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How Long Are Colds And Flu Contagious

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What Is A Cold And How Does It Spread

How long is my flu contagious?

The common cold gets its name from being one of the most common infections. It is generally harmless, although the recovery period can be quite exhausting. After all, a cold is an acute, viral infection of the upper respiratory system involving the throat, nose, and sinus2. Along with sneezing and a runny nose, a cold is also usually accompanied by a cough.

The common cold can be highly contagious as it is spreads indirectly by invisible droplets carrying the virus in the air, or by contact from an infected person who touches you after coughing or sneezing this makes it easy to fall sick when you are in proximity with someone who has the cold 2. As such, it is always recommended to stay home until you are fully recovered.

Whether it has been 3 or 10 days, the following can help identify which stage of the cold you are battling, and whether it is advisable to return to work or take another sick day.

Cold symptoms usually appear two or three days after youve been exposed to the virus. Once your symptoms start, your cold will usually last for 7 to 10 days1. A cough will usually stick around longer than the sneezing that comes with a cold. According to most doctors, a cough generally lasts closer to 18 days3.

The Best Treatment Is To Take Steps To Prevent Illness

Few common illnesses are more unpleasant than the flu. The aches and pains, chills, fever, and cough are bad enough add in the other potential symptoms of flu, including runny nose, vomiting, diarrhea, fatigue, or sore throat, and youll want the illness to be over as soon as possible. How long does the flu last? And does treating flu help make it go away faster? The answers depend on your particular health.

Can Someone Be Infected With A Cold Virus And Not Show Symptoms

Yes, it is even possible to be exposed to cold viruses and not become infected. When people are infected, they can be asymptomatic this is called a sub-clinical infection since the infection is not causing a disease. Most people with colds show mild symptoms but severe colds can have symptoms of headache, fever, aches and pains all over, stuffy nose and coughing.

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What Is A Cold Or Flu

The common cold is a type of mild upper respiratory viral infection. Common colds are the most frequent acute illness in the U.S. and the industrialized world and occur more frequently in winter and spring, but they can occur any time of year.

The flu is a respiratory illness caused by influenza viruses. It can cause mild to severe illness that can result in hospitalization or death. There are two main types of flu virus: types A and B that are responsible for seasonal flu epidemics each year.

The flu and the common cold also have symptoms similar to COVID-19, however, COVID-19 can cause more severe symptoms and complications.

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Can The Duration Of A Cold Or Flu Be Reduced

Cold, Allergies or Flu? What

While there are plenty of products to relieve symptoms, there is no silver bullet. Over-the-counter products cannot shorten the duration of the infection, but can make it more tolerable by relieving some symptoms. Theres a joke about this, which is very true: an untreated cold lasts a week and a treated cold lasts 7 days. When it comes to the flu, some symptoms like fatigue and coughing can last longer than two weeks.

Lastly, its important to point out that antibiotics are ineffective in treating colds and flu, as these are caused by viruses and not bacteria. However, it is possible that after a cold or the flu, a person will develop a bacterial complication like bronchitis or sinusitis a medical consultation will then be necessary to determine the appropriate treatment.

If you have any questions about products to relieve cold and flu symptoms, dont hesitate to consult your pharmacist.

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Treating Cold And Flu

Both cold and flu cause symptoms that can disrupt daily life. In most cases, viral infections run their course relatively quickly without any treatment.

Many people find relief after treating the symptoms of these illnesses, however. A wide range of drugs help treat the symptoms of cold and flu. These are available over the counter .

There is also a selection of cold and flu medication available for purchase online.

These medications may be useful if severe symptoms make normal function difficult. In some people with influenza, doctors may prescribe antiviral medications.

Some people choose to take preventive action against flu in the form of vaccines. Creating a vaccine for a constantly evolving virus is difficult.

However, the CDC report that the vaccine reduces the risk of contracting the flu by

How Is The Flu Treated

Most kids with flu get better at home. Make sure your child:

  • drinks lots of liquids to prevent dehydration
  • gets plenty of sleep and takes it easy
  • takes acetaminophen or ibuprofen to relieve fever and aches. Dont give kids or teens aspirin because of its link to Reye syndrome.
  • wears layers that are easy to remove. Kids might feel cold one minute and hot the next.

Children with the flu should stay home from school and childcare until they feel better. They should go back only when they havent had a fever for at least 24 hours without using a fever-reducing medicine. Some kids need to stay home longer. Ask the doctor whats best for your child.

Doctors may prescribe antiviral medicine for a very ill child or kids are at risk for more serious symptoms. The medicine can shorten the flu by 12 days. It works best if children start taking it within 48 hours of the start of the flu. If a doctor prescribes antiviral medicine for your child, ask about any possible side effects. Doctors wont prescribe antibiotics for the flu. Antibiotics work only against bacteria, not viruses.

