Any Time Your Child Is Sick
If your child is sick, it’s best for them to stay home until they feel well again. If they have a fever, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, or any kind of pain, aren’t hungry, or seem extra tired or clingy, they should stay home.
How do you know when to keep your child home from school? The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends you answer a few key questions:
Check with your child’s day care or school before you send them back to their regular schedules. Many places have rules about how long kids need to stay home. Usually it’s at least a full day after they don’t have any fever without medication.
Hereâs what you need to keep an eye on:
Fever is a sign that your body is fighting the germs that are making you sick. Itâs a common symptom of infections like flu. If itâs 101 F or higher, wait until your child is fever-free for at least 24 hours before sending them back to school.
Pinkeye is contagious, and a child should stay home for the first 24 hours after treatment begins. Symptoms include eye redness, irritation, swelling, and pus.
Is The Flu Contagious
The flu is very contagious. People can spread it from a day before they feel sick until their symptoms are gone. This is about 1 week for adults, but it can be longer for young kids.
The flu usually happens in annual epidemics. An epidemic is when an illness spreads quickly and infects lots of people in an area at the same time. Some years the epidemic is more severe and widespread than others. An epidemic that spreads worldwide is called a pandemic. This is far less common. There were three influenza pandemics in the 20th century, and one so far in the 21st century, in 2009 with influenza A .
During the coronavirus pandemic, experts found that wearing masks can help protect the community from the spread of germs. They recommended that all children age 2 and up wear a mask when out in public or around people who don’t live with them. Wearing masks can also help stop the spread of flu.
When Does The Flu Become Contagious
Once you have the influenza virus, you can spread it to other people about a day before you first notice symptoms.
Remember, the average incubation period for the flu is about two days. So, if you come into contact with virus on Saturday morning, you can potentially start spreading it to others by Sunday evening. And by Monday afternoon, youll likely start feeling the dreaded body aches that come with the flu.
Viral shedding refers to the release of the virus from your body into your surrounding environment. It tends to peak during your first day experiencing symptoms. This means youre usually most contagious on this day. Once you develop symptoms, youll still be contagious for another five to seven days .
Children, older adults, and those with a weakened immune system may be contagious for a longer period of time.
Its often hard to know when you have the flu coming on. Unlike the symptoms of the common cold, which develop gradually, the symptoms of the flu often come on suddenly.
The common symptoms of the flu can include:
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What Stops The Flu From Spreading
There are multiple ways to avoid getting and spreading the flu. Here are some of the best ways:
- Washing your hands often: This will help protect you from any germs that could make their way into your eyes, nose, or mouth. If you cannot wash your hands with soapy water, then hand sanitizer is the next best thing.
- Avoiding close contact with sick people: Trying your best to stay away from sick people will help keep you from catching the flu. If youre sick with the flu, limiting your contact with other people will keep you from spreading the flu.
- Covering your mouth and nose when coughing or sneezing: When youre sick with the flu and cough or sneeze, tiny droplets containing the flu virus can travel through the air and infect other people. Covering your mouth and nose is a great way to help stop this.
- Wearing a face mask: The protection you get from face masks isnt exclusive to coronavirus. A face mask can protect you from the common cold and flu too.
- Staying up to date on vaccinations: Getting a flu shot is one of the best ways to prevent the flu. Flu vaccines have been proven to reduce the risk of flu illnesses, hospitalizations, and flu-related deaths.
Can I Exercise If Ive Got A Cold Or The Flu
If youre in doubt about whether or not you should keep exercising when youre unwell, use the above vs. below the neck rule.
While some mild to moderate exercise is generally okay while youve got above the neck cold symptoms such as sneezing, a runny nose or a sore throat, its best not to do it at a gym where you might infect others. If you have below the neck flu-like symptoms such as fever, chest congestion, cough, muscle aches or nausea, then you shouldnt exercise at all until you have fully recovered.9
If you do choose to exercise when youre feeling sick, try not to push yourself too hard. Tone down the exercise routines that you normally do or try out some light exercises that can be done from inside the house. Avoid working out in cold temperatures, as cold air can further irritate a sore throat or a cough. Be sure to stay hydrated by drinking plenty of water and liquids. If you start to feel unwell during a workout, listen to your body and stop exercising immediately.
