When Is The Flu Out Of Your System? It's Dangerous For Longer Than You Think

Ad failed to load

Just over a week and a half ago, I came down with the flu. It was pretty awful, and from what I understand, I only had a very mild case. I was achy, exhausted, feverish, and my head felt like a freshly cracked walnut. It's just today that I'm really back to feeling like myself, nearly 12 days later. I had no idea the effects would linger so long. It begs the question, when is the flu out of your system? Because it feels like it lasts forever.

Being fully healed from the flu is something completely different than no longer being in active infection or contagious. While the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) note that the duration of active infection and period when a person is contagious ranges from five to seven days, being fully healed and functioning can take quite a bit more time. The fatigue of flu, notes Harvard Health, can stick around much longer. In fact, Johns Hopkins Medical Center reported that the extreme fatigue can take weeks to dissipate entirely.

All things considered, I should feel pretty lucky that I'm almost 100 percent at 12 days post-onset of infection, but that would be rational and I'm in no mood for that. I'd much rather stick to my whining and paranoia, as that's what I'm accustomed to doing.

Ad failed to load

There is a possible additional concern that you should consider when you're on the mend, but only — louder for my fellow anxiety-ridden friends in the back — if you begin to become sick again shortly after recovery. That is a complication which can happen due to the flu, but generally presents after you start to feel better. It's a phenomena known as secondary bacterial pneumonia, and it is an opportunistic disease of the lungs that happens after you get the flu. Its symptoms are rapid deterioration of health, rapid or shallow (or both) breathing, cyanosis (bluish skin), chest pain, weakness, and/or the recurrence of a previously diminished fever, according to the American Society for Microbiology (ASM).

Parents of a 10-year-old girl in Colorado have been warning other parents of the dangers of the flu and how it can manifest into pneumonia when you aren't watching your child's symptoms. The parents told WQAD8 that they want other parents to know they shouldn't wait to take their child to the doctor, even if they don't seem that sick. Because the flu can stay in your system for a while, there's a risk of complications if your child is not seen by a healthcare professional.

Ad failed to load

A study reported by Yale University found that the flu does more than just knock you for a loop — influenza also suppresses your immune system for a period of time. Researchers wrote that "influenza virus triggers a bodily response that causes a rise in serum glucocorticoid levels, leading to systemic immunosuppression. Such effects render the body vulnerable to bacterial infections that would otherwise be innocuous." This means that while you're recovering, and for a period after (varying from person to person), you are more susceptible to other viruses and bacteria.


Children can also take longer to bounce back than adults do, too, noted Kids Health. My daughter, on the other hand, is 6 years old and had what I am told was likely an attenuated form of the flu thanks to the vaccine I insisted each member of my family receive. She was tired and had a fever for several days, but overall, she was pretty OK. After she felt well, and was fever-free for 24 hours, as per the recommendation of the CDC, I sent her back to school. But again, because this was an attenuated form of the flu, her recovery is a lot different than a child with the actual flu. It's going to take a while to get better, and even after you're healed, you're still at risk for more infections for a while.

Ad failed to load

If no further complications arise, it could be anywhere from a few days to a few weeks before the flu is totally out of your system. Remember, you can get the flu more than once in a season, so wash your hands all the time. Use sanitizer when you can't wash your hands, cover your mouth with your elbow when you cough, and for Pete's sake, get the flu shot. It's not too late.

Check out Romper's new video series, Bearing The Motherload, where disagreeing parents from different sides of an issue sit down with a mediator and talk about how to support (and not judge) each other’s parenting perspectives. New episodes air Mondays on Facebook.

Ad failed to load
Must Reads

The Reason Why Babies Smile At You Will Seriously Make You Smile

Whether you're currently the recipient of your own baby's sweet smiles or you just seem to be a magnet for baby grins in general, you might find yourself wondering why babies are always smiling at you. Sure, you could be a 'smile whisperer' but scien…
By Kate Miller

8 Ways Your Baby Is Trying To Say That, Yes, You Are Their Favorite

For a baby to show a preference for a specific person is not only normal, but an essential part of their development. Babies need to form strong attachments to their caregivers for their emotional, social, and physical wellbeing. Usually, but not alw…
By Kimmie Fink

10 Reasons Why I Won't Apologize For Giving My Toddler A Pacifier

My first child had no interest in a pacifier. I tried a couple times to get him to take one, but he always spat them out and gave me an incredulous, judgmental look. But my second? It was love at first suckle. And after a while, the incredulous, judg…
By Jamie Kenney

Being A Dog Parent Prepared Me For Having A Baby, Really

I’ve always wanted kids; I was never as sure about raising a puppy. Then I spent six months living with someone who brought home an eight-week-old golden retriever puppy, and I see no way to make it out of that experience claiming not to love dogs. I…
By Heather Caplan

