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What Common Health Conditions Are Contagious & Which Ones Are Not?

What Common Health Conditions Are Contagious & Which Ones Are Not?

There are many illnesses that roam around during the winter months and people with compromised immune systems are most susceptible. However, not all illnesses are contagious and it helps to know which ones can, and cannot, be spread by contact. Here’s a list of some of the most common health conditions and whether or not they are contagious. You may be surprised by some of them.

Pink eye

Yes it is contagious. They spread very easily, from one eye to the other and one person to the other. It is caused by viruses and bacteria and usually resolves itself. Medications can ease the symptoms but don’t actually cure the pink eye. The only way to prevent the spread of pink eye is by thoroughly washing one’s hands.

The flu

Yes, it is highly contagious. Influenza is spread through droplets in the air and contact with a person who has it. Those with compromised immune systems should not visit those who have the flu. It is important for those at risk for the flu; infants and young children, the elderly and those with compromised immune systems, to have the influenza vaccine. It is the number one prevention for the flu. In addition to the vaccine, during the height of flu season hand washing is the best way to prevent getting the flu


Yes, colds are contagious, especially during the first few days. If you catch a cold it is best to stay home to prevent spreading it to others. If a senior lives with someone who catches a cold, the senior should wear a mask to prevent inhaling cold droplets that may spread through the air. Wash all surfaces thoroughly, do not share glasses, dishes or silverware, and wash hands frequently and thoroughly.


Yes, they are contagious. Warts can spread from one person to another by contact. If one person touches a wart on another person, or touches a surface the wart has come into contact with, like a bathmat, he or she may get a wart. They are contagious because they are caused by a virus, and it can spread. It is best to keep the warts covered until they heal.

Poison ivy, oak and sumac

No, rashes caused by these poisonous plants are not contagious. The itchy rashes caused by these plants comes from the sap of the plant. Coming into contact with another person’s poison ivy rash and/or blisters will not cause it to spread to the other person. Coat the rashes with cortisone cream and calamine lotions. Remember that the oils from the rash can spread to cell phones and other surfaces so it is important to clean them regularly.

Strep throat

Yes, strep throat and the other illnesses caused by the bacteria called “Group A Streptococcus” are contagious. The “strep” bacteria can cause impetigo (a bacterial skin infection), cellulitis (inflammation of the deeper layers of skin), scarlet fever (a bright red, itchy rash) and necrotizing fasciitis (flesh-eating disease). Your doctor will treat the strep bacteria with medications.


Yes, shingles are contagious. It is a very painful condition caused by the chickenpox virus that is accompanied by shooting pain, red, oozing blisters and rashes on the skin. Shingles is contagious until the blisters have crusted over. The shingles vaccine will prevent the disease, but if it is contracted the individual must be under a doctor’s care for treatment.

There are many diseases that are contagious and these are some of the most common. Washing hands is the best way to stop the spread of these diseases, as is washing all surfaces in the home, including electronic devices. Always check with your doctor if you or a loved one contracts one of these health conditions to ensure you get the most effective treatment.

If you or your family member is considering in-home care as part of a plan to age in place, contact Family Matters In-Home Care today for a free consultation.  Our team is dedicated to supporting your family and helping older adults enjoy life in the comfort of their own home for as long as possible.

Some of the services offered by Family Matter In-Home Care include: Alzheimer’s & Dementia CareBed & Wheelchair Transfer AssistanceCompanionshipHousekeeping & Meal PreparationPersonal CareRecovery Care, and Transportation.

Serving the San Francisco Bay Area and Greater San Diego, Family Matter In-Home Care has offices in Campbell, CAPalo Alto, CAPleasanton, CASan Marcos, CA, and San Mateo, CA.

Carol Pardue-Spears

Carol has worked in the healthcare field for more than forty years. As a Certified Nursing Assistant, she worked for El Camino Hospital in the cardiac unit, Los Gatos Community Hospital, The Women’s Cancer Center in Los Gatos and several home health and hospice agencies. Carol founded Family Matters in 2002 to fill a deficit she witnessed in high-quality, in-home services and care.

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