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Common Cold Contagious Period

Rajib Singha
Most people wish to know about the contagious period of common cold, so that they can curb the spread of the infection. This story gives you some vital information on the same.
Also known as viral respiratory tract infection, a common cold can be caused by several types of viruses, the rhinovirus being the most common. This infection is known to affect adults for about 2-4 times a year, while small kids, who are more vulnerable, contract it about 10 times annually.

For How Long Does Common Cold Remain Contagious?

» There is no study which can explain the true duration of the contagious period of common cold. Experts believe that an infected person may start being contagious 2-3 days before the symptoms begin to show up.
» Based on case studies, patients continue to be contagious until the symptoms subside or disappear. So given this theory, the contagious period of this common infection could last for as long as 2 weeks. But again this does not fit true for all cases, and there are variations from one person to another.
» The patient is the most contagious during the 2nd and 4th day of the cold. It is during this period that the symptoms are at their worst.
» When a virus makes its way into the body, it starts to multiply and taking over healthy cells of the body. While this is going on, the body shows no symptoms. And then the time comes when the affected cells begin to die, and this is what kicks off the typical cold symptoms such as runny nose, sore throat, and others.
This is when the immune system comes in and begins to eliminate the pathogens. So until the immune system takes charge, the pathogens are the most notorious which explains the severe symptoms and the patient being the most contagious.
  • As the symptoms start improving, the likelihood of transmitting the virus also lessens.
  • In most people, the infection stops being contagious post the first week.


Common cold can be easily transmitted to others through mere coughing, sneezing or talking. The pathogen that has caused the cold enters the body through the mouth or nose.
Other modes of transmission of the disease include hand-to-hand contact with the affected person or sharing personal items. Even touching the eyes after having a contact with the ailing one puts you at a risk of catching the cold.


The prominent symptoms of common cold include:
  • Sneezing frequently
  • Blocked or stuffy nose
  • Runny nose at all the time
  • Burning sensation in the eyes
  • Mild headache around the area of the nose and the eyes
  • Fever (39º C)
  • Cough
  • Congestion
  • Sore throat
  • Fatigue


There is no cure for the common cold. The condition is a self-limiting infection, as the virus will run its course and get resolved by itself.
However, there might be some lingering symptoms for another week or so. It is advisable for the affected person to seek medical help in case the symptoms persist for more than two weeks, as it may indicate other underlying diseases.
While there is not much you can do to cure the illness, there are a few things which can be taken up in order to ease the symptoms and discomfort.

» Drinking lots of water and fluids help treat stuffy nose.
» Hot chicken soup helps boost the immune system cells and relieve nasal congestion.

» Avoid caffeine, alcohol and smoking, as these substances do nothing but aggravate the symptoms.
» Give yourself some rest, take an off from work, and do not send kids to school, at least when the infection is thought to be the most contagious. This will not only help curb the possibility of spreading the infection to others, but also help in preventing the illness which may get aggravated by outdoor weather conditions.
» To get relief from sore throat, gargle with warm water mixed with some salt every morning and whenever you feel any irritation in the throat.

» Saline nasal drops are easily available at any health store and can be used for small children and babies. It will help relieve any nasal congestion and thus improve sleep.
To sum up, common cold becomes contagious 2-3 days before the onset of the symptoms and lasts until the symptoms disappear. But as the infection is a self-limited one, simply follow the above remedies and manage the symptoms.
Disclaimer: The information provided in this story is solely for educating the reader. It is not intended to be a substitute for the advice of a medical expert.