20 Of The Most Popular Unisex Names Of All Time, That You'll Be Hearing More Of For Sure

You might think of unisex names as a fairly recent trend, but the truth is these versatile monikers have been commonly used throughout history (well, some more commonly than others). That's why the team over at recently compiled a list of t…
By Jacqueline Burt Cote

How To Have A Date Night With No Babysitter, Because It's Easier Than You Think

After having children, many couples feel that their love lives immediately go out the window, but it's so important to make your romantic life a priority so both you and your partner can be the best versions of yourselves you can be. As we all know, …
By Abi Berwager Schreier

9 Ways Baby No. 3 Made My Family Feel Complete

My husband and I decided to have another baby right after we got married and, well, we had no idea what we were getting into. I got pregnant right away, endured a high-risk pregnancy, and, before I knew it, my third baby had arrived. Together, we emb…
By Steph Montgomery

8 Stereotypes About New Dads That Are *Totally* True

Much like new mothers, new fathers have a lot on their plate. Parenting can be scary and complex, especially at first and regardless of your gender. People want to do right by their kids, after all. And since all new parents are a hot mess, dads are …
By Priscilla Blossom

8 Differences Between Being Pregnant In Your 20s Vs 30s, According To Science

Whether you're planning a pregnancy, or just thinking about your future family, it's typical to think about things like child-spacing, how many kids you want, and when to start trying to conceive. When making your pro/con list, you might also conside…
By Steph Montgomery

16 Moms Share Remedies For Their Most Intense Chocolate Cravings During Pregnancy

For better or worse, pregnancy is usually synonymous with odd cravings. Sure, there are the stereotypical combos like pickles and ice cream that plague gestating women the world over, but there are other mind-boggling combinations, too, including but…
By Candace Ganger

Putting Sunscreen On Your Kid Doesn't Have To Be A Fight — Here's How To Do It

I am almost translucent, so me and sunscreen are basically besties at this point. Even though my children are beautifully deep brown thanks to my husband's genetics, I still slather them like biscuits being buttered because I refuse to take risks wit…
By Cat Bowen

7 Things A Mom Really Means When She Says She Doesn't Want Anything On Mother's Day

Every year my family asks me what I want for Mother's Day, and every single year I tell them the same thing: Nothing. So, by now, they know that when I say "nothing" I absolutely do not mean "nothing." In fact, there are more than a few things a mom …
By Candace Ganger

19 Moms Share The Way They Cured Their Pregnancy Comfort Food Cravings

I was obnoxiously sick during the first trimester with, "lucky" for me, both of my pregnancies. For the first three months I lived on saltines, lemonade, and fresh bread. Once I was able to eat, however, all I wanted was savory and sweet comfort food…
By Dina Leygerman

8 Fascinating Facts About Babies Born In May, The Luckiest Month Of All

The height of all things fresh and springy, May is an excellent month to have a baby. It's a time of growth, graduations, and outdoor celebrations. And these fascinating facts about May babies will give you more reasons than ever to appreciate childr…
By Lindsay E. Mack

I Used To Judge Formula-Feeding Moms — Until I Became One

The other patrons in the hip Brooklyn restaurant probably couldn’t care less what I was feeding my baby, but I’ll always remember the shame I felt as I quickly mixed up his bottle of formula in front of them. I admitted to my childless friend that I …
By Katherine Martinelli

7 White Lies It’s Necessary To Tell To Keep Your Relationship Healthy

Telling lots of lies typically isn't associated with a healthy, strong, lasting relationship, and that's still certainly true, but not all lies are exactly the same. Though you've probably heard from someone at least once or twice that the lie they t…
By Lauren Schumacker

The Skinny Jeans That Saved Me Postpartum

Accepting my post-pregnancy body is hands-down one of the most difficult things I’ve ever done. It’s something that I still work on every single day. During my first pregnancy, I was 20 years old, so I managed to bounce back quickly. In fact, I dropp…
By Allison Cooper

7 Ways Your Baby Is Trying To Say They Feel Safe

In those first weeks of new motherhood, it can feel like you need an interpreter for your newborn. With their limited means of communication, figuring out what message your baby is trying to get across to you can be a challenge. With time, however, y…
By Kimmie Fink

Here's Why Dogs Are Obsessed With Babies' Poop, According To Science

Most family dogs seem to understand babies, and they're more than happy to make friends with the newest member of the pack. It's adorable... for the most part and until you go to change your little one's diaper. Suddenly, you're wondering why dogs ar…
By Lindsay E. Mack

6 Signs You're Meant To Have A Big Age Gap Between Kids

There's a five year age difference between my two children, to the day. Their age gap wasn't planned but, for a variety of reasons, works well for our family. And since I was so focused on having a second baby, I totally overlooked the signs that wou…
By Candace Ganger

My Dog Knew I Was Pregnant Before My Family Did

Growing up, I was 100 percent sure I'd be a mom one day. To a dog, that is. My baby plans came later. And once my husband and I were sure we wanted both a dog and a baby, we'd add to our joint dog-and-baby name list over Sunday brunch or on date nigh…
By Melissa Mills