Skip to content
My WebMD Sign In, Sign Up

Children's Health

Font Size

Controlling Contagious Infections in Children

Contagious Illnesses: Keep an Eye Open for Symptoms

Recognizing the symptoms of common illnesses early can help prevent the illness from spreading. Look for these signs:

  • Colds and coughs are respiratory infections that usually spread when an infected person coughs, sneezes, or talks. Symptoms include a cough and runny nose, as well as a mild fever.
  • Flu often spreads when an infected person coughs or sneezes. Symptoms can include a runny nose, cough, fever, chills, and body aches. In adults, the disease is contagious about one day before symptoms appear and five days after. Flu can lead to serious complications including hospitalization and death. The best prevention is the flu vaccine.
  • MRSA (methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus) can be spread by touching another person who has MRSA on his or her skin. The best prevention is to keep your hands clean, avoid contact with other people’s wounds or bandages, and keep your own cuts and scrapes covered with bandages until they're healed. Also, do not share sports equipment or clothing.
  • Pinkeye is highly contagious. It's spread when you touch your eye after coming into contact with something an infected person has touched. Symptoms include eye redness, itching, pain, and discharge. Never touch your eye without washing your hands and don't share eye makeup or towels.
  • Stomach flu (viral gastroenteritis) symptoms include cramps, diarrhea, and vomiting. Symptoms usually appear one or two days after exposure to the virus, which is carried in the stool of an infected person. Failure to wash hands after using the bathroom and before handling food or touching surfaces spreads the disease. So wash those hands!
  • Strep throat is a common illness in children, and spreads when an infected person breathes, coughs, or sneezes. Symptoms include fever, headache, white patches in the throat, and pain. The incubation period for strep is two to five days. The contagious period lasts until 24 hours after starting an antibiotic.
  • Whooping cough (Pertussis) and chickenpox are childhood diseases that are prevented by vaccines, so they are uncommon today. Still, they can occur in unvaccinated children. Whooping cough causes a high-pitched "whoop" that can last up to 12 weeks. Children with whooping cough can be contagious for about three weeks. Chickenpox causes blisters all over the body. It's most contagious from one or two days before symptoms appear and until the blisters have crusted over.
1 | 2
Reviewed on March 25, 2012

Today on WebMD

preschool age girl sitting at desk
look at my hand
woman with cleaning products
young boy with fever

worried kid
boy on father's shoulder
Child with red rash on cheeks
girl thinking

Child with adhd
rl with friends
Syringes and graph illustration
6-Week Challenges
Want to know more?
Build a Fitter Family Challenge – Get your crew motivated to move.
Feed Your Family Better Challenge - Tips and tricks to healthy up your diet.
Sleep Better Challenge - Snooze clues for the whole family.
I have read and agreed to WebMD's Privacy Policy.
Enter cell phone number
- -
Entering your cell phone number and pressing submit indicates you agree to receive text messages from WebMD related to this challenge. WebMD is utilizing a 3rd party vendor, CellTrust, to provide the messages. You can opt out at any time.
Standard text rates apply

WebMD Special Sections