What If A Cold Or The Flu Wont Go Away
When complications develop, a person will likely be sick for longer than a week or two, depending on the severity of the complication, how quickly a person receives treatment for it, and how well the patient responds to treatment.
Signs of severe complications that should prompt you to seek medical attention include the following, according to the CDC :
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Should Masks Be Worn In The Home
There is not generally much need to wear masks at home, especially if there is no influenza virus in circulation. An exception would be if there is someone in the house with suspected flu needing close care. To prevent transmission from an individual with influenza symptoms to other family members, face masks should be used by all family members as soon as possible after the onset of the symptoms.
How Long Do Cold And Flu Viruses Stay Contagious On Public Surfaces
Tis the season for gathering with friends and family to share latkes and gingerbread, but also for those dreaded colds and bouts of the flu.
As temperatures drop, both illnesses start to tick up, as does the risk of taking you, your co-workers and loved ones down one-by-one. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimate the average person gets two to three colds per year mostly in the winter and spring. The country as a whole sees 9.3 to 49 million cases of the flu annually.
Before you isolate yourself inside your home and scrub every surface in sight, you should know that these pathogens dont actually last for days or weeks outside the body, as commercials for some cleaning products might suggest. Thats because cold and flu viruses, despite their ferocity inside our warm bodies, are structurally wimpy and cannot bear the harsh conditions of the dry, outside world.
Heres what you should know about how long these pesky viruses persist and how you can protect yourself.
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How To Tell The Difference Between A Cold And The Flu
A cold and the flu are both respiratory infections, but theyre caused by different viruses. A cold can be caused by more than 200 distinct viruses, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention , while there are only a handful of viruses that cause the flu. The flu is usually more intense than the common cold, says the CDC.
Cold symptoms tend to develop gradually, while flu symptoms can come on suddenly, without warning, per the CDC.
What Is The Best Way To Prevent Cold/flu Virus Transmission From Surfaces
Studies have shown that flu viruses can remain infectious for 4 to 9 hours and cold viruses for up to 24 hours, so frequent cleaning of commonly touched items and surfaces throughout the working day, particularly if people with symptoms are present , can help reduce transmission.
Classrooms, offices, and living rooms, which are left unoccupied overnight, are unlikely to contain much viable virus on surfaces by the next morning.
Washing your hands often is a critical step in preventing colds, especially when youre in close contact with a sick person. Use disinfectants to clean objects or areas that have been in contact with individuals who are sick. Chlorine, hydrogen peroxide, soaps, detergents, or alcohol-based gels all disrupt the capsules of the viruses, and theyre no longer capable of being infectious.
If youre around someone with a cold, avoid touching your face and wash your hands frequently, and tell them to take a sick day. If youre sick, stay home and cover coughs and sneezes.
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How Is The Virus Spread
This is where things get a little murky. But before the question can be answered, Gardam provides some historical background that indicates the basis upon which the contagion and its specifics have been established is flawed.
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One highly cited study takes the example of an Alaska Airlines flight that was grounded on the tarmac and held a passenger infected with the flu. The story goes that the passengers on the flight were not allowed to deplane, so after a while, the crew brought food on board and set up a buffet.
Unfortunately, the person who had the flu was seated next to the food and 72 per cent of people on board were infected. It was then concluded that the virus was airborne and thats how it was transmitted. But Gardam doesnt see it that way.
There are three ways to pass a respiratory virus: through contact through big droplets or airborne .
We know that 99.9 per cent of the influenza virus is in the big droplets, and while it does exist in the microscopic particles, its much less, he says. If you play the odds, the big droplets are where the money is.
Transmission through contact is known to transmit rhinovirus and other viruses, but doctors dont know for sure that it also spreads the flu. It is reasonable to assume that through that contact transmission has a role, though its not known how much.
How Does The Flu Spread
During the cold winter months, the flu spreads rapidly. We know that it is highly contagious and can be spread before you even have symptoms. But do you know how it is spread and passed from person to person so easily?
Contrary to popular belief, it’s not due to cold weather. Although the cold, dry air may mean the virus moves and infects people more easily, it does not actually cause the illness. It’s also not really spread through the air the way many people think it is.
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Susceptibility And Resistance To Influenza
When a new influenza strain appears, all people are susceptible, except those who have lived through earlier epidemics or pandemics caused by a related strain.