If you want to be absolutely sure about whether or not you should be working out in your condition, check to see if you should exercise or rest based on your symptoms.
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What Are The Treatment Options For The Flu And Do They Prevent The Flu
There are currently four antiviral drug treatment options recommended by the CDC but none of them prevent you from spreading the flu.
They can, however, help lessen the severity and duration of your symptoms. The four antiviral medications recommended by the CDC include:
- Baloxavir marboxil
These medications work best when they are started within 48 hours of your symptoms starting. Oseltamivir is also available in a generic form too.
What Are The Complications From The Flu
The flu can cause severe illness and sometimes death, especially in those with a high risk of influenza complications such as young children, the elderly, pregnant women, and if you have certain health conditions like asthma or diabetes.
The most common complication from the flu is bacterial pneumonia which is an infection of your lungs that can be very serious and even fatal.
Other complications can include bronchitis, sinus infections, and ear infections.
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How Long Is The Incubation Period Of The Flu
There’s no exact time frame that’s the same for every person with the flu but, in general, the CDC says that the incubation period of the flu can range between one and four days, with the average length of time being two days.
People with the flu are the most contagious the first three to four days after they were infected, per the CDC, which can coincide with the incubation period. Most healthy adults may be able to infect others starting the day before they show symptoms, and continue to be infectious up to seven days after they become sick, the CDC adds.
“People have the flu and are out and about doing their regular stuff, coming into contact with others before they get sick,” Dr. Boling says. “You can infect plenty of people during that time.”
When Are You No Longer Contagious With The Flu
Generally, for those who do not have compromised immune systems, viral shedding starts just before symptoms appear and can continue for around a week.
However, this timeline is very general, and there may be a lot of individual variation.
This approximate timeline may also not apply to those who are immunocompromised, such as those who are undergoing or taking chronic steroids or immunosuppressive medication.
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Am I Contagious With A Fever
People need to be fever free for 24 hours without the help of a fever-reducing medication before they return to work or school, Pittman said. According to the Texas Department of State Health Services, school nurses are advised to send children home that have a temperature of 100.4 degrees or greater. The same rule of thumb goes for adults too. You need to stay home if you have had a temperature of 100.4 degrees in the past day.
A low-grade fever is any temperature above 98.6 degrees but below 100.4 degrees. Pittman says low-grade fevers are a good thing, because your body is actively fighting an infection.
If you have a low-grade fever, and you feel fine, you can participate in your usual day-to-day activities, but you need to listen to your body. She recommends if you start to feel achy, begin to sweat or develop a headache, then take your temperature again, then go home. The same recommendation goes for children.
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.
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How Is A Cold Or Flu Diagnosed
The common cold and influenza are diagnosed based upon the patients reported symptoms and a physical examination.
Testing of any kind is not usually needed to diagnose the common cold.
Tests may be used to rule out other infections that cause similar symptoms to the common cold:
- Nasal swab testing for coronavirus disease
- Rapid influenza diagnostic tests or rapid molecular assays for the flu
- Chest X-rays for lower respiratory tract infection
Influenza is usually diagnosed with:
- Rapid influenza diagnostic tests
- Provides results in about 15 minutes
- Less accurate than other flu tests called
What Causes A Cold Or Flu
More than 200 known viruses can cause the common cold, but rhinoviruses are the most common type. Adenoviruses and enteroviruses also cause the common cold.
