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Is a cold most contagious before or after symptoms appear?

It's that time of year when people are sneezing and snotting everywhere and thousands of times across America each day someone coughs or sneezes in a group and says "Don't worry, I'm not contagious at this point." As a parent and as someone who'd rather be well than sick, I always wonder whether this claim is true.

Our friends over at HowStuffWorks have an article on the contagious period for cold and flu. Here's a bit from the article:

So, when are you most contagious? Most experts agree that adults with a cold or the flu start being contagious about a day before they start experiencing symptoms. For the flu, the contagious period then lasts five to seven days into the illness. For children, the contagious period for the flu can last up to two weeks after they start feeling sick, even if they start feeling better before that. The contagious period for a cold lasts about three to four days into the illness. As a general rule, people with a cold are most contagious about three days after their initial exposure to the virus.

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Health
These Are America's 10 Worst Cities for Allergy Sufferers
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Spring has officially arrived, and with it come the itchy noses and watery eyes that allergy sufferers are used to experiencing at this time of year. As plants ring in the season by spraying tiny grains of pollen into the air, many people may be tempted to lock themselves inside with a box of tissues until fall—especially if they live in one of these cities.

Each year, the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America (AAFA) compiles a list of the most challenging cities for people with allergies in the U.S. The ranking [PDF] is based on several factors, including local pollen count, use of allergy medication, and the number of allergists in the area. The American South is the most inhospitable region for people with hay fever this year, with McAllen, Texas; Louisville, Kentucky; and Jackson, Mississippi accounting for the top three slots. The only northern cities in the top 10—Providence, Rhode Island; Dayton, Ohio; and Syracuse, New York—fall in the eastern half of the country.

1. McAllen, Texas
2. Louisville, Kentucky
3. Jackson, Mississippi
4. Memphis, Tennessee
5. San Antonio, Texas
6. Providence, Rhode Island
7. Dayton, Ohio
8. Syracuse, New York
9. Oklahoma City, Oklahoma
10. Knoxville, Tennessee

For many people, seasonal nasal allergies are an uncomfortable annoyance, but for others they present bigger concerns. “Many don’t realize that allergies are a serious health condition,” Melanie Carver, vice president of community health and services for AAFA, said in press release. “Pollen seasons have gotten stronger and longer over the years because of climate change and this increases allergy rates and reduces quality of life for people with allergies."

According to one study, spring pollen has increased every year since 2000. In 2040, the pollen count could be up to 20,000 grains per cubic meter, compared to 8000 in the year 2000. If pollen is getting to your head this spring, follow these tips for keeping your allergies under control.

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A New Law Could Require Hospitals to Post Their Standard Prices Online
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Try shopping around for affordable hospital care like you would for a car or a house, and you'll surely hit a wall. Hospital bills are a huge expense in America, but the prices for specific services are often obscure until patients check out. Now, PBS reports that Medicare may soon require hospitals to post their standard prices and share medical records online.

Hospitals are already required to disclose their prices to the public, but actually tracking down a number can suck up more time and effort than customers have to invest. While making a video for Vox, it took reporter Johnny Harris two weeks and 30 phone calls to get an estimate for how much his wife's delivery of their child would cost. Under the new rules, such prices would be made clearly available on the internet so that third-party app developers could access them.

The change wouldn't automatically make shopping for hospitals as easy as comparing airfare prices. Patients would still be responsible for getting in touch with their health insurance provider to see how much of a hospital's listed price is covered and how much of it falls on them. Even then, the numbers patients get will likely be more of an estimate than a hard figure.

In addition to making pricing more transparent to customers, the proposed rule aims to make personal medical records more accessible as well. The hospitals that make the effort to present this information clearly, possibly by organizing bills from multiple providers into a single app, would receive benefits from Medicare.

The U.S. has some of the most expensive healthcare in the world: In 2016, Americans collectively spent $3.4 trillion on medical costs. For many people, high medical bills are unavoidable, but if the proposed rule goes into effect (most likely in 2019), it could at least make them less of a surprise.

[h/t PBS]

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