Discovery Health "When are colds and the flu the most contagious?"


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** Are colds and the flu most contagious before or after you start showing
symptoms? **

By Julia Layton


Inside this Article

1. Are colds and the flu most contagious before or after you start showing
2. Lots More Information

3d rendering of the influenza virus.
/© /

Myths about contagion are a regular part of life. Remember when AIDS could
be transmitted by a handshake? Most fictions regarding how you can catch
diseases aren't quite that bizarre and off the mark -- they usually sound
pretty reasonable, which is how a lot of them get passed through
generations as unquestioned truths. Many of us understand that when it
comes to a cold or the flu, we're most contagious before we start feeling
sick; that by the time we've got a runny nose, sore throat and achy
muscles, the damage to the people around us has already been done. In fact,
many of us are completely wrong.

If you think about how a virus works, it makes sense that we're most
contagious when our symptoms are at their worst. Viruses like influenza and
those that cause the


when are colds contagious

How Long Is a Cold Contagious?


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** How Long Is a Cold Contagious? **

By Kristina Duda, R.N., Guide

Updated March 29, 2012 Health's Disease and Condition content is reviewed by our Medical
Review Board

"How Long Is a Cold Contagious?"

Coughing can cause germs to spread.

Photo: James Gathaney/CDC/PHIL

Knowing when you are contagious with a cold is important to avoid spreading
your germs to other people -- especially those who could develop serious
complications from your cold.

Common cold symptoms include runny nose, congestion, coughing, headache and
sore throat. Although you may not experience all of these symptoms every
time, if you have some of them without any other significant symptoms (such
as high fever, vomiting, etc), you probably have a cold or some sort of
viral infection.

· Quiz: Is It a Cold or the Flu?

Colds are the most commonly occurring infection in the United States and
they spread very easily from person to person. They can be caused by
hundreds of different viruses, making it impossible to develop any sort of
vaccine or medication to kill or prevent the common cold. Cutting down on
how quickly they spread is up to all of us.

-How Long is a Cold Contagious?-

Colds are most contagious 2 to 4 days after your symptoms first develop.
However, the virus can live in your body and spread to others for up to
/three weeks/.

Colds are spread through the air and on surfaces. When you are sick,
coughing, sneezing and even breathing sends the virus into the


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