Friday, September 15, 2023

How Long Is A Cold Or Flu Contagious

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What Are The Best Cold Remedies

How Long Are Cold, Flu Symptoms Contagious?

You may have heard that supplements and herbal remedies, such as zinc, Vitamin C and echinacea can treat and prevent colds.

Researchers havent found that any of those remedies can prevent colds. But zinc may shorten the illness and reduce symptoms. However, it may cause permanent loss of smell, especially when you use it in nasal sprays.

The best and safest way to make a speedy recovery is to get plenty of rest. Consider taking time off from work or school for at least the first few days of illness. Not only will you have more time to rest, but youll avoid spreading germs to others.

Also, make sure youre drinking plenty of fluids to keep your nose and throat moist. Avoid alcohol and caffeine because they have a drying effect.

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.

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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How Long Are Cold And Flu Viruses Infectious

Theres not a lot of rigorous data on this question, which is probably why theres also a lot of confusion.

Prior to this decade, only a handful of studies looked at how long flu viruses retain their infectiousness on common surfaces. A 1982 study found influenza A remained contagious up to 48 hours on hard plastic or stainless steel, while a 2008 publication found these viruses stayed infectious for up to three days on Swiss bank notes.

Influenza viruses may actually have a much shorter infectious lifespan, based on more recent work by virologist Dr. Jane Greatorex at Public Health England. In a 2011 study, her team took two strains of influenza A and analyzed how long they remained infectiousness on a variety of common surfaces. After nine hours, viable viruses were no longer found on most non-porous metal and plastic surfaces, such as aluminum and computer keyboards. On porous items, like soft toys, clothes and wooden surfaces, viable viruses disappeared after four hours.

Most viruses that cause colds and flus remain contagious on non-porous surfaces like computer keyboards longer than porous surfaces like fabric and Kleenex. Photo by strixcode/Adobe Stock

Because common colds are caused by a plethora of viruses, research on surface infectious rates are harder to nail down. In general, most are no longer dangerous after 24 hours, and their ability to infect dissipates faster on porous materials like facial tissues.

Can You Do Anything To Shorten The Contagious Period

How Long Is the Flu Contagious?

Not really. While Dr. Watkins points out that theres some data to suggest that taking zinc lozenges right when cold symptoms start may help reduce the length of time youre sick by a day, experts cant say if that has an impact on how well you can pass on the virus to someone else.

Theres no specific means thats been proven to decrease contagiousness, Dr. Adalja says. Dr. Schaffner agrees. You just have to ride it out, he says.

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Can The Flu Be Prevented

There’s 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 doctor’s offices, clinics, and drugstores offer the flu vaccine from September to mid-November. It’s best to get it before the end of October. But even if you don’t get it at the start of the flu season, it’s 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.

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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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.


How Is A Cold Diagnosed

How long are individuals contagious with a cold or flu?

Typically, an exam is enough to determine if you have a cold. During a physical exam, your healthcare provider will check for signs such as:

You may need tests if your provider suspects you have the flu or another condition. Your provider may give you a nasal swab test to test for the flu virus. Chest X-rays rule out bronchitis or pneumonia.

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How Long Am I Contagious After The Flu After I Take Tamiflu

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends people with the flu to stay home until 24 hours after they are fever free without the use of a fever-reducing medication. Depending on your place of work, you may need to check company policy, Pittman said. For example, many health care settings require their employees to stay home seven days after the onset of symptoms.

Pittman notes individuals with the flu can be contagious for up to three weeks after the onset of symptoms. In many cases, just because you or your children are fever free and can return to work or school does not mean you are no longer contagious. Proper handwashing goes a long way to prevent the spread of germs.

The same rules apply even if you have taken a flu antiviral drug like Tamiflu. Stay home until you are fever free for 24 hours without the help of a fever-reducing medication.

How Does A Cold Spread Exactly

Colds spread directly from people who have them through small droplets in the air when the person who has the virus sneezes or coughs. “It may also be spread by touching the face, wiping the nose, or coughing into hands,” says Dr. Zack.

A cold can also be spread via close contact, especially while talking. “When you speak, mucous and saliva from the back of throat can get expelled into the air,” says Dr. Couto.

Some of the best ways to prevent the spread of colds is to avoid contact with others, and to do frequent hand washing. You can also opt to use hand sanitizer. Dr. Couto prefers hand washing, since the water “drags” viral particles off the skin. And, of course, wearing masks is also a very effective way to decrease the risk of spreading or contracting a cold.

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How Long Do Cold And Flu Viruses Stay Contagious On Public Surfaces

Tis the season for gathering with friends and family to share latkes and gingerbread, but also for those dreaded colds and bouts of the flu.

As temperatures drop, both illnesses start to tick up, as does the risk of taking you, your co-workers and loved ones down one-by-one. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimate the average person gets two to three colds per year mostly in the winter and spring. The country as a whole sees 9.3 to 49 million cases of the flu annually.

Before you isolate yourself inside your home and scrub every surface in sight, you should know that these pathogens dont actually last for days or weeks outside the body, as commercials for some cleaning products might suggest. Thats because cold and flu viruses, despite their ferocity inside our warm bodies, are structurally wimpy and cannot bear the harsh conditions of the dry, outside world.

Heres what you should know about how long these pesky viruses persist and how you can protect yourself.

How Long Are You Contagious With A Cold An Expert Weighs In

How long is a cold contagious?

Answer: longer than you think.

