Having a cold is irritating enough for us to try and spare those around us. But how long are we actually contagious when we are at grips with this infection?
On average, adults tend to get between one and three colds a year. Children on the other hand, usually catch many more, typically getting between three and six colds per year. Unlike the flu, which is exclusively caused by the influenza virus, the common cold is caused by a number of viruses. This is the reason why there are no vaccines to help prevent this type of infection and why our body is unable to develop immunity against it.
Cold symptoms will typically last between four and seven days. When infected individuals cough or sneeze, droplets containing the virus are sprayed around them, reaching a perimeter of nearly one metre. We contract the cold virus either by breathing in these infectious droplets, or by touching surfaces that have already been contaminated by them. We subsequently contaminate ourselves by touching our eyes and/or nose.
The risk of contagion is usually at its highest during the first three days of a cold. A certain level of transmission risk persists during the fourth and fifth days, virtually disappearing in the sixth or seventh day of a cold.
When you are a generally healthy individual who nevertheless catches a cold, you must avoid visiting family members who are in hospital, and those who reside in nursing homes. You should also avoid spending any time with vulnerable individuals who have a weakened immune system. The very best way to effectively prevent a cold is to judiciously and regularly wash your hands with soap and warm water. If you find yourself suffering from a cold however, your pharmacist can recommend over-the-counter medications to help alleviate the symptoms. You should also be aware that no product has yet to prove effective at decreasing the length and severity of a cold. Keep in mind that an untreated cold will last a week, and a treated one will last seven days...