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How long does it take to get a cold after exposure to the virus?

It takes about five to seven days to get a cold after an exposure to the virus, however, it's more dependent on your symptoms than the length of time, regarding if you're contagious.

Dr. Alan Young, MD
Family Practitioner

It typically takes between 24 and 72 hours to get cold symptoms after exposure to the virus. There are some situations where it can be as early as 10 or 12 hours, but the general rule of thumb is about one to three days.

Trinity Health is a Catholic health care organization that acts in accordance with the Catholic tradition and does not condone or support all practices covered in this site. In case of emergency call 911. This site is educational and not a substitute for professional medical advice, always seek the advice of a qualified health care provider.

Dr. Greg Halbur, MD
Family Practitioner

Symptoms of a cold may appear between two and five days after exposure to and infection with the virus. People are most contagious for the first two to three days of a cold. A cold is most often not contagious after the first week. Colds can spread very quickly. After the symptoms are present, people can transmit the virus as long as their body is still producing mucus. During this period, anything people with a cold touch can also become infected with germs. Because a cold is caused by a virus, antibiotics will not help.

Trinity Health is a Catholic health care organization that acts in accordance with the Catholic tradition and does not condone or support all practices covered in this site. In case of emergency call 911. This site is educational and not a substitute for professional medical advice, always seek the advice of a qualified healthcare provider.

The incubation period could be very short: within twenty-four hours of being exposed to the virus, you could start experiencing symptoms.

Trinity Health is a Catholic health care organization that acts in accordance with the Catholic tradition and does not condone or support all practices covered in this site. In case of emergency call 911. This site is educational and not a substitute for professional medical advice, always seek the advice of a qualified healthcare provider.
Dr. Mehmet Oz, MD
Cardiologist (Heart Specialist)
Watch this video to learn more from Dr. Mehmet Oz about catching a cold.


Cold symptoms usually appear 24-72 hours after you come into contact with the cold virus. The virus that causes the common cold can spread quickly. You can catch a cold if you are near someone who has one or if you touch something that has been contaminated with the virus. To prevent catching a cold, wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. Don't touch your eyes or nose, especially if you haven't washed your hands. 

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.