26 answers

Do You Think a Cold Is Contagious Without a Fever?

We've had questions on here about play dates being canceled because of a cold or the flu...my typical response is "if there is no fever, you are fine." And was raised that if you didn't have a fever, you weren't contagious.

I know that germs still spread with an uncovered cough and sneezing....that can be said for anyone who coughs or sneezes though.

What is your take? If your child is coughing and sneezing - but has no fever and a typical anti-histamine is not working (so you rule out allergies) do you send your child to school even though there is NO fever and otherwise fine?

What can I do next?

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Yes - you can be contagious with zero symptoms. Kids go to school as long as they don't feel so bad that they can't function, or if they have strep or flu or something worse like that. I can't keep them home every time they have a cough or stuffing nose - they'd be home 1/3 of the winter!

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Yes I send to school unless she feels bad or I see her in distress. I do believe though that you can be contagious without a fever and then playdates and such are then up to the individual they are playing with. I am a mom who does not avoid germs because I want them to build resisitance and I will deal with what comes, but yes I believe you are contagious without a fever!

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Lot's of colds NEVER present a fever... clearly it's contagious though because people catch colds.

So, yes... you can be contagious without the fever.

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Hi C.,

A fever has nothing to do with anything being contagious or not. A fever is just your body's way of fighting off whatever is going on. I would keep mine at home until symptoms are gone....

M.

7 moms found this helpful

Of course!! A cold is a virus. Virus is spread through body fludis - sneezing, runny nose, coughing, and by the hands that touch the nose, eyes, mouth, etc.

In my experience, a cold usually doesn't come with a fever. Fevers more often accompany more risky infections, like strep, which is why schools keep kids with fevers out. Also, because a kid with a fever feels lousy and shouldn't be forced to be at school.
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As far as sending my kids to school with a cold, I consider the severity of the symptoms, their level of discomfort, and their age/ability to cover mouths with elbows and reliably wash hands.

And antihistimines work on colds too, not just allergies. That is what I take for a runny nose. They usually aren't recommended for very young kids. It is a main ingredient in things like Nyquil.

5 moms found this helpful

Of course a cold is contagious without a fever, but if we all stayed home every time we had a cough or sniffle the world would come to a grinding halt. So yes I send my kids to school/daycare with colds and expect that others will be there with colds as well and that chances are, they're all passing the germs around.

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do i think it is? no, i know it is.

our preschool has rules about being fever free for 24 hours. i abide by that. however, i admit to having to send my son to school with minor sniffles. first because i can't call out every time he has a cold, and second because these are not the debiliating illnesses that are a danger to kids. minor colds don't hurt them, they only boost the immune systemand are a minor inconvenience. if i have a cold, i still go to work - minor sniffles, sneezing, some coughing or laryngitis. no biggie. now if i am (or he is) just miserable and feeling awful, then yes, stay home. it's unrealistic to think every kid will be staying home for every minor bug.

4 moms found this helpful

Fevers are not an indicator of whether or not an illness, including a cold, is contagious. Illnesses are contagious during their incubation period and that depends on the illness. Whether an illness if even contagious depends on what the illness even is.

With a cold, people are contagious 24-48 hours before symptoms even show up. That's your incubation period. Then once symptoms show up you're contagious for 3 days but can have symptoms for up to five. However, there are hundreds of strains of the virus, so you could still be contagious the entire time until you're no longer excreting bodily fluids. Fever plays no part in contagion.

So here's the thing. If your child has a cold and is coughing, there are mucus and saliva droplets spewing all over. Ditto with sneezing and nose blowing. If your child has drippy boogers, they'll get smeared onto surfaces with hands even if they're using tissues and washing hands.

The courteous thing to do when you or your kids have a cold is to keep them away from parties and play dates throughout the duration of the cold. If you have to send your child to school because technically there's no fever and they haven't had one for 24 hours then make an effort to suppress their cough and minimize the boogers. Teach them to cough into their elbow, use tissues to blow their nose, and wash their hands frequently.

If my child is miserable, I will keep her home even without a fever. A fever isn't the only indicator that they should stay home.

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Rhinoviruses or colds are contagious. Even without a fever present.

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Yes I send to school unless she feels bad or I see her in distress. I do believe though that you can be contagious without a fever and then playdates and such are then up to the individual they are playing with. I am a mom who does not avoid germs because I want them to build resisitance and I will deal with what comes, but yes I believe you are contagious without a fever!

3 moms found this helpful

Yeah, it's just as contagious with or without a fever. If there is coughing and runny noses, we assume we are infectious and don't go out. But, I'm not a normal situation. I've mentioned before that my oldest is immune compromised. Her body doesn't make enough red blood, white blood, or platelets. She's on medication that helps boost her red blood, but frustratingly enough, it doesn't seem to do much with her other blood counts. When she gets sick, her bone marrow can't handle the illness. It'll boost white blood cell production for a few days, but then it's like it gets worn out (only about 10% of her bone marrow makes blood when over 90% should be making blood), and it massively drops production of all cell lines. For those who understand, it's dropped her platelets to 9, anc to under 400, hemoglobin to 6.4, and hematocrit to 18. She's had to be on blood and platelet transfusions for four months due to getting sick once. Now her blood counts are all low and she is in need of a bone marrow transplant. We're hoping our 2 week old baby will be her bone marrow match (cord blood transplant if so).

I share all this because we HAVE to be careful of illness. When I see kids that are obviously sick out in public, it makes me feel so paranoid. I wish badly that people would keep their sick kids in, but I know that's not realistic to expect of other people. So, it leaves us being very careful of exposing her (and the rest of us) to any germs. They don't get to go out as much, especially in flu season. We can't risk the germs!

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