You’ve been coughing and sneezing for a couple days now. Are your symptoms contagious to others? How can you tell if you should just stay at home to avoid infecting others?
The cold and flu season lasts from September until May, but catching a cold has nothing to do with the temperature outside. The reason colds are so contagious has more to do with the amount of time people spend inside in close contact with each other.
When is someone with a cold or flu actually contagious?
The common, contagious cold is a brief, mild illness, usually lasting no more than a week. The flu can last somewhat longer, generally for about one to two weeks. The early symptoms of a cold are headache, sneezing, chills, and/or a sore throat start two to three days after you have been infected. Flu symptoms appear about 1-4 days after infection, and can include a high fever (103°F to 104°F in adults; as high as 106°F in small children), chills, fatigue, body aches, headache and/or a sore throat.
The CDC says that “Most healthy adults may be able to infect others beginning 1 day before symptoms develop and up to 5 to 7 days after becoming sick. Children may pass the virus for longer than 7 days.”
This is also important information to remember because of the flu, since many people who have the flu may not have easily recognizable symptoms. This means you can be contagious even before you know you are sick.
When should you stay home?