Is a cold most contagious before or after symptoms appear?

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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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December 14, 2006 - 2:27am
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