Factors that may increase the risk for catching a cold include:
- Close contact with someone who has a cold
- Season: certain viruses are more common during certain times of year
- Age: infants and young children have more colds each year than adults
The flu is a caused by influenza viruses transmitted from person-to-person through respiratory droplets thrust into the air when an infected person coughs or sneezes. Less commonly, the flu is transmitted when a person touches a surface or object that has the virus on it, and then touches their mouth, nose, or eyes.
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How Long To Stay Home
Experts generally agree that it’s best to stay home as long as you have severe symptoms, like a cough with mucus, vomiting, diarrhea, fever, or fatigue, because you may be contagious. And the CDC recommends staying home at least 24 hours after your fever goes away unless you need to leave the house for medical care or other urgent reasons.
Also, rest is an important part of getting over any illness, so there’s another reason to take it easy while you feel sick.
How quickly you recover from a cold or the flu depends on how healthy you are. In general, healthy people usually get over a cold in 7 to 10 days. Flu symptoms, including fever, should go away after about 5 days, but you may still have a cough and feel weak a few days longer. All your symptoms should be gone within 1 to 2 weeks.
When you go back to work or school, make sure to cover your mouth when you cough and wash your hands often so you don’t spread the illness to other people.
These viruses can develop into serious illnesses like pneumonia in people who have weak immune systems, asthma, or other respiratory conditions. So if you have a chronic illness, your healing time may be different.
People Who Need More Than One Influenza Vaccine A Year
There are some people who are recommended to have a second dose of the influenza vaccine within the space of one year. These people include:
- Children less than 9 years of age receiving their influenza vaccine for the first time require 2 doses 4 weeks apart for an adequate immune response.
- People who have had a haematopoietic stem cell transplant or solid organ transplant and are receiving influenza vaccine for the first time after transplant.
- Pregnant women, who may be vaccinated with the next seasons influenza vaccine if it becomes available in the latter part of their pregnancy, even if they were vaccinated with the previous seasons vaccine prior to or earlier in pregnancy.
- Overseas travellers, who may benefit from a second dose of this seasons influenza vaccine if going to the northern hemisphere winter and receiving the northern hemisphere formulation there is not feasible.
Please check with your GP to find out whether you fall into one of these categories.
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When To Expect Improvement
Influenza is extremely common, especially during the fall and winter months. You probably know about symptoms of the flu, like coughing and fever, but might wonder how long the flu lasts.
In healthy children and adults, the flu typically lasts for three to seven days. However, if you develop complications, you’ll feel sick much longer. The cough from the flu can also stick around for up to two weeks.
People with the flu are often contagious a day before they experience symptoms, and they can pass the flu to others for up to a week after symptoms appear. Kids might spread the flu virus for even longer.
This article discusses everything you should know about the flu, including answers to common questions like How long does the flu last in adults? and How long does the flu last in babies? It also covers treatment, prevention, and when to call a healthcare provider.
How Long Can I Spread The Flu For
The flu is contagious from the day before symptoms start to five to seven days after becoming sick. The incubation period of the flu, or how long it can take to develop symptoms after exposure and infection, is about one to four days. One reason the flu spreads so quickly is that someone can be contagious and not show signs of being sick until a few days after catching the flu virus.
The contagious periods of the flu, common cold, and stomach bug are very similar. With the common cold, you can become contagious one to two days before symptoms start, and you can remain contagious for up to two weeks. The same is true for the stomach bug, and you wont stop being contagious for several days after youve completely recovered. As far as the coronavirus is concerned, Harvard Health reports that COVID-19 can be contagious 48 to 72 hours before the first onset of symptoms. The contagious period ends about 10 days after symptoms resolve. Some infectious disease experts still recommend 14 days of isolation.
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A Deeper Look Into How The Flu Spreads
Michael Menna, DO, is board-certified in emergency medicine. He is an attending emergency medicine physician at White Plains Hospital in White Plains, New York and also works at an urgent care center and a telemedicine company that provides care to patients across the country.
If you have been exposed to someone with the flu, you may be concerned about catching it. You may also wonder how long it takes to get sick after you have been exposed and how long you are contagious when you have it.