For how long am I Contagious when I have a cold or the flu is the question when the temperature drops and we spend more time indoors, our risk of catching a cold or flu increases. Viruses spread easily in crowded places or when people are under stress from illness or weather. When someone has a virus, they usually release small amounts of it through their mucus, saliva, and urine. The ideal conditions for a virus to spread are therefore in humid environments with lots of mucus-producing tissue (like the nose, throat, and lungs) and small spaces where droplets can linger.
One of the most difficult things to know when cold and flu season rolls around is how long you are contagious when you have one of these illnesses. When can you come out of your quarantined bedroom? Can you go back to work or school yet? Should you avoid seeing your grandmother or a newborn baby?
Below, we’ll examine how long an individual will typically be contagious for when they get a cold or the flu, and we’ll give you a rough timeline of when you should be able to go out in public and return to work or school.
First, however, let’s briefly examine the difference between a cold and the flu:
The difference between “a cold” and “the flu”
Both the common cold and the flu are illnesses of the respiratory system. However, these illnesses are caused by different forms of viruses. In some cases, it can be difficult to know whether you have the flu or a cold, but generally speaking, symptoms of the flu will be worse than symptoms of a common cold. They last longer and tend to be more intense.
A simple cold, for example, may be nothing more than a few days of headaches, a stuffy nose, and a sore throat. The flu can cause numerous extreme symptoms, such as body aches, a high fever, gastrointestinal problems (nausea, stomach pains, vomiting), a cough, and chills. In many ways, this will directly affect when you’ll be able to be “back on your feet” because symptoms can last for a longer period of time.
For how long will you be contagious when you have the flu?
For a common cold, you’ll start being contagious 1 day before you notice symptoms. You will remain contagious for about 5 days after you notice symptoms.
For the flu, you’ll also start being contagious 1 day before you notice symptoms, and you’ll stay contagious for approximately 1 week (5 to 7 days). In some cases, children may continue to be contagious for longer than 7 days.
As a general rule, stay away from others and use gloves and a mask as well as hand sanitizer until all of your cold or flu symptoms are gone.
Remember that it is definitely true that both common colds and the flu are contagious. With this in mind, always take care. Avoid close contact with those who show symptoms of cold or flu and consider some of these 15 ways to boost your immune system to always be on the safe side and support the immune system.
If you get ill, quarantine yourself for the durations of time listed above. It’s better to be safe than sorry!
Rick Kaselj MS, is a leading kinesiologist and injury specialist as well as co-creator of the best-selling Unlock Your Hip Flexors program. Rick creates exercise programs that help people heal injuries and eliminate pain, so they can go back to living a full, active, healthy life.