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You need to be especially careful about hygiene in cold and flu season, because when someone catches a cold or flu, they are contagious and can start spreading the virus causing their illness before they start having symptoms which make them feel unwell.

These tips apply equally to things like the common cold, winter vomiting bug and the seasonal flu.

How to avoid spreading a cold or flu

Colds and flus are caused by viruses and can be easily spread to other people. You're infectious until all your symptoms have gone. This usually takes a week or 2. Colds and flus are spread by germs from coughs and sneezes, which can live on hands and surfaces for 24 hours.

To reduce the risk of spreading a cold:

  • wash your hands often with warm water and soap
  • use tissues to trap germs when you cough or sneeze
  • bin used tissues as quickly as possible

How to prevent catching a cold or flu

A person with a cold or flu can start spreading it from a few days before their symptoms begin until the symptoms have finished.

The best ways to avoid catching a cold or flu are:

  • washing your hands with warm water and soap
  • not sharing towels or household items (like cups) with someone who has a cold or flu
  • not touching your eyes, nose or mouth in case you have come into contact with the virus – it can infect the body this way
  • staying fit and healthy
  • The flu vaccine helps prevent flu but not colds.