Why treat the flu within 48 hours?

Many studies have shown that antiviral flu medications work best when you take them within 48 hours of developing flu symptoms.1


Take a flu antiviral treatment within 48 hours of developing symptoms to ease the flu’s severity and shorten your illness.1 By acting quickly when you notice the early signs of the flu, you can give your body the very best chance to start getting better.

As soon as you suspect you might have the flu, make sure you talk to your doctor or healthcare provider. They’ll then be able to recommend the best treatment plan for you.

The three stages of the flu

  1. The first symptoms of the flu often include a fever and aching muscles, along with a headache, sore throat, coughing and extreme tiredness.2 Unlike a cold, early flu symptoms usually come on very suddenly, with little warning.3,4 
    This is the best time to speak to your doctor about flu medications.
  2. Most flu symptoms tend to improve within one week but coughing and tiredness may last longer.2 You’ll probably have to put your daily routine on hold while you rest in bed.
  3. As long as no complications develop, you’ll start to feel a little better after a few days as your body (and the antiviral medication) fight back against the flu virus.4 However, you may continue to feel tired for some time.2
A picture of virus

How long does the flu last?

The flu usually lasts between one and two weeks, but flu symptoms and recovery times can vary dramatically from one patient to another.5

Complications can make the illness last much longer and could result in hospitalisation, or even death, in the most severe cases.4,6


How does the flu spread?

The flu can easily spread from person to person.7 The virus particles are released into the air when an infected person coughs, sneezes or talks. These particles can then land in the mouth or nose of someone close by, or be inhaled into their lungs. People can also get the flu by simply touching their mouth or nose after touching something that the virus particles have landed on.7

The flu is most contagious in the first 3 to 4 days, and you can still spread the virus to other people even before symptoms occur.7

When antivirals are used, the number of virus particles being made and released by a person (also known as ‘viral load’) is reduced.8

There are a lot of misconceptions about the flu, its treatment and prevention. Click here to separate the fact from the fiction



It’s important to speak to your doctor or healthcare provider as soon as possible. 


  1. Lehnert R et al. Dtsch Arztebl Int 2016; 113(47): 799–807.
  2. Institute for Quality and Efficiency in Health Care (IQWiG). Flu: Overview, 2016. Available from: www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmedhealth/PMH0072643/#i2352.symptoms. Last accessed: August 2020.
  3. Banning M. Br J Nurs 2005; 14(22): 1192–1197.
  4. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Flu symptoms and complications. Available from: https://www.cdc.gov/flu/symptoms/symptoms.htm. Last accessed: August 2020. 
  5. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, 2008; 57: RR-7. Available from: www.cdc.gov/mmwr/pdf/rr/rr5707.pdf.  Last accessed: August 2020.
  6. Mertz D et al. BMJ 2013; 347: f5061.
  7. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. How flu spreads. Available from: www.cdc.gov/flu/about/disease/spread.htm. Last accessed: August 2020. 
  8. Stiver G. CMAJ 2003; 168(1): 49–56.