Those cold medicine commercials depict it right: When you come down with a virus, it can totally take you out, leaving you feeling absolutely terrible and surrounded by crumpled tissues. Adults in the U.S. get an average of two to three colds per year, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. But how long are you actually contagious with one after you get sick? We’ve got you.

First, a refresher: “The common cold is an upper respiratory viral infection that may be caused by a number of different viruses,” says Amy Zack, MD, family medicine physician at Cleveland Clinic. And there are more than 200 viruses that can cause the common cold, according to the CDC.

If you do come down with a cold, you may feel one of many symptoms, including: sore throat, runny nose, post nasal drip, a mild cough, sneezing, weakness, loss of appetite, body aches, and not smelling or tasting food correctly, says Patricia Couto, MD, an infectious disease specialist at Orlando Health.

Now, let’s get into the nitty gritty about how colds spreadand long you should stay away from your family and friends to keep ’em protected.

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How Are Cold And Flu Viruses Spread

A common cold and the flu are easily spread from person to person, the flu most often by droplets produced by coughing and sneezing. Cold viruses in droplets are spread mainly hand to hand. These droplets contain the infectious viruses. Occasionally, these droplets land on various surfaces and, depending on the survivability of the virus type, can be transferred when an uninfected individual touches the contaminated surface and subsequently touches his/her mouth or nose.

How Does A Cold Spread

The viruses responsible for the common cold can enter your body through your nose, mouth, or eyes.

Cold viruses can spread through the air. When someone with a cold coughs, sneezes, talks, or laughs, they can spread respiratory droplets through the air that contain the cold virus. If you inhale these respiratory particles, you can get a cold.

You might also get a cold virus through direct contact. For example, someone with a cold may have the virus on their hands. If you shake hands with them and then touch your nose, mouth, or eyes afterward, you may develop a cold.

Contaminated objects and surfaces can also transmit the virus. Commonly contaminated objects include door handles, shared eating utensils, and shared toys.

According to recent research, the common cold virus can survive outside the body for 2 to 3 hours.

Some of these symptoms may develop earlier than others, while some symptoms like a cough, for instance, may last longer than a sore throat or a runny nose.

Theres no cure for the common cold. Instead, treatment revolves around relieving your symptoms. Self-care measures you can take at home to help ease your cold symptoms include:

  • drinking plenty of fluids
  • getting plenty of rest
  • using over-the-counter medications to relieve symptoms like a sore throat, fever, and runny or stuffy nose

Some remedies claim to shorten the duration of a cold when taken as soon as you start noticing symptoms.

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Hand Foot And Mouth Disease

This virus, common in young children, causes a red rash on the hands, feet, or bottom. It also may cause a fever, sore throat, and painful, blistering sores in the mouth. Youâre most contagious the first week, but some people can still pass it on for weeks. You can get it from a simple cough, sneeze, or contact with spit or open blisters. Itâs best to keep yourself or your child home if you have hand, foot, and mouth disease.

How Long Should You Stay Away From Someone With A Cold

How long is my flu contagious?

If you really want to avoid getting sick yourself, you’ll need to stay away for a decent amount of time.”Anyone with a cold may be contagious while they have symptoms, and anywhere from one to two weeks overall,” says Dr. Zack. “It is best to wait at least 72 hours after symptoms have resolved to resume contact.”

Anyone with a cold may be contagious while they have symptoms, and anywhere from one to two weeks.

And if you develop cold symptoms, it is best to stay home and rest, especially to avoid spreading it to others and allowing yourself time to get better. “There are a number of over-the-counter medications to treat cold symptoms,” says Dr. Zack. “Be sure to contact your doctor prior to taking if you have other medical illnesses or take prescription medication.”

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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. Don’t 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 haven’t had a fever for at least 24 hours without using a fever-reducing medicine. Some kids need to stay home longer. Ask the doctor what’s 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 won’t prescribe antibiotics for the flu. Antibiotics work only against bacteria, not viruses.

So When Is A Cold Contagious

Since symptoms are the most obvious sign that youre sick, it makes sense to assume that theres a direct correlation between signs of illness and how contagious you are. The grosser and more symptomatic you are, the more contagious you must be, right? Well, not exactly.

Your cold symptoms are the physical manifestations of all the hard work your immune system does to fight off the virus. For example, a cough is often a reflex to help bring up mucus containing the virus in question, Tania Elliott, M.D., clinical instructor of medicine and infectious disease at NYU Langone, tells SELF.

When a virus enters your system, it can take up to 72 hours for your body to rev up and mount this response. Since the virus is in your body and actively multiplying during this incubation period, the experts we spoke to think theres a good possibility you could be contagious a day or so before your symptoms even show up. That said, this isnt totally proven.

Of course, feeling better is kind of subjective, and there are some lingering symptoms you should pay attention to if your concern is contagiousness. If you only have residual symptoms like a light cough or stuffy nose, you are probably not very contagious, says Dr. Elliott. But achiness, fatigue, and fevers suggest that your body is still actively fighting infection, so you should assume you are contagious.

Which brings us to another pressing question

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Symptoms Of The Common Cold

Once they infect the body, viruses spread rapidly. The symptoms of the common cold develop as the immune system responds to eliminate the common cold virus.

While the effects of a common cold are usually mild and resolve without treatment, they can be irritating and disruptive.

Symptoms of the common cold include:

  • congestion in the nose and sinuses
  • a runny nose

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