How long are you contagious with a cold?

Because of how frequent colds are, they are often called the ‘common cold’. Common colds occur at any time of the year but are more frequently noticed when the weather is cold like during winter, or dry and dusty like the dry season. Common colds are the main reason that children miss school and adults miss work. Each year in the United States, millions of people get the common cold. Adults have an average of 2-3 colds per year, and children have even more.

What causes common cold?

A cold is caused by any one of several viruses that causes inflammation of the lining of the nose and throat. It can result from any one of more than 200 different viruses like the rhinoviruses, adenoviruses, coronaviruses, and human metapneumoviruses, but rhinoviruses cause most colds.

What are the risk factors for common cold?

Age: Everyone is at risk for the common cold. Children however suffer more colds each year than adults, due to their immature immune systems and to the close physical contact with other children at school or day care. In fact, the average child will have between 6 to 10 colds a year, while the average adult will get 2 to 4 colds a year.

Season: People are most likely to have colds during fall and winter, starting in late August or early September until March or April. The increased occurrence of colds during the cold season may be due to the fact that more people are indoors and close to each other. In addition, in cold, dry weather, the nasal passages become drier and more vulnerable to infection.

Weakened immune system. A weakened immune system resulting from chronic illnesses or otherwise weakened immune system increases the risk of having common cold.

Cigarette Smoking. People who smoke or are around smokers tend to have more colds.

What are the symptoms of common cold?

The symptoms of common cold usually starts about 2 to 3 days after infection. They are basically the same in children and adults, although children tend to have them for longer. They usually start as itching of the nose and throat, and then progress to the other symptoms. These are:

Blocked, runny, or stuffy nose

sore throat


muscle aches



increased temperature

pressure in the sinuses (face)

loss of taste

loss of smell

How is common cold spread?

A cold is a highly contagious disease. This means it can easily spread from one person to another.Colds are mainly spread when a sick person (who most likely has the droplets or nasal secretions containing the virus on the hand) touches a surface (like a doorknob) and an uninfected person touches it (and comes in contact with the virus in the droplets or secretions). They become infected when they touch their mouth, nose, or eyes, and the viruses gain entry to the body and cause a cold. The rhinovirus usually lives for three hours on the skin or any touchable surface, but can sometimes survive for up to 48 hours. It is also spread through airborne droplets that are coughed or sneezed into the air by the sick person. These respiratory droplets can travel up to six feet to another person. Infection occurs when the droplets are inhaled by another person who is within close contact. Activities like hugging, kissing, and shaking hands with infected people are therefore associated with a high risk of being infected.

How long are you contagious with a cold?

A person with common cold can spread the disease or is contagious from about a day before the symptoms start till as long as the symptoms last and the person feels better. This can range from about 7 to 10 days, and up to 14 days in some cases.

How to prevent spreading a others.

If you have a cold, you can avoid spreading it to others by:

Avoiding close contact with people when you are sick like hugging, kissing, and staying at home and keeping children out of school or daycare while they are sick.

Moving away from people before coughing or sneezing.

Coughing and sneezing into a tissue then throwing it away, or into the upper shirt sleeve, or bend of the elbow, with the mouth and nose completely covered.

Washing the hands after coughing, sneezing, or blowing the nose.

How to prevent catching a cold

Measures to adopt to prevent getting a cold include:

Regular and proper hand washing for at least 20 seconds under running water

Avoiding close contact with people with cold symptoms

Minimize touching the face, especially with unwashed hands.

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