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When Is an Illness Contagious?

How do you know when a child's illness is in the contagious stage? I run a daycare and would like to be able to take the right precautions at the right time when kids get sick.
- Yvette

It's important to keep in mind that most viral illnesses are contagious before a child shows any symptoms of being sick. In other words, a child who is infected is often spreading the virus even before feeling sick — which makes it virtually impossible to stop the spread of infections.

The best way to try to prevent the spread of germs is to encourage frequent hand washing, even when kids feel well. Kids should wash their hands after playing outside, before eating, after coughing or sneezing, and after going to the bathroom.

Reviewed by: Steven Dowshen, MD
Date reviewed: October 2012

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