How long is a cold contagious?


There are millions of cases of the common cold each year in the United States, which are easily transmitted from person to person. The common cold can be caused by hundreds of different viruses, making it impossible to develop a vaccine or medicine to kill or prevent the common cold. Knowing when you are catching a cold is important to avoid spreading germs to others, especially those who could develop serious complications from your illness.

Get Medical Information / Ellen Lindner

Cold incubation period

The standard incubation period for colds is 24 to 72 hours, which means you can develop cold symptoms anytime within one to three days of exposure .

Cold symptoms include a runny nose, nasal congestion, cough, headache, and sore throat. While you may not experience all of these symptoms every time you get sick, if you have some of them without any other significant symptoms (such as fever, vomiting, etc.), you probably have a cold or some other viral infection .

If you suddenly have symptoms like fever, body aches, headaches, and cough, you probably have the flu, not a cold.

When are you contagious?

The common cold is most contagious two to four days after the first symptoms appear .

Most colds last about a week, but the virus can spread over time, as it can live in your body for up to three weeks. This means that you can spread your germs and infect others even after you feel better.

How does the cold spread?

Colds spread through the air and on surfaces. When you're sick, coughing, sneezing, and even breathing send the virus into the air around you and every surface (or person) you touch.

The virus can live on surfaces for hours, allowing other people to become infected long after, for example, leaving the room .

Protect yourself and others

Since you cannot stop coughing or breathing during an illness, the only way to prevent the spread of the common cold is to stay away from as many people as possible. Wash your hands often too. Then, when you feel better, disinfect everything in your environment (for example, sheets, doorknobs, etc.)

In today's fast-paced society, it's not uncommon to hear people come to work instead of taking time to recover when they're not feeling well, but you should be doing the exact opposite. The rest you need will not only help you recover, but staying away from others will prevent the spread of the disease.

If you just can't avoid talking to other people when you have cold symptoms, cover up your cough and wash your hands before touching someone or preparing food.

You should also take precautions and go the extra mile to stay away from those who are most likely to get seriously ill with your virus. The elderly, people with weakened immune systems from chronic illness or cancer, and babies can get so sick from the common cold viruses that they may need to be hospitalized. Sometimes these viruses can even be fatal. Following the simple steps above can prevent this from happening.

Prevention of colds after exposure

While there is currently no vaccine or reliable way to prevent the common cold, there are some steps you can take if you feel like you have been exposed to the virus recently, including:

  • Additional rest
  • Increase the amount of fluid to stay hydrated.
  • Eat chicken noodle soup
  • Increase your intake of foods rich in vitamin C such as kiwi, strawberries, citrus fruits, and red peppers.

Get the word of drug information

Nobody likes to catch a cold, and for some, colds can be very dangerous. Take preventative measures by increasing the frequency of hand washing to stop the spread of germs, run a humidifier in your home (viruses spread more easily in dry air), and limit contact with people who may be sick. To this end, if you get sick, try not to go to work at home, not only to allow yourself a break, but also to protect others.

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