How Long are Cold or Flu Contagious?

Woman sneezing around her friends

For colds, you become contagious about a day before symptoms even develop. However, you are most contagious for the first 2 or 3 days after symptoms appear. With the flu, you’re contagious 1 day before symptoms show until about 5 to 7 days after symptoms begin.

How does a cold or the flu spread?

Woman kissing her daughter

Both the common cold and the flu are caused by viruses, which means they can easily spread from person to person. Here are 3 common ways these viruses spread:

1. Passed through the air by coughing, sneezing, and talking

2. Physical contact with the virus on contaminated objects like phones or doorknobs

3. Touching your eyes, nose, or mouth with dirty hands

How can you keep others from catching your cold?

Couple playing in the snow

You come into contact with viruses all the time. That’s why it’s helpful to understand how to prevent spreading or contracting the virus when you’re most contagious. A cold usually is not contagious after a week.

When you’re sick, stay at home if possible. Also, be sure to always cover your mouth when you cough or sneeze. To help stop spreading the virus, place your nose into the inside of your elbow if you don’t have a tissue. Make sure to dispose of any used tissues immediately.

When does the flu stop infecting those around you?

Similar to a cold, you can pass the flu on to someone else before you even feel sick, and while you’re actually dealing with symptoms.

4 easy ways to cope with cold and flu viruses

1. Clean your hands often with an alcohol-based sanitizer or soap and water

2. Get an annual flu shot before the start of flu season

3. Ease your symptoms with NeoCitran over-the-counter cold and flu medicines

4. Use household cleaning products to disinfect areas where germs may spread, such as bathroom surfaces, tables near beds and door handles, etc.