How Long is a Virus Contagious?

Posted: Dec 10, 2019

If you, a loved one, or a roommate has recently been sick, you are probably wondering how long a virus is contagious.
Depending on whether you have a cold, the flu, chickenpox, measles, or another virus, symptoms and how long you are contagious varies. Generally, viruses are contagious for anywhere between a few days before you are symptomatic and until two weeks after you feel ill.

How Long You’re Contagious if You Have a Cold Virus

If you have a cold, you are contagious a few days before you experience symptoms until about 2 weeks after (or until all your symptoms are gone).

You likely have a cold if you experience the following symptoms:

  • Coughing,
  • Runny nose, and
  • Exhaustion.

Colds and flus are commonly confused. However, the flu’s symptoms and a cold’s symptoms are very different, and they are contagious for different periods of time.

How Long You’re Contagious if You Have a Flu Virus

Flus are generally more severe than colds. If you suspect that you have the flu, it’s best to discuss your symptoms with your family doctor.
If you have a flu virus, you are generally most contagious during the first few days that you are symptomatic. After the first day, you are contagious for about a week.

You may have the flu when you experience the following symptoms:

  • Fever,
  • Body aches,
  • Nausea,
  • Headaches, and
  • Chills.

How Long You’re Contagious if You Have the Chickenpox Virus

Red spots all over the body is a clear sign that you or your loved one has chickenpox. Chickenpox is very contagious, and it’s more common in children than adults.
Children (or adults) with the chickenpox virus are contagious around 2 days before symptoms occur and up to around a week later. However, since the spots take a while to heal, you will still see spots after the infected person is longer contagious.

How Long You’re Contagious if You Have the Measles Virus

Like chickenpox, measles are most commonly experienced by children.

If you or your loved one has the measles, they will likely experience the following symptoms:

  • Fever,
  • Runny nose,
  • Coughing,
  • Sore throat, and
  • A blotchy rash.
  • Individuals with measles are most contagious about four days before the rash develops, and then another four days or so after.

    Ask Your Family Doctor How Long a Virus is Contagious

    It’s always best to talk to your family doctor before diagnosing and treating yourself or others. If you are concerned that you have a virus that’s contagious, contact Button Family Practice as soon as possible. You can discuss your symptoms with one of our experienced providers, and we will come up with a treatment plan for you or your loved one’s illness together.