How long are colds contagious for? Also: "cures"?

I currently have a cold. A very bad cold. A “sitting upright for more than half an hour is too tiring, freezing no matter how many blankets, can’t breathe through my nose, horking up big gobs of crud, aching all over, oh god kill me now” cold. I’d felt a bit congested last week, but yesterday I felt like I got hit by the Truck of Overactive Mucous Production.

And first thing Saturday morning, I’m going to be flying home for spring break. Six hours on a plane, not including a three-hour layover in Minneapolism.

Wikipedia says that you’re most contagious within the first three days. How likely is it that I’ll be that Horrendous Person on a plane who is essentially waging biological war in a hugely-trafficked airport? How guilty should I feel about it?

Also - I know the common stuff about vitamin C. Beyond that and trying to stay hydrated, how I can try to reduce the symptoms by Saturday? DayQuil is only kind-of working, and makes me incredibly tired, so I’d prefer to avoid it when I’m travelling (I can imagine myself missing my connecting flight because of it).

You may not have just any cold, it may be a sinus infection, in which case you need antibiotics. Horking up a lot of snot’s a bad sign.

As far as “cures” are concerned, taking a lot of vitamin C (which you already know about) and zinc seems to help us. I say “seems” because studies on it are inconclusive at best. So maybe it’s just in our little minds. But it does seem to shorten the duration of the cold.

However, if you’ve got a lot of mucous, and especially if it’s darkish green, definitely get checked for an infection. The fever and chills would seem more in line with an infection than a cold.

I’ve had plenty of sinus infections and I’m fairly certain that this is just a cold. Even if it is, I’ve never bothered with antibiotics to treat them.

A friend just bought me a stash of anti-cold weaponry; there’s some (vile) cough drops with zinc in them, so I’ll see if that helps any as well.

Aches and exhaustion aren’t usually cold symptoms. Sounds to me like you’ve got the 'flu.

Aches, fever, and exhaustion are generally symptoms of a viral (not bacterial) infection, so antibiotics probably wouldn’t be effective.

The rule of thumb of a viral infection is that once you feel like shit, you’re no longer contagious. It’s your immune system kicking in which is making you feel so bad. You are now actually actively fighting the infection, instead of being a big-ass incubator, like you were prior to full-blown, knock-you-on-your-ass, cold.

So. Although I wouldn’t particularly want to sit next to your sick butt on a plane, you should be OK to the rest of the passenger. However, as a caveat, it’s gonna suck to fly with a head cold, and you’re gonna be miserable.

Thanks for the answer. I’m feeling a little bit better today - most thankfully, my sinuses are a tiny bit clearer (though I’ve developed a most annoying cough). I’m planning on staying happily dosed up on Sudefed tomorrow, at least.

Taking a LOT of Vitamin C is more or less worthless. Do make sure you have an adequate amount. I suppose 500mg would be about right, just to make sure. But not the 5-10 grams a day suggested by some. That can even be dangerous.

Zinc seems to help, according to some studies.

Probiotics seem to boost your bodies defenses.

Echinichea seems to boost the immune system a bit.

None of these are cures. At best they will reduce the duration and severity by maybe 1/3. (if you’re lucky) It is possible that taking these during flu season may ward off the flu. :dubious: The “flu shot” does better.

“Cold medicine” does nothing but mask the symptoms. If you can’t sleep due to the symptoms, then go ahead, but don’t think you’re better just because you are taking a lot of OTC drugs. Those damn ads that suggest you take their cold & flu medicine then go out and spread it around are just trying to sell more drugs. Note that many cold and flu brand-name medicines are just mixtures of acetaminophen, a decongentant, an antihistimine and perhaps a cough medicine- all marked up at 5X the price. Please do note the acetaminophen content. You can aquire severe liver failure by ODing only 2X on acetaminophen, which is easy to do if you take Tylenol and Nyquil.

Take zinc, echineachia, probiotics and Vit C, along with a lot of juices, hot chicken soup and get plenty of rest. Stay home. Avoid booze and smoking.

BUt, if you have serious Influenza, with a high fever,etc as opposed to a cold or mild flu- see your MD.

For milder flus or colds, monitor yourself for pneumonia, dehydration, and Strep throat. Antibiotics are worthless for the flu, but they are useful for pneumonia and Strep throat.

As for when you are contagious: "Healthy adults may be able to infect others 1 day before getting symptoms and up to 5 days after getting sick. Therefore, it is possible to give someone the flu before you know you are sick as well as while you are sick."

and as I said "If you get the flu, stay home from work, school, and social gatherings. In this way you will help prevent others from catching your illness."

  1. True.

  2. Not true. “Healthy adults may be able to infect others 1 day before getting symptoms and up to 5 days after getting sick.”

You see, most people I know are generally not laid out until about four or five days after the start of symptoms. So, once they are really sick they are no longer infectious.

That’s why it’s just a “rule of thumb” and not an accepted law.