Is The Flu Contagious Before Symptoms Show?

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Playing Can You Spread The Flu Before You Know You're Sick? | The Doctors Host Dr. Travis Stork
Can You Spread The Flu Before You Know You're Sick? | The Doctors Host Dr. Travis Stork Aired February 13, 2020

You can’t turn on the TV these days without seeing headlines about the coronavirus or the "worst flu season in years." So, "The Doctors" host Dr. Travis Stork is here to help us navigate the germy season. 

We all know someone is contagious when they're coughing, sneezing and have a runny nose — but can respiratory viruses, like the flu, spread before someone even knows they're sick and before they start showing symptoms? 

Unfortunately, the answer is yes, Dr. Travis says. 

The silver lining, though? "Most often, you are showing symptoms when you're able to transmit it," he says. "Maybe you're coughing, you're sneezing [and] those droplets are getting in the air. So [people] are more likely to catch it." 

"But it's just a reminder to all of us to be aware," the doc continues. "Be germ-aware." Even if the person next to you appears to be healthy, don't necessarily let your germ preventative guard down. 

And also be considerate of others. "If I catch a respiratory virus, it's on me to try to prevent anyone else from catching it," Dr. Travis says. Not sure if you should take a sick day? Family physician Dr. Jen Caudle explains the five signs that should compel you to call in sick

Plus, you can stay contagious for up to a week after you start feeling bad — and some people, especially kids and those with weakened immune systems, can be contagious even longer.

If you're experiencing cold and flu symptoms, go see your doctor!

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