How Long is a Cold Contagious?

Different people can pass on the cold and flu in varying degrees of time. Both illnesses can be easily spread to other individuals. But how is a cold contagious?

woman covering her nose with tissue

In today’s hectic world and extreme work schedules, people are exposed to various different stressful situations and possible harmful health conditions. These may include health risks brought about by sedentary lifestyles, processed food items, unnecessary stress in the daily routines of individuals, and artificial or man-made medical treatments that have negative side effects for people who are currently taking them. People, however, are particularly looking for an alternative and more natural ways to fight off certain medical conditions that decrease their quality of life. One such medical condition is the common cold. Some individuals may then wonder “How long is a cold contagious”. In this article, we will look at how long the common cold and its companion illness, flu are contagious.

Common Colds and Flu: A brief backgrounder

Both the cold and flu are caused by viruses and both can be extremely contagious infections of the respiratory tract. However, different people can pass on the said diseases in varying degrees of time. According to healthcare professionals and doctors, a lot of people no longer visit their doctors for check-ups when they contract the cold and flu. This is according to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and as such, it may be difficult to monitor and track those patients who actually have the illness or medical condition. Both illnesses can be easily spread to other individuals and knowing when a person has the said illnesses may help prevent the further spread of the disease.

Colds: how long are they contagious?

Colds are usually spread by people with the aforementioned illness through coughing, touching contaminated areas, and sneezing. People who are infected with the cold virus may be at their most contagious when symptoms start to present themselves. It must be mentioned, however, that people can still be contagious even before the symptoms actually show or present themselves. The symptoms experienced by individuals are caused by the response of the bodies’ immune system, not because of the virus.

Once symptoms become milder or start to reduce, the risk of the cold virus being contagious is also significantly reduced. The chance of the virus being passed on still be present despite the reduced symptoms of the said illness. On average, people will have a cold virus for around ten days.

According to The Centers for Disease Control, millions of people in the United States get infected with the common cold virus. There are numerous types of viruses that can cause a cold infection. It can range from coronaviruses and adenoviruses to rhinoviruses. These viruses can evolve and adapt to be more resistant to the environment and their human hosts. No specific and establish cure is currently available for the latest strain of the cold virus.

What about the Flu Virus? How long is it contagious?

The flu virus usually comes bundled with the cold virus. The common reference to the two conditions as having the “cold and flu”. Similar to the symptoms of the cold virus, the flu virus will also present its symptoms for around ten (10) days but may vary depending on the condition of the individual’s immune system.

The flu virus can be considered contagious a day before symptoms show and up to seven (7) days from the start of the illness itself. Normally, flu viruses will only have mild to moderate symptoms. They may be life-threatening in some depending on the status of their immune response system.

Viral shedding is the process through which viruses are spread. It usually involves the duplication of cells within the virus itself which in turn produces more viruses for it to spread. These new viruses now have an increased probability of being spread to other individuals. The virus spread via bodily fluids or secretions such as the saliva and the mucus.

Flu vs Cold Virus: What’s The Difference?

Cold and flu virus differs in symptoms. Flu symptoms usually affect the entire body. While cold symptoms only adversely affect the upper respiratory tract or passage of infected patients.

How can infected individuals prevent the spread of these viruses?

If you have colds or flu, you can prevent the spread of these viruses by observing the following:

  • Proper handwashing: People with cold and flu virus are advised to wash their hands more frequently.
  • Cover mouth and nose: Patients with cold or flu are advised to cover mouth and nose when coughing. Use handkerchief, tissue, or the sleeve of their shirt to prevent the spread of the virus.
  • Disinfect and dispose of waste properly. Make sure to disinfect frequently touched objects in your houses such as knobs, tables and countertops, and toys. People should immediately get rid of used tissues properly.

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