9 Common Winter Illnesses

 

Winter is a time of year when some illnesses are much more common

Colder temperatures can cause viruses to survive for longer periods of time outside the body, while reduced sunlight exposure can reduce our body’s ability to fight off infections. Additionally, spending more time indoors with others can increase the risk of spreading illnesses through contact or airborne particles. 

To keep yourself safe and healthy this winter:

● Wash your hands frequently and thoroughly.

● Avoid close contact with contagious people.

● Wear a mask when you may be contagious or around someone who may be.

● Eat a healthy diet.

● Exercise regularly.

● Stay up-to-date on all your vaccinations.

● Seek medical attention if you experience any concerning symptoms.

Here are 9 of the most common conditions to look out for this winter:

The Common Cold

The common cold is caused by a rhinovirus that affects your nose and throat.

Symptoms include:

● runny or stuffy nose

● sneezing

● coughing

● sore throat

● headache

● mild fever

● general feeling of being unwell

It usually lasts for a week or two, and symptoms can be managed with over-the-counter medication such as decongestants or antihistamines.

The Flu

The flu is an infection from the influenza virus that affects the respiratory system.

Symptoms include:

● fever

● chills

● body aches

● fatigue

● cough

● sore throat

The flu can be serious in some cases (especially for people with weakened immune systems), so contact your doctor or emergency services if you experience any concerning symptoms.

Flu vaccines are available each year to help protect against the most common strains of the virus, and they are the best way to prevent the flu.

Respiratory Syncytial Virus (RSV)

Respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) is a virus that can cause respiratory illness in children under 5 years old.

Symptoms include:

● wheezing

● coughing

● difficulty breathing

RSV is highly contagious and can spread easily in crowded environments (schools, for example). It is treated with supportive care such as rest, fluids, and over-the-counter medications.

In some cases, RSV can cause more severe illnesses such as bronchiolitis or pneumonia, so it’s important to seek medical attention if your child experiences symptoms of RSV.

COVID-19

COVID-19 is an infectious disease caused by the novel coronavirus. It is highly contagious and has had a significant impact on communities around the world.

Symptoms and symptom severity can range from person to person, but typically include:

● cough

● fever

● fatigue

● shortness of breath

● loss of taste or smell

To reduce the spread of the virus, people should practice social distancing, wear masks when in public, and wash their hands often.

Gastroenteritis and Norovirus

Gastroenteritis is a bacterial, viral, or parasitic infection of the digestive system. Norovirus is the most common cause, and it is highly contagious.

Symptoms include:

● nausea

● vomiting

● diarrhea

● stomach cramps

● headache

● fever

It can spread quickly in places such as schools or nursing homes, and is treated with rest. Be sure to drink lots of fluids, as dehydration can be a serious complication of gastroenteritis.

Bronchitis

Bronchitis involves inflammation of the airways usually caused by viruses, but sometimes bacterial infections can cause it too.

Symptoms include:

● coughing with mucus

● chest pain

● shortness of breath

● fatigue

● fever

Bronchitis is treated with rest, fluids, and over-the-counter medications to reduce symptoms. In more severe cases, antibiotics may need to be prescribed.

Pneumonia

Pneumonia is characterized by fluid or inflammation in the lungs, typically due to an infection. It is a serious condition and requires prompt medical attention.

Symptoms include:

● cough with mucus

● bloody coughing

● fever

● shaking chills

● shortness of breath

● chest pain

● fatigue

Treatment generally depends on what type of organism has caused the infection but usually involves antibiotics for bacterial infections or antiviral medications for viral infections, along with rest and fluids for symptom relief.

Strep Throat

Strep throat is an infection of the throat caused by streptococcus bacteria. It can be highly contagious and may spread quickly in schools or daycares.

Symptoms include:

● sore throat

● fever

● swollen glands in the neck

● tenderness when swallowing

● white patches on tonsils or back of the throat

Strep throat can usually be treated with antibiotics. If left untreated, it could cause serious complications such as rheumatic fever or kidney inflammation, so it’s important to seek medical attention if you experience any of the symptoms above.

Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD)

Seasonal affective disorder (SAD) is a condition that affects many people in the winter months. It is caused by a lack of natural sunlight, which can have an impact on people’s mood, energy levels, and appetite. Typical symptoms include:

● depression

● fatigue

● difficulty concentrating

● increased irritability

● changes in appetite or weight

Light therapy, antidepressants, and psychotherapy can all be used to help manage SAD symptoms. A combination of these treatments is usually the most effective.