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Common Incubation Periods

If your child has been playing with a friend who has now come down with something - but you aren’t seeing any symptoms - did you dodge a bullet? Not necessarily.

Typical incubation periods (the time between exposure to an illness and appearance of the first symptoms) of some common illnesses can help you better understand when you’re in the clear:

Illness Incubation Period (days) Contagious Period 
Cold 2-5 Onset of runny nose until any fever is gone
Flu 1-2 Onset of symptoms until fever is gone
Strep Throat 2-5 Onset of sore throat until 24 hours on antibiotics
Whooping Cough 7-10 Onset of runny nose until 5 days on antibiotics
Fifth Disease 4-14 7 days before rash until rash begins
Viral Vomiting 2-5 Until vomiting stops
Viral Diarrhea (Rotavirus) 1-3 Until stools are formed and any fever is gone

If you suspect your home or belongings may have been touched by someone harboring a bug or if someone in your home does come down with an illness, follow some easy best practices to stop the spread to others:

  • Wipe down commonly touched surfaces (doorknobs, appliance handles,TV remotes) with disinfectants.
  • Wash hands often, and wash communal hand towels in hot water.
  • Avoid sharing food and drink while anyone in your home is unwell.
Infection Exposure Questions St. Louis Children's Hospital