While you may occasionally catch the sniffles or have a stomach bug during the summer, the truth is, you are much more likely to have these types of infections during the winter. In fact, the common cold is the number one reason children miss school and adults miss work. Why is this, and how can you prevent it?
Common Winter Illnesses
There are a few contagious illnesses that are more common over the winter months. The common cold is one. The others are also no surprise–the flu (influenza), pink eye (conjunctivitis), strep throat, and gastroenteritis (stomach flu). With the exception of some strains of flu, these diseases are not harmful or deadly; however, they can certainly make life uncomfortable for up to two or three weeks. The best way to prevent the spread of any of these illnesses is to wash your hands; for the flu specifically, a once-yearly flu shot is recommended.
There are a few reasons you’re more likely to get an illness in the winter, and no, none of them have to do with going outside with wet hair. One of the main reasons is simply because we’re indoors so much more often. Being in enclosed spaces with other people increases the likelihood that germs will be spread. This is why it’s so important to partake in thorough hand washing everywhere you go. However, scientists conclude being indoors isn’t the only reason–many people are indoors during the summer as well.
Cold air is another reason you’re more likely to catch a cold. In other months of the year, our nasal passages block viruses, which attach to the mucus in our nose. But in winter, cold air affects the level of mucus in our nose, and viruses travel right through our nasal passageways uninvited. Rhinoviruses (common cold) actually thrive in colder temperatures.
When to Contact the Doctor
If you have the common cold, there’s very little your doctor can do for you but recommend over-the-counter medications to make you more comfortable. Because the common cold is caused by a virus, antibiotics have no effect on “curing” the common cold.
However, there are some instances where you should contact your doctor right away. It can often be tough to distinguish severe cold symptoms from flu symptoms, and some strains of the flu can be dangerous or deadly. Always contact your doctor if:
- You have a high fever (103°F or more)
- Your fever (of any temperature) is accompanied by a rash
- You have a persistent fever with a headache
- You feel confused or disoriented for a prolonged period of time
- You are wheezing
- You have a seizure
In infants under one year of age, those who are immunocompromised, pregnant women, and those undergoing chemotherapy, a doctor should be called with a fever of 100°F or higher.
If your symptoms are not severe and you’re feeling poorly, make sure you drink plenty of fluids. For strep throat or sore throat, gargling with salt water will help the irritation. In lieu of salt, sometimes warm water with lemon juice can also soothe a sore throat. If you find yourself congested at night, consider a warm-air or cool-air humidifier to help keep the room moist, which will let you breathe easier. If you have a winter illness that is persistent or is worsening, or you need to see a doctor immediately, TrustCare Express Medical Clinics offer five convenient locations with no appointment necessary. We can help you Feel Better Faster.