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How long is the common cold contagious?

Over 200 viruses are responsible for the common cold.
Over 200 viruses are responsible for the common cold.
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Warmer weather is finally upon us, but there's still a lingering bout of sniffles and sneezes plaguing more than just a few cold-season sufferers. While some viruses are only contagious during the fever phase of an illness, the common cold tends to make itself a bit more available to the unlucky host. Once infected, symptoms may not show up for 2 or 3 days.

So just how long is a person contagious once they have the common cold? Well, to put it simple, there really is no set time frame, like 24 hrs etc. There are over 200 types of viruses that cause the common cold, one of the most popular is the rhinovirus. This virus is the cause behind the common cold in around 35% of adults. Also, more than 110 distinct variations of the rhinovirus have been identified to date. The favorite place for the virus to take residency is in your nose. The reason? The virus thrives at it's best at around 91 degrees Fahrenheit, which just so happens to be the temperature inside the human nose. So basically, as long as the virus is present in nasal secretions, you're contagious. Symptoms hang around anywhere from 2 to 14 days, but most people tend to recover in about a week. The rhinovirus itself can live for up to 3 hours on the skin or other surfaces such as door handles, phones, etc.

So far there hasn't been a "cure" for the common cold, just a lot of medicines to help alleviate symptoms like runny nose, congestion, sneezing and a few others that come along with it. However, researchers have recently made a breakthrough in the battle of the common cold. According to reports, they have cracked the genetic codes of 99 known cold viruses. With any luck, they may be able to narrow it down to an eventual cure.

Until then, you can treat your symptoms with a multitude of medicines available at your local drug store or pharmacy. Taking a multi-vitamin is a good way to increase your chances of warding off the virus, or at least boost your immune system so that it's stay will be a short one. You can also take the herbal route with ginseng, green tea, or echinacea which have all shown promising results as cold remedies.


  • Amanda-Cle Celeb Headlines/TV Examiner 5 years ago

    Great article...Thanks! My son is getting over a cold now!

  • sydney 5 years ago

    I like to take the echinacea pills when I feel a cold coming on.

  • Ben 4 years ago

    I have no symptoms but I've noticed people exhibit cold symptoms within minutes of me occupying their space / room. No physical contact with them just breathing the same air. What do I have that is contagious? Been going on for about 6 months.

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