Having a bad cold can make your head feel as heavy as a twenty pound bowling ball. The congestion, stuffiness, dry cough and fatigue make it difficult to concentrate at work and hard to sleep at night. The last thing you want to do is spread your cold to other people at the office. You may be torn as to whether you should call in to work when you have a cold. You know you’re needed but don’t want to spread your bad fortune to others. How long is a cold contagious and when is it safe to go back to work?
Unfortunately, the common cold, which can be caused by a multitude of viruses, is quite contagious which is why it’s so common, particularly during the winter months when people are in closer contact. Although the virus is transmitted quite efficiently through airborne transmission from coughing or sneezing, it can also be transferred to another person by something as simple as handling and touching objects such as money, computer keyboards, and telephones which is why your mother and grandmother constantly reminded you to wash your hands.
Once you’re aware you have a cold, it’s easier to hide away from others to help prevent transmission, but the reality is a cold is contagious for at least a day before you come down with the symptoms. During that time you may be transmitting the cold virus to all of your buddies and co-workers even when you’re feeling fine. Once you come down with the symptoms, a cold is contagious until the last of your symptoms go away. Many people are under the false assumption that a cold isn’t contagious unless you have a fever which is untrue.
When is a cold most contagious? The most contagious period for a cold virus is when it first enters your body and starts to replicate. At this point, your immune system has had little opportunity to intervene and the virus is free to reproduce itself and spread its special form of misery. This period lasts three to four days and is the time when you usually feel the worst. Once your immune system kicks in, viral levels start to drop off and you become less contagious.
If you’re considering calling in to work, it’s a good idea for at least the first three to four days when a cold is most contagious. If you’re still sniffling and coughing at the end of that time period, you’ll likely still be somewhat contagious, but less so. If you go to work, it’s important to use a tissue to cover your mouth when you cough or sneeze and avoid contact with others as much as possible. Your employees will thank you for your kind consideration.