Cuddling with your dog or cat when you have a cold or flu is safe for both of you, an infectious-disease expert says.
Your furry friends won't catch or spread human viruses, said Dr. William Schaffner, professor of preventive medicine at Vanderbilt University Medical Center in Nashville.
"The pet is a comfort, not a hazard," Schaffner said in a university news release. "And you can't get a cold or the flu from your dog or cat," he added. It's also unlikely that anyone who pets the dog or cat after you will catch your cold or flu virus.
Other people are the real threat when it comes to transmitting colds and flu viruses, Schaffner explained.
"Flu is transmitted person-to-person through close personal contact. If you get within my breathing zone, within three feet, I can transfer the influenza virus to you. I breathe it out, you breathe it in, and you can be infected," Schaffner said.
Cold and flu viruses can also be transmitted by handshaking and other person-to-person contact, or picked up from surfaces such as doorknobs, he said.
"People should wash their hands often and use hand sanitizer. Also, when flu is rampant in the community, greet friends with an elbow bump rather than a handshake," Schaffner suggested.
He also emphasized the importance of getting a flu shot.