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Keeping Colds and Other Contagious Infections Contained

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Be Aware! Know What Bad Bugs Lurk Out There

Be aware of the following contagious diseases that adults can catch from kids (and vice versa), and call your doctor for medical advice.

Common cold. This is a viral infection of the upper respiratory tract. Cold viruses enter your body through your nose or mouth and can be spread by touching someone who's sick or sharing common objects and then touching your nose or mouth. If you don't wash your hands frequently (or thoroughly) or if you touch your face frequently, you're at an increased risk of catching a cold. Colds last about a week. If symptoms continue, you may have a bacterial infection: call your doctor.

For in-depth information, see WebMD's Cold Basics.

Acute bronchitis. Acute bronchitis is an infection of the airways that lead to the lungs. It is usually caused by a virus and spreads when an infected person coughs, sneezes, or talks. Symptoms, which include a cough and mild fever, usually appear three to four days after an upper respiratory infection, such as a cold or flu. Acute bronchitis can rarely lead to chronic bronchitis or pneumonia.

For more information, see WebMD's When a Cold Becomes Bronchitis.

Strep throat. Strep throat, a very common disease in children, is caused by airborne bacteria and is spread when an infected person breathes, coughs, or sneezes. Symptoms include inflammation and pain in the throat and tonsils. The disease can be contagious starting three to five days prior to the appearance of symptoms. The contagious period lasts until 24 hours after a child starts an antibiotic.

For more information, see WebMD's Sore Throat: Cold, Strep Throat or Tonsillitis?

Flu. The influenza virus often spreads when an infected person coughs or sneezes. Symptoms can include a runny nose, cough, fever, chills, and body aches. The infection is contagious about one day before symptoms appear until five days after. In some instances, flu can lead to bronchitis or pneumonia. The best prevention is a flu shot. If you have flu symptoms, your doctor may want to prescribe medications to help shorten the duration.

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