The bridal shower my cousin had planned for her future daughter-in-law was nearly cancelled because her son had COVID, and the couple did not want any of the guests to be compromised. Fortunately, they got the all clear from their doctors several days before. Then yesterday I met friends for lunch. The conversation started with all the illnesses we were getting over—colds, stomach bugs, strep throat. I myself was just coming off a sinus infection.
So that got me thinking—when you’ve been sick, when is it safe for you to see people again? It is January after all—and many of us are fighting all manner of runny noses, scratchy throats and more. Here are some guidelines…
Common cold: You are most contagious during the first four days after symptoms onset.
Flu: You likely are no longer contagious after day five.
COVID: You can go out after your eighth day of symptoms if you’re fever-free, but wear a mask for five more days.
Norovirus (stomach bug): You can get out a few days after you are done vomiting and having diarrhea—but continue to wash your hands often.
Respiratory Syncytial Virus (RSV): You are contagious for up to eight days after symptoms start.
Strep throat: You are “safe” 24 hours after starting an antibiotic as long as you are fever-free. Check with your doctor about when you can return to work.
But remember—these are just guidelines. People with weakened immune symptoms may be contagious longer. If you have a fever or symptoms, stay home for as long as you need to so you don’t share your germs.