How Long Are You Contagious With The Flu?

It happens to the best of us. You wake up one day and you are completely man-down with a stuffy nose, fever and body aches. And now you need to message your manager and tell them that you’re the office’s patient-zero and face the guilt-trip from your colleagues.

Adults are contagious before they even realize they’re sick. The virus can spread from up to 24 hours before you start showing any symptoms (sneaky bugs!) and can spread for a further week after you are really in the thick of being sick.

This contagious period can last even longer for kids or people with weakened immune systems such as the elderly. That being said, you’re most contagious with the flu during the first three to four days after you begin feeling sick.

Is There A Way To Tell If You’re Contagious?

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The best way to judge if you’re still contagious is timing. Because symptoms of the flu typically begin about two days after the virus enters the body (but could appear anytime between 1 and 4 days after infection begins), you should be particularly careful during your first week of symptoms. Meaning, stay home from work or school, if possible, and be careful to avoid direct contact with other people. Drink lot’s of water & make an appointment to see your practitioner if you’re worried about your symptoms and would like help to ease them and recover quicker.

I’ve also written a post with my favourite herbs to treat colds & flu, which you can read here.

Colds & Flu’s: Whats The Difference?

Yes, they are two completely different things! Both are caused by viruses and have similar symptoms which is why many people mistake them for the same thing, but once you see the differences side-by-side it’s easy to never see them the same again.

In general, flu can be much worse than the common cold, and symptoms come across more intense whereas colds are usually milder and don’t result in serious health problems if left untreated like pneumonia, bacterial infections, or hospitalisations.

Image Cred: http://www.cdc.gov

As Far As Treatment is Concerned…

In all honesty, chances are high that you’ll receive a prescription for antibiotics from your GP. However, antibiotics don’t do anything when it comes to viruses. They’re only effective for treating infections caused by bacteria. With that said though – if you leave a flu untreated, you can develop a co-infection that could be bacterial and thereby, need antibiotics (but you won’t need antibiotics immediately). 

I must say, many GP’s I know and have worked with delay prescribing antibiotics and don’t go to it immediately which is a BIG step in the right direction. 

Phytotherapeutic Approach To Treatment

Treating any kind of problems affecting the respiratory system is  my absolute favourite. Patients can see a difference in their symptoms so quickly which is really satisfying from a “customer satisfaction” point of view. The lungs are such a life-force to the human body. Think about taking a breath of fresh air – how rejuvenating it can feel & how restrictive it feels when you’re in the full swing of a flu and can barely breath through the mucous build-up & constant coughing. 

A phytotherapeutic approach will always be individualised & based on fighting the virus first (the cause) and at the same time, helping to alleviate the symptoms which can make the patient a lot happier. So these would include herbs that support the immune system; have antiviral properties; decongestant properties or demulcent, soothing properties if there is a dry cough involved. 

I don’t think I have ever used the exact same prescription for two different patients. I certainly have my go-to herbs like echinacea or olive leave, but I’ll use them in different strengths or ratio’s to fit the individual.