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How To Avoid Spreading A Cold

Doctors say there are a few things you can do to keep the people around you from getting sick:

  • Wear a mask in public and around people in your household
  • Sneeze and cough into the crook of your elbow
  • Try to stay home as much as possible
  • Wash your hands often
  • Try to avoid crowds

If you can, dont go to work or school for the first couple of days, Dr. Schaffner says, although he acknowledges that many people wont do that. If you need to be around other people, Dr. Adalja suggests wearing your mask to help keep your germs to yourself.

Dr. Schaffner also points out that, given that COVID-19 is still spreading rapidly across the country, its a good idea to make sure your cold symptoms are just that by getting tested for COVID-19. Well be doing a lot of testing for cold-like symptoms this fall, Dr. Schaffner says.

Can The Flu Be Prevented

How Long Are Cold, Flu Symptoms Contagious?

Theres no guaranteed way to avoid the flu. But getting the flu vaccine every year can help. Everyone 6 months of age and older should get it each year.

Most doctors offices, clinics, and drugstores offer the flu vaccine from September to mid-November. Its best to get it before the end of October. But even if you dont get it at the start of the flu season, its not too late to get one while the flu is still going around.

If your child is sick, has a fever, or is wheezing, talk to your doctor to see if you need to reschedule the flu vaccine.

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Articles On Flu Management

You’ve been home sick a couple days, and there’s only so much daytime television you can take. You’re ready to go back to work.

But common colds and the flu are very contagious. There are millions of cases of these upper respiratory infections every year. And colds are the biggest reason kids miss school and adults miss work.

If you’ve been sick with a cold or flu, how long are you supposed to stay home, and when should you go back to your everyday routine?

Is It Possible To Still Be Contagious After Your Symptoms Have Gone Away

Its hard to identify exactly how long it takes for people to stop being contagious with the common cold. Sometimes low levels of the virus can still persist in your system , says Dr. Elliott. But its not usually enough to infect people with a healthy immune system.

However, it can be easier for people with compromised immune systems, such as babies, the elderly, and those with illnesses that affect their immunity, to pick up infections. Dr. Elliott suggests trying to steer clear from anyone whos immunocompromised until you havent had cold symptoms for one to two weeks.

Beyond that, if theres a chance your cold is still contagious, its always smart to practice good hand hygiene, cover your mouth and nose when you cough and sneeze, and take other preventive measures to avoid spreading your illness. Honestly, though, thats stuff you should be doing even when you dont have a cold, anyway.


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How Long Should I Stay Home After Getting A Nuisance Disease Like Lice/ringworm/pinworms

People with head lice should not return to school or work until treatment has begun, Pittman said. Pinworms and ringworm are also incredibly contagious, especially for children, but they usually do not require someone to miss school or work. Always follow the health policies at your school or workplace.

Head lice has over-the-counter treatments you may purchase at your local drug store. Ringworm and pinworms typically require a visit to your primary care providers office to get the appropriate prescription.

How Long Is A Cold Or A Flu Contagious

Falling to Cold &  Flu Viruses While Fasting

The falling leaves and cooler temperatures get many people worried, as colds and flu are more common during this time of the year. A common question many ask is this: how long is a cold or the flu contagious? Although the common cold and flu share similar symptoms, it is important to differentiate one from another, because these two infections are slightly different in terms of the period they can be transmitted to others.

What are the symptoms of the common cold? How long is a cold infectious to others?

The symptoms of the common cold begin after 1-3 days after the virus enters the body. The symptoms develop gradually with a scratchy or sore throat, followed by a runny nose, sneezing, nasal congestion, and fatigue. The temperature is usually normal, although children may get a fever. Nasal discharge is clear in the first few days then becomes mucoid. Mild cough can be experienced in the first week and may even last into the second week. An uncomplicated cold usually resolves within 10 days.

Individuals with a cold are most contagious during the first 2-3 days after the symptoms develop. However, they can be infectious to others a few days before the symptoms start until the symptoms are gone, or up to two weeks.

What are the symptoms of flu? How long are you contagious when you catch the flu?

Both common cold and flu are highly contagious

When to stay at home

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How Can You Keep Others From Catching Your Cold

You come into contact with viruses all the time. Thats why its helpful to understand how to prevent spreading or contracting the virus when youre most contagious. A cold usually is not contagious after a week.

When youre sick, stay at home if possible. Also, be sure to always cover your mouth when you cough or sneeze. To help stop spreading the virus, place your nose into the inside of your elbow if you dont have a tissue. Make sure to dispose of any used tissues immediately.

