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Cold and Flu Center

5 Things You Need to Know About the Flu Incubation Period


Understand the Flu Incubation Period

No one likes catching the flu, but at some point you are likely to come across the dreaded virus. So, if you've been near a friend with the flu, how long will it take until you get sick? This time period is called "incubation." This is the time between when you are exposed to the flu virus and when you start showing signs of actually having the flu. Generally, the flu incubation period is short, between 1 to 4 days, averaging to 2 days. So this means that about 2 days after someone gives you the virus you may start coughing, running a high fever and aching all over.

Knowing When You Can Catch the Flu

Another person could pass the flu to you starting from 1 day before they feel sick until 5 days after they start feeling sick. Health professionals call this time the "infectious period." Children can have an even longer infectious period than adults. They are infectious for about 2 days before they get sick until 10 days after. Since sometimes you can start spreading the flu before you know you are sick, or while you are still in the flu incubation period, it can be difficult to prevent other people from getting other people sick. That's why it is important to always cover your mouth and nose when you cough and sneeze.

Learning How You Can Get the Flu

Where does virus come from? Other people carry the flu virus and give it to you. Two people have to be pretty near to each other--an arm's distance--to pass the virus. But that's not hard to do. Think about how many people you shake hands with or bump into on a daily basis. The flu spreads most quickly when lots of people are in a certain area, like hospitals, airplanes and schools. When a sick person coughs or sneezes, the virus floats on the droplets in the air and you breathe in those droplets. The virus eventually works its way into your system. If your body cannot fight it off, the virus makes you sick.

Preventing the Flu

There are a number of things we can do to keep ourselves from getting sick with the flu.Washing your hands frequently can get rid of any virus-containing droplets you may have picked up along the way. Keeping your hands away from your face and mouth keeps the virus outside of your body. Try to stay away from people who you know are sick. If you are near someone who is sick with the flu, it helps if you are already healthy, so your immune system can fight off the flu. Get plenty of rest and eat well to keep your body in good condition. Lastly, the CDC recommends a flu vaccine to keep you healthy throughout the flu season.

Find Out Who is Most Likely to Get Sick

It is important to know who in your family could be most likely to catch the flu and who will have the most severe symptoms if they do catch the flu. Children, the elderly and people who may be weakened by other illnesses are more likely to succumb to the flu virus. These groups may need to see the doctor immediately if their symptoms become more serious. Call you doctor if you are at all concerned about your loved one.

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