You will feel miserable with a sore throat, congestion, and body aching. In case the flu has affected your gastronomical activities, it is very likely that they too will reach their peak.

With these horrible symptoms, you remain contagious on the third day of your flu. Ensure you keep a safe distance from other people and cover your mouth when you cough or sneeze. You should also frequently wash your hands.

Day four of the flu:

In the stages of the flu, day four marks the day when you will start getting better. Your fever will most likely be gone by this day, and your body aches should also lessen. The congestion you were having is most likely to loosen up from this day, and that would make your cough more productive.

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However, despite feeling somewhat better, you must take plenty of rest and fluids. It would help if you kept maintaining your distance from other people. By the end of the day, your fever may return and make you feel miserable again.

You will remain contagious until you have not got a fever for 24 hours straight without taking any medicine that reduces the fever.

Day five of the flu:

You should start feeling a lot better on your day five of the flu. Your fever should be gone completely, and so should your congestion. However, your cough may stay back. It is better to stay home and take some rest along with enough fluids.

In case you do not start feeling better by the fifth day of the flu, and your symptoms start to worsen, it is best to consult a doctor. You might have some other infection that would require antibiotics.

If your cough lingers and gets worse, you should get some cough medicine. It is best to get a professional consultation before getting a cough syrup of any sort.

stages of the flu

Day six of the flu:

In the stages of the flu, by day six, you should start feeling a lot better. Your congestion and fever both should have been gone, and you will be breathing with ease. However, the tiredness might linger. If you feel well enough, you can go back to work. However, make sure to cover your mouth while coughing or sneezing. It would help if you also washed your hands frequently to ensure safety.

Day seven of the flu:

The seventh day of the flu should make you feel even better than day six but not your hundred percent yet. In case your fever returns even, you should seek medical help. Your cough will most likely linger till day seven but should be improving. If you feel your cough and overall health are not really on the track of recovering, you should seek medical help.

Day eight of the flu:

By the eighth day of the flu, you are almost fine. You might feel like you have missed out on a lot with all these days of being affected by the flu and make up for it. However, it is best to take it relatively easy, even on your eighth day, to ensure a complete recovery.


Symptoms of flu

Now that the symptoms throughout the stages of the flu are apparent, it is essential to understand the signs in detail.

Excessive and sudden fatigue

Reduced sunlight and short days might make you feel tired. However, there exists a difference between being tired and being fatigued. Excessive and sudden fatigue is one of the earliest symptoms that the flu has. Fatigue is often the symptom of a common cold, but it is too severe with the flu.

Feeling fatigued because of the flu is most likely to tamper with your general routine. You must give your body enough rest and get better, as resting will boost your immunity system. You should consume lots of fluids as well to ensure a speedy recovery.


A dry cough that occurs continuously might refer to an early sign of the flu. If you have the flu, you can also get a cough with chest tightness and wheezing. You might even end up coughing mucus and phlegm. You might also get a productive caught, but that is relatively rare as an early sign of the flu.

In case you have asthma or other respiratory problems, it is better to consult your doctor at the earliest to avoid any other flu-related complications. You should also seek immediate medical help if you notice that your phlegm is colored or smells foul. Complications of the flu might include pneumonia and bronchitis, and therefore it is best to seek medical help at the earliest.

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Chills and body aches

Chills and body aches are also common symptoms of the flu. You might mistakenly think that the body ache is caused by something else in the early stages of the flu. For instance, you might think it is because of a recent workout or sleeping wrong. However, more than often, body aches are the early signs of getting the flu.

You might also get chills along with body aches as your flu symptoms. Chills are quite common in the early stages of the flu. You might want to use a blanket to heat your body and stop the chills. You might also take some medication for the body aches and chills after seeking medical help.

stages of the flu

Sore throat

Coughs that are related to the flu might quickly escalate to a sore throat. Certain viruses, like the influenza virus, can cause a sore throat without any cough.

In the primary stages of your flu, you are most likely to get an itchy feeling inside of your throat. You might also feel a strange kind of sensation when you drink fluids or swallow food. If you have the flu, these symptoms will only worsen and lead to a very swollen throat.

If you get a sore throat as a part of your flu symptoms, you should drink lots of hot fluid and gargle with lukewarm salted water to feel better and recover sooner. You can also try some prescribed medicine if you have sought medical help.

Gastrointestinal problems

Early flu symptoms might go beyond the region of chest, head, and throat and affect the gastrointestinal. Some of the virus strains can result in nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, and stomach pain.

If you are getting these along with the other flu symptoms, make sure to drink plenty of water to prevent dehydration. Diarrhea can turn real bad with dehydration; therefore, it is essential to keep yourself hydrated when you get these symptoms along with the flu.


Fever is quite a common early sign of the flu. Fevers that are related to the flu are, in most cases, over 38˚C (100.4˚F). However, though getting a fever is common in flu, everyone with the flu might not develop a fever. There are instances of the flu virus running its course with chills and body aches accompanied with or without fever.

How to know if you have the flu?

Given that the symptoms throughout the flu stages might seem similar to other medical conditions, it is best to seek professional help when in the middle stage of the flu. A doctor might prescribe a rapid flu test or any other test that you might need and prescribe specific antiviral medication to better your condition.

When you get confirmed that you have the flu, only medication will not help. You need to take plenty of rest and drink lots of fluid. You will need to make sure that you are keeping your distance from other people to stop the flu from spreading. It would help if you also washed your hands frequently to ensure a speedy recovery.

These are the primary information you need to know regarding the various stages of the flu. The intensity of the steps varies from person to person, and so do some of the symptoms. However, the primary symptoms like chills and body aches and fever, and sore throat mostly remain the same.

People with additional health complications should not ignore the flu’s early signs and consult the doctor immediately. Even for people who do not have many health complications, a doctor’s consultation is always recommended. Flu can escalate to several other infections, and getting diagnosed in the early stage always helps.

Besides prescribed medication, it is essential to take plenty of rest throughout all the stages of the flu. The body gets fatigued during the flu, and thus it must get enough rest. It would help if you also kept yourself hydrated enough throughout the flu to avoid any further complications. Since the flu often comes with a sore throat, it is better to remain hydrated on hot water and beverages to ensure the throat condition worsens.