Expect the flu to last about five days, which is the time it takes your body to produce the antibodies that finally beat the infection. You will be protected from that strain of influenza for the rest of the season. Some people continue to feel ill and cough for more than two weeks. In some cases, the flu can make health conditions such as asthma or diabetes worse or lead to complications such as bacterial pneumonia. Adults older than 65 and people with chronic health conditions have the greatest risk for complications from the flu, the CDC says.
Antiviral medications are also recommended to treat the flu--amantadine, rimantadine, zanamivir and oseltamivir--but must be taken within the first two days of illness to be effective, the CDC says. They can reduce the length of time flu symptoms are present. These medications usually are used in hospitals, nursing homes and other institutions where people are at high risk for complications of the flu. Some side effects may result from taking these medications, such as nervousness, lightheadedness, or nausea. Individuals with asthma or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease are cautioned about using zanamivir. Talk to your health care provider if you think you should take one of these medications. These medications are not meant as a substitute for vaccination.