Infection produces immunity to the specific infecting virus, but the duration and breadth of immunity may vary widely. This is partly dependent on host factors, the degree of antigenic change in the virus and the time since the previous infection.
Cold And Flu Preventative Measures
By understanding the modes of transmission, these preventative measures make sense:
Vaccination is the best way to prevent the flu. Unfortunately, there is no vaccine against the common cold, which is why other preventive measures are so important.
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When To Visit Your Gp
If you are otherwise fit and healthy, there’s usually no need to visit your GP if you have flu-like symptoms.
You should just rest at home until you feel better, while keeping warm, drinking plenty of water and taking painkillers if necessary.
In these cases, your GP may suggest taking antiviral medication.
How Long Do Colds And Flu Last
Cold symptoms last for four to seven days. Usually, the risk of contagion is greatest in the first three days of illness. There is some risk of transmission after the third day, but to a lesser degree.
The flu, on the other hand, is contagious one day before symptoms develop and remains so for five to seven days after they appear. Children could be contagious for longer periods.
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Looking After Yourself When You Have Influenza
The best things you can do to look after yourself when you have the flu are:
- Rest you will probably feel very weak and tired until your temperature returns to normal . Rest provides comfort and allows your body to use its energy to fight the infection.
- Stay at home stay away from work, school and any places where you may have contact with others, especially while you are contagious. The period during which adults are contagious is usually around 35 days from when the first symptoms appear, and up to 7 days in younger children.
- Drink plenty of fluids extra fluids are needed to replace those lost because of the fever . If your urine is dark, you need to drink more. Try to drink a glass of fluids, such as water, every hour while you are awake.
When To Expect Improvement
Influenza is extremely common, especially during the fall and winter months. You probably know about symptoms of the flu, like coughing and fever, but might wonder how long the flu lasts.
In healthy children and adults, the flu typically lasts for three to seven days. However, if you develop complications, you’ll feel sick much longer. The cough from the flu can also stick around for up to two weeks.
People with the flu are often contagious a day before they experience symptoms, and they can pass the flu to others for up to a week after symptoms appear. Kids might spread the flu virus for even longer.
This article discusses everything you should know about the flu, including answers to common questions like How long does the flu last in adults? and How long does the flu last in babies? It also covers treatment, prevention, and when to call a healthcare provider.
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How Can I Best Protect My Child Against The Flu
First, with your pediatricians OK, have your child vaccinated. Added prevention is also key. Teach your child how to wash his or her hands when he or she is in school or away from home with either soap and water or an alcohol-based hand rub.
The flu virus spreads mainly by droplets when infected people cough, sneeze, or even talk, but it can be spread by touching surfaces on which one of those droplets has landed and then touching ones nose, mouth or eyes. This is why hand washing is so important both for the person with the flu and others around him or her. If someone in your household has the flu, ask your doctor if preemptive antiviral medication is an option for others in the home. Clean common surfaces like the kitchen counter, bathroom sink, light switches, door knobs, etc., frequently with household disinfectants.
If your child has the flu, keep him or her home from school, daycare and any other activities that could expose others to the virus. If your child needs to go outside of the house, he or she should wear a mask to reduce the likelihood of spreading the virus to others.
We urge that children six months and older be vaccinated, especially those at risk for complications from the flu. Your childs pediatrician will know whats best for your child, especially if there are preexisting conditions, including allergies, that require careful review.
What To Expect With Influenza
Symptoms of the flu can hit very quickly and may last several weeks. A bout of the flu typically follows this pattern:
- Days 13: Sudden appearance of fever, headache, muscle pain and weakness, dry cough, sore throat and sometimes a stuffy nose.
- Day 4: Fever and muscle aches decrease. Hoarse, dry or sore throat, cough and possible mild chest discomfort become more noticeable. You may feel tired or flat.
- Day 8: Symptoms decrease. Cough and tiredness may last one to two weeks or more.
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Why Dont Cold And Flu Viruses Live Forever
Cold and flu viruses rapid decrease in viability outside the body is thanks to three main factors: their enveloped structure, environmental conditions and how much our mucus surrounds it after a sneeze.
A enveloped virus like influenza A and most cold-causing viruses are by nature set up for destruction, Greatorex said. While these enveloped viruses are typically neutralized within 48 hours, a non-enveloped one like norovirus, an intestinal disease which has caused multiple mass outbreaks on cruise ships can be viable on surfaces for weeks.
