The Flu: How Long Are You Contagious?

People with the flu are most contagious in the first 3 to 4 days after their illness begins. However, you can be contagious from 1 day before you have any symptoms until around 5 to 7 days after your symptoms start. Children and people with weakened immune systems may be contagious for a few days longer.

It is important to note that you can still be contagious even if you are taking antiviral medications to treat the flu. These medications can shorten the time that you are sick and the length of time that you can spread the flu, but they do not eliminate the virus completely.

To avoid spreading the flu to others, it is important to stay home from work or school until you are fever-free for at least 24 hours without the help of fever-reducing medications. You should also cover your mouth and nose when you cough or sneeze, and wash your hands frequently with soap and water.

Here are some tips to help reduce the spread of the flu:

  • Get a flu shot every year.
  • Wash your hands often with soap and water.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth.
  • Stay home from work or school if you are sick.
  • Cover your mouth and nose when you cough or sneeze.
  • Clean and disinfect frequently touched surfaces.