How Are Colds And Flu Spread

Colds and flu are most commonly spread through sneezing, coughing and touching contaminated surfaces.

  • Air: Cold and flu viruses can travel up to six feet in airborne water droplets from a persons breath when they talk, sneeze or cough. If you inhale one of these water droplets or it lands in your mouth, nose or eyes, you may become infected. Cold and flu viruses tend to spread more easily in cold, dry air.3
  • Touch: Surprisingly, viruses can survive for some time on surfaces, especially on hard, smooth surfaces such as metal and plastic.4 Recent research suggests the flu virus can survive for up to nine hours on hard surfaces and up to four hours on porous items such as clothes or soft toys.5 If you touch an infected surface such as a door handle, light switch, computer keyboard, cup or glassware, clothing or tissues a cold or flu virus can pass into your body if you touch your eyes, nose or mouth afterwards.2
  • Close or Direct Contact: Kissing, hugging or shaking hands can pass the virus directly from one person to another.1

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Cold And Flu: How Long Are You Contagious

The beginning of wintertime is the time to :

  • Celebrate the holidays
  • Drink hot cocoa by the fire at home
  • Prepare for cold and flu season

Its an excellent time to check up on all the basics of preventing cold and flu transmission:

  • Good hand hygiene
  • Sanitation protocols
  • Staying at home away from others if youre sick and contagious

But how long are you contagious with a cold and flu?

What Is The Cold What Is The Flu

How long are individuals contagious with a cold or flu?

Most colds are caused by rhinoviruses, though other pathogens like coronavirus, parainfluenza and respiratory syncytial virus are sources, too. All can lead to serious complications like bronchitis and pneumonia, especially in individuals with respiratory conditions like asthma, and in those with compromised immune systems.

Influenza A is the main family of viruses behind the flu in humans. The CDC estimates 12,000 to 56,000 American deaths are attributable to the flu each year, while the World Health Organization estimates the virus kills up to 650,000 people worldwide.

Viruses are nonliving pieces of genetic code DNA or RNA covered in protein coats known as capsids. Flu viruses and many cold viruses also have a viral envelope, meaning the capsid is covered by two layers of lipids similar to the cell membranes found on organisms.

Individuals with cold or flu infections can spread contagious viruses before symptoms begin. Photo by Subbotina Anna/Adobe Stock

Viruses cant multiply on their own they must infect the cells of a living creature. Because they arent actually living entities, using terms like live or survive to describe viruses outside the body can cause confusion, said Dr. Anthony Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Disease.

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When To Stay Home

When deciding whether to stay home, consider your symptoms. If you have a mild tickle in your throat or a stuffy nose, you should be able to go to work. Allergy symptoms also dont need to keep you from work. Theyre not contagious.

If youre really coughing and sneezing or you feel generally miserable, stay home. Also, avoid the office if youre vomiting or have diarrhea.

Get plenty of rest, drink lots of fluids, and wait for your symptoms to subside. The

Your doctor may recommend several treatments for your illness. Its important to consider when these treatments may be helpful and their potential side effects.

Unfortunately You May Not Be In The Clear As Soon As Your Nose Stops Running

Maggie ONeill is a health writer and reporter based in New York who specializes in covering medical research and emerging wellness trends, with a focus on cancer and addiction. Prior to her time at Health, her work appeared in the Observer, Good Housekeeping, CNN, and Vice. She was a fellow of the Association of Health Care Journalists 2020 class on Womens Health Journalism and 2021 class on Cancer Reporting. In her spare time, she likes meditating, watching TikToks, and playing fetch with her dog, Finnegan.

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The common cold isas the name suggestsincredibly common. In fact, the US sees about one billion cases of the common cold each year, according to MedlinePlus, a resource from the US National Library of Medicine. That number is largely attributed to number of viruses that can cause a coldabout 200 or so, per the National Institutes of Health , including rhinoviruses, adenoviruses, and coronaviruses.

But colds are also extremely contagious. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says they can be spread through the air, close contact with infected people, and even through an infected person’s fecal matter (say, if they don’t properly was their hands after using the bathroom.

Those symptoms Dr. Sutton is referring to are just typical cold symptoms: sore throat, runny nose, coughing, sneezing, headaches, and body aches.

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How Does The Flu Spread

Dr. Mossad explains that the flu spreads when tiny droplets of virus-laden particles are exchanged between people.

The main way people can infect each other with flu is being in close proximity of each other, he adds. The infected person coughs or sneezes and tiny drops of their fluids get on my face or hands, or they land on the table were sharing. Then I touch my nose or my mouth, and now those virus-filled particles are in me.

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