Skip to content

Cold, Flu, & Cough Health Center

How Flu Spreads

    Font Size

    Person to Person

    The main way that influenza viruses are thought to spread is from person to person in respiratory droplets of coughs and sneezes. (This is called "droplet spread.") This can happen when droplets from a cough or sneeze of an infected person are propelled through the air and deposited on the mouth or nose of people nearby. Influenza viruses may also be spread when a person touches respiratory droplets on another person or an object and then touches their own mouth or nose (or someone else’s mouth or nose) before washing their hands.

    Linens, eating utensils, and dishes belonging to those who are sick do not need to be cleaned separately, but importantly these items should not be shared without washing thoroughly first. Linens (such as bed sheets and towels) should be washed by using household laundry soap and tumbled dry on a hot setting. Individuals should avoid “hugging” laundry prior to washing it to prevent contaminating themselves. Individuals should wash their hands with soap and water immediately after handling dirty laundry. If soap and water are not available, they should use an alcohol-based hand rub* to clean their hands. Eating utensils should be washed either in a dishwasher or by hand with water and soap.

    Recommended Related to Cold & Flu

    Swine Flu FAQ

    The H1N1 swine flu virus appeared in the U.S. in April 2009 and never went away. After sweeping the globe, U.S. H1N1 swine flu cases surged as schools opened in the fall. What is H1N1 swine flu? What can we do about it? WebMD answers your questions. What is swine flu? What are swine flu symptoms? Who is at highest risk of H1N1 swine flu? Help! I've been exposed to swine flu. What should I do? If I think I have swine flu,...

    Read the Swine Flu FAQ article > >

    The Flu Is Contagious

    Most healthy adults may be able to infect others beginning 1 day before symptoms develop and up to 5-7 days after becoming sick. Children may pass the virus for longer than seven days. Symptoms start one to four days after the virus enters the body. That means that you may be able to pass on the flu to someone else before you know you are sick, as well as while you are sick. Some persons can be infected with the flu virus but have no symptoms. During this time, those persons may still spread the virus to others.

    WebMD Public Information from the CDC

    Today on WebMD

    hot toddy
    15 tips to help you feel better.
    man sneezing into elbow
    Do echinacea and vitamin C really help a cold?
     
    teen girl coughing
    Get a good night’s rest with these remedies.
    elder berry
    Eat these to fight colds, flu, and more.
     
    Natural Cold Flu Remedies Slideshow
    Slideshow
    cold weather
    VIDEO
     
    Allergy And Sinus Symptom Evaluator
    Article
    Boy holding ear
    Slideshow
     

    Loaded with tips to help you avoid food allergy triggers.

    Loading ...

    Sending your email...

    This feature is temporarily unavailable. Please try again later.

    Thanks!

    Now check your email account on your mobile phone to download your new app.

    woman receiving vaccine shot
    Article
    woman with fever
    Article
     
    Waking up from sleep
    Article
    woman with sore throat
    Slideshow