The flu is a virus that’s spread in several ways. First, you can contract the virus from a person near you who has the flu and sneezes, coughs, or talks.
The virus can also live on inanimate objects for 2 to 8 hours. If someone with the virus touched a common surface, like a door handle or a keyboard, and you touch the same surface, you could get the virus.
Once you have the virus on your hand, it can enter your body if you touch your mouth, eyes, or nose.
You can get a vaccine against the flu. An annual flu vaccine helps your body prepare for exposure to the virus. But flu viruses are morphing and changing. That’s why you need the flu shot every year, and especially while COVID-19 is still active.
A flu shot helps you by activating your immune system to make antibodies against particular strains of influenza. Antibodies are what prevent infections.
It’s possible to get the flu after receiving the flu shot if you come into contact with other strains of the virus. Even then, it’s likely your symptoms will be much less severe than if you hadn’t had the vaccine at all.
This is because different strains of influenza share common elements (called cross-protection), which means that the flu vaccine is able to work against them, too.
What’s the Incubation Period for The Flu?
The typical incubation period for the flu is 1 to 4 days. Incubation refers to the period during which the virus is in your body and developing.
During this time, you may not show any symptoms of the virus. That doesn’t mean that you aren’t able to pass it to someone else. Many people are capable of transmitting the virus to others a day before symptoms appear.
The millions of tiny droplets that are produced when we sneeze, cough, or talk, spread the flu virus. These droplets enter your body through your nose, mouth, or eyes.
You can also get the flu by touching a surface that has the virus on it and then touching your nose, mouth, or eyes.
The “24-hour flu” (or gastroenteritis) is a common stomach infection that has nothing to do with influenza, despite sharing a name. The 24-hour stomach flu is caused by a genus of viruses called norovirus.
The symptoms of norovirus include:
- stomach cramping
These symptoms occur in the gastrointestinal system. That’s why the 24-hour flu is sometimes called a “stomach flu.” Although it’s called the “24-hour flu,” you may be ill for up to 3 days.
The symptoms of the 24-hour flu and influenza (the flu) are different. The flu is a respiratory illness. Respiratory system symptoms of the flu include:
- runny nose
- body aches
Some people with influenza may experience nausea and vomiting while they’re sick. But these symptoms aren’t as common in adults.
If you have the flu, you’re contagious meaning you can pass the flu to others.
Many people can spread the virus as early as a day before they show symptoms. In other words, you may be transmitting the virus before you even realize that you’re sick.
You may still be spreading the virus 5 to 7 days after your symptoms appear. Young children are often able to pass the virus for more than 7 days after symptoms first appear.
People who have a weak immune system may experience the virus symptoms longer, too.
If you have the flu or any flu symptoms, stay home. Do your part to prevent the spread of the virus to other people. If you’re diagnosed, alert anyone you came into contact with on the day before your symptoms appeared.
Medications called antiviral drugs can treat the flu. You can’t buy these medications over the counter at a pharmacy. They’re available by prescription only, and you must visit a doctor or healthcare provider to receive a prescription.
Antiviral medications used to treat the flu can help ease the symptoms. They can also shorten the length of the flu by a day or two.
Taking antiviral medications may help if you get the flu, but these medications also have side effects. Talk to your doctor to understand the risks.
Research suggests antiviral medications work best if you take them within 48 hours of having symptoms. If you miss that window, don’t worry. You may still see a benefit from taking the medicine later.
This is especially true if you’re at high risk or are ill. Taking antiviral medications may help protect you against flu complications. These include pneumonia and other infections.
If left untreated, a typical case of the flu often goes away in about 1 week. During that time, you have several treatment options for making symptoms easier to handle.
Prescription antiviral medicines can reduce the severity of the infection. They can also shorten its duration. Some OTC treatments can ease the symptoms as well.
Some natural flu remedies may be helpful for easing symptoms. For instance, for a sore throat or cough, some options include:
- warm tea
- warm soup
Of course, rest is also an important part of recovering from the flu, or any other type of virus.
Your body is fighting hard to get well. It’s wise for you to stop, rest, and get more sleep so your immune system can fight back against the virus.
Precision Pain Care and Rehabilitation has two convenient locations in Richmond Hill – Queens and New Hyde Park – Long Island. Call the Richmond Hill office at (718) 215-1888, or (516) 419-4480 for the Long Island office, to arrange an appointment with our Interventional Pain Management Specialist, Dr. Jeffrey Chacko.