How Does the Flu Spread?

Flu is a common viral infection that attacks your nose, throat, and lungs. This article examines how the disease spreads and how you can stay protected.

What Is the Flu?

Influenza, or the flu, is a contagious illness that affects your respiratory system. Its symptoms can also range from mild to serious. The flu and the common cold have similar symptoms in most cases. This makes it difficult to differentiate between both illnesses. However, flu symptoms are more severe and last longer than the common cold.

Anyone can be sick with the flu, but children below 5 and adults above 65 are at higher risk. You are also at higher risk if you have a weak immune system or a chronic condition. These include kidney disease, heart disease, and diabetes type 1 or 2.

What Are Flu Symptoms?

In the early stages, the flu can look like a common cold. Early symptoms can include:

  • Sneezing
  • Runny nose
  • Sore throat

If the virus progresses, symptoms can develop into:

  • Body chills
  • Achy muscles
  • Headache
  • Sweating
  • Fever
  • Fatigue
  • Dry cough

Usually, the flu doesn’t need a doctor’s visit, and symptoms will reduce after a week. However, it is possible to develop complications from the flu. If you or your children are in these high-risk groups, seek medical attention.

How Does the Flu Spread?

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), transmitting the flu to someone else as early as the first day before symptoms start showing is possible. You can also transmit it up to 5 to 7 days after you get sick.

After contracting the virus, you start showing symptoms in 1 to 4 days. The flu is primarily distributed from person to person via coughs, sneezes, or talks. You can become sick if droplets from coughing or sneezing reach your nose or mouth. It is also possible to get sick by touching objects or surfaces infected with the virus.

How Can the Flu Be Prevented?

Since the virus can be transmitted from one person to another, ensure you wash your hands frequently with soap. You can also use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer. Also, avoid touching your mouth and nose with unwashed hands.

The flu virus can survive on objects for up to 48 hours. To further protect yourself, use disinfectant sprays or wipes on commonly touched areas at home or work.

If you’re caring for someone with the flu, wear a face mask to avoid contamination.


The flu is easily transmitted, but you can still safeguard against it. Cover your nose and mouth to prevent spreading it to others. If your symptoms worsen, see your medical doctor for a proper diagnosis.