Anything that disrupts the proteins on the virus surface pretty much kills these enveloped viruses, Greatorex said. They are not particularly resistant.
Temperature, ultraviolet radiation from sunlight, pH changes and salt can play a role in weakening a viral envelope. But one of the main factors is moisture.
Viruses tend to be more stable in environments for which theyre known to reproduce, Auwaerter said. If they live in warm, moist environments for example, in your nostrils, in your throat, in your bronchial tree theyre more stable. But when theyre exposed to a different material or to a non-moist environment, they can break down.
This is why cold and flu viruses remain infectious on non-porous surfaces like light switches and countertops longer than porous surfaces like fabric and tissues. Porous surfaces suck moisture away from the viruses, causing the structures to collapse.
How Does The Flu Virus Spread
The flu spreads through a process known as viral shedding. A virus replicates inside a cell, and the viruses mix with mucus and saliva and find their way outside through droplets that escape when you cough or sneeze.
Droplets with the virus can stay suspended in the air and infect anyone nearby who inhales them. The virus can also be spread when an infected person touches their face and then touches surfaces like doorknobs and desktops. The objects that allow the settling of the virus and help in its transmission are known as fomites. When a healthy person touches these fomites and then their face with the same hand, the virus can enter their respiratory system and cause flu.
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Do Some Strains Of The Flu Last Longer Than Other Strains
Although different influenza strains dont generally affect the duration of illness, some strains can cause more severe illness than others.
According to the CDC, influenza A viruses have been associated with more hospitalizations and deaths in children and the elderly than other human influenza subtypes or strains, such as influenza A and influenza B.
Additionally, vaccine effectiveness for influenza A viruses has been generally lower.
When To See A Doctor
People should try to see a doctor within 24 to 48 hours after flu symptoms appear, as this is when antiviral treatments are most effective.
It is also important to see a doctor if symptoms do not improve after 7 days or new symptoms, such as ear pain, appear.
People should seek emergency medical treatment if:
- breathing becomes difficult or labored
- muscle pain is unbearable or severe enough to prevent walking
- a child develops a fever above 104°F
- when breathing, a child or infant makes loud sounds or pulls in the muscles around their ribs
- a person has seizures, loses consciousness, seems confused, or is unable to communicate effectively
- a baby under the age of 12 weeks develops a fever
- symptoms of chronic medical conditions get worse
- there is intense dizziness that does not go away after a few hours
- a person stops urinating or urinates very rarely
- symptoms get better but then return later and are worse
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Can The Flu Be Prevented
There’s no guaranteed way to avoid the flu. But getting the flu vaccine every year can help. Everyone 6 months of age and older should get it each year.
Most doctor’s offices, clinics, and drugstores offer the flu vaccine from September to mid-November. It’s best to get it before the end of October. But even if you don’t get it at the start of the flu season, it’s not too late to get one while the flu is still going around.
If your child is sick, has a fever, or is wheezing, talk to your doctor to see if you need to reschedule the flu vaccine.
How You Catch Flu
The flu virus is contained in the millions of tiny droplets that come out of the nose and mouth when someone who is infected coughs or sneezes.
These droplets typically spread about one metre. They hang suspended in the air for a while before landing on surfaces, where the virus can survive for up to 24 hours.
Anyone who breathes in the droplets can catch flu. You can also catch the virus by touching the surfaces that the droplets have landed on if you pick up the virus on your hands and then touch your nose or mouth.
Everyday items at home and in public places can easily become contaminated with the flu virus, including food, door handles, remote controls, handrails, telephone handsets and computer keyboards. Therefore, it’s important to wash your hands frequently.
You can catch flu many times because flu viruses change regularly and your body won’t have a natural resistance to the new versions.
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Is The Flu Contagious
The flu is very contagious. People can spread it from a day before they feel sick until their symptoms are gone. This is about 1 week for adults, but it can be longer for young kids.
The flu usually happens in annual epidemics. An epidemic is when an illness spreads quickly and infects lots of people in an area at the same time. Some years the epidemic is more severe and widespread than others. An epidemic that spreads worldwide is called a pandemic. This is far less common. There were three influenza pandemics in the 20th century, and one so far in the 21st century, in 2009 with influenza A .
During the coronavirus pandemic, experts found that wearing masks can help protect the community from the spread of germs. They recommended that all children age 2 and up wear a mask when out in public or around people who don’t live with them. Wearing masks can also help stop the spread of flu.